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Snowdrift

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Dear Parvati,

I keep dreaming about

A pause. The quill freezes, hovering above the page like a frightened creature. When she moves again, Lavender crosses out those four words with a single stroke, then continues on.

Christmastime is just gorgeous this year, isn’t it? I wonder if the snow at Hogwarts

This time, she stops to glance out the window. Past the frost she sees an ocean of snow, thickening even still as the halfhearted blizzard persists. Just looking at it is enough to make her shiver.

As her gaze wanders, a snowdrift looming by the shed catches her eye, holds it. Something about it menaces her; the longer she stares, the more convinced she is that anything could be hiding in its depths. She shivers again and hunches her shoulders against some imaginary cold.

Another line of ink obscures the writing. It’s only a draft anyway, she tells herself.

A draft.

The words sink in the second time around. Here she is, planning out what to say to her best friend, like it’s some terrible chore. Like it’s a formal document. And now that she really thinks about it, why is she even writing this? They don’t usually owl over the holidays, and they’ll more than likely see each other before getting back on the train. So why this? Why now?

Almost without hesitation, she writes the answer in her looping script, then crosses it out viciously.

I’m so scared

Her stubborn pride has her flushing red with shame. So much for Gryffindor courage, she thinks. So much for Dumbledore’s Army. She may as well be a Squib; at least then she’d have an excuse for not being able to cast a Patronus. Sighing, she scratches the tip of her quill against the parchment pitifully.

I can’t do anything, she writes, giving in to the need to sulk. Sometimes I wonder if it feels this impossible for everyone, or if it’s only me. I feel like such a stupid little child when I look around the room and no one else’s hands are shaking at just the mention of You-Know-Who. Harry’s parents were killed by him and not even he’s afraid. Everyone else is ready to learn how to fight and go to war and be heroes.

I don’t want to be a hero, Parvati. I’m sixteen and I’ve never kissed a boy. My Shield Charm is a mess, and my aim is sloppy, and I’m just a dreadful witch. I bollixed up one of the curses a while back and turned Ernie’s nose into a turnip. I’m an idiot. Everyone knows I’m an idiot. I’ll be no good for the cause but if I don’t fight they’ll think know I’m just a coward. No better than a Slytherin.

Her throat feels thick. She sniffles once, loudly, and squeezes her eyes shut, waiting for the burning to stop. She isn’t going to cry. She isn’t going to sit in the study and cry over some stupid little bit of parchment, just because everything on it is true. All that would do is prove it, because she’s a frightened, weak, useless baby who can’t—who can’t—

Letting out a cry of frustration, Lavender crushes the paper into a clumsy ball and throws it. Then, too tired to care, she brings her knees up to hug them to her chest and cries.

Her parents are gone, visiting Auntie Janine (or Christa, or maybe Amaryllis, or Jacqueline; Mum’s family is impossible to keep track of). Lavender is alone in the house. When she sobs her words all drift into some nameless void, and somehow that makes everything that much worse.

She isn’t ready. Ever since Cedric Diggory was killed, Lavender has felt a vague yet persistent coldness somewhere deep inside of her. It’s like fear, she thinks, but more… more… what? The word is there, on the tip of her tongue—and oh, just like that, it comes to her.

Imminent.

That’s what it is. A frigid and paralyzing emptiness that seems to signal something far, far worse, something she can see coming but can’t quite identify, even though it’s approaching closer and closer and faster and faster, running at full tilt. It’s the anticipation of a thing so horrific it goes beyond words.

Or maybe she does know exactly what it is, but hasn’t wanted to say it.

Maybe it’s as simple as five words: I don’t want to die.

Inexplicably, that thought strengthens her resolve. Her hands tremble as she readies another sheet of parchment. She smooths the paper unnecessarily, willing herself not to be so weak, so useless. When she finally dips the nib into the inkpot, the movement is steady.

“Right,” she says to herself. “Right.”

The tip hovers again before she starts writing.

Parvati,

It’s the strangest thing, I keep having dreams about Binky. I think it was Seamus’s Patronus that set it off, because now I can’t help thinking about nasty old foxes going after innocent, sweet little bunnies. Isn’t it lucky I didn’t let him snog me after the Yule Ball? (Not that we didn’t know that already!)

I’m sure Sybill Professor Trelawney will know what the dreams are about once I tell her. What do you suppose a fox means? Or is it the rabbit I should pay attention to? You’ve always been the better dream interpreter—what do you think? Am I a rabbit about to be attacked by a dreadful old fox? Or maybe the Fates are telling me to be more cunning!

It’s an odd time for a letter, isn’t it, but the weather’s just ghastly and I’ve been trapped inside for what feels like ages. Please say you’re as restless as I am, Parvati. (And don’t tell Hermione, but I almost miss classes just a tiny bit.)

Anyway, I was thinking of heading to Diagon in a few days, if the snow lets up enough. Will your dad let you get away for an afternoon? Padma can come too, of course.

Yours,
Lavender

They’re none of the things she wants to say. She just isn’t brave enough, she supposes. Once the ink dries, she seals the letter and shuffles out of the study with a hollow dread in her stomach.

Outside, the snow keeps falling, oblivious.