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The Harder Struggle by Ericfmc
Chapter 7 : Resistance
 
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Chapter 7: Resistance

If Molly and Arthur had looked around when they were discussing the problem of Harry and Ginny they would have seen this very couple strolling arm in arm towards the lake.

Harry was irritated, “I really need to hear what happened to you, Ginny, I know you haven’t had an easy time of it.”

Ginny was plainly reluctant. “Neville’s going to tell you all about it soon anyway. Why don’t you wait for that?”

“I need to understand what you went through Ginny; Neville is only going to give us an overall picture. He certainly won’t be telling me what you were thinking and feeling.”

They reached their favourite spot by the lake and sat down on the ground, side by side, hand in hand, their backs resting on a broad tree trunk.

“It’s hard, you know.” Ginny exhaled.

Harry just raised his eyebrows.

“Well off course you know… It’s been such an awful year, what with Hogwarts and then being afraid for everyone all the time, awful.”

“Tell me about Hogwarts.”

“I’ve always loved Hogwarts. It’s had its moments, of course; being possessed by Voldemort’s horcrux and being dumped by my boyfriend so he could go save the world being two spectacular low points. By and large, though, it’s been great.”

“This year it was the nightmare that you couldn’t wake from.” Ginny halted, trying to find the right words. “There was precious little joy in the place. Most people were living in fear, including the staff. Many, especially the young students, were traumatised. It’s going to be a big job for a lot of those kids and the school itself to heal next year.”

“The only people who thrived were the bullies, like Pansy Parkinson and her gang and, of course, the Carrows, Alecto and Amycus.”

“Pansy’s gang? What was Draco doing?” asked Harry.

“Draco wasn’t at school this year, must have been doing more important Death Eater things. Draco’s old cronies, Pansy, Zabini, Bulstrode and, of course Crabbe and Goyle were all prefects and allies of the Carrows. They were virtually untouchable officially. They were all more than happy to use their power to bully and abuse. Keeping them in check was a major task the DA set itself this year.”

“How did that work out?” asked Harry.

“It sorta worked, some of the time. We came to a loose arrangement. They went easy on most kids, especially the young ones, and the DA didn’t beat them into a bloodied pulp. It didn’t stop them taking out their frustration on us sometimes.”

“Did they hurt you, Ginny?” asked a concerned Harry.

“I was one of their favourite targets what with being ‘Harry Potter’s blood traitor girlfriend’ and all,” said Ginny in a matter of fact way. She looked at Harry with a reproachful half-smile. “Apparently you forgot to send a note to Pansy and the rest of the Slytherins announcing that you had dumped me.”

Harry grimaced. “Ginny, I’m sorry, I__”

“Harry, it doesn’t matter. I’m a Weasley, the biggest blood traitor family there is, even without any connection to ‘undesirable number one’. I was always going to be a target both for Pansy’s gang and the Carrows. A lot of the kid’s didn’t buy the ‘Ron has spattergroit’ line either. I was the Weasley they could get at.”

“People thought Ron was with me? That could have been really dangerous for you and your family,” said Harry with concern. “We tried to make sure he wasn’t seen with us.”

“There were a lot of spattergroit jokes going around Gryffindor early in the year. Madam Pomfrey got sick of kids presenting with fake symptoms, wanting to be sent home. We had to work hard to get people to shut up about it.”

Harry was becoming increasingly upset at how much his association with her and her family had put Ginny in danger.

“Ginny, I am so sorry that__”

Ginny cut Harry off again. “Harry the only thing that upset me about being branded ‘Harry Potter’s blood traitor girlfriend’ was that I didn’t know if I was still your girlfriend. That was hard, but Harry I am proud of the things my family stands for. I am proud of the role each member of my family played in opposing Voldemort. I am proud that we have all taken a stand and fought for what we believe and I’m proud of the support we and especially Ron have been able to give you in your fight. There isn’t a single Weasley who regrets the danger we willingly accepted in this war and that includes George. So don’t you dare apologise for putting me in danger, Harry Potter! I am damn proud of what I did during this war and if I had to pay a price, well then, who didn’t?”

“Can I apologise for apologising?” asked Harry with a weak grin.

“If you want to apologise, you can apologise for dumping me in the first place. That really hurt me you know and it made this last year even harder. I was worried about you all the time. We didn’t know where you were, what you were doing, whether you were even alive. Then I’d also have to worry that, even if you did survive, you wouldn’t want to be with me anymore. You see, despite being dumped, I still loved you, still had hopes of a future with you in it. What if you had outgrown me? What if you were never serious in the first place? What about those Italian Veelas? I even admit getting a little worried about you and Hermione, though I do know that’s ridiculous. The thing is, there were times when I really needed something to hold on to, to hope for, and I couldn’t. You’d taken that away from me.”

“I’m sorry, Ginny.”

“Now, at least, you’re apologising for the right thing!”

“If it’s any consolation, I hurt myself too. I was just as worried that you’d move on, find someone else. Here you were in a castle full of boys, some of them your ex-boyfriends. If I had known how much the hero Neville had become, I would have worried about him too. I hope it doesn’t sound pathetic, but often at night I would take out the Marauders map and just stare at your name, just glad that you were safe, hoping you could sense me thinking of you.”

“It’s not pathetic,” she said gently, looking into his eyes. “And Harry, I understand why you thought you had to do what you did, I forgave you a long time ago. Just promise me one thing. If you ever dump me again, do it because you don’t want to be with me. Don’t do it for some noble reason, don’t do it to protect me. That doesn’t respect me. Whatever dangers the future might hold, we face them together. I know your every instinct is to protect the people you love, but you have to accept this. It’s make or break for me.”

Harry stared at Ginny for some time, torn between two conflicting emotions. “Ginny, I don’t expect the situation to rise again but what you are asking is hard. If breaking up with you meant saving your life, maybe the life of ou...your children, I would really want to save you.”

“Harry, what I am really asking is that when it comes to the really hard decisions, decisions that affect us, we make them together. You don’t get to decide by yourself like you did last year. We’re either in this together or where not. Can you accept that?”

After some hesitation Harry nodded, “OK. Ginny, I can accept that.”

“Promise?”

“I promise.” Ginny relaxed.

“Good. Now Mr Potter, are you now planning on having children with me? Is that what I heard you almost say?”

“Ginevra Weasley! … Just at the moment, no. I just got rid of one person who was trying to kill me. I don’t need your father to take on the job. Besides, I promised him I wouldn’t do anything rash.”

“So you did. I hope you remember what you just promised me before making any more such commitments that affect us both. Fortunately ‘rash’ is very much in the eye of the beholder, wouldn’t you agree Mr Potter?”

“Ginevra Weasley! I do believe you are trying to lead me astray.”

“Is it working?” she smirked.

In answer, Harry leant in and kissed Ginny who responded eagerly. After spending quite some time in very enjoyable snogging, Harry broke apart.

“You can lead me astray like that whenever you want to, Ginny”

“I intend to,” replied Ginny.

Harry became more serious. “Ginny, commitment to you father or not, I still want to take things slowly between us. I don’t want to rush things. We now have all the time in the world and I’m not going anywhere.”

“It’s usually the girl who wants to slow things down, but I have to fall in love with ‘Harry the Responsible’,” said Ginny rolling her eyes.

“Ginny, we’re both still young. You’re still underage, at least for the next few months, as your father pointedly remarked, and your still at school for another year.”

“Aren’t you coming back to Hogwarts for your Newts?” asked Ginny sounding surprised and disappointed.

“I don’t know. It would feel strange coming back after this last year. I feel as if I’ve already moved on. I just don’t know what my options are yet. I imagine Ron feels the same, though nothing could stop Hermione coming back to get her Newts.”

“Harry, talk to me while you’re making up your mind, will you? This affects both of us.”

“Of course.”

“It’s time to go to the DA briefing,” Ginny informed Harry.

As they set of for briefing, Harry remarked “don’t think I haven’t noticed you avoided telling me what happened to you last year, what with ‘leading me astray’ and all that. Is that going to be a pattern when you don’t want to tell me something?”

Ginny ignored his question. “I will tell you everything Neville leaves out, OK?” she said biting her lower lip.

“OK.”

The DA briefing was being held in the Room of Requirement in its configuration as DA headquarters and hideaway. When Harry and Ginny arrived most people were already there. They were both warmly greeted with a round of hugs, kisses and handshakes. Ginny had given Cho a quick glare when she kissed Harry in greeting.

Harry was happy to see Angelina Johnson and Lee Jordan and some of the other older DA members who had already left school. He was especially pleased to see George. He was pleasantly surprised to see Justin Finch-Fletchley, a muggle born DA member, who he had heard had been on the run all year.

Harry spotted Lavender Brown. She looked in a bad way; she was in a wheel chair, her head was heavily bandaged and both her legs were in a restraint. What he could see of her face was blotchy and pale. She was smiling though, sharing a joke with, of all people, Ron and Hermione who were holding hands. Harry went over to them.

“Hello, Lavender, how are you? Shouldn’t you be in the hospital wing?”

“Hi, Harry, Madam Pomfrey has given me and Ernie special dispensation for this meeting. We weren’t going to miss this for anything.” She pointed to Ernie McMillan who was looking even worse than Lavender. His whole right leg was encased in what looked like a sausage shaped orange balloon. He was also in a wheel chair. He was talking animatedly with his old friends Justin Finch-Fletchley and Hannah Abbott.

“So what were you three laughing about?” Harry couldn’t restrain his curiosity at this surprising grouping.

“Oh, you know, youthful misunderstandings, canaries and happy endings. I was telling Ron and Hermione here that I’m glad they’ve finally worked it out and got together. Far less confusing and stressful for everyone else,” said Lavender. All three had big smiles on their faces. Ron and Hermione were looking with clear amusement at Harry’s gobsmacked confusion.

“Uh, yeah, you’re not wrong about that, Lavender, much less stressful. You didn’t have to put up with them for the last year.”

There were ten other people in the room who had not been in the original DA. He assumed they must be students recruited into the DA this last year. This turned out to be correct. The new recruits were introduced to Harry, Hermione and Ron as well as to the older DA members.

The last to arrive was Neville, who still held the Sword of Gryffindor. He wasn’t accompanied by Luna this time though. He was accompanied by Daphne Greengrass and Anthony Goldstein.

A chilly silence quickly spread through the room as people spotted Daphne.

“What’s that stinking Slytherin bitch doing in here?” demanded Seamus.

“Shut up, Seamus,” said Goldstein angrily.

“Don’t you tell me to shut up, Goldstein. I didn’t see you take much risk last year while the rest of us were taking beatings.”

“I’m with Seamus; this is a hall for heroes. Some of us died!” spat Susan Bones. “We don’t want it desecrated by the enemy.”

“Shut it, all of you,” commanded Neville.

“This was a bad idea, Neville. I should go,” said Daphne quietly.

“No, Daphne, it’s important you stay,” replied Neville.

“Daphne is here because I invited her. She is here because she has earned the right,” said Neville with a firm, clear voice. He glared around the room staring down dissent.

“What I couldn’t tell any of you before is that Daphne has been the DA’s agent within Slytherin for most of the last year. She has been leading the resistance against Voldemort there. Anthony has been has been acting as liaison between her and me.”

This announcement was met with stunned silence. Jaws were dropping all around the room. Seamus was the first to connect his jaw with his vocal chords.

“You’re kidding us, Neville?”

“No, Seamus, I’m not. How did you think I got the information about the Death Eater plot to assassinate the High Warranters? Did you think it came to me in a dream? How do you think we got access to Pansy’s wand, those other wands? That was Daphne. She took as many risks this last year as anyone else in this room except for Harry, Ron and Hermione who have been just plain suicidal. As for Anthony, before you take another swipe at him, Seamus, he kept a low profile this year because I ordered him to. It wouldn’t do for Daphne to be seen with someone who was a known active member of the DA. He’s had to put up with snide remarks and contempt from a lot of us in the DA. He begged me to let him get more involved but I wouldn’t allow it.”

“Why didn’t you tell us? Who else knew?” asked Pavarti.

“Ginny and Luna knew that we had an agent in Slytherin and that Anthony was the liaison. They didn’t know who the agent was. No one else knew. It was far safer for everyone involved to keep it that way,” replied Neville.

“Wow!” said Seamus “It seems I owe the lady an apology. Sorry, Daphne, for my less than polite greeting. My Mum would clip me over the ears for speaking to a lady like that. Sorry.”

“OK,” said Neville, “now the introductions are over, let’s get on with the main event. Harry, Ron, Hermione would you like to give us a rundown of what you’ve been up to while we’ve been having fun here at Hogwarts?”

Harry, Ron and Hermione arranged themselves on a couple of oversized bean bags near the end of the room, Harry on one, Ron and Hermione sharing the other. Everyone else arranged themselves in a broad semi-circle around them, sitting on an odd assortment of rugs, throw cushions, bean bags and chairs. Ginny sat next to Harry on a rug.

Harry, Ron and Hermione went through the story much as they had the previous night although much more succinctly. When it came to the locket they talked about its depressing effects but not the terrible argument and split that resulted. They stuck to the cover story that they had sent Ron to Bill’s for information. They left out any mention of Luna’s dad. Ron retold the story of Hermione’s ordeal at Malfoy Manor just as he had the night before. Everyone was deeply affected. Daphne, who had been a guest at Malfoy Manor several times over the years, was sick to the stomach. She took some comfort from the fact that Draco, whom she had once considered a friend, had been reluctant to identify the trio and seemed to be operating under duress. Michael Corner, himself badly tortured, was shaking and was comforted by Luna who held him and rocked him back and forth whistling an oddly high pitched tune.

When the story was finally over every one sat back in silence. As with last night they were all trying to come to terms with the astounding story they had just heard. As before, it was Seamus who first found voice.

“Ginny and Neville kept on telling us that you three were still out there fighting.” He scratched behind his ear. “I wanted to, but I didn’t really believe them. I thought you were just on the run, trying to save your own hides. Now I feel ashamed for every ungenerous thought I had. That was one extraordinary story you just told us. It will be with great pride that I retell it to my grandchildren, tell them that I heard it from you three direct, and tell them how honoured I feel to be able to call you three friends. Thank you.” Seamus barely got out the last few words, his voice was choked was emotion.

“Yeah, what Seamus said,” was echoed around the room.

“So how many grandchildren do you have, Seamus, you old dog?” quipped George.

Just at this time the door to the Hog’s Head opened up and in came Aberforth levitating before him a table laden with platters of sandwiches and jugs of pumpkin juice. “The lunch you ordered, Neville,” said Aberforth.

During lunch people kept on coming up to the three, ‘ohing’ and ‘ahing’ about different aspects of their story and clapping them on the back. Harry decided that he should go over and talk to Daphne who was talking to Luna, looking very uncomfortable. He had too often seen Daphne in the company of Draco and Pansy to be enthusiastic about this, but he thought he should do it.

He finally approached her and said “that is a very brave thing you have been doing, Daphne.”

“Coming from you, Harry, that is very high praise indeed.” These were probably the first nice things they had said to each other in all the seven years they had known each other, all the shared classes they had had. They both felt awkward. Fortunately, Neville chose that moment to call the meeting back to order.

“Ok everyone let’s get back to it. Harry and those who weren’t here want to know what’s been happening at Hogwarts.”

When everyone was settled Neville began, “I would like to start with a battle report. We lost four members; Fred Weasley, Colin Creevey, Tycho Beamer and Lillian Tarrant. Both Lillian and Tycho were sixth years who joined us this year; both had only just turned 17 this last month. We also lost one ex member.”

“Ex member?” queried Padma “The DA doesn’t have ex members. Once a member, always a member.”

“Yes we do Padma; we expelled one member for betrayal two years ago.”

“Marietta?”

“Yes, Marietta joined the battle I guess in an effort to redeem herself. Trouble is she has had no training for two years and none of us trusted her enough to let her fight beside us. She was easy prey. She was killed quite early in the battle,” explained Neville.

Cho was feeling a little sick. She had hardly spoken to her former friend in nearly two years. Hermione, too, was feeling a little guilty, wondering how much the word “Sneak” still visible on Marietta’s face had contributed to her decision to join a battle she wasn’t prepared for.

“Can I ask everyone to stand up for a minute’s silence for Fred, Colin, Tycho and Lillian and if you have room in your heart to forgive, for Marietta too.”

When everyone had resumed their seats Neville continued “we also have three members with serious injuries; Lavender, Ernie whose right leg was totally crushed and Millicent Lewis, another new recruit, who is in St Mungo’s with critical curse wounds. It’s still touch and go for Millicent. How’s your leg going, Ernie?”

“They still don’t know whether it is going to regrow or I’m going to lose it. Could go either way, they say,” replied Ernie with resignation.

“Here’s hoping, Ernie. I am happy to report that every member of the DA new and old, bar one, participated in the battle. Even Justin Finch-Fletchley, who we all thought was on the run, managed to show up for the second half. How did you manage that, Justin?” asked Neville.

“I’ve been working with an organisation that shelters Muggle-born, helps them escape the country. I was in London with the wizard who founded the organisation. He got word when his son was evacuated from Hogwarts. We both got here as fast as we could.”

“Who was the exception?” asked Ron.

“Zacharias Smith,” replied Ginny, “he was last seen pushing first years out of the way so he could escape the castle even faster. He hasn’t been involved with the DA all year anyway.”

“Even the DA members who were underage, and were supposed to leave, fought, including my co leader, Ginny. So did Colin and Dennis Creevey, even though Dennis is only 14, the youngest person in the battle. As Muggle-born, they weren’t even attending the school this year,” said Neville.

“I was so proud of you, Dennis,” piped up Luna. “When McGonagall ordered you to leave you replied ‘Sorry, but you can’t give me orders, Professor. I am not a student at this school. My blood wasn’t considered good enough. I’m still going to fight for your school anyway’. You almost brought McGonagall to tears, no easy thing, I think. You and your brother honoured us with your actions. I will miss him.”

Neville continued his report. “All in all the DA did very well. We deployed fully one third of all the forces in the first half of the battle when most of the casualties occurred, but we only suffered 10% of the casualties. Partly that’s dumb luck, but mainly it’s because we put the training in. That started with what Harry did with us two years ago and continued with the training we have done this year.”

Neville paused, looking with respect at each person in the room. “We have a lot to be proud of. If the DA hadn’t stood firm, the castle would have fallen very quickly. Harry, Ron and Hermione could not have finished the job they had been given and Voldemort would still be alive and in charge. The nightmare of the last year would have gone on and on, just getting worse day by day. I’m proud to be part of the DA and of every single one of you. Well done!”

George started clapping. Soon everyone was joining in. Someone proposed three cheers for the DA. Someone else proposed three cheers for Neville for his outstanding leadership and example. When it all died down, Neville spoke again. “OK, we promised to give those of you who weren’t here this year a rundown on what has been happening at Hogwarts. Ginny, would you like to talk about how and why we revived the DA?”

Ginny was taken by surprise, but quickly replied “Sure Neville.” She took time to gather her thoughts, then began. “It started at the welcoming feast. Snape said very little, but he introduced his two new deputies, the Carrows. They spoke in turn. Alecto talked about the glorious new world order that was now being shaped and how it was now our job to learn how take our place in it and help build it. She gloried in the fact that the ‘mudblood scum’ had been cleansed from the school. It was sickening. Amycus then talked about the importance of discipline and that it would be ruthlessly enforced. He stressed there would be zero tolerance for dissent or resistance.”

Ginny paused, looking around the room before continuing. “We soon learnt what discipline meant. Punishments were cruel and degrading, such as beatings and chaining kids to the wall. Everyone was shocked, but the first years were terrified and deeply distressed. They all wanted to go home. Teachers quickly stopped giving detentions, but it did no good. The Carrows set up their own network of informants among the students and made these people the prefects. They were authorised to report infractions. One of the worst groups was Pansy’s gang. Unfortunately, there are bullies in any group and the Carrows were able to find people in every house willing to take on the role. These people soon found out they could act with a fair degree of impunity. Being the people they are, they took advantage of it. Pansy’s mob even started doling out on the spot punishments. They used a variation of the flagrante curse to inflict severe burns on people and other nasties.”

“It was against this background that Luna, Neville and I were discussing what we could do. We wanted to do something about the punishments and we wanted to support the wider struggle against Voldemort. We finally came up with the idea off reforming the DA not just as a training group but as an active resistance operating within the school and connected to the outside resistance. I had a line of communication to the Order of the Phoenix and Luna’s Dad had the Quibbler. We three were also the only ones still at the school who had actual combat experience. We had all fought Death Eaters in the battle at the department of mysteries and again in the Astronomy Tower the night Dumbledore died. We appointed ourselves leaders of a reformed DA and started recruiting. Almost all the original members of the DA joined up with barely a moment’s hesitation. Never let it be said that courage is a commodity restricted to Gryffindor. The only one who didn’t re-join was Zacharias Smith who refused to even talk about it. He was terrified at the idea.”

“The first thing we tackled was the punishments. For some strange reason, the Carrows got into their heads that the worst possible punishment was night detention in the forbidden forest with Hagrid. Maybe they thought Hagrid was scary, maybe they had a traumatic experience in the forest as kids. Anyway, we decided to reinforce this impression. We used a ghost hex on people coming back from detention with Hagrid. This made them shake and look deathly pale but otherwise was harmless. We begged the people who had been on this detention to refuse to talk about it, to act as if they were just too traumatised. It was a great scam while it lasted. All these kids were actually having a ball, toasting marshmallows in the fire, patting unicorns and being generally entertained by Hagrid. Eventually of course someone blabbed and Hagrid got into a lot of trouble. Not that Hagrid minded, he would have done it all again.”

“Unfortunately, the Hagrid scam was only ever going to make a little difference around the edges. We had to take more forceful action. We started with Pansy’s gang. We lured them to an empty classroom for what they thought was going to be a briefing from Alecto. There were eight of us hidden in cupboards around the room. We burst forth at a prearranged signal and stunned the lot of them before they knew what had hit them. We had Pansy, Zabini, Bulstrode, Crabbe and Goyle. We were all wearing face masks, though they probably knew who we were. We disarmed them, hit them with a silencing charm and then hoisted them into the air, dangling from their legs, using levicorpus. We then unstunned them and proceeded to scare the living daylights out of them. The message we gave them was crystal clear, stop spot punishments, reduce referrals to the Carrows to the absolute minimum and if they were forced to use a nasty curse on someone to use the absolute minimum power. If they didn’t we would beat them senseless and then really start to work on them. We told them if they somehow got us out of the way, there were already several other groups lined up to carry out the threats. They got the message. Bullies are invariably cowards.”

“We gave the same treatment to all the bullies. Things improved markedly after that. They weren’t nice but they were nowhere near as bad. Then about a week later an awful incident occurred. Some bullies are just too stupid to be scared. Goyle is one of them. A little second year Hufflepuff girl was running along the corridor just outside the Great Hall. She accidentally bumped into Goyle. He was enraged. He took out his wand and crucioed her again and again. Her screams echoed through the school. He was finally restrained and disarmed. Half the school witnessed the incident. Everyone was shocked. Even under the new regime this behaviour was outrageous. Everyone expected Goyle to be expelled, but nothing happened at all, not even the mildest reprimand. That changed things. A lot of people wanted to join the DA.”

Angelina and Cho all looked like they were going to be sick as they heard this. Hermione was distraught. The men who hadn’t been at Hogwarts that year all looked very angry.

Anthony Goldstein now spoke up. “It was at this time that I noticed Daphne comfort a little Slytherin girl who was absolutely distraught over what had happened. Apparently she was a close friend of the crucioed girl. When Daphne had settled the little girl down and sent her back to her friends, Daphne herself broke down and sobbed uncontrollably. I was moved, but I also realised that there must be a lot of people in Slytherin who were just as appalled by what was happening at Hogwarts as we were. I spoke to Neville and he agreed that it would be worthwhile for me to talk to Daphne to see if we could get an ally within Slytherin.”

Daphne now spoke for the first time. She was very nervous. “Most people think that we Slytherins were all behind the Dark Lord. Quite a few were, it’s true, but most weren’t. A lot of Slytherins come from powerful families. The Dark Lord was a direct threat to these families. Many of us have lost relatives, murdered by Voldemort so he could put his own people into the positions they vacated. Ambition and cunning, even ruthlessness are Slytherin traits, but cruelty is not. Most of us were appalled by the barbarity of the Death Eaters and the nightmare Hogwarts had become. When Anthony approached me I was more than happy to do whatever I could to fight The Dark Lord and his servants and to protect this school from their poison.” When Daphne was finished she was surprised when she was met with a wave of applause.

“Thanks, Daphne,” said Neville. “We had to do something drastic about Goyle. I won’t go into the details but it might have involved him spending some small part of the night dangling by his legs just out of reach of a nest of angry Acromantulas. The master stroke came when Luna used Goyle’s wand to project a very crude and very funny image of Alecto and Amycus in a compromising position onto the ceiling of the Great Hall. It stayed there for about 5 hours. As people filed into the Great Hall for breakfast they all cracked up laughing. Even McGonagall couldn’t get the satisfied smirk of her face. Alecto and Amycus were both livid, but even their anger couldn’t stop the whole school laughing at them. They demanded, with threats of dire punishments, that the culprit be identified. Someone called out ‘it was Goyle, check his wand!’ Well Goyle had his wand back by now and prior incantato revealed that Goyle was indeed the culprit. Goyle was marched out of the Great Hall on the point of Amycus’ wand being repeatedly stung by nasty curses. The entire Hall erupted in cheers. No one saw Goyle for the next two days.” Echoing what had happened in the Great Hall the entire room erupted into applause, all except Ron who was still shivering in contemplation of the Acromantulas.

“I don’t want to pretend that things were just fine after this,” continued Neville, “they were still awful but the bullies felt much more constrained. They took out their frustration out on us. The membership of the DA was no great secret in the school. They took great delight in referring us to the Carrows when they thought they could get away with it. They especially targeted Ginny and Luna. Ginny, because she was one of the blood traitor Weasleys and Harry’s onetime girlfriend and Luna because she’s Luna and because of the material being published in the Quibbler. Shortly after the Goyle incident they were both attacked and very badly hurt by Pansy’s gang. They let us know that this was a one off revenge for Goyle and that they would by and large abide by the agreement – sort of. We made sure we only moved around the castle in groups after that.”

George and Harry were looking very sick as they heard this. Ron was angry and kept on bashing his fist into his hand. He looked ready to explode.

Luna now chose to speak. “A lot of what we were doing was just silly stunts, really, like trying to steal the Sword of Gryffindor. Luckily we got detention with Hagrid for that. We were still trying to work out what we were doing. I did notice that the graffiti we put up around the school had a positive effect on morale in the school. All the same, the punishments meted out by the Carrows always got nastier after we put up a particularly stinging message. It was hard to know the right thing to do.”

“Our final stunt for the first term was a doozey,” continued Neville. “We got hold of the Hogwarts letterhead and the parent’s mailing list. Over the Christmas break, we sent out a fake Hogwarts letter to all parents. Fred and George helped with the logistics of that. The letter set out clearly and accurately the Death Eater values that students were now expected to adopt and the drastic punishment regime now in place. It included a new required items list that included things such as ‘manacles, wall mountable for self-use’ and books such as ‘The Unforgiveable Curses – a Beginner’s Guide by Alecto and Amycus Carrow’ and ‘Torturing Children for Fun and Profit’.” Laughter interrupted Neville’s narration. When it died down he continued.

“The letter caused a furore, as you can imagine. Parents were already at breaking point because of reports they were getting from their children. The letter unleashed a storm that even Voldemort couldn’t ignore. He must have really punished the Carrows because they were much more subdued when we came back for second term. It didn’t last long though.”

“The letter had a lot of consequences. We learnt a very hard lesson about collateral damage. Many parents refused to send their children back to Hogwarts, despite it being compulsory. Some of those ended up in Azkaban. We lost Luna and the Quibbler. Luna’s dad published the letter and that was the final straw. Luna was taken hostage and Xenophilius started to follow the party line.”

“The worst thing was that it wasn’t us who got the blame.” Neville had spoken quietly. His voice now began to break up. “The Death Eaters believed that someone on the school staff had sent the letter. A few days into term the broken body of Rothena Green was found in Hogsmeade. She had been tortured and badly beaten. The letter was pinned to her chest. Rothena was the admin person at Hogwarts responsible for communication with parents.” The room became utterly silent.

Neville couldn’t continue. His breathing was ragged. Cho put an arm around his shoulders, “It’s not your fault, Neville, that’s what happens in war.”

“I wish I could believe that, Cho.” Neville pulled himself together and continued, “We all did a lot of soul searching in the DA after Rothena’s murder. Ginny and I also had a long talk with Professor McGonagall. She said much what you said, Cho, that it wasn’t our fault. She also seemed to have a fairly good idea of what the DA had been doing and thanked us. She told us that, despite the cost, the letter had had a positive effect. The Carrows had been put on a short leash by Voldemort, with strict limits on how far they could go. She informed us that the staff was now concentrating all their efforts on protecting the children and that teaching, though important, was secondary to that. She suggested we become more selective in what we were doing and requested that we keep her informed of any major activity we planned. The final wash up was that the DA as a group agreed to focus on three things, protecting students, training for eventual battle and intelligence. I put Terry Boot in charge of intelligence with Padma and Pavarti assisting. Terry, would you like to tell us about it?”

“Sure, Neville,” said Terry, eager to tell his story. “Hogwarts is an extraordinary intelligence resource with connections into every corner of the wizarding community. Information pours in from all over the country in letters from parents and other sources. The idiots were monitoring letters being sent by students but, except for a few of us on a watch list, they weren’t monitoring letters coming in. There was information on disappearances and deaths, on sightings of Harry and even on Death Eater activity. It was just a question of setting up an efficient system for collecting and analysing the information. We disguised the collection of letters as a paper recycling effort, though a lot of people knew what was really happening to the letters they ‘recycled’. Not everyone knew, fortunately. We got good info from people who wouldn’t have wanted to share it with us. We passed the analysed info on to Potterwatch, set up by Fred, George and Lee, and onto the Order of the Phoenix. Some of the best information I was getting came from Neville. He wouldn’t tell me where he was getting it from, I guessed a teacher, but it was gold. Whenever I was able to confirm the info from other sources it checked out. I code named the source ‘Gold’, but maybe I should have called it ‘Green’ eh Daphne?”

“Our biggest coup came from info we got from ‘Gold’,” continued Terry getting excited. “When we put it together with info we had from other sources we were able to piece together the details of a Death Eater plot to assassinate the High Warranters.”

“Who are the High Warranters?” asked Dennis.

“The High Warranters are the four members of the Convocation of Warrants and Antecedents which is the most prestigious subcommittee of the Wizengamot. It directly appoints 80% of new members. Whoever controls that committee effectively controls the future of the Wizengamot,” explained Hermione.

“I see you haven’t lost your touch, Hermione, though you used to put up your hand and wait to be called,” joked Terry.

“Ho, Ho,” replied Hermione. “I’ve learnt this last year that delay can be fatal.” This rejoinder sobered the room, reminding them the price the last year had extracted from them all.

“Yeah, well, uh, Hermione is right of course,” Terry spluttered picking up the threads of his story. “The High Warranters had gone into hiding though they were still meeting in secret from time to time to fill vacancies in the Wizengamot. Unfortunately, one of their number, a certain Waldo Apsley, desperately wanted to be the Chief High Warranter and was quite happy to sell out his colleagues to get it. He set a trap. He gave the Death Eaters the time and location of the next meeting. They planned to ambush and murder the other three High Warranters. We were able to pass the info on to the Order of the Phoenix and they successfully ambushed the ambushers. The result, eight captured Death Eaters and one Waldo transferred to a secure place of internment.”

“Thanks Terry for that, and to you, Padma and Pavarti for the enormous amount of work you did on this throughout the year. You were great! It made a real difference,” said Neville appreciatively.

“About half way through second term the Carrows got back into full stride. They decided it would be a great idea to get students in the Dark Arts class to crucio students who had detention. Seamus, would you like to take up this story?”

“OK, Neville, that was a hard fight that one,” said Seamus. “At first it was voluntary, but that didn’t work well. Even the bullies were reluctant to crucio another student under the full gaze of their classmates. Neville was the first to be ordered to do it. Amycus dragged three terrified fourth years into his the Dark Arts classroom and then ordered Neville to crucio a small dark haired girl whose eyes were wide with fear. Neville refused. He simply looked Amycus in the eye and said ‘no’. Amycus was enraged. He whipped out his knife and slashed Neville across the face and then once more ordered him to do it, threatening to crucio Neville as well if he didn’t obey. Again, Neville refused. Amycus crucioed him. Neville slumped to the floor but he didn’t utter a sound. He got back on his feet, drew himself to his full height and said ‘Never!’ There was power in that defiance, power that must have shaken Alecto. He ordered Neville out of the room. Then he turned to me and ordered me to do it. I don’t mind admitting I was terrified, but I felt the weight of the pride of the entire Irish nation resting on my shoulders. I wasn’t going to buckle in the face of what Neville had just done. I refused. He cut my face. I refused again and he crucioed me. Merlin that was bad, but, like Neville, I got back to my feet and refused again. He then turned to Lavender.”

“I, too, was terrified;” said Lavender quietly, “but Neville and Seamus’s example gave me the courage. I have never felt such pain, well, not until a couple of days ago.”

“Amycus was furious,” continued Seamus. “He hit each of the three fourth years on detention with a crucio, and then stormed out of the room. Lavender and I went up to Madame Pomfrey to have our slashed faces repaired. Neville, though, seems to have developed a bad habit of collecting scars as souvenirs.”

“I think they’re a mark of distinction,” said Luna to no one in particular.

Seamus ignored her. “By the end of the day the whole school knew of our defiant stand. We were heroes. Everyone in the DA agreed they too would refuse. Refuse they did, along with many others, some more than once. Each refusal was met with the same punishments meted out to me, Neville and Lavender. The courage shown by Neville was infectious. It started with one man, but in the end almost the entire school stood up to the Carrows, even most Slytherins and they buckled. Just for a little while, the school was proud of itself again and united.

Ginny now spoke up. “We also felt the need to challenge the poison that Alecto was spreading in her muggle studies class. Her views and her teaching were utterly vile. This was more of a guerrilla campaign, there was no way we were going to stop Alecto dead. The idea was to show by acts of defiance that some of us violently disagreed with the hateful nonsense Alecto was sprouting and that we were prepared to pay a heavy price to say so. That gave our views credibility and weight.”

“We constantly challenged her teaching with reason and ridicule. This often led to anger and, often enough, violence against one of us. At one time she took particular objection to one of my more pithy observations. She slashed me across the face. They liked knives, the Carrows. She said to me ‘I hope it scars blood traitor, if you’re lucky you could probably still get a filthy Muggle boy to breed with you.’ I replied ‘had a lot of experience with that have we, Alecto?’ For some reason this made her very angry. Maybe I should have called her Professor. She slashed me deeply across my chest. Another trip to the hospital wing, another detention but it was worth it. These stories spread like wildfire through the school making Alecto a laughing stock and undermining her authority and more importantly her message.”

“At Easter we lost Ginny,” continued Neville. “After Ron was captured and taken to Malfoy Manor the game was up for the Weasleys. They all had to go into hiding. They must have realised that the Weasleys as a group were deeply and actively involved in the war effort. I think that made them have a closer look at what was happening here. In any case, when we came back after the Easter break it was open season on the DA and the gloves were off. The bullies were revitalised too. It became dangerous just to show your face in the school. Seamus was very badly beaten. I knew as soon as I heard they had tried to take my Gran hostage that the game was up for me. I took shelter in this room. One by one the whole DA had to flee here for their lives. We stopped attending classes. We only left here to carry out various missions around the school. Michael Corner took on the last mission. He sallied forth shouting news of the Gringotts break-in. He was caught and badly hurt, the last victim of the Carrows. Then Harry, Ron and Hermione showed up.”

“And then we liberated Hogwarts!” concluded Ginny.

George rose to his feet. “I would like every member of the DA who didn’t attend Hogwarts this year to please stand,” When they all had, he spoke again with great reverence to those still seated. “What we have just heard is an extraordinary story of courage, perseverance, tenacity and plain human decency. I am proud of you all and I am proud to be a member of an organisation whose name you have made glorious through your actions this year. We salute you.” All the standing DA members gave their mostly younger colleagues a prolonged ovation.

When the applause subsided Harry spoke up, “I’d like to endorse everything that George just said. You guys are the true spirit of the DA. Neville I’m in awe of the inspirational leader you have become. I’d also like to acknowledge and thank all the rest of you for what you have done during this war. George, Lee what you did with Potterwatch was amazing, Justin that organisation you mentioned sounds like it did a lot of good too, and what all of you did during the battle, I am very grateful. I too am extraordinarily proud to be member of Dumbledore’s Army.”

“Thanks George, Harry for those words. Before we finish up does anyone need to say anything?” said Neville.

Ginny popped up. “There is one important thing we need to decide before we finish.”

“What’s that Ginny?” asked Neville.

“Well, this is just for the girls really. I’d like a show of hands of those who think Neville looks more handsome with the scars and those who think he should have them fixed.”

The room exploded in laughter. This was soon accompanied by wolf whistles. Neville had the good grace to look sheepish and turn just the slightest bit red. “I don’t think that item is on the agenda, dear Ginevra.”

Ginny ignored him. “All those for the scars.”

Luna, Angelina, Lavender and Daphne all raised their hands. All but Luna had deep smirks on their faces.

“No scars.”

Ginny, Hermione, Hannah and all the remaining girls raised their hands trying hard to suppress giggles.

“There you have it Neville, the choice is now yours,” concluded Ginny.

“Yeah, thanks.”

 

                                          o o o 0 0 0 o o o

 

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