Author's Note: Hey, all. Last chapter! I hope splitting this up into chapters wasn't too disorienting. I tried to find the best breaking points that I could, but seeing as how it wasn't written that way at all . . . and before you ask, yes, the story that Lavender mentions as needing to be told and needing to be heard is, most likely, forthcoming, because it's in my head and I really want to tell it, but it didn't fit here.

Thank you so much to everyone who's reading. This is one of the more ambitious pieces I've written, and it's amazing to hear that I've achieved much of what I wanted to with it! Enjoy the final section!

Tangled Webs - Chapter Three

I stayed that way for the next few days – not thinking, that is, lest you think I spent the next week on top of Gryffindor tower. I didn't. But I did spend the majority of those days saying nothing to no one. It wasn't hard to keep up the necessary act; whenever I saw Ron or Hermione, I burst into tears all over again, tears that were only half faked. But they stemmed from guilt and regret as opposed to heartache or any kind of viciousness.

Nothing roused me from that numb stupor, that constantly flowing cycle of self-pity and self-loathing. Nothing the professors said in class penetrated the haze, nothing that Parvati or Seamus told me made it through, not even the superb gossip that flew through the halls that week got me to do more than blink a couple times (and it was pretty superb. Ginny broke up with Dean, albeit in a far less public and loud way than Ron and I, Harry attacked Draco Malfoy in a bathroom and nearly killed him, and more importantly, he essentially got himself banned from Quidditch for the rest of the year for it. Normally, I'd have had trouble getting the words out fast enough. But this time, I didn't even try to get the words out at all).

Somewhere in the back of my mind, I'm sure I was just waiting for Parvati and Seamus to do something, wondering how long they'd let my moping go on, and that Saturday, I got my answer. Everyone else and their brother was at the final Quidditch game of the year – Gryffindor versus Ravenclaw, and no Harry Potter. I was not there.

I was sitting on a sofa in the corner of the deserted Common Room, continuing to feel miserable. I thought I was completely alone, but that was before two large, human shaped things came and sat down in a way that can only be described as firmly on either side of me. I knew it was Parvati and Seamus, but I didn't look up.

"Lavender, you've gotta snap out of this," Parvati said forcefully.

"Why?" I asked, not even bothering to pretend like I didn't know what she was talking about.

"Because you're making yourself miserable!" she said. I looked at her then.

"I spent most of the year making them miserable, Parvati. Don't you think it's my turn?"

"The world doesn't work like that," Seamus said from my other side.

"Well, maybe it should," was my sullen response.

"You can't keep punishing yourself for this," Parvati said.

"You want to watch me?" I muttered, staring straight ahead.

"No, thanks," she said. "I've been watching for the past week, and quite frankly, it's gotten old." I didn't even have the energy to glare at her for that remark. "Oh, for Merlin's sake, Lavender!" she exclaimed then, exasperated. "Stop sitting over here crying 'it's all my fault'! If it hadn't been you, it would've been something else, and you know it! This is Ron and Hermione."

"Who spent most of the year not talking because of me," I shot back.

"Yeah, because they've never done that before," Seamus muttered, his voice thick with sarcasm. Him I did glare at.

"It wasn't my fault before," I snapped.

"And no one's denying that it was your fault this time, though Parvati's got a point," he said. "But I don't see you doing much to fix it."

"Fix it!" I exclaimed. "I was trying to fix it before, Seamus. That's how I got myself into this mess!" He jumped on that.

"Yourself?" he said immediately. "And here I thought you said this moping was for the sake of Ron and Hermione."

"Leave me alone," I muttered pathetically, trying to disappear back into the couch. I really didn't want Seamus and Parvati to come along and start making logical, valid points.

"That's the best you can do?" he asked harshly. His words stung, and I looked up and away, trying to ignore the sting of tears threatening behind my eyes yet again. "What's this really about, Lavender?" he asked, softer, and that did me in.

"I just –" I said as the first tear slid down my cheek. "It didn't mean anything," I whispered. "I look at what I tried to do in relation to everything else, and it's so stupid! I just hurt people, and I didn't help anyone at all, and I just feel so stupid and foolish and — silly. And I look around, and everything's just a reminder of how — incredibly superficial everything I've done has been."

He didn't say anything to that; he just put an arm around my shoulders and held me to his shoulder, like it was the most natural thing in the world. And Parvati's hand slipped into mine, and I honestly don't know what I ever did to have those two in that moment.

"Don't count your dragons, Lavender," Parvati said softly. "You can't know what might come from what you've done."

"Misery," I said bitterly. "I'm never meddling in anyone's life ever again."

"I hope that's not true," she said softly. "Lavender, when all's said and done, you probably understand people better than maybe anyone else in this castle. It's a gift, and you have to use it. You can't just give all that up over this. This time? This thing? It was Ron and Hermione, who delight in confounding expectations, for whatever reason." I looked at her then, and she smiled. "I think they'd find a way to trick even the best Seer in the world."

Seamus looked like he was about to add something, but his words were cut off abruptly by a loud, uproarious cacophony coming from the corridor outside the tower. And then, in the next moment, the cacophonous mob was in the tower, spilling into every corner, writhing, cheering, halfway holding seven scarlet and gold clad figures aloft, all screaming and shouting so loudly over one another that absolutely nothing intelligible could be deciphered. But it didn't matter. What had happened was clear, even without the large silver Cup Ron was waving over his head.

"Hm," Parvati said, watching the chaos. "Wonder how the match turned out." And, for the first time in five days, I laughed. With a quick squeeze of my hand, Seamus stood and bounded over to Dean, who, as far as I could tell, began reliving the whole game, play by play, the fact that they had managed to win without Harry overcoming the fact that Seamus hadn't been there. I watched the pair of them for a moment, and then at all the celebrating happening around me and I couldn't help but smile, just the slightest bit. "You okay now?" Parvati asked softly.

"I just . . . I feel so guilty," I said softly, my eyes now resting on Ron and Hermione. "For everything I put them through this year. For caring so much about this when I should have been caring about so many more important things." In silence, we watched as Ron, still clutching the silver Cup in one hand, grabbed at Hermione's hand with the other, talking excitedly while she laughed and playfully tried to pull away. But she no sooner escaped than he caught her in a fierce and joyful hug from behind. She blushed at his enthusiasm, and didn't pull away.

"They seem to have gotten over it," Parvati said, following my gaze. "So don't you think it's time you did, too, Lav?" I sighed.

"I don't think it's that easy," I said, looking down at my hands.

"Why not?" she asked. "Why do you have to punish yourself over this?" I didn't have a good answer for her, and she knew it. I was in the middle of trying to formulate one when the portrait swung open again as Harry stepped inside, and then it wouldn't have mattered if I came up with an answer or not because the Tower exploded again as everyone tried to tell Harry how the match had ended. And then, before anyone even had time to realize what was happening, Harry and Ginny had met in the middle of the room somehow, and Harry was kissing her.

I sat straight up as the room grew eerily quiet, my hand blindly reaching for Parvati's. "Wow," she said softly in my ear, gripping my hand as Harry quietly pulled Ginny from the tower and the room broke into excited, stunned whispers. "If only there was someone who had seen that coming, had predicted that such a thing might happen. If only there was someone who understood people that well." I pursed my lips, but my heart wasn't in it. I couldn't stop smiling at the memory of the look that had been on both faces when they'd pulled apart. "You made a mistake, Lavender. It's time to stop acting like you're the only one who ever has."

All I said in response was, "Go tell Seamus he owes me fifteen Galleons."

I bounced back after that, but I still felt guilty over everything that had happened. Nothing alleviated that, not even seeing the subtle but weighty changes in Ron and Hermione's friendship. I spent the weeks til the end of term cursing the fact that it was too soon to admit what I'd done, but fully planning to tell all as soon as it was safe to do so. Over the summer, perhaps. Or at the start of next year.

But then Professor Dumbledore was killed, and everything changed for the worst.

I don't want to dwell on the hell that was my seventh year. It has little to no real bearing on this story, as neither Ron nor Hermione were around for it. I knew Hermione wouldn't be, knew it as soon as Snape was named Headmaster and Professor Burbage went missing. And it suddenly became all the more imperative to put differences behind us, and so I resolved to tell Ron everything at the start of term. I wasn't looking forward to the conversation, but I was prepared to go through with it. But then Ron didn't come back either. And though Ginny told us all that he was sick with spattergroit and quarantined at their home, her hollow, dutiful voice and the gleam in her eye told us the volumes that she couldn't. Paired with the fact that Harry also did not return, it didn't take a genius to figure out that wherever the three of them were, they were together.

That year was hell, and before it was even a few hours old, I knew I had far more to worry about this year than a few romantic relationships. We all spent the year struggling for survival and worrying constantly about those conspicuously absent from our lives.

I also don't want to dwell on the final battle. For one thing, it too has little bearing on my story, especially seeing as how I lasted all of twenty minutes, then woke up three days later with no idea what had happened or who had won beyond understanding that, if I was waking up in Mungo's, there was a good chance we hadn't completely lost. For another thing, I have no doubt that anyone listening to my story already knows full well what happened, both to me and overall. I have no desire to relive the experience, and I'm sure you have no desire to experience it vicariously.

Yes, I was attacked by the untransformed werewolf Fenrir Greybeck, and yes, I am exceedingly lucky to be alive. I owe the fact that I did not die to Hermione, who hexed the beast off of me, and Seamus, who actually found me and kept me alive. I owe the fact that I survived to Parvati, Seamus, and Bill Weasley. And yes, that is a story that should be told and should be heard, but it is not this story, and so I will leave it for another time.

Werewolf bites, even from an untransformed werewolf, cannot be Healed with a simple wave of a wand and some potions. My recovery was long and slow and more painful in many ways than the actual attack had been. What you really need to know is that there were days in that hospital room when I wished I had died, when I wanted to die, and the only things that kept me going those days were Seamus and Parvati and the brilliant Mungo's staff, who refused to give up on me or let me give up on myself, even on the worst days, when I cursed Seamus for saving me and refused to let him near my bedside.

I spent a lot of time in my own head in those days of my recovery. There wasn't anywhere else to go, really, and even though someone was with me almost every moment of the day, talking with them took too much energy, energy I didn't have to spare. Exhaustion and pain constantly numbed my being, and there were far too many days when verbal communication was simply beyond my capacity, days when I was simply too exhausted and aching to do more than let a few tears leak down my cheeks to soak into the bandages that thickly covered my neck.

And here I said I wouldn't dwell. The point is, all that I could do with any regularity was think and hurt, and I did an awful lot of both, but I tried to concentrate mostly on the first. I spent a week and a half simply coming to terms with everything in my life, all the regrets that I still held, finding the more silly and superficial among them and finally, finally letting them be part of the past. But the one I could not put behind me was what I had done to Ron and Hermione. Even though the three of us had moved so far beyond all that, even though I knew it ranked right up there among the silly and superficial, I hadn't explained, and I still needed to, for whatever reason you'd like to attach to it.

Then came a hard day maybe two and a half weeks after the battle. Parvati was the one who came in near its end, came straight from working to rebuild Hogwarts and sat by my bed and took my hand, after a brief, whispered conversation with Seamus.

"I have news that might make this day a little better for you," she said softly.

"Tell me," I whispered, not having energy to spare for more coherent or polite demands.

"I came across Ron and Hermione today," she said, and though my eyes were closed, I could hear the smile in her voice. "In rather an intimate embrace. Which suggests that whatever damage you may have done to their relationship, it has been, if not forgotten, then forgiven and repaired." I summoned the last of my strength and squeezed her hand, letting out a shaky sigh of relief and a couple involuntary tears. "I have also heard a rumor," she went on, "that it happened in the middle of the battle itself. I can't say how true the claim is, but word is, she launched herself at him."

It startled a laugh out of me, that news. And, much to my surprise, the laugh felt . . . pretty good. "I want to see her," I croaked out. Parvati was instantly alert; I could feel it.


"I have to, 'Vati. Please." Through great effort, I opened my eyes. "Please," I said again. And whether she understood or was just humoring me, she agreed to pass along the request. I was hoping for more of a "I will drag her to your bedside" response, but I took what I could get. And two days later, she walked into my room.

Seamus was with me when she arrived. She caught us in the middle of a gentle, hushed conversation that would have been embarrassing, had living through the last year not made experiencing normal adolescent embarrassment a little beneath us (I know I didn't mention any of this earlier, and so hearing of it now might seem a bit abrupt. But the truth is, sometimes life is like that. It doesn't always make good storytelling. Seamus and I, well . . . one day I just woke up in Mungo's and looked at him sitting by my bed, and realized I was in love with him. And that was that. So yes. Abrupt. But it was pretty abrupt in real life, too, at least for me. If you ask Seamus, he'll tell you that he'd been in love with me for years, and I'd just managed to miss all the signs. Talk about irony).

When she walked in, nervous and hesitant, Seamus stood, kissed me gently, and said, "I'll leave you to your conversation. But holler if you need anything."

"I don't think I'll be doing a whole lot of hollering any time soon, but I'll let you know," I said with a tired smile. He squeezed my hands and then stood straight, nodded to Hermione, and left. Awkwardly, Hermione stood at the foot of my bed for a moment after he'd gone.

"You and Seamus, huh?" she finally said.

"You and Ron," I turned back on her. She blushed furiously and didn't make eye contact with me.

"I don't know what I'm doing here," she said defensively. "I don't know why you asked me to come, and to be honest, I'm not sure why I did, except —"

"Hermione," I said, cutting her off. "I asked you to come so that I could explain. Please, sit down." Hesitantly, she did. And then the time had come. I had thought it would be hard, and maybe, before the battle, it would have been. But at that point, I was so tired, both literally in terms of body and mentally in terms of the situation. It should have been done with long before, and the time had come to truly end things. It had been put off far too long. And so I simply told her.

"I know you don't think highly of me," is how I started. "Which I understand completely. You have no reason to think highly of me, and every reason to think poorly of me. And what I'm about to tell you probably won't change that, and may just make you hate me more. But if you're going to, I'd like it to be for the right reasons. And I'd like to have thoroughly earned it. The truth is, I'm not – what you think I am. I'm worse."

And then I told her everything. I told her everything I'd told Ron when he'd been unconscious in the Hospital Wing. I told her everything that had happened since. I told her everything. It was exhausting, and the only way for me to get through it was to simply lie in the bed, eyes closed, and say it as straightforward as possible. I couldn't afford to be embarrassed. I didn't have the energy to spare.

And when I finished, I continued to just lie there, breathing hard and waiting for the blow to fall. Every second that passed without bringing a response from Hermione made me even more worried. I had to forcibly remind myself that nothing she could say or do could be worse than what I had already been through.

"Why would you do that?" she finally asked, and in her closed, guarded tone, I heard all the censure and anger I'd been afraid would be there, and not looking at her wasn't enough. I turned my head away, tears leaking out onto the pillow.

"I just . . . I was trying to help," I said softly. "I know that sounds awful, but it's the truth. I was just trying to help. I just wanted to make something better."

"No," I heard her say softly, with a little laugh that's the kind of laugh people give when they don't know what else to do. "I meant . . . why would you do that . . . for me?"

I turned my face back to her so quickly that the half-healed wounds on my neck screamed in protest. "What?" I asked dumbly. She looked down in embarrassed frustration, clearly trying to find better words.

"I've never treated you — we've never —" She sighed in frustration and sagged in the chair. "Why would you do that for me?" she whispered.

"Because . . . you deserve to be happy as much as anyone else," I said, slightly bewildered by her reaction. I swear, if I'd had any doubts that she and Ron belonged together, that would have dissolved them. I swear to Merlin, I have never met their match for people thinking they don't deserve the same level of happiness that everyone else does! "And if you never treated me with . . . it's not like I ever acted in a way to deserve it, you know. I'm just sorry for the mess I made of everything. I tried to help, and instead I just ruined everything. I spent the last year trying to find an opportunity to apologize. I understand if you hate me –"

"I don't," she said immediately. Then, "How much was you?"

"What do you mean?" She looked at me then.

"All those years. How much was you, and how much was just an act?"

"I — I'm not sure," I said honestly. "I've spent a lot of time the past year trying to answer that. I guess I'll let you know once I've figured it out for myself."

Then Hermione did something I had honestly never expected. She smiled. She smiled and said, "I look forward to it."

There was a slightly awkward pause then, until I said, "Thank you. For hexing Greybeck off me."

To my continued surprise, she flushed angrily and growled, "Least I could do to that monster. I only wish I'd been able to finish him off," and it occurred to me then that I really had no idea what she'd been through that year, but I would have bet my mother's wedding ring that she'd had a run-in with Greybeck at some point, and come away from it far better than I had.

It wasn't long after that that she left, to let me "get some rest," as she said, but she went away far differently than she'd come in. Something had changed, finally been settled, to my state of mind, and nothing illustrated this more than what she said just before she left the room.

"Lavender?" she said. "Just so you know . . . I think – I think you did more good than you're aware of. You should take more credit. I don't think we would have – gotten this far without you. I owe you." I shook my head in wonder.

"You really don't," I said with a smile. "But there is something you can do for me."

"Name it," she said simply.

"Invite me to the wedding." She colored instantly and began stammering as I knew she would. "Hermione," was all I had to say, with a pointed look, and she shut up immediately, though her color remained high. "Invite me to the wedding."

"I may make you a bridesmaid," she said.

"No," I said quickly. "No, I don't want that attention. Just – make sure I get an invitation." She nodded and turned to leave again, but this time I called her back. "Hermione," I said, exhaustion suddenly washing over me. "There is one thing I'll take credit for." She looked at me, expectantly. "When he kisses you, does it make your knees weak?" A blush was her only answer. I sank back into my pillows, eyes shut, a satisfied smile on my face. "That was me," I said, even as I began to drift off to sleep. "Trust me. You wouldn't have wanted the first version."

Just before I fell asleep for real, I heard two very softly spoken words that I'm not sure I was meant to hear, just before the lights flicked out and my door shut. "Thank you."

There is a Muggle author whom I know nothing about beyond his name and a single quote. His name is Sir Walter Scott, and the quote is this:

"Oh what a tangled web we weave

When first we practice to deceive."

I can vouch from personal experience that this is true. But to it, I would add a second set of lines:

But if we'd only sit and wait,

Each tangled web would work out straight.

Ron and Hermione were married yesterday, and, as promised, I received an invitation. I did not, however, sit in the seat they had reserved for me, right at the front. No, Seamus and I arrived just before the ceremony began, on purpose, and slid unobtrusively into the back row of chairs. And as I sat there and watched these two so obviously in love individuals be married together, a thought occurred to me, a thought that should have probably occurred long before yesterday, but somehow didn't.

Maybe Ron and Hermione knew what they were doing the whole time. Not in the conscious sense of knowing, of course, but at some level. The deeply buried part of themselves that recognized the other for what it was maybe also recognized that until Harry had done what Harry needed to do, nothing could be brought into the open between them. And so that part would be what worked so valiantly to keep them apart until it could be brought into the open. And if that were true, even so talented a matchmaker as myself would stand little chance against it. Tangled webs, indeed.

For a brief, frantic moment, I wanted to share my revelation with somebody – anybody. But then the moment passed, and I was able to sit and enjoy the ceremony, filled, as I'm sure everyone else was, with that feeling of finally resolved rightness.

I left shortly after the ceremony was over, staying only long enough to slip my card into the pile already dozens strong, then I made a quiet and graceful exit because there was no need for me to stay. I'd done what I'd done in secret, and I saw its culmination that way, too. When she sees my card, Hermione will know I was there.

In the end, it wasn't even a real card that I gave her. It was just a photograph, in an envelope, addressed to Hermione and only Hermione because I have no idea what she's told Ron. I left that up to her.

Just after the winter holidays of my sixth year, Colin Creevey gave me a photo he'd taken by accident and had no use for. At the time, it showed a relatively empty stretch of Common Room. At one edge of the picture stood me and Ron, his arms around me, smiling indulgently while I kissed his nose. But soon after we broke up, the picture shifted. I hadn't noticed until I'd been packing for seventh year.

Here's something you should know about wizard photographs. They have some flexibility of movement, obviously, but they can't change to show anything that wasn't there the moment the photo was snapped. Here's why I told you that. Because while, in that photo, I am still wrapped in Ron's arms, the pose is more subdued, and Ron's attention is very obviously not on me. Instead, he is looking past me, toward a shadowy corner along the photograph's other side, where a bushy head of hair is just barely visible above a huge pile of books. And the look on his face is one of unrestrained longing, laced with pain and self-loathing. It's a heartbreaking photo, really, and I often wonder if Colin didn't know exactly what he was giving me.

And now I've given it to Hermione. I debated a long time over what to include with the photo, but in the end, I just wrote a quick note on the back. The note references a conversation she and I and Parvati had back after the Yule Ball fourth year, she'd made a reference to Prince Charming and Parvati and I had asked her to explain. Her words from that night stuck in my head permanently, and in the end, there was no message more fitting.

And they all lived ever after. You're welcome. LB


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