The Sugar Quill
Author: Azazello (Professors' Bookshelf)  Story: Tempering Steel  Chapter: Default
The distribution of this story is for personal use only. Any other form of distribution is prohibited without the consent of the author.

<B>Disclaimer:</B> As usual - I respect J K Rowling; she's the woman without whom none of this would have happened

Author’s Note:

 

This story was been written for the livejournal genfic community, Omniocular’s, January Challenge, which was as follows:

 

"The theme is Janus, the two-faced god of doors and gateways, beginnings and endings, looking forward and looking back; he is a symbol of transitions and changes, of the middle ground between old and young, peace and war, barbarism and civilization.

 

The challenge is a character roulette. We have a numbered list of 100 characters, divided into five groups: Gryffindors (Nos. 1-25), Slytherins (26-50), Hufflepuffs (51-59), Ravenclaws (60-70), and those who either have no house affiliation or whose house is unknown in canon (71-100). You choose any two numbers, corresponding to two characters, who we will reveal after you have chosen, and write a story or create a piece of art about those characters."

 

I drew Lavender Brown and Rodolphus Lestrange. Sigh. Relax, dear reader, I have no intention of shipping them.

 

~*~

 

TEMPERING STEEL

 

BY

 

AZAZELLO

 

~*~

 

"Tempering refers to heating steel above a critical temperature, then cooling it rapidly to freeze it in a very hard state, followed by re-warming it to an intermediate temperature to give a hardness suitable for the job intended."

 

D C Miller:  "Tempering Steel"

 

"Hardened steels are softened by reheating."

 

From article on steel treatment, found on www.key-to-steel.com

 

 

~*~

 

People thought Lavender Brown was a silly and frivolous girl, but she wasn’t, not really.  It was just that she had learned early in life, to be popular, you should not be over-serious, over-clever, or over-involved.  You should not be seen to care too much.  You must be like everyone else, and never, ever, appear to be different.

 

When Lavender went to her Muggle primary school, when she was five years old, she was always the child with whom no one wanted to play; at least before her parents had that talk, and gave up the whole 'normal' education attempt as a bad business.  Even Mr Brown, who wanted his daughter to have some ‘Muggle heritage’ as he somewhat grandiosely termed it, understood that it was just impossible.  Despite every attempt by Mrs Brown to teach her daughter some control of the gift, odd things kept happening, and none of the other children wanted to play with her, or even talk to her.  Whenever there were birthday parties, she was never invited, even when every other child in the class or neighbourhood was.  So, by the time an owl brought a letter inviting her to Hogwarts, Lavender had realised that what she wanted most of all was to be accepted; to be one of the popular girls. 

 

She embraced the cause of popularity with the fervour of a religious convert taking the faith.

 

Lavender was not a swot, nor studious like Hermione Granger.  She wasn’t the sort of natural brain-box type for Ravenclaw, either.  But people who thought she was stupid and air-headed actually had her wrong - she had more than enough brains to get by. She’d just learned in an early and different life-classroom that to be clever, serious or studious – things that made you stand out and be different - generally meant to be disliked, and so she consciously eschewed such.  Her quest for popularity was a success.  Most people liked her a great deal.  It was easy. 

 

It was equally easy to take Ron Weasley from Hermione, even though Lavender could see that Hermione really fancied him.  In fact, in many ways, Lavender and others saw that before either Hermione or Ron did.

 

It was not so easy to lose Ron to Hermione.  Lavender had really liked Ron, indeed love might not have been too strong a word, but, of course, she could never have expressed it, because that would have meant being the sort of serious girl she affected to despise.  Being a not-serious girl also had its downside in that she could not now perform a sort of temperament volte-face and show hurt.  So no one saw Lavender cry into her pillow at nights after the dorm slept, when Ron started going out with Hermione. 

 

And then there was the terrible thing that happened to Lavender in the summer holidays, after her sixth year – shortly after Professor Snape murdered Albus Dumbledore. 

 

She’d been to visit Parvarti, her best friend.  They’d drawn even closer since Dumbledore had died; when not even the most blinkered and ostrich-like attitude could withstand the truth that terrible events were afoot.

 

"Mum?"

 

She approached her mother, who was standing motionless with her back to the door, in the kitchen.  Lavender could see immediately there was something terribly wrong, from her stance and the particular set of her shoulders. It took all her courage to approach nearer.  Her mother was standing with her fist clenched against her mouth, almost as if she were biting it.

 

And her eyes....

 

"Mum?" More alarmed this time, Lavender could feel a cold chill running down her spine.

 

Her mother’s eyes were circled, and red.  She’d been crying.

 

"What’s wrong?" This time, Lavender almost screamed at her.

 

"Your father...they got him last night, on his way home...."

 

No need to ask who ‘they’ were.  Now, the events that had scarred the last two years for so many of her school friends had come home to her, too.  There was a tangible, almost crystalline silence, which spun out between the two of them in that kitchen, and which was shattered into broken shards by Lavender’s horrible shriek of despair.  "DAD!"

 

Lavender made absolutely sure that no one saw her cry after Ron went for Hermione.  And more importantly, she certainly wasn’t going to let anyone find out about her hiding in her own family attic in the weeks after her father was murdered by Voldemort’s Death Eaters.  Popular girls don’t scream, they don’t howl, and they do not tear out hanks of their own hair.  She couldn’t even let her mother see.  Mrs Brown had her own terrible grief.

 

All the popularity in the world did not abate the pain of losing her dad.

 

~*~

 

What little emotion Rodolphus Lestrange ever had or felt was been mostly done away with during his years in the inner circle of the Dark Lord’s servitors; with the residue slowly drawn from him during his thirteen years in Azkaban - sucked away by the Dementors who feed on human emotion.  If there was anything left, it now lay so deeply locked within him, he was not aware of it. 

 

Besides, to be Rodolphus Lestrange was not to have emotions.  Best not.  He lived in a perpetual vortex of mad emotion; there was more than enough emotion in his life, without his adding to it.  No - best not.

 

Compared to his wife, Bellatrix, and his brother, Rabastan – who was known by the Death Eaters, and their enemies alike, to be barking, crazy mad – Rodolphus was considered by many to be the softer edition of the Lestrange trio.  It wasn’t true.  He only appeared to be the more human face of his own diabolical trinity, by virtue of his cold and calculating sanity.

 

Long ago, someone had asked Rodolphus what had led him to join the Dark Lord’s followers.  What particular trigger or driver had set him onto the path towards becoming one of the most feared members of the Dark Lord’s inner circle?  He had never answered, only offering his questioner (it had been the late and unmourned Rob Wilkes) a look of total contempt.

 

Had he deigned to reply, he might have explained that his joining the Dark Lord’s coterie was never an emotional issue, like it had been for, say, Severus Snape (everyone in the inner group knew what precisely what progression of events had sent Snape to the feet of their master), or a fanatical near sexual passion for what the Dark Lord was (as in the case of his dear wife – he might have smiled cynically when explaining that one), or merely the chance to commit murder and mayhem, like his brother or Greyback (at the thought of that latter, he would unconsciously bare his teeth in disgust – he was not even aware of doing it).  It was, for Rodolphus Lestrange, a purely intellectual and rational decision.  He weighed up the pros and cons and decided that his attraction to order and linear goals was better expressed in the service of the Dark Lord.   Rodolphus’ own father had been one of the Dark Lord’s earliest followers – from their common schooldays – and so it might have seemed to the outside observer that yet another scion of some family of dark wizards had run true to form.  Erroneously, because had Rodolphus not wished to take the Dark Mark, no power on earth could have made him. 

 

That all seemed long ago, now.

 

Over the last few weeks, he had watched in dismay, as one by one, his colleagues and family seemed to shed their sanity, like a snake might slough off an outgrown skin.  His wife, his brother, his colleagues – Snape seemed nigh unhinged since he killed Dumbledore (and Rodolphus Lestrange had always effortlessly been able to see under the thin veneer of Snape’s outer sanity, to the fuming turmoil beneath.  And most unthinkable of all, their master, too, seemed to be losing his grip on events.  It was as if their whole movement – the elegant bastion of power that had attracted Rodolphus in the first place - was crumbling.

 

However, to leave would be unthinkable.  Where would he go?

 

~*~

 

After she stopped crying daily and secretly for her father, Lavender decided that being popular hardly mattered anymore.  Popularity had never given her the things she wanted, had it?   Had being popular kept Ron by her side?  Had it saved her dad?

 

War was not a time when façades were needed or wanted. 

 

Revenge of some sort, however, was.  She considered this for some time. Before you could take revenge, you needed to know who its object was.  She needed to know who had killed her father – not just the fact that it was yet another Death Eater murder.

 

She sent several Owls to the Ministry, but they would not tell her who had been responsible for her father’s death.  However, she was a resourceful girl when she wanted to be, and a few hours poring over back numbers of the Daily Prophet yielded the nugget that the three Lestranges had been seen, shortly after a similar murder, in a neighbouring town, the same night as her father was Death Cursed on his way home.   Lavender was aware that such cross-connections were not exactly evidence; however, it was proof enough for her.

 

Knowing whom she wanted revenge against was not enough - she needed a way. And being realistic, how on earth was she, Lavender Brown, going to get the chance to take on and defeat any of the Lestranges – three of the most feared of Voldemort’s cohorts?  She lay awake for many nights, inventing one hare-brained scheme after another, and discarding each one in sneering disgust at her own weakness. 

 

As the nights went by, and rest eluded her, she began to think she was going mad.  Certainly the mirror showed her that the fluffy-headed giggler of her year in Gryffindor had gone entirely.  She was being forged by the heat of her own rage into something very different, but something she did not know how to be.  She didn’t know how she was going to endure this new life.

 

Then, the next day saw an unexpected visitor arrive.

 

~*~

 

For the Lestranges, it had merely been business as usual.  The Death Eaters had one or two useful ‘sleepers’ in the Ministry of Magic who were able to provide details of the sort of people the Dark Lord wanted made eliminate – Muggles who had married witches or wizards.  Sometimes both parties to such disgusting unions would be killed; sometimes it was more fun to leave weeping widows and orphans.  On the night in question, they had been advised of the movements and whereabouts of the Muggle, Brown.  The Ministry’s Muggle Relations Department kept tabs on all Muggle partners in mixed marriages as a matter, of course, just in case a breach of the Secrecy Act occurred – as was occasional in the case of marital fall-outs.  So they knew Brown’s habits.  They also knew that Brown’s daughter was a schoolmate of Harry Potter’s, so it was more important than might have been immediately obvious.  Let the Brat Who Lived quake with fear - and guilt - every time he opened a copy of the Daily Prophet. 

 

They covertly followed Brown until he was a mere lane away from his home.  Bellatrix could have done it, but she found such a quarry boring – simple killing without any accompanying torture was of no interest to her – it was the same with Rabastan.  The duty thus went by default to Rodolphus, who performed the Death Curse with something bordering on indifference.  He gently tapped the man on the shoulder, watched as he turned, and greedily drank up the look of surprise, which was rapidly replaced by terror, in the Muggle man’s light blue eyes, before killing him with the speed of a striking snake.  Bellatrix gave a low chuckle. Rabastan cast the Dark Mark into the sky.  The usual. Then they all turned and almost strolled away before Disapparating en route to the next ‘call’; it was nothing to them, just another job in a whole list of things to be done that night.

 

By the following morning, after a night of heavy duty, the Muggle, Brown was forgotten.

 

~*~

 

Neville Longbottom was the very last visitor Lavender expected.

 

In truth, Lavender always (like most of the girls in her year) affected to laugh at Neville.  He had the reputation of being a bit soft, a bit wet.  The minute Lavender looked at him when he called - really looked at him - she realised that he, too, had been wearing his own persona with which to face life.  Just like her.  Now she understood that Neville’s seemingly gentle façade cloaked a rage to match her own – a rage to far outsoar hers, in fact.  And she’d not even realised until she looked at him, just how angry she was about her father.

 

He did not waste time with any polite preliminaries and social amenity, either; it was exactly what she wanted.  And needed.

 

"I heard about your dad, Lavender.  I’m sorry."

 

"It was--"

 

"I know who it was.  That’s why I’m here."

 

She got ready to speak, but what came next astonished her.

 

"The Lestranges did it, didn’t they?"

 

"I think so.  How did you--?"

 

"They got my mum and dad - years ago, after Harry Potter became ‘The Boy Who Lived.’  They wanted to know where He Who Must Not be Named…damn it,   V-Voldemort..." Lavender could see the inner struggle to say the hated name.  There were generally only two people in the world who would ever dare call the Dark Lord by name, Harry Potter and Professor Dumbledore.  She was heartened by Neville’s courage.  "They wanted to know where Voldemort had gone.  They tortured my mum and dad. Again and again, with the Cruciatus Curse...."

 

At last, something a few years ago that had vaguely puzzled her made sense.  It was during one of their classes with Professor Moody (only it turned out he was not the real Moody) as Defence Against the Dark Arts Teacher.  He’d demonstrated the three Unforgivable curses, and now she remembered a brief glimpse of Neville’s face, white and strained, and how he’d left the class, head held unnaturally high, eyes over-bright. 

 

Neville continued, saying:  "They’re in St Mungo’s, now.  They’re mad. They don’t recognise anyone.  I see them during the school holidays."  Such a mild and matter-of-fact tone to introduce such monstrous cruelty, Lavender thought.  "The Lestranges did that to my mum and my dad.  I think I know how you feel, Lavender.  If there’s anything I can do...."

 

She bit her lip, momentarily beyond speech. "Are you going back to Hogwarts, after the hols?" she asked, trying to make conversation.

 

"I suppose so.  Gran says I have to." He shrugged. "How about you?"

 

"I never really thought...I suppose I shall.  Is it true Harry’s not coming back?"

 

"So I understand.  He and Ron and Hermione are going off to try and find some stuff out.  To do with You-Know...Voldemort...."  He said the forbidden name easier this time, and she felt an obscure form of comfort.  It strengthened her, and she no longer felt quite so alone, so bereft.  She also noticed detachedly, that the name ‘Hermione’ no longer held any real emotional resonance.  She could even silently wish them good luck in their quest, without any personal reservations.

 

"I want revenge," she said simply.

 

"I want justice," he replied.  Lavender thought it was the same thing; it was not until much later that she realised there was a world of difference between the two terms.

 

They talked a little more about inconsequential things, and then Neville left.  She did not see him again until the term started, but she felt better for his visit.  Something was growing inside her mind in the meantime, and she hoped she’d get the chance to speak with him again.

 

~*~

 

Soon, it was time to go back to Hogwarts.  The night before term started, Lavender went to stay with Parvati and Padma.  Their dad took them to Kings Cross – in a Ministry car specially borrowed for safety.  It seemed that the Ministry was determined that there would be no incidents, and security for all returning children was tight.  Fortunately, nothing untoward marred the start of term.

 

It wasn’t the same on the train.

 

Lavender sat with her usual friends on the Hogwarts Express, but gone was the easy banter, the girlish giggling.  It was as if a new seriousness had enfolded them all.  Parvati, Padma, Romilda – even Romilda - seemed to have new seriousness.  And Ginny Weasley was there, too.  Ginny seemed almost grim – Lavender wanted to ask her if she had any news of Harry, but did not quite dare – there was a tight set to Ginny’s mouth that discouraged it. 

 

No one had said much about her father, beyond a shy, ‘I’m so sorry, Lavender,’ and she was glad.  She still hurt about her dad, and probably always would, but it was not something she could easily discuss.  The only person who had seemed to understand her was Neville, but he was elsewhere on the train with some of the boys.

 

~*~

 

It was at the feast, after the Sorting that the enormity of what their lives had become hit Lavender hardest.  The gaps in the hall – they were so small, but yet so huge, too.  The Gryffindor table bore a void where Harry Potter, Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger should have been.  ‘Surely,’ everyone whispered, ‘Hermione would have been Head Girl.’  Now she was no longer there.  Instead, she had gone who knew where, on who knew what crusade or quest, with her two best friends.  No one spoke of it, but everyone was thinking of it and secretly praying for their victory.

 

There was another gap, too.  At the Slytherin table – Draco Malfoy was no longer there, and his two shadowy goons, Crabbe and Goyle, had also not returned to Hogwarts.

 

Professor Dumbledore and Professor Snape no longer sat at the High Table, either, but that was not even to be thought of.  Lavender was not alone in studiously not looking at the High Table.

 

Those gaps said everything about what was happening in their world.

 

"Lavender--" A hand touched her shoulder.  She looked round to see Neville.

 

He sat down beside her without being asked, this new Neville who seemed decisive and toughened with new inner steel. "Lavender – I’ve been thinking.  We should reform Dumbledore’s Army...."  At the name, she winced – she could not help herself and he saw and stopped saying what he had been about to.  "Don’t you think it’s a good idea, then?" he asked.

 

"I think it’s a great idea.  I think it’s the best idea anyone has had."

 

"It’s just that you seemed to wince...."

 

"It was the name of Dumbledore, not the idea.  It’s right, Neville."  She spoke with a firmness to match his; perhaps she was beginning to find some new steel of her own.

 

"Will you tell everyone who was in it last time?  They won’t take much notice of me."

 

"I think they will.  You’ve changed a bit, Neville.  So have I.  We’ll both do it.  It’s the right thing, and I think Harry would like that we are doing something here, and Headmaster Dumbledore would, too."

 

And perhaps this was the way to her revenge.

 

~*~

 

Rodolphus was bone weary.  If he had believed for a minute he could have got away with a fast fade, he would have, not to put too fine a point on it, run like hell.  He wanted out of this insane asylum that his life had become.

 

His wife spent her waking and sleeping hours muttering inanity, and gibbering like the madwoman she now most clearly was.  He no longer even felt a vestige of pity for her.  It had been a summer of escalating violence and mayhem, with accelerated raids against mixed families, and those purebloods who had not declared for the Dark Lord. 

 

Rodolphus had never imagined that dark magic sport would grow tedious but it had, as had the company of the mad, and the despairing.  The mad – his dear wife and brother.  The despairing – those so bereft of hope, that it seeped out of their skin pores like rank sweat – Severus Snape – whose blank black eyes looked like some deep unbearable pit of non-being – and Pettigrew, the eternal butt of all their jokes, who nowadays visibly cringed when anyone so much as looked at him.

 

Rodolphus, looking dispassionately at his fellows, realised that their cause was utterly doomed.   He looked to find an end soon, and prayed, for the first time in his life, that it would be quick - anything but to live, and anything but to be imprisoned, again. 

 

And no more killing – he was done with that.  Let him just find his quick end, he implored whatever fates might be listening.  He was no longer dispassionate, no longer the calm one; he had changed, his life had forged him into a tortured and base metal that would crack at the first fatigue.

 

~*~

 

Over the rest of the school year, Neville and others took turns to teach the rump of the old illicit movement Harry had formed in Umbridge’s year.  All sensed some urgency, and there was a common belief that just as the Death Eaters breached Hogwarts’ defences last year, there might be a similar incursion at some point during this one. 

 

"We have to defend this place," said Neville, speaking privately to Lavender one session, after the others had gone. "What if Harry defeats Voldemort--?"

 

Lavender still could not restrain the old frisson of shock at his use of the forbidden name.

 

He continued without noticing her visible shudder:  "And there is nothing left here--?"

 

"He is fighting for all of us – let’s make sure there is something for him to return to," Lavender finished for him.  He smiled at her.  She did not say how much she just wanted to see whichever Lestrange had killed her dad writhing in agony in front of her.  She felt it best not to.  Best not to open those wounds Neville must have carried in silence for many years.

 

But once again he surprised her.

 

"You want to hurt them, don’t you?" he asked.

 

She shrugged.

 

"It’s not right," he said firmly.  "That’s not justice – it’s revenge and it’s their sort of revenge, too.  That’s them winning.  I realised that after we went to the Ministry.  If we start doing what they do, it makes us no better than them."

 

"But I want--"

 

"I know what you want.  Or what you think you do.  But if you become like that woman who destroyed my mum and dad, it’s not a victory, Lavender - not for us, anyway."

 

She said nothing more, but she did not see how they could be defeated except by their own dreaded weapons.

 

~*~

 

And so the meetings began – weekly at first, then as the school year drew on towards early summer - daily.  Everyone seemed to sense the urgency.  All the older Gryffindors, most Hufflepuffs and Ravenclaws, and even a few shamefaced and renegade Slytherins, perhaps taking the lead of their new house head, Professor Slughorn. 

 

And as the year drew on, they were close to ready – as ready as they thought they could be.  Endless practice of defensive magic, night after night – it was exhausting, but desperate.

 

Neville had become a sort of leader in a quiet and reluctant way, and stopped to say some final words to their group in the very last session they had.

 

"Remember, we are there to fight against the Death Eaters – not to be the Death Eaters.  No Unforgiveables – or we become as bad as they are."

 

Lavender could see a number of faces looking a bit nonplussed at this.  How, after all, were they to fight these creatures, if not with the same sort of weapons? She didn’t know the answer, she herself wanted to kill everyone with the name of Lestrange – she didn’t see how Neville could pretend differently.

 

~*~

 

When Voldemort sensed the destruction of the last but one of the Horcruxes, those repositories of his murder-fragmented soul, he clutched the very last one, his snake-spy-evil-sigil, Nagini, close to himself in some grotesque parody of affection, and as a last throw of hatred’s dice, despatched the bulk of his forces to destroy Hogwarts.  In a supreme irony of fate, he kept by his side two men he believed he could most trust.

 

Severus Snape and Peter Pettigrew.

 

Severus Snape - whose allegiances were so twisted, so tortured that even he himself hardly knew what they rightly were, anymore - sat at Voldemort’s right hand in the role of trusted second.  Cringing at his dark master’s feet sat poor Peter Pettigrew – a debased man who had once had his life saved by Harry Potter, years earlier. 

 

~*~

 

Children, teachers, house elves, those few Aurors who were on guard duty, the surviving members of the Order of the Phoenix, some of the Centaurs of the Forbidden Forest, all stood in formed ranks, ready to defend the school, the Hogwarts ideal and the legacy of Albus Dumbledore, against the army of vileness that Voldemort sent:  Renegade werewolves under Greyback, thirsting for the fresh, red throat blood of the youngsters; as well as vampires; giants; and the evil elite corps of Death Eaters. 

 

Neville and Lavender found themselves acting generals of the old Dumbledore’s Army, by default.  Their small group now augmented by those in the upper years who had not joined earlier, but who now chose to make their stand to defend their school.  The younger children were hidden deep in the school dungeons by members of the Order of the Phoenix – where they would be safe, unless the day was lost.  If that happened, no one would be safe anywhere. 

 

There was only time for some brief orders, disposing the better fighters in position where they could rally the lesser ones, before the final assault fell.

 

For Lavender, whose expectations of what a battle would be like had been hugely influenced by Muggle film depiction – her dad had been a keen filmgoer and she had loved to go with him – it was almost like a disappointment.  She’d expected carefully drawn lines, with each side following a specific strategy.  Or something rather grand like in the Narnia books she’d read when younger.  What actually happened was more of a series of rag-tag skirmishes; a confused melee of bodies, of noise, cursing, and scrappy fighting.

 

The battle was not long, for after an hour of grievous loss – of adults and children - it is hard to fight an equal fight when your enemy has no rules of engagement and you have many – a sudden silence fell, and all fighting stopped. 

 

Something had happened, but no one was sure exactly what it was.

 

The details would not be known until afterwards, but what happened was that both Snape and Pettigrew, at the very last minute, turned against the Dark Lord and paid their own long debts.  They were instantly murdered by Voldemort but that murderous moment gave Harry Potter the time and diversion he needed to destroy his enemy, as had been prophesised. It was the end.

 

Most of the non-human combatants, no longer under any will other than their own, turned without further ado and fled into the Forbidden Forest.  This left only the Death Eaters who had been sent, and suddenly the hearts of the defenders of Hogwarts lifted as they were no longer fighting against overwhelming odds.  The Death Eaters seemed to sense this, too. More than one began slowly to retreat away towards the Forest, and hopefully their escape.

 

"Don’t kill them!" called Neville in a gasp. "Capture!"

 

Lavender ended up duelling one of the few Death Eaters who did not flee, and aimed a spell, which dislodged his mask.  When he saw her at close quarter, his eyes widened in recognition.  He’d seen those same eyes months earlier, in a different face – the face of a middle aged man.  Pale blue eyes with a shocked look, and he knew instantly whose daughter she must be.

 

He’d heard the call for capture, and realised that there was only one way of avoiding a return trip to Azkaban.  By now, half the force of Aurors in the country would be on their way, and as if to confirm his thought, he heard the beginning of a series of popping noises that heralded mass Apparition.

 

His wife, Bellatrix, was kneeling on the ground, keening and mourning for her dead master, who Rodolphus supposed had been the real love of her life.  He paid her no further attention.  Let her find her own salvation, though he doubted there was any such for her.  There was a way for him to escape the fate he dreaded, though.

 

"Know who I am, girl?" he sneered at Lavender.  He saw how her eyes blazed with rage – yes, she knew, all right.  He pressed home the advantage, hoping to provoke her further. "I killed your father! Stupid Muggle!  Served him right, all Muggles should die!"

 

She caught her breath.  She could kill him, and avenge her father.  It would be easy.  She was ready.  This was exactly what she’d hoped for, and what she’d dreamed of all year.  Revenge. 

 

She raised her wand and pointed straight at his head - just as she’d practiced so many times.  What she intended to do was not something she’d learned at meetings of Dumbledore’s Army.  She readied herself, and drew on her banked hatred to power the curse she intended to use.

 

The she heard, as clearly as if it had been spoken aloud, Neville’s words:  "Remember, we are there to fight against the Death Eaters – not to be the Death Eaters.  No Unforgiveables – or we become as bad as they are."

 

She wanted to kill this murderous swine - just for a moment - and then she realised that this was exactly what he wanted and that by killing him, she’d be his agent.  And besides, she knew in this moment, neither her dad, nor her mum would want her to be a killer – not ever. 

 

And nor did she.  She had wondered who she was becoming since her dad died.  Now she knew – she was Lavender.  The real Lavender Brown.  Herself.

 

"It’s not right.  That’s not justice – that’s revenge and it’s their sort of revenge, too.  That’s them winning.  I realised that after we went to the Ministry.  If we start doing what they do, it makes us no better than them."

 

Words that sounded clearly among the gasps and groans of fighting, above the rage and screams of the defeated and the injured.

 

Revenge was not justice.  This creature had committed many crimes – and all his victims cried out for a justice that was not hers to give, but she would do her best to make sure that he got the justice he deserved.

 

"I know what you want.  Or think you do.  But if you become like that woman who destroyed my mum and dad, it’s not a victory, Lavender.  Not for us, anyway."

 

Yes.  So right.

 

She felt this cold steel inside her, and it straightened her back, steadied her wand, and strengthened her arm.  Lavender saw a look of insane exultation on the face of her enemy.  She smiled gently back, and noted how he closed his eyes in relief at having successfully goaded her into giving him the release he craved. "Stupefy!" she called, and his eyes snapped open in horror.  She saw the look of appalled terror in his eyes, before he fell to the ground, pole axed.  It was an easy matter to magically bind him.  Until whatever justice that could be done, was done.

 

Lavender looked over to where the dreadful Lestrange woman was – she, too, was bound in cords and sobbing, while Neville, no longer looking like a general, but more like a tired boy, turned his back on her, and approached Lavender at a near stagger. 

 

His eyes were very bright, and she held out her arms to him, as a friend, and hugged him tightly.

 

"We won," she whispered.

 

 

THE END

 

 

//
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