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Dead Inside by TheSortingHat
Chapter 1 : Dead Inside
 
Rating: MatureChapter Reviews: 1


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It was never anything like love at first sight.  She didn’t swoon the moment she met him, or stay up half of that first night giggling.  She didn’t sneak worshipful glances at him or gossip about him with her new friends.  Her heart never fluttered in her chest, the way a young girl’s will when she has her first crush.

It was nothing like love at first sight, but then, she had never believed in that.  Love wasn’t something that happened in an instant.  That was only lust, and she knew that what she felt for him was far more real than that.

No, she never experienced love at first sight.  But that didn’t mean, when love did come for her, that it was one drop less true or deep or reversible.  Or deadly.

 

 





The first time Lavender Brown laid eyes on Ron Weasley, he was a scared, scruffy little boy.  His bright red hair was tousled and his robes appeared worn, as though they were second-hand.  He was small and skinny, a rat with patchy fur squirming between his fingers.  His eyes were wide as he looked around him, and there was a spot of dirt on his nose.  In short, he by no means resembled any kind of Prince Charming, not that Lavender particularly cared one way or the other.  She was gazing all around her incredible new home in awe-- the chattering portraits, the moving staircases.  Her parents had of course told her all about Hogwarts, but they had not quite managed to convey the sheer majesty of the ancient castle.  So right at that moment, Ron Weasley didn’t appear too special, and she only gave him a glancing thought.

She did notice that he was sorted into Gryffindor, as she made sure to make note of any who were sorted into the House after her.  After all, these people would be surrounding her for the next seven years, so it seemed like a good idea to figure out who they were.  But she also noticed that he slid onto the bench next to none other than the boy who had been announced as Harry Potter!  She, like any child born to a Wizarding family, had heard the story of the Boy Who Lived so many times.  He wasn’t just another boy; he was legend.  She had dreamed about meeting this famous boy, and now he sat not far from her.  And just look at him.  Yes, his hair was messed up as well, but it looked so purposeful, so handsome.  And his green eyes gleamed.  He was magnificent, and he was in her House!   The shabby red-haired boy next to him was nothing compared to him.  He could be a Prince Charming, worthy of any of the Muggle fairy tales her mother had read to her.

So if she had a first crush, it was on Harry Potter, not that it made her unique.  The first friend she made, Parvati Patil, had a huge crush on him too.  So did practically every other girl in their year, besides the Slytherins.  They smiled and whispered behind their hands.  As for his ginger friend, whose name Lavender eventually learned… well, he was nice enough.  He was a good kid, friendly and kind.  But Lavender didn’t feel any sort of particular emotion for him.  He was just a sidekick, after all.

The one Gryffindor besides Harry that Lavender Brown did have strong emotions towards was that Hermione Granger, but they were certainly not feelings of affection.  The little know-it-all was constantly on her nerves.  Too often she would shoot judgmental glances at Lavender and Parvati as they talked and laughed.  She always had that superior look on her face as she showed off, yet again.  The little teacher’s pet never passed off an opportunity to impress the professors.  And she always let a snooty little “humph” whenever Lavender got something wrong, which was often.  Lavender had to admit, she wasn’t the best student.  She tried, but it seemed that she and Wingardium Leviosa would never get along.  The only consolation was that none of the other Gryffindors seemed to like Hermione either.

Until Halloween, that was, when the troll got into the castle.  Lavender was terrified, but she was taken to the Gryffindor Tower along with the rest of the House.  It wasn’t until almost half an hour later that Harry, Ron, and-- yes, Hermione-- showed up, bloody and battered.  She heard Hermione say something about how Harry and Ron had saved her from the troll.  Lavender stared adoringly at Harry, while seething on the inside that Granger had been stupid enough to put him in danger.  She supposed that Ron had probably helped too, but of course it had probably really been Harry single-handedly taking on the troll.

But the odd thing was, Harry and that red-haired Weasley boy (what was his name again?  Oh yes, Ron) didn’t seem to mind Hermione anymore.  And strangely, after the troll incident, Hermione did become slightly less insufferable.  She was still a know-it-all, but she wasn’t quite so uptight.  She had loosened up, if only ever so slightly, and it made a huge difference.  She was still nothing at all like Lavender or Parvati, and they still found it difficult to relate to her.  But she would smile sometimes at their jokes, or tell them a joke she’d heard herself.   When she laughed when someone made a spectacular mistake that of course, she herself would never have made, it no longer felt like she was laughing at them.  She was laughing with them.

As Hermione warmed up to the other Gryffindors, and as they warmed up to her, Lavender found that on the whole, she didn’t hate Hermione Granger.  In fact, Hermione Granger wasn’t so bad after all.  Sure, she could still be annoying when she showed off, but Lavender was beginning to recognize just what a genius Hermione was.  Maybe she had reason to brag, just a little bit.  Lavender was beginning to realize what a gap there was between a girl like her and a girl like Hermione Granger.  Hermione was a one-in-a-million kind of witch, the kind that Hogwarts was lucky to see once in a generation.  And as Lavender came to more fully comprehend that fact, she understood something else.  She was jealous of Hermione Granger.  Despite her frizzy hair and lacking social skills, Hermione Granger would go somewhere, someday.  She would be whatever she wanted to be.  Lavender wasn’t sure she would ever have that chance.  And it made her feel undeniably envious.
 


 






The next few years would pass by in a blur.  Lavender thought back on them, and recalled only homework, watching Quidditch matches, her first trip to Hogsmeade, and finding even more the sense of home that Hogwarts always had.  With its looming towers, bewitched ceiling, and evermore surprises, Hogwarts was a place unlike anywhere else in the world.  Lavender deeply felt that, and she appreciated it.

And then it was fourth year, and suddenly the Yule Ball was upon them.  Lavender and Parvati giggled together as they planned their dresses and daydreamed about who would ask them to dance.  They fantasized endlessly about the day.  In one of their wilder imaginations, Viktor Krum asked them to the dance.  But Lavender knew that something like that would never happen to a girl like her.  She was only a fourth year, she wasn’t particularly pretty, and she was no one special.  She resigned herself to the idea that one of the Gryffindor boys in her year would ask her, but none did.  She knew that Parvati was hoping Harry would ask her, but Lavender didn’t much care one way or the other about him.  She had gotten over her crush years ago.

The thought of Ron asking her had crossed her mind.  He had grown taller and braver over the last few years.  She wouldn’t have minded his invitation at all.  Still, when Seamus asked her, she eagerly accepted, and put any thought of another boy asking her out of her mind.

Even so, she couldn’t help but sigh at the thought of a tall, handsome boy asking her to dance and sweeping her off her feet.  Her Muggle-born mother had shared with her the Muggle fairy tales along with the traditional Wizarding ones, and Lavender had always loved the romance in the stories like Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty.  She dreamed of the day that her own prince would come swirling into her life to take her away to happily ever after.  She knew it was irrational, but she couldn’t help but cling to the hope that someday she would meet someone so completely perfect for her.

That night, as Lavender and Seamus lined up with the other students to watch the champions enter, Lavender looked up to find herself staring into the eyes of Hermione Granger-- and she was shocked.  Hermione’s hair, normally so frizzy, had been tamed and styled to perfection.  Her dress was better than anything Lavender had imagined even in her wildest fairytales, and her smile was the perfect mixture of modest and thrilled.  As she glided down the staircase, her eyes locked onto those of Victor Krum’s, and she shyly accepted his offered arm.

Suddenly Lavender felt small and ugly in comparison.  Her eyes flickered down to her own dress, then back up at Hermione, who looked so grown up and mature.  Yes, Hermione had always been better at academics, but Lavender had consoled herself with the thought that at least she was prettier.  Suddenly, that theory was banished.  It was Hermione who was living out the perfect Yule Ball fantasy.  It was Hermione who got everything she ever wanted.  Lavender felt the tiny green monster that had been lurking in the back of her heart suddenly grow up and blink open its eyes.  She felt it bare its teeth.

Hermione didn’t change her appearance after the Yule Ball.  Her head was still in the clouds and in her books, and she didn’t have time for makeup or fancy hair styles.  But Lavender had seen that side of Hermione, and no matter how hard she tried, she couldn’t get it out of her head.  Even if Hermione hadn’t changed in looks, she seemed to have gained a new confidence after that night.  She carried her head higher, and it seemed that suddenly she was a ray of light through the school.  No one could remain unaffected by her presence, she was so vibrant.  She even got under Malfoy’s skin in a way that no other Gryffindor did-- not even he was impervious to her influence.  And as the year went on, Lavender felt the jealousy in her heart, so long dormant, begin to swell.

 

 






Then suddenly it was fifth year, and Hermione Granger was the furthest thing from her mind.   Harry was insisting that Voldemort was back, but the Daily Prophet was furiously denying it.  Lavender wasn’t quite sure who she believed.  Meanwhile Umbridge had taken over the castle, and was making all kinds of changes-- including the sacking of Lavender’s favorite teacher, Professor Trelawney.  When Harry, Ron, and Hermione announced on the sly that they were going to create a club that taught Defense Against the Dark Arts, Lavender was excited.  This was something, if Harry was right, that needed to be done, and anything to undermine Umbridge made her feel a stab of vicious pleasure. 

And it was there, in Dumbledore’s Army, that Lavender began to truly notice Ron.  He was suddenly handsome, how had she never noticed that before?  He seemed to have grown from boy to man suddenly overnight, and she wasn’t quite sure what to think of him.  He had a newfound sense of courage, and she couldn’t help but admire it.  Sometimes when he said something particularly funny, she’d feel a fluttering in her chest, but she would dismiss it as nothing.  She had the beginnings of a crush, she knew it.  But this was Ron, and she’d never felt that way about him before.  There was already far too much to worry about, with Umbridge and the trouble with the Ministry.  At last she decided to ignore her feelings.  Surely they would be gone by next year? 

Looking back on that time, Lavender did not think she was in love with him then.  But when she reflected on fifth year, she could also recognize that it was the beginning of the end.

 

 






The summer between fifth and sixth year, Lavender began to think deeply on subjects that had never much troubled her before.  She pondered truth and bravery and everything else that the quickly developing events had thrust upon her.  A war was coming, and she was afraid she wasn’t ready.  Some nights she lay awake into the early hours of the morning, terrified of the nightmares that might await her.  Other nights she couldn’t sleep as she wrestled with the thought of her own role in the coming war.  Would she be brave enough to fight?  Would she see her friends dying all around her?  Would she herself lose her life in the defense of the righteous?  Lavender desperately prayed for the courage to do what was right in the approaching days.  She knew she was a Gryffindor, but she was horrified none the less.

Yet for every darkness, there must be a balance.  As Lavender considered the ugliest parts of life, so she also considered something of the greatest beauty-- love.  She could not help but wonder about this miraculous happening.  How did it come about?  But most importantly, how would she know?

Lavender’s mother, though a witch, was still Muggle-born, and she still possessed many of the habits of her birthright.  One was her curious belief that there was no reason to use magic for the mundane household chores that Muggles managed perfectly well everyday on their own.  So for as long as Lavender could remember, every night she and her mother had washed and dried the dishes together in the sink after supper.  Each night they talked and laughed while scrubbing and drying, and many of Lavender’s fondest memories of her mother included this daily chore.  They had entertained conversations ranging from deadly serious to incredibly silly.  Lavender could recall discussing both the fundamental laws of transfiguration and the apocalyptic possibilities of man-eating snowflakes.  It was during this sacred ritual that she had both been counseled over the loss of her beloved pet rabbit and had laughed hysterically about the time Lavender had accidentally turned her father’s moustache pink.  No topic of conversation was off-limits during dish-washing.

And so it was that on one late August day as the amber sun shone brilliantly through the window, Lavender found herself asking her mother about the topic that had been so much on her mind.  There was less than a week left before Lavender would be returning to school, and she needed to know.

“Mum, how do you know when you’re in love?”

Her mother, elbows deep in suds, turned sharply towards her.  Her eyes swept swiftly over Lavender, probing for the reason for the abrupt question.  “Why are you asking?”

“Don’t worry, Mum.  I don’t imagine myself to be in love.  I just wondered… how you know.  How do you know that you love Dad?”

Her mother turned away, her eyes softening as she contemplated the landscape outside.  When she spoke again, it was in a quiet, almost dreamy voice.

“Oh, Lav… being in love is like nothing you could ever imagine.  It’s what you spend your entire life searching for.  The richest man alive has not truly found anything of worth until he knows love.  Being in love is beautiful, incredible, and altogether unable to be summed up in any words known to mankind.  Love is more magical than anything you will ever learn at Hogwarts.  It is more mysterious than death, and more precious than the secret of immortality.”

“Yes, but how do you know?”

A ghost of a smile appeared on her mother’s face.  “No, Lavender, I’m not worried that you’re in love.  If you were, you would never have to ask.  Love is completely certain.  Because when you love someone… when you truly love them… all you have to do is imagine the world without them, and it’s like dying yourself.”

 
 
 






It was sixth year that Lavender’s life changed irrevocably.  The moment she walked into the Great Hall on that first night back and her eyes landed on Ron, she felt her heart begin to pound.  Suddenly the world seemed to have shrunk down to one teenage boy.  Her eyes wide, she stared at him in disbelief.  Had his ginger hair always swept so attractively above his eyes?  Speaking of his eyes, had they always gleamed such a bright green?  When he came over to say hello to her and Parvati, Lavender thought she’d hardly be able to speak.  Her tongue seemed disconnected to her brain.    She felt as though she were melting in his gaze.  There was just something about him, something that she had never noticed before… something that made her palms feel sweaty and her cheeks feel warm…

And then there was Hermione, dragging him away back to sit with her and Harry.  Suddenly, Lavender had never hated someone so much.  What was wrong with Ron talking to her and Parvati?  She had only wanted to talk to him for a few minutes… once she had gotten her brain back in working order.

That night in the common room, she felt nervous around Ron, as she had never been before.  The two of them had always gotten along, even if they had never been close.  But now she felt herself doing the clumsiest things in front of him, forgetting what she had been about to say, and in general making a fool of herself.  She thought she understood what this was-- a simple crush.  Well, she’d had those before, although never quite so bad, or so unexpected.  She would be able to deal with this one too, once she got those infernal clumsy feet of hers under control.

It wasn’t until the next day that she understood exactly how much trouble she was in.  She had Potions with Ron, and Professor Slughorn had brewed some potions for them to observe.  As Harry and Ron rushed into the classroom, slightly late, Ron brushed past her and she caught the faintest whiff of cologne.  Had he always worn cologne?  She wasn’t sure, but the scent of it made her light-headed and weak in the knees.

And then Slughorn was uncovering the Amortentia, and the most delicious aromas imaginable began wafting out from it.  As though in a trance, she walked towards it, dimly hearing Slughorn droning on about the love potion’s various properties.  Hermione Granger was saying something about it smelling differently depending on what you were attracted to and what you valued most, and Lavender believed it.  She could smell a hint of fresh flowers, her mum’s dish-washing soap, and… something that was over-powering everything else.  Something that sent her into a daze, that brought a lazy smile to her face.  Something that made her forget everyone else in the room.  She just wanted to wrap herself up in that smell and live in it, lie in it, die in it.  It was heavenly.

And then Slughorn was slamming the cover of the cauldron on and the scent was abruptly cut off, jarring Lavender back into her senses, desperately yearning for another hint of that beautiful fragrance… and then her wish was granted.  A tendril of the scent reached her nose from behind her, and she turned around to see a tall, broad-shouldered red-haired boy standing behind her.  Understanding hit her, and she suddenly felt on the verge of panic as everything made sense.  The scent that she was most attracted to, that she felt that she couldn’t survive without, was the cologne of one Ronald Weasley.

From that moment on, Lavender had no doubts about her feelings.  They were too clear now to ignore.  Any doubts she felt were only about how he could ever feel the same.  She was only little Lavender Brown.  She was nothing special, nothing at all.  Boys didn’t look at her that way.  She’d never really deeply wanted them to before, and she still didn’t care if any others did.  But more than anything, she wanted Ron to.

Boys had begun to notice Hermione Granger, though.  Almost overnight she had bloomed into a pretty, modest young lady that attracted more male attention in the halls then she probably knew.  Cormac McLaggen, a seventh year, had kept his eye on her since the start of the term.  Zacharias Smith had been watching her as well, and there were probably others.  Hermione would never want for a lack of suitors.  She would have her pick of anyone she favored, and so once again Lavender felt the deep well of hatred and jealousy within her overflow.

  

 






When Ron tried out to keep his position as the Gryffindor keeper, Lavender knew that nothing would keep her from sitting in those stands and cheering for him.  When she somehow found the courage to wave at him and he smiled back, she felt happier than she could ever remember feeling.  And when he succeeded in defending his spot on the team, Lavender felt as though his victory were hers as well.  She knew that she had nothing to do with it, but she felt even happier than he did, because her happiness came from his.

She stayed up into the wee hours of the morning finishing her class assignments, and she received a Poor on a Potions essay that she normally would have received at least an Exceeds Expectations on, but it didn’t matter.  He was happy, so she was too.

 

 




 


She watched him as the weeks grew colder, treasuring each tiny snippet of conversation or brush against each other in the hall.  The only damper to her happiness was the ever-present Hermione around him, warding off any attempt at a deeper conversation if Lavender had had the nerve to try.  Still, Lavender tried to be content with what little contact she got with him.  She didn’t imagine that he would ever feel the same, but she tried to console herself with the knowledge that at least she got to be around him.

That was all Lavender believed could come of it, that is, until the day of the first Quidditch match.  She screamed until her voice grew hoarse as he saved first one, then another goal.  She chewed her fingernails to stubs in the tensest moments.  She hardly knew the score of the game as she could scarcely tear her eyes away from him long enough to check.

When Gryffindor won, Lavender saw the exaltation in his eyes and she nearly cried.  Cried in happiness for him, and sadness that it was not because of her.  The Gryffindors returned to their common room to celebrate.  As they toasted Ron, he turned towards her.  As his eyes swept over her, still full of light and joy, she was overcome with desire for him.  Scarcely aware of her own actions, she threw herself towards him, her lips against his in the first kiss of her life.

Immediately she regretted what she had done.  She had never experienced anything like it before, and she wanted nothing more to relive the moment again and again.  But here she was, behaving completely forward in front of her entire House.  Ron’s rejection would have been painful enough without dozens of people there to witness her humiliation.

As she began to draw back, apologies already racing through her mind, the most shocking event of her young life occurred.  Ron’s arms, which had been raised above his head in victory, came down and curled around her back, holding her there.  She gasped in shock as he bent his head down to return her kiss.

Distantly she heard the sound of their Housemates cheering, but Lavender’s senses were rapidly becoming numb to anything that wasn’t Ron.  Her lips were on fire as she reached up to slide her fingers into the tousled red hair.  She thought that the heat between them could have easily burned down the castle; and she wouldn’t have even noticed.  She was only aware of his fingers, splayed tenderly across the small of her back, and of the scent of him that had been driving her crazy these past months, now lingering around her.  As she melted against him, the beautiful scent remembered from the Amortentia wrapped itself around her as though it were claiming her as its own.

When Ron pulled away, Lavender felt lost for a moment, as though the sun had been pulled out of the sky.  Then he smiled wickedly at her, his eyes dancing with mischief and shock.  Lavender wanted nothing more to fall back into his arms, but she didn’t want it to be in front of the others.  Ron was special.  He was her first kiss, and she firmly believed, her first love.  She didn’t want to be a spectacle, although she’d probably already accomplished that.

So, possessed by a courage only the Sorting Hat seemed to have known that she had, she laced her fingers through his.  She tugged him in the direction of the door out of the common room.  For a moment he seemed confused; then he seemed to understand and complied.  As they struggled through the merry throng, his eyes seemed to be searching someone out, and Lavender felt a drop of panic within her.  Was she nothing more than a conquest to him, something to be used as proof?

Then they reached the hole in the wall, and before the Fat Lady had even swung shut, he had her pinned against the wall as he ran his hands down her arms.  She gasped with pleasure, banishing any doubtful thoughts from her mind.  He clearly wanted her like she wanted him.  He leaned in, his lips parted, and she closed her eyes in anticipation, but the kiss never came as the Fat Lady squawked something about “decorum” and “keeping things respectable”.  Opening her eyes, Lavender saw Ron rolling his own brilliant green eyes before pulling her down the hall.

They went down the hall and out of the Fat Lady’s prying eyes, but they seemed to have made a wrong turn somewhere and ended up, not in the portrait-less hallway they had intended to find, but instead surrounded by pictures of Renaissance-age wizards engaged in a loud debate about the difference between a turtle and a tortoise. 

Shaking her head impatiently, her body humming with the desire to be kissed again, Lavender whirled around and raced down a hallway, pulling Ron behind her.  At last finding an unused classroom, Lavender giggled with breathless anticipation as Ron pressed open the door—and they found themselves looking in on the sight of Harry Potter and Hermione Granger, sitting side-by-side.

Shocked, Lavender nevertheless never for a moment entertained the thought that they had been kissing or doing anything else remotely romantically related.  That had just never seemed like the relationship Harry and Hermione had.  They had always struck her as friends only, nothing more.  Even so, Lavender turned towards Ron with questioning eyes, and was terrified to see a sudden storm brewing within them.  He was angry at the sight of his two closest friends talking without him, but surely it wasn’t the implication of what they had been doing-- which Lavender had been so quick to dismiss-- that had him so riled up?

Lavender nervously stammered out something about the room clearly being occupied, her eyes never for a moment leaving Ron’s face.  Then, unsure of how to react, she slipped out of the room.  She heard Hermione’s raised voice, and then Ron suddenly opened the door and slammed it behind him, his chest heaving.  Hesitantly, Lavender stepped forwards toward him, and then he had grabbed her hand and taken off running, dragging her behind. 

When at last he stopped, he pressed his lips hard against hers, his fists curled shut behind her back.  Startled but pleased, Lavender tried to lose herself in the kiss, but it wasn’t like the first one.  Despite Ron’s initiative this time instead of her own, he seemed dispassionate about the kiss, and she hesitated slightly, wondering if he was only trying to distract himself from the scene he had just witnessed.  The thought was too painful to bear, and Lavender banished it from her mind and kissed him back hungrily.  There was no time for what ifs.  For too long she had been dreaming about this day without any real hope that it would come, and if this was the last time she would ever be able to kiss him, she wanted to make the most of it.

But it wasn’t.  When they broke apart, Ron muttered a question in her ear-- would she be his girlfriend?  Lavender began to shake nervously as she mutely nodded her head yes.  At last, her greatest desire was fulfilled.  He kissed her once more, lightly, and then led her back to the common room.  As she walked beside him, her heart light and giddy, only one tiny cloud still hung over her, and it was the tiniest voice in the back of her head asking if this wasn’t a bit sudden, irrational even on his part.  The voice questioned if he was still only reacting to seeing Hermione and Harry, trying to prove something to someone.  And although Lavender managed to squash it down, the tiny doubt still remained, and Lavender could not help but negatively associate Hermione Granger with what should have been the happiest day of her life.

 






After the day of Gryffindor’s Quidditch win, Lavender and Ron were never separated for long.  She found that she still got nervous around him when she tried to speak, and he soon seemed to lose interest in the conversation.  But when that happened, at least, she could always distract him by scooting closer to him and placing her lips firmly against his.  It seemed that kissing was something she was good at.  It made him happy, and as long as she was near him, she was more than happy as well.  Occasionally she wondered uneasily if that was all their relationship would be, a good snog.  But she was willing to be whatever Ron wanted her to be.  So she kissed him and kissed him, and didn’t worry about anything else.

As Ron made it clear that he wasn’t looking for an intellectual conversation, she eventually gave up on conversation and simply enjoyed being with him.  For it was more than clear to her that with each passing hour, she loved him more.  He might not have been a brainiac or a model, but he was perfect for her.  What conversations they did have were funny and light-hearted, and he was always there for her when she needed him.

No one else had ever really needed Lavender Brown, not even Parvati.  Too often she had been invisible and forgotten.  But Ron seemed to need her even as she needed him, and for that she loved him even more deeply.

And so, for a few weeks, Lavender was blindingly happy.  Life was all she could have ever hoped for and more.  Being with Ron was infinitely better than even her wildest imaginings.  She thought that if she could have had any wish granted, it would have been to freeze time so that she could live in that moment forever.

 

 






The only thing that detracted from her happiness was the worry that it wouldn’t last.  Ron seemed to be becoming bored with her, and she was terrified.  So she kissed him even more, panicking inside all the while.  He seemed to be pulling away from her, forgetting about what he had felt that first day, if he had ever felt anything for her at all.  But he must have.  Surely he did.  Surely he still did.

Yet Hermione had been avoiding Ron for weeks, and Lavender caught him staring moodily after her on more than one occasion.  It seemed as though his relationship with Lavender had damaged his friendship with Hermione, and he didn’t seem to think it was worth the cost.  So Lavender, feeling him beginning to slip through her fingers, became more desperate than ever before.
 


 






When she saw the necklace in the window shop, she hesitated.  It proclaimed in large cursive letters, “My Sweetheart”.  It wasn’t really something that Ron would ever wear.  Then she considered for a moment how she would feel if someone were to purchase such a necklace for her.  It declared to all who saw it that the wearer was claimed, that they belonged to someone, with someone.  Lavender didn’t think there was anything else that would be more perfect as a gift for her herself.  And Ron understood her, didn’t he?  He was like her, in many ways.  So perhaps he would understand what it said, in not so many words:

“I love you, Ronald Weasley.  And I want to be yours forever.”

She had never told him aloud that she loved him, but she thought that she did.  It was a secret she held close to her heart.  She didn’t think she was quite ready to say it aloud, but perhaps this necklace would tell him for her.

And Hermione.  Lavender had to admit that Hermione was a part of the reason she bought the necklace for Ron.  Hermione, despite being like no other girl at Hogwarts, was still a girl.  She would understand completely the meaning of the necklace.  It announced that he belonged with Lavender.  Hermione could try to come between them, but Ron would always be Lavender’s, and the necklace would remind them all of it.


 
 






When Ron returned from Christmas break, and never wore or mentioned the necklace, Lavender felt a fracture line split open in her heart.  He hadn’t understood, or worse, hadn’t cared.  Lavender felt herself sink deep into despair as she was faced with the idea that their relationship might be at the beginning of its end.

Still, she managed to keep him until Valentine’s Day, when everything changed.

 

 






Lavender was in her bedroom, yawning and trying to stay caught up on her Charms homework, when Parvati ran into the room and cried out something about Ron, a love potion, and poison.  Lavender didn’t quite understand the incoherent exclamation, but only one thing really mattered, and that much she had followed-- her Ron was in danger.  Jamming her feet into the wrong shoes in her haste, Lavender scrambled down the staircase and fled towards the hospital wing.  As she ran haphazardly in the direction of her beloved, her heart pounded in time to her mother’s words running over and over again through her mind, “When you love someone… all you have to do is imagine the world without them, and it’s like dying yourself.

Lavender felt as though her heart was being squeezed to death, as though she would faint, as though she herself would fall to the ground and cease to exist.  Because it was true, what her mother had said.  The thought that Ron might die and leave her alone in the world felt like it was her and not him who was in mortal danger.  And so she knew at last, for certain, that she had fallen deeply in love with Ron somewhere along the way.  It was no longer just a suspicion or inkling.  It was plain fact, staring her relentlessly in the face.

Lavender burst into the hospital wing to find Ron’s bed surrounded by a circle of concerned attendees, but she focused on none of them, her eyes seeking only Ron’s face.  When she saw that, although pale, he was breathing normally, she felt as though the weight of the world was lifted from her shoulders and she too could breathe again.

Convinced at last that Ron would be alright, she lifted her eyes to find Hermione seated beside Ron’s bed.  Combined with the stress of the previous few minutes, that was all it took to make her snap.

How dare Hermione come here, after her treatment of Ron in the previous weeks?  Didn’t she know the pain she had caused him, and the pain that his worry had caused Lavender?  She knew implicitly that Hermione was the reason that their relationship was crumbling around her, taking with it all she had ever wanted.

And then Ron shifted, and murmured a single word that cut Lavender more deeply than anything Hermione herself had ever done.  He whispered the name, “Hermione.”

Lavender reeled backward as finally too many puzzle pieces clicked together.  It wasn’t just because he missed Hermione’s friendship that he had become so distant of late.  At last the tension between him and Hermione all made far too much sense.  Ron Weasley, the love and center of Lavender’s young life, was attracted to Hermione Granger.

Staggered, Lavender fled from the room and succeeded in making it out the door before the tears started coming.  Blinded by misery, Lavender ran aimlessly down the halls before finally finding her way back to the common room.  Once there, she collapsed on her bed and cried out all of her sorrow late into the night, wallowing in pain.  Finally, exhausted and feeling empty, Lavender drifted restlessly off to sleep.

So it was on the same day that Lavender fully comprehended the depth of her feelings for Ron that she also came to realize that his heart lay with another.

 

 






When he returned to classes a few days later, Lavender stayed far away from him.  It would have only been too painful to be near him, to kiss him, and know that she didn’t really matter to him.  Even so, she couldn’t help but stare at him, wherever they were.  He was still so beautiful to her, so perfect.  She wanted so badly to go back to him, even if she knew it wouldn’t last.  But her bruised pride and her deep sense of betrayal kept her away from him.  It seemed that she had lost him.

More than anything, though, it hurt that he never sought her out to learn what was wrong.  Part of her was hoping that if she avoided him, he would come to her, missing her as much as she missed him.  But he never mentioned the incident or asked what was bothering her, and that crushed her more than anything else.

Though he rarely bothered to even give her a passing glance in those weeks after his accident, he was always near Hermione.  Lavender never heard any rumors that they were together, but it didn’t matter.  He had still chosen Hermione over Lavender.  As always, Hermione had won.  Hermione was better than Lavender at everything, and it seemed that that list now included attracting one Ron Weasley.  Lavender had, like in everything else, come in last.

 

 






The year ended without another word ever passing between Lavender and Ron, and part of her was glad, but it was only a very small part.  She missed him desperately.   She could feel herself sinking into a deep well of depression as she recognized that yet again no one needed her.  A war was coming, and people were too busy to care about shallow, easily forgotten Lavender Brown.  She just needed Ron to hold her, and remind her that she still mattered.  That she was still important, still someone who affected the world around her.  But he wasn’t there for her, and far too often she just felt invisible.

 

 






The summer was dreadful.  Her parents saw immediately the change in her.  Her mother fretted that Lavender had lost weight, but Lavender had no interest in eating anything.  Nor did she have any interest in going to see friends when her parents suggested it.  Deep inside, she wondered if she even had friends.  Parvati hadn’t written the whole summer, and she’d never had close contact with anyone else between school semesters.  She grew pale and withdrawn as the summer continued.

But it gave her a chance to reflect on the last year, and she came to understand something.  She had been selfish in her relationship with Ron.  She had been far too demanding and clingy.  She had never left him alone, and she had always been jealous.  She had thrown herself at him, in a way that was almost pathetic, and then sulked like a toddler when things had not gone her way.  She had just wanted him so badly that she had lost any common sense.  But she was ready now for a relationship.  Perhaps she hadn’t been entirely fair to him when she expected so much.  So she vowed that as soon as the school year began again, she would talk to Ron and admit her faults, and ask for a chance to start over.

 
 
 





 

That chance never came.

As she boarded the train that day, her hands shaking with nervousness, Lavender glanced around obsessively.  Where was Ron?  She needed to talk to him, to explain things.  She understood now, where she had gone wrong.  But she had grown up, she had matured.  Finally, she thought, she might be worthy of him.  She was prepared to be his other half.  It wouldn’t be only about her needs, it would be about him.

But Ron was nowhere to be found.  Whispers spread quickly through the train that Harry, Ron, and Hermione were not returning to Hogwarts that year.  As Lavender received the shocking news, she sank down into a seat, trembling.  He was gone?  He had left… without even saying good-bye?

If he had gone, it had to have something to do with the fight against He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named.    And that meant that he would be in terrible, terrible danger.  He might die any day, and Lavender would not be there with him.  Her Ron had left her to go save the world, but she was terrified that it might cost him his life.

As she tried not to panic, something else occurred to her that stopped her cold-- Hermione.  Hermione had left with Ron, and they were sure to grow even closer while they were gone.  Perhaps so much closer that there would never be a chance for Lavender again.  Because after being with a girl like Hermione, why would someone as incredible as Ron want someone like Lavender again?

She shook her head, trying to get rid of the selfish thought.   He was risking his life, and she was worried about him cozying up with Hermione.  Even so, the thought nagged at her.  It would be hard enough for her if he died.  But she was afraid that seeing him with someone else would kill her just as surely. 

 




 

When she reached the castle, she discovered that Hogwarts was not the comforting fortress it had always been.  The usually cheerful floating candles seemed somehow sinister, the staircases looming in shadows.  There were new additions to the staff, the Carrows, and a sixth sense warned Lavender how dangerous they would be.  She bit her lip and prayed that she would not cross them.

 

 






As things devolved from bad to worse, Lavender prayed each day constantly for Ron’s safety, but part of her was glad that he was gone.  The Carrows were sadistically cruel, and they enjoyed punishing any who might not see eye to eye with them.  Lavender feared that if Ron had stayed at Hogwarts that year, he would have tried to be the hero.  And it would have cost him his life.

 

 






Finally it was too dangerous to remain in plain sight.  The school was becoming fatally dangerous to any student who dared oppose the Carrows’ regime.  Much of the remnants of Dumbledore’s Army had taken refuge in the Room of Requirement, including Lavender, after a day when she stepped forward to intercept the Cruciatus Curse meant for a first year.  It wasn’t the first time the Carrows had used the curse on her, but it was different that time.  It was a sacrificial gesture, the only time she voluntarily received the curse.  They were infuriated that she would dare interfere with their punishment, and the first year’s wide eyes clearly wondered why she would do such a thing.  But as they turned their attentions to her and lashed her again and again with the torturous spell, Lavender could only see Ron’s face as she screamed.  Because Lavender was brave because of him.  She knew that he would have done the same thing in her situation, and his courage brought hers.

 

 






As the dozens of Gryffindors, Ravenclaws, and Hufflepuffs gathered in ones and twos in the Room of Requirement, they formed an unspoken bond.  They were the resistors, the ones who would keep fighting on the side of the light no matter what happened to their beloved school.  They were a family, with a pact running as deeply in their veins as an Unbreakable Vow.  They would stick together or die trying.  Despite their constant danger, Lavender felt a secret thrill at the sensation.  Because here at last was somewhere that she thought she might belong.           

Even so, she always felt as though she was on the outskirts.  Neville, Luna, and Ginny had risen up as leaders of their little rebellion.  It seemed that this was the occasion that could really determine a person’s character, and those three were succeeding.  And while the few dozen students were all growing closer, Lavender felt that too often she was still forgotten.  She had nothing to offer, no brilliant ideas or fantastic courage or stirring words.  She was a follower, a sheep. 

So every night, as Lavender prayed for Ron’s safety and cried herself to sleep, she also prayed that he would come home to her, so that she could feel special and unique and seen.  Because it seemed that these days she was no longer visible.

 

 




 

One day, as Lavender lay alone in her hammock, her eyes on the ceiling and her mind overwhelmed with worry for the still absent Ron, she heard a sudden commotion and quickly got up to see that to her amazement, the portrait that covered their secret tunnel to Hogsmeade was unveiling Neville.  That in itself wasn’t so unusual, but behind him trailed Harry, Hermione, and yes-- her Ron.
 
Her eyes scanned him frantically, but he seemed fine.  He was dirty and bruised, but he was safe and he was fine and there was nothing about him that could not be fixed, except perhaps the slightly haunted look in his eyes.  Lavender could barely choke down the giddy, hysterical laughter that came bubbling out of nowhere at her sudden joy, but the deafening roar at the sight of the trio covered it.

Desperately she ran her hands through her hair, wishing that she had thought to brush it more carefully that morning or to put on something besides her oldest set of robes, but it hadn’t seemed like a big deal at the time.  Now she would have given almost anything to have looked clean and neat for him.

Then she shook her head, almost laughing aloud at her foolishness.  How could she care about something so shallow right now?  Ron was alright, and best of all he was here, with her.  Trivial matters didn’t matter a whit.

Smiling widely, Lavender attempted to push her way through the crowd toward him, but all of the other students were pressing in close to the trio as well, and she couldn’t get near.  Her small stature meant that she couldn’t even see over the heads in front of her to get another glimpse of him.  As frantic with impatience as she was, she realized that she had to wait to talk to him.

Harry began to talk to the others, but Lavender found she was having difficulties keeping her mind on his words.  Her thoughts kept straying to the tall red-head who was surely standing just at his shoulder.  Nevertheless, she comprehended that the trio were going to venture into the castle… and that she and the others might be needed to defend them.  Strangely, this information did not frighten Lavender, only snapped her out of her haze.  Yes, she would defend her beloved Ron.  There was no question of that.

But then he, Harry, and Hermione were rushing out of the room before she could reach them, and she was finding that the words that had rushed to her lips were left unspoken.  She rushed out of the room after them, but they had already disappeared somewhere down a hall and the only thing she could do was bite down hard on her lip to keep herself from screaming out in annoyance-- hard enough that she winced slightly, suspecting that it would be swollen in the morning.

  
 






As she helped prepare for the battle, Lavender couldn’t keep her mind on the task at hand; a dangerous trait for a coming battle, she knew, but not something that she could help.  Ron wholly occupied her mind as he so often had over the past year.  This was the fight that mattered, more important even than who won the upcoming battle.  The Death Eaters could only kill her once, but Ron’s refusal would kill her over and over again.

And then suddenly she heard yelling and saw flashes of light.  Taking a deep breath, she drew out her wand and lifted her chin.  There wouldn’t be enough time to find him now, and she needed to accept that.  The time had come to fight, and she had to try her best to put Ron out of her mind.  The time for daydreaming was over, and the time for action was upon them.  It was time to prove her worthiness to her House and the boy she loved, whatever the consequences.  She had to fight her hardest for her life and Ron’s, wherever he was.  Because her confession wouldn’t be worth much if one of them died.

  

 






Lavender panted as she turned around, having fought off another Death Eater but not without cost.  She had a cut near her hairline that was steadily dripping blood down her cheek, and whatever spell that had been used on her was preventing her from fully catching her breath.  As she braced herself for the next opponent, her mind was screaming in worry over Ron.  Where had he gone?  What if he was one of the dead bodies that lay scattered ominously through the castle?  She didn’t think she could survive if she had lost him.  She couldn’t bear to even consider the consequences.

Something exploded behind her, and she whipped around to take in the sight of a leering, powerful scoundrel who smirked as he hurtled a jinx towards her.  She felt a thrill of terror as she realized who stood before her-- the notorious werewolf Fenrir Greyback.

Her eyes flickered over Greyback as they fought.  His shoulder-length hair was greasy and unkempt, his clothes torn-- slashed?  His eyes gleamed cruelly, an unnatural light within them, and his mouth seemed curled into a permanent snarl.  Most terrifying of all was the way he carried himself.  He was tall and broad, his muscles taut beneath his ragged apparel, but he slunk as he prowled the room.  He didn’t stand up quite upright; instead, he was always ever so slightly crouched down, as if he might spring at any moment.  It seemed that the wolf had completely overtaken the man, and Lavender couldn’t repress the horror and loathing she felt at the sight of him.  As a child in a Wizarding family, she had grown up haunted by the stories of the magical creatures that hid in the shadows, and he was straight out of her nightmares.  When she had learned years before that her teacher Remus Lupin was a werewolf, she had thought that perhaps the species was unfairly prejudiced against.  Now, seeing Greyback standing before her, she understood what it was that made the species so feared among the Wizarding community.

Her mind overwhelmed in fear and disgust, she failed to dodge a curse in time, and she cried out in pain as it slashed a deep wound into her wand arm.  She felt blood begin to rapidly soak her shirt sleeve, and she looked up to see the cruel pleasure in the feral eyes of the werewolf as he examined his handiwork with an appreciative look.

“Lovely, honey.  You know, I do like my meat… fresh.”  His gruff, hoarse voice sent shivers down her spine as she dug her nails into her hand, examining the wound.  Stretching out his free hand, Greyback grabbed her chin and roughly pulled it up to force her to meet his eyes.  Apparently liking what he saw, he smiled a somehow suggestive smirk that sickened Lavender even more than the disturbing amount of blood she was losing.

Snapping her head away, Lavender fumbled for her wand and hoarsely screamed out a jinx, but her aim was wild from exhaustion, pain, and fury, and she missed him by several feet.

Greyback laughed, his eyes dancing in amusement.  In a low growl, he murmured, “And I do like my girls feisty.  It makes the chase and eventual capture so much more… exciting.”

She shuddered before aiming a Stunning Spell at him.  This one was much closer, going just under his ear and striking another Death Eater in the back, but she winced in agony as the movement sent spasms of pain shooting down her arm.  Her arm was beginning to shake from the injury, and it was becoming difficult to aim her wand.  The thought flickered through her head that she had no chance of winning this duel, but she shoved it to the back of her mind.  She had to win, she had to.  She needed to live so that she could tell Ron that she still loved him, would always love him.  She would do anything to be with him, just to be able to see his dear, beautiful face again and know that he was all right.  She would do anything and everything, and if that meant beating Fenrir Greyback, then that was what she would do.

He shot an Impediment Jinx at Lavender, and she gasped as she was thrown back through the air, hitting the ground hard.  In the back of her mind, she wondered why he hadn’t just killed her already, but then she knew the answer.  He was more animal than man.  The beast had overtaken any humanity that might have once existed.  And with the sadistic pleasure of a predator, he was playing with his food.  He didn’t want this over just yet.  He wanted to see her squirm, and he wanted to see her foolish hope as she continued to futilely fight against him.

She was struggling to her feet when out of nowhere she felt another curse hit her, and she fell to the ground, writhing in pain and screaming.  She hadn’t heard him say it this time, but she recognized it instantly.  It was the Cruciatus Curse.  The Carrows had used it on her far too often to leave any doubt to her torture’s origin.  But although she was accustomed to the pain, that did not make it any easier to bear.

When at last the agony began to fade and she lay curled up on her side, gasping for breath, Greyback leaned over her, his eyes aflame.  With a terrible, savage smile, he reached down and in an almost lustful manner ran his fingers through a lock of her long, tangled blonde curls.  Then, his mouth curling into a malevolent grin, he jerked down hard on the tendril, and she sucked in her breath, not wanting to show how much it hurt.

Grabbing her by her hair, Greyback pulled her to her feet, and she unsteadily prepared herself for the next curse.  Instead of another jinx, however, he did something far worse.

Yanking her against him, he pressed his mouth hard against hers, his breath hot against her face.  Horrified, she attempted to push him away, but his cruel hands were around her waist, gripping so tightly that it hurt.  Mere moments felt like cruel, countless hours as she found herself the helpless plaything of the monster, prey to his strange physical appetite.  She gasped in terror as he slid his fingers up her side, coming to rest on her ribcage.  He squeezed her ribs with his dirty, callous fingers so tightly that she cried out as one cracked, while he ran his tongue possessively between her lips.  Then she felt a sharp stab of pain as he bit down hard on her already injured lip before abruptly shoving her away.

Recoiling in horror, Lavender scrambled away, shrinking from him.  Ron was the only other person that had ever kissed her, and it had never been like that.  Ron had made her feel loved-- Greyback had made her feel like an object, something to be acquired.  She tasted blood in her mouth and snapped her eyes towards him to realize in horror that he had extended his fangs to pierce her skin.

She glanced around desperately, but no one had witnessed the occurrence.  No one would be coming to save her.  Everyone around her was fighting for their own lives, too intent on their own duels to notice what was happening to poor little Lavender.  She was ignored again.

Wiping his tongue appreciatively around his mouth, Greyback laughed and murmured with a sick sneer, “I told you I liked the feisty ones.”

He stepped forward menacingly, and she stepped back hastily-- too hastily.  She tripped over an unconscious body behind her and fell to the ground.  She shrank back as he loomed over her.  Leaning down, he whispered, “You know, I’m not so sure I want to kill you, honey.  You could make my life so… interesting.”

A shiver ran down her spine at the terrifying implication of his words.  Working up a mouthful of bloody saliva, she spat into his face.  His expression changed instantly, replaced by total fury.  He straightened up and murmured in a low tone, “I’m afraid you’ll regret that.”

Scrambling to her feet, Lavender tightened her fingers around her wand just in time to hear Greyback murmur, “Avada-”

She flattened herself to the ground again as he completed the words, the spell flying over her head.  Desperately, she shot another Stunning Spell, but he was prepared and deflected it easily.  Her mind was screaming, screaming for Ron to come to her rescue.  For him to be the Prince Charming that she now knew he was.  He would come for her, he had to.  Her Ron would save her and everything would be alright.

And then she saw him, sprinting through the hallways.  She drew in her breath to call out his name, forgetting Greyback, forgetting about everything but him.  He didn’t see her, he was intent on something else--

And then her world fell apart as she saw that as he ran, he held in one hand a basilisk fang, and the other was clutching another hand-- a hand that was connected to Hermione Granger.

She felt her heart shatter forever as she knew that all her worst nightmares had come to fruition.  The only boy she had ever loved was with the girl that was everything that Lavender wasn’t and never could be.  Beautiful, brilliant, confident Hermione Granger had won Ron’s heart, and he would never look at Lavender again, his eyes shining as they met hers.  He would always be Hermione’s, and Lavender would always be broken without him.

The words died on her lips as she forgot how to breathe, how to blink, how to stand.  She couldn’t live without him.  And as she remained silent, Ron, still focused on his task, darted away from her, never noticing the girl gaping at him.  He disappeared around a corner and out of her life without ever seeing that she was standing there, waiting for him.  Prince Charming had come and gone, but he had swept away the wrong girl.

Her eyes focused only on Ron’s retreating figure, Lavender failed to realize that Greyback had shot another lethal bolt of green light hurtling in her direction.

They say that the Killing Curse is painless, that the victim is dead before they can even register that they’ve been hit.  It was a lie.  The last few moments of Lavender’s life were the most painful she had ever known as she comprehended that Ron was gone forever.

Lavender never realized that Greyback had sent another Killing Curse at her.  She never saw the bright flash of emerald green that pierced her right in the chest.  She never knew that it hit her directly in the heart.  But as her body crumpled lifelessly to the floor, her long blonde hair pillowing out around her, a scream died on her lips.  And as her glassy eyes stared into the void forever, a single shining tear slipped down her cheek.

Lavender never saw the fatal blow coming, but that was all right. She had already died inside anyway.

 




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