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Title: Eight of Swords, Nine of Wands part two
Author: Vegablack62
Characters: Lavender Brown, Neville Longbottom, Various Others
Rating: PG
Word-count: 4,515, 12,000 when finished
Warnings: depiction of a damaged person, by the end some violence
Summary: Adulthood begins when we take responsibility not only for ourselves but for others. Lavender and Neville are seventeen and in their seventh year at Hogwarts. Their time to be adults has begun.
Author's Notes: stubefied by gd thank you for all your help with the first chapter. Clionona your advice on the tarot was invaluable. Thanks.
Betas: oddnari Thank you!

Graffitti challenging Snape appeared on walls all over the school the day the students returned to Hogwarts. Parvati had come running to her, hours after they had arrived, saying students were bringing back Dumbledore’s Army to resist Snape and any Death Eater rule at the school. How they were going to do that wasn’t clear to Lavender, or -- she guessed -- to other students either, but they were having a meeting again in the old Room of Requirement to discuss plans.

“Dumbledore’s Army, are you ready?” asked graffiti posted outside Gryffindor tower. Lavender wasn’t ready. She didn’t even know where her coin was. She’d tossed it somewhere the summer after fifth year and never found it again, but coin or no coin she couldn’t join. She and Parvati both agreed that she couldn’t risk drawing attention to herself; not now, not when she was so vulnerable. Attending meetings of students challenging the headmaster was not a way to follow Mr. Patil’s plan.

Giant drawings of Snape cursing Dumbledore greeted students, as they made their way to breakfast. Snape was cheered on in the picture by the hunched figure of Amycus Carrow, drawn so clearly that though he was a new teacher everyone knew who he was. The words How Dumbledore Really Died blinked across the top of these posters. They were ripped down as soon as they were found, of course, but they were everywhere. Kids who missed seeing them heard about them from those who had. Before the first week of school was over, everyone was asking if Snape had killed Dumbledore and if Carrow really had helped. The posters turned attention to Ginny; she was closest to Potter even if they’d broken up, and every one knew he had been in the tower the night Dumbledore had died. Lavender remembered that she’d been keen when the first Dumbledore’s Army formed to make it into more than just a place to learn defence.

Lavender had assumed that Ginny was behind the posters and maybe she was, but the witch had given herself an alibi. Ginny, contrary to past habit, had come to Parvati’s divination party. In the company of Lavender, Parvati and four other girls, she had stayed up all night, playing tarot and reading tea leaves. When Snape and Carrow questioned her, she’d been able to bring six witches forward to say that she hadn’t been out of their sight all night. Lavender had been a little angry at being used by Ginny, but she’d had to admit the girl had been clever.

Lavender glanced down at the newspaper she had spread across her lap. A frightened, wide-eyed man looked up at her from the front page. The headline, Usurper of magic uncovered at the Department of Magical Transportation hung over his picture. The poor wizard was going to Azkaban. Lavender could be in the same trouble very easily. If anyone investigated her papers then she would be the one staring out of the front page, waiting for her trip to prison, and then who knew what would happen to her family, and even the Patils? Sometimes she felt ashamed when she looked at Parvati, knowing the risks her family had taken for her. The only way she kept everyone safe was to pass herself off as a half-blood witch. To do that, she had to avoid notice. No, Lavender could not be associated with Ginny and her escapades again. She had to follow Mr. Patil’s plan: stay out of trouble, don’t get noticed, and protect her false identity.

It irked her. It irked her to have to hang back and watch the new Dumbledore’s Army form from the outside. Colin was obviously in deep. She saw him constantly with Ginny in the common room, closeted inside a buzzing cloud that silenced all they said -- Harry Potter’s two biggest fans. Lavender was ashamed of herself as soon as she had the thought. Colin was a Muggle-born with a false background, yet he was willing to risk joining Dumbledore’s Army. He wasn’t hiding like she was, afraid to draw attention to herself, for fear they’d look too closely at her blood status.

She tossed the newspaper aside and rubbed her face and eyes and ran her hands over her hair, trying to think of who might know she was a Muggle-born. The Patils did, of course, and Ron, who wasn’t around and would never betray his friends, anyway. Seamus knew, but he would never tell, either.

McGonagall had given her an odd look when she had shown up for school this year, but rumour said McGonagall, before turning her position over to Snape, had destroyed all records that would incriminate Muggle-borns.

Draco Malfoy suspected. He had called her a Mudblood once, but she had never responded to the word and had followed it up with an attack on him, instead. If he accused her, she could always say that she didn’t bother to deny it because he wasn’t worth the effort, which was true. But how many others there were she didn’t know.

Lavender grabbed a set of tarot cards, drawing strength from the familiar worn feel of the surfaces. She needed the power of divination now more than ever. She hated to admit it but Professor Trelawney had not been much help to her. Her vague gloomy predictions were -- a little discouraging.

eight of swordsKnight of Pentacles Lavender took a breath and laid out a spread of five cards in a star, seeking signs of false friends and enemies at Hogwarts. “What do I see?” she asked. The card was an Eight of Swords, a blindfolded woman in a prison of swords. She saw herself, Lavender, surrounded by enemies. She placed the second card. “What don’t I see?” she asked. She didn’t understand the answer, the Knight of Penatacles.

nine of wandsThen she chose her third card, the one that would tell her what she had the power to change. She didn’t like it. She feared this card because it made her think of suffering and defeat. It was the Nine of Wands, a wounded man holding a stave while eight other staves stood planted behind him. In the past the sprouting leaves on the staves had made her think of a gardener, but that was in happier times. Now the card brought to mind fear, wariness, strength, but in the face of suffering, battle scars and defence. Lavender meditated on the card and asked herself what she was defending. The only answer she had was her family, her sister and the Patils. She would be resolute in defending all three.

five of wandstemperance The fourth card and the fifth cards disturbed her as much as the third had. The fourth, the card that told her what she could not change, was the Five of Wands, five men in battle. Her last card, her fifth card, the card that would reveal what she could expect, was Temperance. The card asked the viewer to consider who she was and who she was becoming. Looking at the card it struck Lavender that she wasn’t who she was and that unsettled her.

Perhaps, she had never been. Most people didn’t know she was a Muggle-born. She was ashamed to admit it, especially now, but she’d purposely kept quiet about her background at school. She’d figured out that Muggle-borns didn’t have much status among wizards and she had very much wanted status. She had never lied to anyone, but she hadn’t advertised the truth either, not like Hermione, Dean or Colin.

Colin -- how she remembered Colin running around with his camera, telling everyone that he was taking pictures to show his Muggle dad back home. Now he was at Hogwarts with Denis, brazenly assuming everyone would believe his tale of a witch mother who’d left his father when Dennis was a baby. Strangely, even though Colin lied about who he was, he seemed honestly himself, the person he had always been.

She stared down at her spread, more troubled then before, and afraid of what the cards meant. They seemed so clear and yet she still didn’t feel that she understood any of them.

Neville walked up to Lavender as she studied her tarot spread. “Would you talk to me a minute?” he asked. “Because I need to ask you something.”

What could he want? He was in the DA, she was positive, maybe even a leader. Last year, he’d fought with Harry, and had even been wounded defending the castle. She was sure he was in the DA. Was he asking her to join? She couldn’t.

“It’s a favour,” he said. His face was red. Poor Neville had the kind of colouring that turned red easily. “I’m not asking you to Hogsmeade or anything.”

It had never entered her mind that he would ask her to Hogsmeade.

“I really need your help. I have to sign legal documents and I need witnesses. I’m supposed to have three, but Flitwick had to cancel at the last minute, which leaves me with only Sprout and McGonagall. I’d ask Ginny or Luna but they’re not of age, and Seamus and Parvati are off somewhere.” He gestured to the rolled parchment, the blue seal of an official Ministry document obvious even at this distance. “All you’d have to do is watch me sign a parchment and then sign it yourself. It’s official, from the Ministry; there isn’t a trick or anything. Like I said, Sprout and McGonagall will be there.”

Lavender thought of the magical contracts she’d been forced to sign and balked. “First, you have to tell me what I’m signing or I’m not going to agree to do anything. Is this an inheritance or something?”

“Yeah, of course.” He took a deep breath. “You know about my parents, from the newspapers and all.”

Lavender nodded. She’d read about them in fifth year; everybody had.

“Well, they can’t make decisions for themselves, so they need guardians. Now that I’m of age, I’m to be appointed one. I have to sign parchments saying that I accept the responsibility. This was supposed to all be done a week after my birthday, but after…” He lowered his voice, even though they were alone, “the attack on Scrimgeour, the Ministry was a mess and they only just finished the documents, so I have to sign them here before witnesses.”

Neville was a sort of parent to his parents. That was crap. Neville had so much garbage in his life and now he had even more. She gave a resigned sigh. “I can’t,” she said.

Neville looked shocked, like he never expected her to say no. “The meeting won’t be long. It won’t take much of your time.”

“No.” It was all she could say. She couldn’t put her name on papers that went to the Ministry; especially not for someone like him whose parents had fought Death Eaters. Who had fought them himself -- twice. She couldn’t risk it. Snape might find out and she couldn’t risk Snape’s attention.

He glanced over at the papers, looking panicked. She wondered if he had anyone else to ask, but either way it didn’t matter. He might be a guardian to his parents, but she was one to hers too, and to her brother and sister. She had to protect her family and that meant she couldn’t take risks for other people.


Neville stood beside the picture of the fat lady outside the Gryffindor common room, feeling like he’d been punched in the stomach. He leaned against the wall with his eyes closed. The seal on his magical parchments was growing warmer and warmer, warning him that the time was approaching when they would open and he would need to sign them before witnesses, as scheduled.

He was in trouble. First Flitwick cancelled, offering Madam Pomfrey as a replacement then at the last minute she sent her apologies. Apparently a group of second-years had snuck into the greenhouses to taunt the Venomous Tentacula and were all lying in the infirmary, needing treatment. Now, Lavender had turned him down, something he still couldn’t believe had happened. He half expected her to change her mind and come through the painting offering to help.

“Longbottom! Good, I found you.”

McGonagall marched towards him, with Sprout trotting behind. “I’d forgotten that the Ministry would owl the headmaster when legal business involving a student is being conducted. Apparently, our new head prefers to be present at such events. He insisted we have the signing in his office.”

There it was. Sneering, jeering Snape would sign the papers, in his office – the one he inherited from the man he killed on You-Know-Who’s orders. Neville would rather chew glass, but he had no choice. He had forced himself to march off to face Snape and his glares, sneers, ridicule and nastiness many times before. What was one more?

“Neville, we think it is a fine thing the way you have taken responsibility for your parents,” Sprout said, as they made their way to the Headmaster’s rooms.

He smiled and thanked her, because she was being kind and all, but Neville couldn’t believe that she really thought he had a choice. If he didn’t look out for his parents then who would? Strangers? His gran? She was getting old, though she would never admit it, and had borne the burden alone for a long time. He was young, and it was time he helped her carry the weight.

Sometimes, Neville wished that he could look into the future without having to worry about them, and could make plans without thinking about them. He didn’t like it, but he still did. That wish was no more likely to come true than a wish that they could be well and normal again. Besides, they deserved to have a son who wanted to take care of them.

As Neville and the two professors drew closer to the Headmaster’s office, Death Eaters lined the corridors, their faces hidden, hoods and masks advertising their allegiance. Their numbers seemed to increase every day. Weirdly, their presence made the meeting to come easier. They reminded him of what Snape was -- and of who his parents were.

Finally they reached a stone gargoyle which demanded a password.

“Dunderheads,” McGonagall replied, pursing her lips with disapproval.

At her word, the gargoyle jumped aside and the wall behind the statue broke into two, revealing a moving stone staircase, which carried them to Snape’s office. Inside, Snape stood bent over the desk, wrapped in his black cape. The room was dim, the windows shrouded. By the flickering light of the room’s candles, Neville saw something that made him feel stupider than Snape ever had.

Gryffindor’s sword lay gleaming in a glass case behind Snape’s desk. Ginny wanted that sword. Dumbledore, when he died, had left it to Harry, and Ginny was sure it would help defeat Voldemort. Luna, Ginny and Neville had been discussing stealing the thing since the train ride to Hogwarts, but had not been able to devise a plan to get near enough to do it and now, here it was in front of him. Neville had never thought to use the parchment signing as an excuse to visit Snape’s office and spy on the place, which he realized was stupid of him. He was only here because Snape had insisted. Harry would have immediately thought of using the parchment signing as a way to get into the office. Luna and Ginny would have too, he felt sure, had he given them the opportunity, but he’d told them nothing about it.

While Snape read out loud from the parchment; Neville scanned the room, looking for things they’d need to know before they came to take the sword, noting the furniture placement, and the magical contraptions that spun, twirled, and swung frantically at points around the room. One strange device sat on a table in front of Snape’s desk, puffing out rings of smoke that made Neville’s nose prickle at the smell. He wondered what they did, if any of them would sound an alarm if intruders broke into the room.

Portraits lined the walls, another risk for anyone sneaking into the office. Many were empty, but a few remained inhabited by sharp-eyed watching wizards.

Snape finished reading and held a green and gold quill out to Neville who walked forward, feeling like the weight of his parents was already on his shoulders. He’d known all his life that he would receive his father’s watch and his parents guardianship when he turned seventeen, but now that it was happening, he felt like the side of Gryffindor tower had fallen on him. As Neville stepped up to the desk, he bumped the small table and in trying to set it right, knocked over the puffing device. Quickly, he grabbed the magical contraption off the floor and set it back on the table where it seemed unaffected by its fall, quietly puffing away as it had before, but Snape, of course, was outraged. He glared at Neville like he always did, like he was a flesh-eating slug that had crawled out of a cabbage, and said, “I pity anyone who must rely on you for a guardian, Longbottom.”

Neville couldn’t imagine a more pointless remark. Of course, his parents were pitiful; they needed to have their seventeen-year-old son sign up as their guardian. What more evidence did anyone need? Neville already knew that he wasn’t ready for the task.

“I’m sure the Longbottoms would never have chosen this either, for themselves or their son,” McGonagall remarked, while Sprout spluttered her agreement.

“A perfect comment Minerva,” Sprout whispered, when she got her breath back. “I don’t see how I could add to it.”

Neville took the quill from Snape and signed the parchment in silence. He didn’t see the point in speaking; Snape had talked this way since the first moment they had met. When he finished, he held the quill out to the professors. McGonagall signed first, followed by Sprout, and then last of all, Snape. Neville frowned, his whole face tensing as he watched. Snape had been a friend of the people who had attacked Neville’s parents. Carrow had said so. The man loved to reminisce in class about his early days as a Death Eater, and talked often of how he and Snape had run with the Lestranges when they weren’t any older than the students in front of him. The indecency of allowing Snape to touch anything to do with his parents sat with Neville like a bitter taste in the mouth.

The room was quiet as the parchment rolled up and resealed itself, and a scratching on the window signalled the arrival of the Ministry’s owl. Snape drew back the curtains and opened a window for the bird, flooding the room with light.

Snape dismissed them all. Neville counted the steps between the desk and the door as he walked out. So he wouldn’t forget, he jammed his hands in his pocket and marked off each step with his hidden fingers. The password was safe; Snape had called him a dunderhead too often for him to forget it. Before leaving, he took one last look at the room and caught Snape standing alone by his desk, bent over, slumped as if he was burdened. When Snape noticed Neville watching him, he straightened and glared back. Neville turned from him and left, feeling Snape’s eyes on his back as he went.

As quickly as he could, Neville took leave of McGonagall and Sprout. He wanted to go before they started to make sympathetic comments about his parents. As he walked past the masked Death Eaters, bitterness rose in his throat again. He felt glad that he had knocked over the puffing device and had angered Snape. Really, he should devote all day and every day to making that man angry, irritated and annoyed. It did come easily to him. Neville decided he’d figure out what it was that Snape and Carrow wanted from him, and then do the opposite. If he thwarted them or made them angry, then his day was a success. It was a simple plan but a clear one and it made him happy just to think about it.

At the end of the corridor just beyond the Death Eaters, Luna stood waiting for him. She’d heard that he, McGonagall and Sprout had gone to see Snape and strangely, she’d guessed the reason why.

“Your parents need someone to take care of them and you’re of age now,” she said, as if the situation should have been clear as day to everyone. “You don’t like to talk about them, so when you had a meeting you didn’t want to talk about, I knew. Whenever you don’t talk about something, I know the not-talking is about your parents,” she said, as they walked.

That remark made Neville laugh. He thought the collection of subjects someone might not be talking about was quite large, and probably including things that they weren’t thinking about at all. When they were long past the Death Eaters, he whispered to Luna, “We need to talk to Ginny. I think we can get into the office. I know the password and the layout of the room.”

He was his parents’ guardian now, and as the parchment said, he acted on their behalf. The first thing he was going to do for them in his new role was steal Gryffindor’s sword.

As he walked with Luna, he saw on the other side of the corridor, Lavender watching him. He had the strange impression that she had been waiting for him, looking out for him. “Luna, do you see Lavender Brown over there?” he asked.

Luna studied Lavender for a moment. “She looks like she’s hiding,” Luna said.


The night after Neville had asked Lavender to witness some parchments for him, he, Ginny and Luna were caught stealing Gryffindor’s sword, of all things. A painting discovered them by accident. An insomniac hit-wizard whose portrait hung in another part of the castle had decided late at night to go roaming, and saw the three of them sneaking into the headmaster’s office. He’d gone for Snape and Snape had caught them, sword in hand as they stepped past the gargoyle that guarded the headmaster’s office. He sent them into the Forbidden Forest to camp for a night as punishment, claiming he was happy to have the “denizens of the forest do his work for him.” Umbridge had been the last person to spend the night in the Forbidden Forest and she had been in terrible shape when she had emerged, so the students thought the punishment a severe one. Lavender and Parvati sat up that night in the common room with half of Gryffindor waiting for Ginny and Neville to return.

Lavender wondered what Snape thought when he caught Neville stealing a sword from his office, the night after Snape himself had insisted he visit the place. That Snape had been nasty to Neville while he was there planning his theft gave flavour to the whole escapade that Lavender liked. She had heard about Snape’s behaviour from Padma, who had heard Sprout complain about it to Flitwick. Snape was an ass. She’d always known that. He was evil, of course. He killed Dumbledore and was a Death Eater and all, but besides being evil, he was also a complete ass and would be one even if he wasn’t evil. He was dirty too -- nasty, evil and dirty – he could claim all three. Lavender imagined Snape juggling balls: one labelled “evil,” another “nasty” and a third” dirty.” She enjoyed the thought.

No one knew what Neville, Ginny and Luna had intended to do with the sword. If the members of Dumbledore’s Army knew, they weren’t sharing the information. The students that Lavender thought were members looked as shocked as everyone else did when they heard the news. They were all either excellent actors or were truly ignorant of the plan. The Gryffindors, of course, were thrilled. They all agreed that their founder’s sword shouldn’t be in the hands of a Death Eater, Slytherin headmaster. They happily ignored the participation of a Ravenclaw girl in the deed, and insisted that the sword belonged in the hands of Gryffindors and Gryffindors were right to try to regain it.

The attempted theft energized the school. Students talked about it and how it meant that Dumbledore’s Army was willing to act, was ready to act and, maybe, even had a plan – perhaps something from Harry. Speculation ran wild, and was probably silly, but felt really good. Everyone felt less powerless and weak, and more like heroes, even if all they had done themselves was cheer for Neville, Ginny and Luna, as they spent the night in the Forbidden Forest.

Lavender thought that she was the only Gryffindor who hadn’t joined Dumbledore’s Army already. Even Parvati had, though her father had begged her and Padma to stay safe. She spent so much time with the Army, she and Lavender had less time together which hurt. Parvati understood Lavender’s situation and was kind about it. She would remind Lavender that she was only doing what she had to do, but Lavender found hanging back like this humiliating. Lavender Brown wasn’t made to hide. Fifth year when she read in the Daily Prophet about the heroes of the last war, she imagined herself standing with them. She always believed she would fight if the need ever came and instead, she was hiding like a rabbit from a fox.

For days, the newspaper ran articles on informers who had turned in Muggle-borns living under fake family trees. Some had received large bonuses for their information. One wizard, who had been caught arranging family trees for Muggle-borns, turned in his clients in return for freedom. She studied that man carefully to see if he had any connection to the wizard who had made her into a fake half-blood. As far as she could tell, he didn’t.

two of swordsHer ex-boyfriend and the leech who had made her family tree, the two of them were out there reading the same articles she did. Could she trust Kenneth, who had been to her home, had met her parents and her magical sister, and had dumped her at the first sign of danger? She felt like a fool for trusting him like that. The wizard who’d created her papers had done nothing but take and take from her. She didn’t trust him to do anything that didn’t benefit himself. She was afraid it was only a matter of time before one of them turned her in.

The tarot cards had not helped. The spread revealed swords and cups, cards of regret, self-interest and weakness. One card stayed in her mind, the third, the one that revealed what she had power to change. It was the Two of Swords, a blindfolded woman, a powerful woman holding crossed swords. Am I protecting something? Myself? My family? My sister? She didn’t know.

The day after Ginny, Neville and Luna returned from the forest, Colin Creevey approached her in the common room. “Neville and Ginny asked me to talk to you,” he said. “They thought you’d rather hear things from me because we’re both in the same boat.” He gave her an apologetic look. “Just so you know -- my mother really did run off when Dennis was a baby. Whether she was a witch or not – I’ll never tell.”

How had they known?

“Don’t worry -- you’re not obvious. Luna figured it out. Take this and keep it on you all the time.” Colin handed her two small vials.

“Polyjuice potion and the hair of a half-blood girl who never has classes with you and is in another house and year. If you’re ever in trouble drink the potion. It will confuse anyone who is after you. Hide in the Room of Requirement and we’ll keep them busy till you get there.” Colin nodded in emphasis, as he laid out the plan. “Dumbledore’s Army will look out for you. We’re here to help people who need it.” Colin, his job done, walked away to join Sloper in a game of Exploding Snap.

She looked across the room to where Neville sat reading a book as if he hadn’t just sent Colin over to talk to her. Her tarot cards lay on the table next to him. She walked over and as she leaned to pick them up, whispered, “Thank you.” He nodded, still reading his book. “I would have helped you if I could have,” she added. She still felt bad about refusing. She’d even watched for him to make sure he’d done all right without her. She’d been tempted to walk up and apologize, but then his friend Luna arrived, and they were smiling, and it didn’t seem necessary. Besides, she couldn’t have explained herself without giving away secrets.

While still reading, he smiled and said, “Don’t worry about it. Everything worked for the best.”

The next morning at breakfast, he was still reading the same book. He smiled at Lavender briefly when she sat at the table, and then returned to his page. Stealing the sword had been very brave of him. She hadn’t said anything to him yet about it, herself. Actually, Neville had done a lot of brave things that she had never bothered to notice.

“Stealing the sword was a brave thing to do,” she said, ready to list some of the other things as well.

Neville shook his head ever so slightly, and then roamed his eyes around the room. The message was clear: Don’t talk about such things in the Great Hall. She knew that. Wasn’t she keeping her own secrets? Her new life had made her an idiot as well as a mouse.

He must have been afraid he seemed rude or something, because he leaned towards her and said, “I had Ginny and Luna with me. Besides, when Snape caught us, he sent us to the Forbidden Forest, the same punishment he gave me first year.” He smiled before returning to his book.

Lavender supposed having detentions so often had given Neville some perspective. By now, he was probably a detention connoisseur. He sat there, reading, elbow on the table, head resting on the heel of his hand, fingers laced in his hair, completely engrossed. She wondered what was so interesting about the book. The title was odd: Wabi Sabi for the Western Wizard. Lavender had never heard of anything like it.

“What kind of spell is that – wabi sabi?” she asked, pointing at the book cover with her fork. She was sure it had nothing to do with the DA, or being Muggle-born, so it seemed a safe subject for the Great Hall.

“It’s not a spell, but a way of thinking,” he said, as he read. “Kind of a philosophy behind pruning – other things too, mostly art, but they mentioned it in a book I read on pruning maples.” He dragged his attention from the page and smiled at her. Neville smiled a lot. He probably thought it was polite. “I thought it was weird, having a philosophy behind pruning, so I picked up this book to figure out what they meant.”

“So what did they mean?”

“As far as I could tell, finding beauty in the imperfect, in -- you know -- damage and scars and loss.” He looked at her very seriously, like the words meant something important.

The book still made no sense to her.

Neville broke into a grin, “You’re probably thinking that a book about the beauty of imperfection is a great book for me. Huh.” He laughed.

She laughed too. After years of school with Neville, she had to think that was very funny. For the first time since she got Kenneth’s owl, she felt relaxed.

Part 3



Japanese child
Vega Black

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