Summary: With Harry off hunting Horcruxes, Ginny, Neville and Luna reform the DA and do what they can against the new regime at Hogwarts. Contains spoilers for DH!
Neville’s brow furrowed as he sat at breakfast the following morning, but his frustration didn’t have very much to do with the conversation around him. Demelza Robins and Jimmy Peaks were arguing over the cancellation of the school’s annual Quidditch tournament.
“It’s just as well Professor Snape cancelled it. There aren’t enough decent players back to fill out the team, anyway,” Demelza was pointing out. “The only House with enough students is Slytherin.”
Neville tuned them out. He was too busy reading over the timetable Professor McGonagall had just handed him. Monday morning looked in order with Herbology followed by Charms and the afternoon off. There was something wrong with Tuesday, though. His timetable showed he was due in Muggle Studies directly after lunch, but he’d never signed up for that class. The only person he knew that had ever taken it was Hermione, and she had dropped it after a year – she’d never needed those lessons to begin with.
The sounds of grumbling from his fellow seventh-year Gryffindors made Neville sneak a peek over Seamus’ shoulder. He was down for Muggle Studies on Tuesday afternoons, as well. So, from the looks of things, were Lavender and Parvati.
“Excuse me, Professor McGonagall,” Lavender finally spoke up. “Isn’t there a mistake on my timetable?”
“I should think not, Miss Brown,” replied Professor McGonagall, who was now handing pieces of parchment to Demelza and Jimmy.
“It’s on my timetable, too,” Parvati chimed in, “and I’ve never taken Muggle Studies.”
“We all are,” added Seamus.
“How do they expect me to do seventh-year work alongside people who have been taking it since third year?” asked Lavender.
Professor McGonagall’s mouth thinned, as if she didn’t like what she was about to say. “I’m sure that will be taken into consideration. Muggle Studies in now compulsory for all students. I daresay, given the teacher this year, you’ll all be on equal footing.”
“What did she mean by that?” Seamus asked the others as they headed off for Herbology.
“I expect we’ll find out tomorrow,” commented Neville darkly. “The new teacher’s a friend of Snape’s.”
Parvati stopped in her tracks. “What are you on about?”
He looked around to make sure no one else was about. They were out on the grounds on their way to the greenhouses by now. “That’s right, you weren’t there,” Neville said, almost to himself. “You lot only turned up later.”
“We didn’t know anything was going on until it was too late,” Seamus protested.
“I know,” said Neville. “I suppose it was just a stroke of luck that I still had my Galleon from the DA in my pocket. There really wasn’t any reason for us to carry them around last year. Anyway, the new Muggle Studies teacher was among the Death Eaters who attacked the school last year, the night Dumbledore died. So was her brother.”
Lavender and Parvati gasped, while Seamus muttered a few choice swear words under his breath.
“Is it really that big a surprise?” Neville asked them. “We all remember what Snape did at the end of last year, and now he’s headmaster. Who do you think he has to thank for his new job? Anyway, do you still have your old Galleons from fifth year?”
The others nodded.
“Well, dig them out and keep them handy. They just might come in useful.”
If the others wanted to ask Neville just what he was going on about, they’d have to wait. They’d arrived at the greenhouses, and it was no longer prudent to talk, even if, Neville was sure, Professor Sprout wouldn’t be on You-Know-Who’s side. Draco Malfoy, Pansy Parkinson and Blaise Zabini were already grouped around one of the work areas. It looked as if the seventh-year Herbology class was a combination of all four houses, and the Slytherins would be all too happy to carry tales to their former Head of House.
In any event, Neville didn’t have a clear plan in mind for the DA, other than starting meetings again. He hadn’t had a chance to discuss it any further with Ginny and Luna since the day before on the train. Before they started general meetings, the three of them would have to meet privately and decide how they wanted to go about things. Neville wasn’t even sure he should have mentioned anything to the others this soon, but it was too late to take his words back now. The idea of a Death Eater teaching Muggle Studies…. He didn’t care to think what those lessons were going to be like.
In fact, none of the Gryffindors seemed to be looking forward to Muggle Studies. They lingered as long as they could over lunch the following day and plodded up to the first floor as a group. The seventh-year Ravenclaws, Hufflepuffs and Slytherins were all milling about the corridor; no one seemed very happy to be there. From what Neville could overhear of the grumblings, most of Hufflepuff and Ravenclaw students were unhappy about the added class to their timetable, while the Slytherins resented being made to learn anything about Muggles.
“Quiet, quiet,” Professor Carrow tittered as she made her way through the crowd to admit them to her classroom.
All of her students, Neville noted, were much taller than she was. On top of that, the classroom was packed. This was easily the largest lesson Neville had been in with the seventh-year students from all four houses combined. The missing Muggle-borns barely registered here.
“Now then,” said Professor Carrow once she’d taken the role, “we’re all here to learn about Muggles. Many of yeh won’t’ve heard much before since yeh haven’t taken the class. It don’t matter, though, because I won’t be handing yeh the same load of tripe your other teacher did.
“Yeh won’t be needin’ that,” she added pointedly to Hannah Abbot, who had taken out her copy of Home Life and Social Habits of British Muggles. Hannah reddened and stuffed the book back into her bag.
“Yeah. Books,” Carrow went on. “Yeh won’t be needin’ no books for this class. I got no truck with books as a rule. Just what I tell yeh will do.”
She turned to the board and tapped it with her wand, while behind her back the seventh-years exchanged puzzled glances. Neville was getting a decidedly worse feeling about this class. The letters which appeared were difficult to decipher at first; they were formed as if the writer had found the task of putting them on the blackboard nearly insurmountable. After a moment or two, jaws began to drop. Seamus, who was seated next to Neville, visibly stiffened. A muffled giggle or two came from the corner where the Slytherins were grouped.
“Well? Don’t all just sit there gawking. Take this down!” Carrow commanded.
Reluctantly, Neville drew out a piece of parchment, inked his quill and poised it to begin, but he couldn’t bring himself to do it. Instead he pretended to copy the list Carrow had written on the board.
“Purebluds – natures nobility” stood at the top, followed by “Half bluds” on a separate line. “Muggle filth” was on its own line at the bottom, next to “apes”.
A movement out of the corner of his eye caught Neville’s attention. Pansy Parkinson had put up her hand. “Excuse me, Professor,” she simpered when Carrow acknowledged her, “but what about Muggle-borns? They aren’t on your list.”
“There’s no such thing as Muggle-borns,” Carrow replied with conviction. “Only Mudbloods. And they ain’t on here because they ain’t no different from Muggles. They’re all the scum of the earth.”
There was a moment of shocked silence, and then Neville let out a roar of outrage, but it was lost amid the outcry from nearly everyone. Carrow raised an overly long arm and shot sparks out of the end of her wand.
“Quiet! There won’t be none of that now or it’ll be detention. Yeh’d best learn now and take it all down, because it’s just how things are. It’s the way of the world, even if no one’s bothered to tell you ‘til now. Some of us are just better than others. It all comes down to blood in the end. And if yeh go hollering too much, I just might have to find out what colour yours is,” she added with a leer.
“Now,” she went on when a sullen silence had fallen over the classroom, “who wants to tell me how a Muggle is different from an ape? I’ll give ten points to your house if yeh can find anything.”
Seamus was on his feet. “Right. I’m off! This is a complete joke!”
“Yeh’ll stay right where yeh are,” Carrow cried, but Seamus had already picked up his bag and was striding towards the door. Neville was ready to follow him when Carrow screeched, “Imperio!”
Seamus’ expression changed in an instant from one of anger to mild distraction. He turned around and blithely sat down.
“What’s your name, boy?”
Carrow consulted her class list. “Ah, yes. I see your blood status right here. Your mother married a Muggle. Pity she didn’t think of your future when she was pickin’ who to lie down with, but no matter.”
The classroom was completely silent now. There was a loud snap, and Neville realised he’d been clutching his quill so tightly he’d broken it neatly in half. Carrow barely noticed, though. She was too busy gloating over Seamus. “A detention or two will sort you out.”
She sounded far too happy about that prospect for it to bode well.
Ginny didn’t know what made her pick up the stray copy of the Daily Prophet that she found lying on a common room table that night. Perhaps it was the lack of Harry’s picture on the front page. Something important must have happened to supplant the daily reminder of just who the wizarding world’s least desirable person was.
In Harry’s usual spot were two pictures: one of a ferrety-looking little man wearing the navy blue robes of a Magical Maintenance employee; the other showed a man with blunt, brutish features. Goosebumps rose on her arms, as Ginny realised she’d seen this second man before – among the Death Eaters who had attacked the school a mere two and a half months previously.
“Nice. They’ve hired another of Voldemort’s henchmen as Head of Magical Law Enforcement,” Ginny thought to herself before reading the accompanying article.
A break-in at the Ministry of Magic yesterday morning is being blamed on Ministry employee Reginald Cattermole. According to sources, several magical objects and files were taken from the office of Head of the Muggle-born Registry Office, Delores Jane Umbridge.
At the same time, a number of Muggle-born witches and wizards who were awaiting hearings before Umbridge and Head of Magical Law Enforcement Maglorix Yaxley were set free, among them Mary E. Cattermole, wife of principal suspect Reginald Cattermole.
“I saw Cattermole today, and he definitely wasn’t himself,” said Yaxley in an interview. “He was supposed to be sorting out a minor problem in my office. Instead, I witnessed him exhorting about twenty detainees to flee the Ministry rather than waiting for due process to decide their fates.”
Other sources point to a possible Muggle-born conspiracy. At least two witnesses, who agreed to be interviewed on condition their names not be printed, claim to have seen more than one Reginald Cattermole, implying the possible use of Polyjuice Potion. Ministry officials would like to remind the general populace that the use of Polyjuice Potion by Muggle-born witches and wizards is currently illegal, as is the performing of if any sort of magic requiring a wand by Muggle-borns.
Anybody with any information on the Cattermoles’ whereabouts is encouraged to contact Ministry officials immediately.
Ginny set the paper aside as her stomach churned unpleasantly. She thought of her father and how it must chafe at him to go along with such measures. Even her brother Percy had to see how wrong it all was. She wondered if he still supported the Ministry as enthusiastically as he had in the past.
Then, for what seemed like the hundredth time, her thoughts went out to Harry. Whatever he was doing, it was bound to be something that ran counter to Voldemort and this new regime he’d set up over the wizarding world. Once again, she felt trapped here at school. The most they could do was to take steps to undermine Snape and his Death Eater colleagues, but it was better than nothing, she supposed.
A movement caught the corner of her eye, and she looked up just in time to see Neville coming through the portrait hole, looking grim. He headed straight for her.
“Have you had a Muggle Studies lesson yet?” he asked.
“No, not until tomorrow. Why?”
Neville glanced quickly around them, and then pulled Ginny into a more secluded corner, where they were less likely to be overheard.
“Because you wouldn’t believe what utter shite they’re teaching!” he said between gritted teeth. Ginny listened with increasing horror as Neville described what he’d had to sit through that afternoon. “And now,” he concluded, “Seamus has landed himself in detention. I don’t like it. That Carrow woman seemed all too happy about it.”
He put his hand in his pocket and drew out a Galleon that Ginny immediately knew wasn’t real. “Do you know how to work this?” he asked.
“Yes…. Well, I saw Hermione use it to summon the DA last year. She just tapped it with her wand.”
Neville drew out his wand, and prodded at the gold coin in his hand. Ginny’s heart leaped as it gave off a slight glow.
“It’s working!” exclaimed Neville. “I can feel it. It’s getting warm.”
“Come on,” said Ginny, grabbing Neville’s arm and dragging him back towards the portrait hole. We’ve got to go to the Room of Requirement and see if Luna turns up.”
They walked through the corridors with impunity; it wasn’t nine in the evening yet, and they were allowed to be out of their common room. If anyone challenged them, they could always claim to be going to the library to get a start on their homework.
Arriving at the tapestry of Barnabas the Barmy, they saw a highly polished door in the wall facing them just beginning to swing shut. Looking at each other, wondering what it meant, Neville and Ginny lunged forward, catching the door just before it could latch and disappear.
“Who’s there?” Ginny called, opening the door again, but she immediately saw that it was all right. The Room of Requirement had taken on the familiar appearance of the DA’s practice room. The walls were lined with bookcases groaning under the weight of tomes on various defensive spells; the floor was covered with silk cushions; shelves at the end were filled with all manner of Dark Detectors; it was all there.
And so, it seemed, was Luna. She was sitting on one of the silk cushions, humming to herself. Neville and Ginny sat down beside her.
“Oh, are you here now?” she asked after a few moments. “I was wondering when you’d be along.”
“Yes, well, we ought to get started,” said Ginny. “We need to work out when we’re going to call the DA and decide what we’re going to do with it once we have.”
“I don’t know if I let the Kneazle out of the bag too soon on this or not,” said Neville, “but I’ve already mentioned to Lavender, Parvati and Seamus about keeping their coins handy. After today, I don’t think I was.”
“What happened?” asked Luna.
Neville quickly filled her in on the Muggle Studies lesson he’d endured.
“I don’t think Professor Carrow sounds like the sort of person who ought to be teaching,” Luna commented when he’d finished.
“Well, exactly,” said Ginny. “We’ve got to get rid of her.”
“Comparing Muggles to apes,” Luna went on as if Ginny hadn’t said anything. “She looks like a gibbon herself.”
Ginny bit back a giggle. The comparison was rather apt.
“We need to figure out how to work these Galleons,” said Neville.
“Oh, I thought you had,” said Luna. “Mine came over all warm. That’s why I decided to come over here.”
“I saw Hermione do it once last year to summon us all,” Ginny explained, “but I don’t know how to make them send a message like Harry used to when he changed the dates of the meetings.”
“And Hermione’s not here to show us how,” said Neville, sounding dejected. “If only there was a way—“
A clatter on the floor gave them all a start. Turning swiftly, Ginny saw that a book had fallen off of one of the shelves. Neville went over to pick if up.
“Look at this!” he cried happily after a moment. “This says just how to do it. You simply trace your message with your wand over the Galleon, and the lettering will change. And since the DA members’ Galleons are all charmed to look the same, they’ll all change! Perfect!” He looked about him affectionately. “Thanks, Room!”
“How many of us do you think are left?” asked Ginny. “Fred, George, Angelina, Alicia, Katie and Lee have all left. Harry, Ron, and Hermione aren’t back this year. Neither are the Muggle-borns.”
Neville counted out names on his fingers. “I’d say only about half of us are back,” he said at last. “It’s not very many.”
“Maybe we could ask some new people,” said Luna. “That would be nice.”
“They’d have to be trustworthy,” Ginny pointed out. “We don’t want another Marietta.”
“I don’t think any of the original members would dare betray us,” said Neville. “They all saw what happened to Marietta.”
“But what about new members?” Ginny argued. “We don’t have the jinxed paper for them to sign anymore. How can we make sure they’ll keep their mouths shut if they get caught?”
“I guess we can’t, really,” Neville was forced to admit.
“And another thing,” added Ginny. “Do we have to ask that Zacharias Smith git back?”
“I really think we should, Ginny. We’ve got too few as it is.”
“Too few for what? What exactly are we going to do?”
“I thought we’d practise for one thing,” said Neville, “for when Harry comes back.”
“Oh, is Harry coming back?” asked Luna. “That’s good! I quite like him!”
Ginny looked from one to the other, wishing she could share their optimism. The look on her face must have betrayed her feelings, for Neville asked her, “What is it, Ginny? Do you know something?”
She found she had to swallow hard before she could answer. “No, I don’t know anything certain, but I’m not sure he’ll be back. It’s not like he’s going to turn up in Charms one day. It’s not exactly safe for him here with the price on his head. They’ll be expecting him to turn up. And the other thing is I really think he’s moved beyond Hogwarts now.”
“What do you mean?”
“Just that he’s the Chosen One.” She forced the words out even though she hated thinking of Harry in those terms. More than anything she wished Harry could just live a normal life for his own sake. “He has something to do to fight You-Know-Who, and that’s just bigger than Hogwarts.”
“But Harry would never leave his friends if they were in trouble,” Luna said.
“I know,” said Ginny. “And that’s the thing. If he thought any of us was in trouble, he’d want to come and help, but that would distract him from what he really has to do.”
Neville looked resigned. “Then we still need to be ready. In case Harry needs us to do whatever it is he has to do. It goes both ways.”
Ginny couldn’t argue with that. “So we’ll practise. What else? We’re not just going to sit back and let Snape and the Carrows run things.”
“Fred and George managed to make life difficult for Umbridge,” Neville pointed out.
A slow grin spread over Ginny’s face as the possibilities opened up before her. “Yeah… yeah, they did, didn’t they? At the very least, we can all order a supply of Skiving Snackboxes. That’ll get people out of the classes they’d rather not attend. I wonder if they’d let me have one of their portable swamps…”
“I think we should be careful about doing anything too big. They’re going to know where something like that swamp came from, and then you’ll be in trouble.”
“What if I don’t care?”
“But if you get into too much trouble,” said Luna, “they’ll watch you all the more closely. And then you won’t be as much help to the rest of us.”
Ginny didn’t address this concern; she could always ask about the swamp and keep it for a surprise. Instead she changed the subject. “So are we going to recruit new members or not?”
“I think we should try,” said Neville. “The students who were too young to join two years ago might be interested.”
“And how will we let them know we’re back in operation?” asked Ginny. “It’s not like we can put up notices in the common room. ‘Sign here to join Dumbledore’s Army.’ ”
“No, not in the common rooms,” said Luna, “but we could write it on the walls around the school.”
“You mean like graffiti?” asked Neville.
“Something like that.”
“And then, when someone gets into trouble with one of the Carrows,” said Ginny, “we can sound them out and see if they’re interested. They’ll have seen things on the walls, and then we can tell them it’s all for real.”
“That might just work,” said Neville. “At any rate, it would annoy Snape, but it wouldn’t get us in very much trouble.”
“Oh, it might,” said Ginny. Another slow smile was spreading over her face. She’d just remembered the latest product Fred and George had dreamed up: ink that could not be erased by any magical means yet known to wizard-kind.
A/N: This took a bit longer than expected to post, but here it is at last. I wasn't quite satisfied with the chapter, so I tweaked it a bit more. Thanks to Carissa, Lizzie, Celestine and Marian for their feedback!