Lav-Lav the Misunderstood
Poor Lavender Brown has been subjected to much rumor and speculation… innuendo, outuendo… but let me set the record straight. She is one of Jo’s favorite names to drop in the background; whenever there’s a class scene at Hogwarts, she is frequently mentioned. In fact, her name comes up 138 times in the seven books; over half of those are in the third through fifth books, before she ever has her own storyline with dating Ron. Whenever Jo needs someone’s rabbit to die or someone to be grossed out by Skrewts, Lavender seems to be her go-to… to the extent that two of her classmates are completely omitted from canon (the Two Missing Gryffindor Girls).
Because of this tendency, there pop up small confusions about her within the books… which are then exacerbated by incorrect movie-isms, which are further complicated by a Pottermore Insider with not the faintest clue of what they’re doing. In fact, on my first “delving into canon to set the record straight” essays, Headmasters in Canon, one of the comments requested I do a canon dive into Lavender. At the time, I did not think it was necessary, but over the ensuing two and a half years, I’ve come around. And though there has been a smorgasbord of new canon going around lately (of dubious quality and limited acceptance by the fandom), there has still been no word on Lavender Brown. So we’ll have to do the work ourselves – here’s our canon dive into Lavender!
Her Ultimate Fate
The silliest of the questions about Lavender stem from a swirl of misinformation beginning with the movies. In the last film, Lavender Brown is savagely attacked by Fenrir Greyback, and it looks like she’s not particularly alive at the end. Which is fine and well for the movies since they are not canon. But then things got all muddled up when the HP Wiki did its usual (and ridiculous) fusion of canon and movieverse and declared her dead.
It further derailed with Pottermore’s relaunch last September, where it would appear the Pottermore Insider uses the HP Wiki for his sources (instead of, you know, actual primary sources like one would expect). Intrepid HP fan FullFlamelAlchemist discovered that Pottermore listed Lavender as “presumed dead,” even though an allegedly canonical source shouldn’t presume anything. Fandom reporter Andrew Sims called Pottermore out on it, and a week later they removed the “presumed dead” status. So… what actually happened to Lavender? I suggest we do this crazy thing of going back to the source material and checking!
Two bodies fell from the balcony overhead. As they reached the ground a grey blur that Harry took for an animal sped four-legged across the hall to sink its teeth into one of the fallen. “NO!” shrieked Hermione, and with a deafening blast from her wand, Fenrir Greyback was thrown backward from the feebly struggling body of Lavender Brown. He hit the marble banisters and struggled to return to his feet. Then, with a bright white flash and a crack, a crystal ball fell on top of his head, and he crumpled to the ground and did not move (DH 646).
So all we know is that Lavender fell from a balcony and was bitten by Greyback. We have seen wizards survive far worse falls than that – Neville fell twenty feet from a broom and only sprained his wrist. Moreover, Lavender was “struggling,” which people only tend to do when they’re alive. As proven by Bill Weasley, a bite from an untransformed werewolf is not deadly (though Lav-Lav will henceforth like raw meat). And Hermione blasted Greyback away pretty swiftly, before any further damage could be done.
So while Lavender may have died later in the ensuing battle, it was not during this episode. She should be presumed no deader than any other Hogwartian combatant like Parvati and Seamus. Now let’s put this to rest, until Jo does us a solid and confirms Lavender’s fate.
When I was corresponding with another fan, Diana Summers, about my recent essay (The Revised Forty), the issue of Lavender’s parentage came up. In the Original Forty class list, Lavender Brown has two magical parents. However, Diana wrote to me that, “It’s pretty obvious from canon that Lavender became a Muggle-born.” I didn’t consider that obvious at all; in fact, I always considered Lavender to come from a wizarding family. And thus, this essay was born.
There are three key events that inform us of Lavender’s likely parentage.
First: When Professor Trelawney first brings up the Grim, Lavender does not know the implications. “Dean Thomas shrugged at him and Lavender Brown looked puzzled, but nearly everybody else clapped their hands to their mouths in horror” (PoA 107). Other than Lavender, all the other kids who were unimpressed by the Grim came from Muggle homes – Dean, Hermione, and Harry. So this incident does make it seem as if Lavender is a Muggle-born.
Second: Lavender is disbelieving of Harry in the beginning of Order of the Phoenix. “’Seamus reckons Harry’s lying about You-Know-Who,’ said Ron succinctly […] ‘Yes, Lavender thinks so too,’ [Hermione] said gloomily” (OotP 222).
If Lavender is Muggle-born, why would she not believe Harry? As a Muggle-born, her interaction with wizarding society is exclusively through Hogwarts. So all she knows is that her classmate (Harry), who’s generally an upstanding guy, is stating something. Her very well-respected Headmaster seconds what Harry said. And her best friend, Parvati, also believes Harry. So why on earth would Lavender believe the Daily Prophet over her classmate, best friend, and Headmaster?
The most logical explanation for Lavender’s mistrust is an outside influence, and the most likely outside influence in wizarding society is a skeptical wizarding parent. So the second incident heavily leans toward Lavender not being a Muggle-born.
Tangentially related, Lavender “uttered a little scream” (OotP 244) when Harry says Voldemort’s name, and Muggle-borns generally don’t have the same fear of Voldemort’s name as those raised in the wizarding world. While this evidence is not conclusive on its own, it also slightly leans toward Lavender being raised in wizarding society.
Third: What I call the “Year 7 Rule” – Muggle-borns were not allowed at Hogwarts during Lavender’s seventh year, yet Lavender is present when Harry breaks into Hogwarts. I view this as pretty conclusive evidence that Lavender is not a Muggle-born.
My stance on canon is to take the path of least resistance – go with the assumption that requires the least bending over backwards. It is certainly possible to come up with a solution that makes Lavender a Muggle-born – Parvati helped her fake a genealogy to get her into Hogwarts, and she has a deeply abiding faith in all print journalism. But it’s easier to accept the class list, her disbelief of Harry, and the Year 7 Rule at face value and say that Lavender has two magical parents as originally intended.
As for the Grim – perhaps Lavender’s family isn’t superstitious and never brought up the Grim (ironic, given Lavender’s affinity for Divination). Or for a slightly more creative solution, both of Lavender’s parents are Muggle-borns, who didn’t take Divination and don’t know about the Grim. Either way, until we get a final word from Jo, I think it’s reasonable to assume Lavender’s parents are wizards.
Lavender is shown to be very squeamish. She “squealed and ran out of [the] way” of a boggart Acromantula (PoA 138) and has a similar reaction to Blast-Ended Skrewts: “’Eurgh!’ squealed Lavender Brown, jumping backward” (GoF 196). She is also reluctant to walk around with a box of mice, passing them out (OotP 319). However, if we’re being honest, I probably would have had the same reaction to Skrewts and the spider (except, you know, with a very manly squeal). Lavender proves herself to be a true Gryffindor many a time. One of her finest moments early on is when the Blast-Ended Skrewts run amok in Hagrid’s class:
Most of the class – Malfoy, Crabbe, and Goyle in the lead – had fled into Hagrid’s cabin through the back door and barricaded themselves in […] Harry noticed [Rita Skeeter’s] eyes travel over Dean (who had a nasty cut across one cheek), Lavender (whose robes were badly singed), Seamus (who was nursing several burnt fingers), and then to the cabin windows, where most of the class stood, their noses pressed against the glass waiting to see if the coast was clear (GoF 368-370).
It’s admirable that Lavender stayed behind to help round up the Skrewts, despite how repulsed she is by them. And of note, her friend Parvati appears to be among the crowd taking refuge in Hagrid’s cabin. Lavender joins the DA from the very beginning, despite her skepticism of Harry’s story. She participates in both the DA’s resistance in seventh year and in the Battle of Hogwarts. So while she is probably best remembered as the Lav-Lav to Won-Won, let’s not forget that Lavender is pretty awesome in her own right.