Many Paths to Tread

The rest of the seventh year Gryffindors have their own battles to fight.

A series of very short vignettes/character sketches about Lavender, Dean, Parvati, Seamus, and Neville. Just because they're on the outskirts of the Story most of the time doesn't mean they don't have their own stories to tell.

Disclaimer: I don't own Harry Potter or any of the characters found in this fic, nor can I think of any particularly clever way of saying so.

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Clouds

Everyone's always thought of her as shallow, and perhaps she is.

She likes gossiping, swooning over boys, reading Teen Witch, perfecting new glamour charms, falling in love. It's easier, you see, easier than all that. When your mind is full of these petty things—and she does recognize them as petty, whether anyone believes that or not—there isn't room to worry about all that's happening out there. No room for Death Eaters and Dementors and Dark Marks and Unforgivable Curses and You-Know-Who.

Yes. No one knows it, but it's a calculated thing, this shallowness. Parvati suspects, though, like a good friend, she doesn't say anything. And sometimes she'll look up in the middle of an especially boring History of Magic class and find Seamus watching her, eyes steady and too-knowing, and she's certain he sees right through her. But these moments are few and far between, and most of the time she floats along in a protective cloud of perfume and gossip and chiffon.

Well, that was how she was. The shield was strong, a security blanket so very carefully maintained. If Hermione had known how hard she worked at it, she would have been appalled, said, "Honestly, Lavender, if you devoted half as much will power to homework…."

She used to be able to snort about things like that, to giggle. Now she thinks the other girl might have been right.

Now, all her work has come to nothing. She'll be floating along for a few days, secure in her cloud, and then it will dissipate so suddenly that she staggers backwards, feeling as overwhelmed as when she walks out of the ancient darkness of a side corridor into the courtyard and the full light of the sun. Because there is McGonagall, ramrod straight and looking strangely small in the chair that should—that always did—belong to Dumbledore. And there's a glimpse of the empty Quidditch pitch through the Astronomy Tower window—abandoned because it's simply too dangerous for the whole student body to be outside of the protective charms of the Castle for any period of time. And when she goes to classes, there are three empty seats in the corner, and class is strangely quiet, awkward, tense without a hand that flies into the air at every question and blue eyes that roll and a quiet grin under a thatch of black hair and a scar shaped like a bolt from the storm to come. And the corner of the Common Room that was theirs is empty and everyone eyes it awkwardly, avoiding it because there is nothing to be said and no way not to notice. Even when she flees to her dorm room, there is no respite—because there is an empty bed on the wall by the window.

It's impossible even for her, Lavender Brown, Teen Witch Extraordinaire, to ignore, and so her annoying giggles—she knows they were annoying; she's always known—never fill the Common Room; and the whole Gryffindor table in the Great Hall isn't treated to the latest gossip during breakfast, lunch, and dinner; and she never floats from one boy to another, enjoying the game and the chase.

Instead, she tries to focus on schoolwork: not boring things like Ancient Runes or even something like Divination—which she now realizes is next to worthless—but Defense Against the Dark Arts and Charms and the new Occulmency class and—yes, even Potions. And at meals she talks quietly with Parvati and Seamus and Dean and even Neville, planning out futures no one is sure they'll ever see. And at night in the Common Room, she clings to Seamus, not the way she used to hang on Ron, when everything was still new and exciting and all about feeling, but with the undeniable urge for something more, the need to comfort and give comfort and for just a few minutes know that they're both still alive, sitting quietly in the circle of his arms and watching the fire die.

Because, if she's honest, as she cannot help but be, she's scared to death. She knows what's coming. Everyone does. And she hates herself now, just a little, because of all the time she wasted when she could have been preparing. And she knows that she—or someone she cares about—won't make it through this.

Because, after all, no one can ignore the black clouds gathering in the sky.

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I know. I was as angry with Lavender as anyone else during HBP (even though it wasn't really her fault that Ron was a complete moron), but I think there's always more to a person than meets the eye, and, even though I'm more of a Hermione, I've always suspected that it's hard to be the Lavender Brown.

Feedback is my fuel.

Next up: Dean