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!
To the casual observer, it might look as if Neville had been given extra Charms homework. After all, it wouldn’t be the first time Professor Flitwick had ordered him to practise more. Neville ran a rueful hand through the pile of gold he’d created. The coins clinked together, sounding just as real Galleons would. No one but the other DA members would know that he was actually trying to increase their supply of message-sending coins.
The only problem was they didn’t work. They lay there on the table, maddeningly exact copies of the Galleon Hermione had given him two years ago, but no matter what he did, they would not grow warm and no message would appear on them.
At first he thought he was simply performing the Gemino spell wrong, and so he’d kept at it, hoping his subsequent duplicates would retain all of the properties of the original. Now he wondered if things weren’t more complicated than that.
He thought back to his fifth year when Hermione had first handed out the Galleons. She’d put a spell on them. What had she called it? Neville wracked his brains, searching for the name, but it didn’t come to him. All he could remember were some of the Ravenclaws being impressed that she could perform the spell at all. Hadn’t one of them said it was NEWT standard? It probably didn’t matter that Neville couldn’t recall the spell’s name. Whatever it was, he doubted he’d be able to do it properly. Luna and Ginny were going to be so disappointed in him.
A loud bang broke in on his thoughts. Looking across the common room, Neville could see that a circle of younger students had formed in a far corner. There were shouts and a few dull thuds.
Neville leapt out of his seat and rushed over. At the circle’s centre two boys were rolling on the floor, doing their best to knock the stuffing out of each other. They looked so small, Neville was sure they could only be first-years.
“My mother is not. A. Mudblood!” one was shouting in a high-pitched voice, punctuating each word with a blow, while the other aimed wild kicks at his adversary.
Neville didn’t even stop to wonder where the Gryffindor prefects, who should have been taking care of this, were. He simply drew his wand.
By some miracle the spell managed to hit both boys at once, and their bodies froze instantly, their arms snapping to their sides as one toppled onto the other. Neville glared around at the circle of onlookers, and they melted away, their eyes averted.
A sudden memory flashed through Neville’s brain. Once upon a time he had been a tiny first-year and the seventh-year students had seemed to tower over him. Now that the tables were turned, he wasn’t sure that he felt all that powerful. He bent down and rolled the frozen body of the top boy over so that both of the first-years lay side by side.
“I’m going to take the spell off of you,” said Neville, “but only if you don’t start fighting again.”
Neither of the first-years could do more than stare at him in terror. The expressions on their faces were almost enough to make Neville want to laugh. Apparently, he was an imposing authority figure to eleven-year-olds. One side of his mouth quirked upwards in spite of himself. He raised his wand, confident that the two boys would listen to him.
The first-years immediately sat up and shrank away. Neville knelt down so that he was on their level. “Wait,” he said quietly. “What are your names?”
“Why? You going to report us?” asked one, his voice a bit louder than necessary.
“No, of course not,” said Neville. “I’m not a prefect. I just want to know what that was all about.”
“He called my mum a Mudblood!” said the smaller of the two, pointing an accusing finger.
“Yeah?” replied the other. “Well, you said there wasn’t enough magical blood in my family, and by rights I shouldn’t even be at school!”
They were glaring at each other, and a renewal of hostilities seemed imminent. Neville trained his wand on the pair of them.
Sheepishly, they turned their attention back to Neville. “What does it matter?” he asked them. “No one is any better than anyone else just because their blood is purer. One of the best students in the school couldn’t even come back this year, because she’s Muggle-born.”
“But Professor Carrow says…”
“Whatever Professor Carrow says is wrong! Don’t listen to her! And don’t fight with your house-mates over stupid things that don’t make a difference anyway. You’re both Gryffindors. You’re going to be together for seven years here. You’d better learn to get along and be on each other’s side.”
Neville got up and went back to his table, leaving the two first-year boys dumbstruck. He repressed an uncharacteristic urge to sweep his pile of useless Galleons onto the floor. For all any of the first-years knew, what the Carrows were teaching them was part of the regular Hogwarts curriculum. How were they to know any better?
Indeed, how were most of the older students supposed to know that the Carrows had been present the night Dumbledore had died? He and the DA might know, just as they might know who was really behind the new Minister for Magic. Both Ginny and Luna could attest to that – they’d both spoken of a message received at Ginny’s oldest brother’s wedding just before it had been attacked. The Ministry had fallen, and it wasn’t difficult to work out that You-Know-Who was managing things now.
But that wasn’t a subject anyone dared talk about openly. And that meant it was hard to know who, exactly, knew the truth. Not knowing what else to do, Neville took out a quill, and scratched a message onto the table beside his pile of Galleons: Dumbledore’s Army: still recruiting.
“Nonverbal spells… nonverbal spells…”
Ginny kept muttering the words under her breath as if their repetition would conjure up the information she was seeking. She’d spent the last hour in the library trying to find a book that would help her do the extra homework she’d been assigned in both Charms and Transfiguration, but it looked as if the rest of the sixth-years had got there first. She muttered several choice words under her breath.
From both Professor Flitwick’s and Professor McGonagall’s exasperated explanations, Ginny deduced that they were supposed to be learning how to perform nonverbal spells in their Defence Against the Dark Arts lessons.
“I can’t imagine what you’ve been doing in your Defence classes,” Professor McGonagall had admonished them in today’s lesson, “but the required curriculum for NEWT level includes the mastery of nonverbal spellwork. As things stand, I have quite enough ground to cover without going over what you’re supposed to be learning in another class.”
She refused to listen to anyone’s protest that Carrow had not been teaching them the required curriculum. His classes had all been about hate and fear and every negative emotion imaginable. Ginny was certain that this sort of emphasis couldn’t be leading anywhere good. In spite of herself, hatred rose in her like a serpent, uncoiling slowly, trying to take her over.
No, she couldn’t give in, she told herself firmly. It was what he wanted. But it wasn’t helping matters that his lessons were putting her behind in her other classes. Why couldn’t he teach what he was supposed to?
The answer came to her immediately. He was too stupid, too corrupted, too evil….
A pointed cough broke in on her thoughts. Madam Pince was glaring in Ginny’s direction; the library was about to close for the evening. Grabbing the first book her hand landed on and hoping it would help her learn to cast the required nonverbal spells in class, Ginny hurried back towards Gryffindor Tower.
The last thing she wanted was to be caught out of bounds again. Ever since her near miss the other morning, she knew Carrow was watching her every move, looking for the slightest excuse to give her detention. Every time she looked up in Defence Against the Dark Arts class, his pig-like eyes were on her, just waiting for her to put a toe out of line. He was crossing her path with alarming frequency between classes, as well. She’d taken to finding roundabout ways of getting to her lessons and sitting at the very back of the Great Hall at meals simply to avoid his scrutiny.
She went straight through the noisy common room and up to her dormitory, where she hoped to work on her nonverbal spells in peace. A loud squeak from the middle of her four-poster bed greeted. Arnold. She’d completely forgotten – she’d meant to bring some food back from the supper table for him. She was never going to get her homework done at this rate.
Swearing to herself, she turned on her heel and headed back down the dormitory stairs. Once through the portrait hole, she began to move with stealth, flitting from shadow to shadow. She was definitely out of bounds now, and she couldn’t afford any unfortunate run-ins.
She made it as far as the third floor without any incident, when a noise in the corridor behind her caused her to duck behind the statue of a humpbacked witch. The sound was growing louder and more distinct – footsteps.
Without thinking, she jumped behind the statue. This certainly wasn’t the first time she’d wandered the halls of Hogwarts at night. She had come to expect the flickering light cast by the occasional torches, a wavering contrast to the deeper shadows of the corners and alcoves. There was something different about that light this time. She’d just noticed it. Its glare carried a spectral, ineffectual quality now, as if, in actuality, it illuminated nothing at all. A chill in the air that reminded her of Dementors crept beneath her robes, penetrating to the bone.
Shivering, she lurked in the shadow of the statue, wrapping her arms around herself for warmth and holding her breath until Filch had turned a corner. He was carrying some old rags and a large bottle of Mrs Skower’s All-Purpose Magical Mess Remover and muttering something about students and torture, intermingled with swear words. A grim smile spread over Ginny’s features, as she realised that her current predicament was one of her own making. She’d written Dumbledore’s Army: Better than a dumb arse in DADA any day! on the wall using a Magic Marker from Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes the previous day, and if she wasn’t mistaken, Filch had spent the past several hours trying to scrub it clean. She’d seen him at it on her way to and from Charms class today, and he could probably keep at it for the next week to no avail, if she knew her brothers. She had no doubts that this latest creation of theirs was far better than Everlasting Ink.
As soon as Filch’s footsteps had faded to echoes in the empty corridor, Ginny leapt from her hiding place. She instantly felt warmer. Hoping Mrs Norris wasn’t anywhere near, she doubled back the way she’d come, taking the long way towards the lower levels of the castle. Once on the marble staircase, she felt extremely conspicuous. If anyone caught her here, she would have no place to hide, but there was nothing else for it. If there was another way to access the Hogwarts kitchens, Fred and George had never told her about it. Fortune seemed to be on her side at the moment, however, and she managed to race down the steps and through the entrance hall undetected. In no time she was tickling the pear in the portrait that concealed the door to the kitchens.
As Ginny entered, about a hundred elves turned and stared at her. All but two of them were dressed in tea towels bearing the Hogwarts crest. One of the oddly dressed elves was a very strange assortment of clothes – including a sweater exactly like she and her brothers received every year at Christmas. This elf was looking at her curiously, almost as if he somehow recognised her.
“Excuse me,” she said. “Are you Dobby?”
“Yes,” he squeaked, putting down the silver kitchen knife he’d been drying.
“My name is Ginny.”
“You’re a Wheezy!” he cried happily
“A Wheezy – like Harry Potter’s friend. He gave me his jumper, he did.”
“Well, yes, that would be my brother Ron.”
Dobby suddenly stopped smiling. “Harry Potter didn’t come back to school this year.”
“It’s not safe for him here this year,” Ginny told him, while mentally adding that it wasn’t really safe for Harry anywhere.
“No, there are bad wizards in the school this year,” Dobby said, nodding sagely.
An idea was quickly forming in Ginny’s mind. She’d heard enough about Dobby from Harry and Ron to know what he might be capable of.
“Listen, maybe you can help me. I need to send a message to my brothers, but I don’t want the bad wizards to find out. They wouldn’t like what it said, you see.”
“What kind of message, Miss?”
“It’s an order, really. Something that will make the bad wizards’ lives a little more difficult. Do you think you could take it to my brothers?” She rummaged through her school bag until she found the order form, now rather crumpled, that she’d written out days ago. “Just take this to Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes in Diagon Alley. Tell them to send my things to the post office in Hogsmeade. I’ll arrange to pick it up somehow.”
Dobby accepted the parchment from her and Disapparated with a crack. The other Hogwarts elves had all gone back to their business -- all but the other oddly dressed elf who was staring into the fire while sipping at a bottle of Butterbeer.
After a few moments, some of the other elves noticed Ginny was watching them. Several came over; one of them tried to press several biscuits into her hand. “Thanks,” she said with a smile, “but what I’d really like is some salad.”
The elves looked at her as if she’d asked them to bring her a Crumple Horned Snorkack.
“What about some chocolate éclairs?” asked one, thrusting the pastries towards her.
“No, really. Just some salad or some fruit would be fine.”
Another of the elves was looking her up and down. “You is looking as if you is needing some feeding up. Is you wanting some nice butter tarts?”
They kept pressing various sweets on her until she felt obliged to accept at least some of it. She managed to get something for Arnold while she was at it, but soon her school bag was bursting with enough food for a Quidditch Cup victory party. When there was nothing more the house-elves could offer her, they went back, one by one, to their regular kitchen duties, leaving Ginny to wait.
And wait. And wait.
She was getting worried now. She didn’t have a watch, but it seemed like it had to be nearly midnight, and Dobby hadn’t reappeared yet. There seemed to be miles of corridor, staircases and secret passages between her and her dormitory. She would to sneak through it all undetected. She wondered whether the Carrows had managed to catch Dobby somehow and were even now torturing information out of him. They might come through the door to the kitchen at any moment. Perhaps it was time to abandon her plan and get back to her dormitory.
An unexpected crack made her jump out of her skin. Dobby had reappeared, one hand clenched around a tiny box. He held it out to Ginny.
“Here is Miss’s order. It’s been shrunk, but it’s all there.”
“Thanks, Dobby!” she said, both surprised and relieved. “But how…”
“That’s why it took so long. The Wheezys made me wait while they put everything together and shrunk it.”
Ginny stuffed the box into her school bag, which groaned under the pressure. She turned to go.
“There’s more!” said Dobby. “The Wheezys said to give you this.”
He was holding out a folded sheet of parchment. Ginny unfolded it and read it quickly, her eyes widening in surprise. Here were explicit directions on how to sneak out of the school and go all the way to Hogsmeade without getting caught. She could place any further orders herself through the village post office. All she had to do was tap the statue of…
“The humpbacked witch,” she said aloud. The very one she’d used to hide from Filch earlier. “If only I’d known! Thanks, Dobby! This is perfect!”
She was too excited to be careful on the way back to the third floor. She rushed up the marble staircase and took the nearest shortcut to the Charms corridor. She was nearly back to the witch’s niche when she ran headlong into something very big and solid.
A/N: Sorry this took forever for me to post. I had trouble with this chapter, and I'm still not convinced about it. However, I feel like it's time to move on. Thanks to Lizzie, Celestine and Carissa for looking this over for me.