I'm the only student wandering the halls - strange, since there's still an hour before curfew and the sun is just setting.
The portrait frames are mostly empty. Every so often I come across a group of ink and paint figures gathered in a frame, murmuring quietly. I haven't seen any of the ghosts. Right now I'd even be happy to hear Mrs Norris miaow. As I walk these empty corridors I'd give anything for a sign of old times.
I sit on the sill of a large window overlooking the lake. Its surface is glassy and still, painted red by the sinking sun.
We won the battle. We won the war.
Yet we lost so much.
A dry sob escapes my throat. I lean my forehead on the stone wall. It's smooth, hard, cold.
Where's the warmth of Parvati's smile; her arm in mine as we hurry into Hogsmeade; her face close as we chat in our dorm?
Where are Seamus' kisses on my cheeks; his arms around my body; his cheeky grin?
Where are my classmates? Though the school has a larger population than ever, due to the number of students repeating the year they should have finished last year, the number of sixth and seventh years has decreased. There will be conspicuous absences from classes tomorrow. Our old cameraderie and friendship has been relegated to the ghostly realm of memory.
A salty tear slides down my face and rests on my lip.
Time passes. I stay there with my head on the cool stone, longing for the warmth I never properly appreciated.
Quiet, shuffling footsteps approach.
"Lavender," says Neville. I look up and see him in the middle half a dozen students, all holding hands or linking arms. Mostly my age, some younger. All different houses.
A Hufflepuff sixth-year on the end of the chain holds out a hand. We've never spoken, but I do my best to put gratitude in my eyes as I straighten up and go to join the chain.
We walk the halls and more students join us. Our chain is too wide for the hallway, so we fall into single file, still holding hands, as Neville leads us through the maze that is Hogwarts. By the time we reach the great double doors in the Entrance Hall, there must be a good forty students in our chain.
Outside, we spread out to walk side by side once more. Steadily and silently, we approach the lake. A tall, brilliant monument stands before it.
Our chain encircles the monument. Some of us kneel and pray, some lower our heads and others look heavenwards.
But we never let go. All four Hogwarts houses are represented here, an unbreakable chain. I'm certain that each and every one of us is thinking of the same thing.
We've lost so much. But we have so much left to live for. And we will move forwards together, just as we are together for this golden, precious moment.