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Chapter 7: The Dark Arts
Neville waited down in the Common Room long into the early hours of the morning waiting for Ginny to come back, but she never returned. Something told him that Ginny getting caught breaking curfew on the first night back at Hogwarts would probably to be good for her, and his worry sustained him in his vigil. Eventually his body gave up on him, and he dozed off in one of the squashy armchairs by the fire.
He was woken by the hustle and bustle of bleary eyed students making their way down from their dormitories towards the portrait hole and breakfast. He looked about, rubbing his eyes and trying to lift his wits to be able to deal with the coming day. On first inspection he could not see Ginny anywhere in the room. He found Lavender Brown, a fellow 7th Year but she had not seen her either. Eventually he ran into Wendy Baker, one of Ginny’s roommates and asked if she had seen her.
"No, and her bed hadn't been slept in,” Wendy said, looking unconcerned. “I'd assumed she was down here. I'm sure she'll turn up, it’s the first day back and she’s not the type to miss class. You worry too much Neville."
Despite Wendy’s words Neville was not reassured. He had never ever seen Ginny break down like that in all the time that he'd known her and with the Carrows and Snape in charge, now was not the time to go wandering the corridors at night alone.
He headed down to the Hall and sought out Luna, who was sitting at the Ravenclaw table eating cereal and talking to Michael Corner. She had that faraway look in her eyes that was the tell-tale sign that she was in the midst of talking about some fantastical creature that only she and her father believed in. Sure enough when Neville approached them she was saying, "...but Hennybugs are the cause of this, Dad and I have been to the Lake District to see them, but the weather was too..."
"Sorry to interrupt Luna, but have you seen Ginny anywhere? No one has seen her all night."
Luna stared at the clearly very flustered Neville, and replied in her normal dreamy voice in an effort to calm him. "No, I'm sorry Neville I haven’t seen her since the feast yesterday. What happened, was she upset?"
"She ran down the stairs crying last night..."
"Weasley crying? What a...."
"Now Michael I don't think that's very nice," Luna interjected, not raising her voice. "Carry on Neville."
"As I said, she ran down and tripped. I tried to help her up cos it was quite a hard fall and she looked hurt, but she tried to run out of the Portrait Hole. I tried to stop her but... well she got through."
"You couldn't stop a girl getting past you Longbottom? That's pretty pathetic."
"An angry girl is even more dangerous than a Long Snouted Higfelder," Luna replied, still maintaining her quiet tones, "Although, I doubt that she can release acid through her..."
"Thanks Luna," Neville said, not needing to hear more, left Michael to listen with a smirk on his face as Luna describe the creature on page 4 on the latest Quibbler. He walked away, and then remembering what Ginny and he had been discussing the night before hurried back to Luna and leant over to whisper in her ear. "We need to contact the DA members, can you talk to all the people in your year in Ravenclaw who you think would be interested?"
"Of course Neville," she replied. “Do you want me to help you look for her?”
“No it’s okay,” Neville said resignedly, “ I’m just going to wait down here to see if she comes down to breakfast from wherever she is. I mean,” he allowed himself a small chuckle, “she is a Weasley. They can’t stand to miss their three meals a day.”
Luna smiled, “That’s true. See you later Neville.”
Neville walked over to the Gryffindor table and sat down. Professor McGonagall was walking by and passed Neville his timetable for the coming year. When she asked him where Ginny was, he told her that Ginny had not felt well enough for breakfast and said he would give her the timetable. He thought that his Head of House had believed him, but there was something in her sharp gaze that did not totally convince him of this. Something told him though that even if she didn’t believe him, she wouldn’t tell the Carrows. No matter what her loyalties were to the headmaster, her loyalties to her students were far greater.
Glancing down at his timetable, he saw that today was a relatively easy start to the term: Charms with Flitwick, then nothing until double Herbology just after lunch. He noticed that since Muggle Studies was a compulsory one lesson a week subject, he was down to only 3 subjects for NEWT's: Charms, Herbology and Defense Against the Dark Arts. 'No,' he reminded himself, 'it’s The Dark Arts now.' The very thought sent shivers down his spine.
After a quick breakfast of cornflakes topped with white sugar, he headed up to the seventh floor for Charms. The classroom was much emptier than usual as Harry, Ron, Hermione and Dean were all missing; now there were only 6 people in the room other than himself. Professor Flitwick entered shortly after Neville had taken his seat. He walked slowly towards his pile of books, climbed up, and surveyed his depleted flock of students.
"Good morning class," he squeaked, "Before I start today's lesson, seeing as this is the first lesson of the new term, I feel it is my duty to issue this warning to you all. This year you must be careful, much more so than before. Hogwarts is not the safe haven that it once was and the two Professors Carrow and Snape are not like ordinary teachers. If you step out of line, they won't just give you a detention with lines, or some petty menial task. They will hurt you; they are dangerous. Show them the respect you would give any teacher, in fact probably more if you want to end this year at Hogwarts unscathed."
"But they're Death.." Neville started
"Stop!" Flitwick interrupted with a high squeak. "Be careful what you say and do around them. Be selfish, think about yourselves and your safety. This is not something for you to worry about. Just concentrate on your exams, your NEWTs are more important."
Neville stayed silent, and remained so for the whole class. He felt he should say something; something defiant, but the words wouldn't come. He wished Harry were here, or Ginny. They'd know what to say.
Luna had a free period to start her week, and despite what she had told Neville, she spent it trying to find Ginny. The reason was that they both had the same subject pencilled in next, The Dark Arts with Professor Amycus Carrow. Something told her that Ginny being late for the first Carrow lesson wasn't the best idea in the world. She checked every bathroom in the Castle, even Moaning Myrtle's second floor haunt, which, as usual, was flooded. She looked in every empty classroom that she could find, the Quidditch stadium, even finding time to check with a confused Hagrid, but there was no sign of the girl.
Eventually, however, the time came to go to her Dark Arts lesson so she headed to the first floor and entered the classroom. The room had been different every year as new teachers moved in and made the room their own. This year the room was set out like bull fight arena, with all the desks set out in a large circle leaving a great empty space in the middle below them. Gone were the pictures on the wall that had graced the room under all of its previous occupants. They were for the most part plain, the bare stone adding to the close intimidating nature of the room, which made it seem like it had shrunk since the year before. The only decor of note was a black spot in the middle of the floor and the return of Professor Moody's (or rather his imposter's) pictures of the effects of the Unforgiveable curses on the wall next to the door. The looks of pain, submission and death were as vivid as they had been three years previously.
Luna took a seat on her own, and as usual most people gave the seats either side of her a wide berth. She was 'Loony' Lovegood after all.
After all the desks bar the one to Luna's left had filled, the door to the classroom door opened and in came the new teacher. Professor Carrow closer up was an even more repellent man than Luna had remembered from the fight at the end of the previous year. He was a short man, further emphasised by his hunched shoulders which made his head look like it was being swallowed by his chest. He waddled to the centre of the circle of desks, the lopsided leer that Luna remembered from the previous year still on his face. When he reached the black spot in the centre of the circle, he waved his wand high above his head. The black spot, which turned out to be a wide hovering disk, rose about 5 feet into the air, to hover in the centre of the room. He seemed totally non-plussed by this very odd entrance.
He waved his wand again, and the register appeared in his left hand. Slowly he read out the names of the students, and they replied by saying 'present'. Finally he got to "Weasley". There was, of course, no answer. He looked up, and saw the empty desk.
"Now, now then," he said, his grin widening, "it seems we 'ave a truanter." He summoned a piece of parchment, quill and ink from the side of the classroom. The parchment hovered a few feet from his face, with the quill poised at the top-left of the page. He muttered quietly a message, which the quill translated onto the parchment, dancing across it like a ballet dancer. When he finished, the paper folded itself into a simple paper aeroplane shape and disappeared out the door, which had opened on its approach.
"That," he said to the silent class, "was a message to the other Professor Carrow. She will be makin' sure that you kids stay in line this year while I’m teaching." He paused, apparently soaking up the nervous, even scared atmosphere of the class. "Weasley will be found an’ she will be punished."
"This year you will 'ave the honour of studying 'The Dark Arts'. The old classes you 'ad were taught by cowards who kept from you some of the oldest, most powerful magic imaginable." He licked his lips at these words as if the thought of the ‘Dark Arts’ gave him a sort of primal excitement. "I'm 'ere, to teach you this magic so that you're magic training will be complete.”
The silence in the classroom was oppressive, an intimidated quiet that constrained all form of sound. Carrow seemed to have done his work already; the students of Hogwarts were scared. They listened as Carrow outlined the syllabus for the coming year which did not help calm the class. Everything was a curse, always causing pain. The more painful and cruel the curse, the more satisfaction Carrow derived from describing it.
At one point, when describing the effects of the Intrinsecus curse, Demelza Robins clasped her hand to her mouth. " Yeah it ain't nice. A mate of mine invented that one, but be sure, if you don' use it someone else will. The world ain’t a nice fluffy place, its cruel and nasty and if you’re attacked you’ve gotta hit them with the hardest curse you ‘ave before they get to you. Better yet, attack them first. That way they can’t hurt you at all."
The lesson dragged on for what seemed like hours, and so when it ended the class collectively breathed a totally silent sigh of relief. When finally Amycus Carrow let them leave, Luna hurried out, not wanting to be in that hateful room for any longer than was necessary. Now that Ginny had been threatened with punishment by Carrow, Luna renewed her search with renewed haste. She headed towards the Common Room and found one of the people she was looking for, Terry Boot. He was outside the door to the Ravenclaw Common Room deep in thought; obviously pondering the question he'd been asked.
"Hi Terry," Luna said, "What's the question?"
"What is the thing that can be measured, but has no length, width or height? I answered ‘time’, but the door said that time cannot be measured as a clock merely shows time, it does not measure it."
"That does sound a bit harsh," Luna replied, as if admonishing the door. She contemplated the problem for a second, absent-mindedly twisting one of the butterbeer corks in her necklace, "I would have to say," she said now facing the door, "that the answer is the temperature."
"Excellent answer," praised the knocker, and the door opened.
She took Terry to one side. He seemed keen about joining the DA, and agreed to meet in the Room of Requirement that evening. He also agreed to ask Anthony Goldstein and Padma Patil, both of whom he was friends with. Unfortunately he had not seen anything of Ginny either but promised to keep an eye out for her. That just left Michael Corner out of the people that Neville had asked her to talk to. She found him in the corner, writing a letter home to his parents.
Luna could see immediately that he was a lost cause from the moment she opened her mouth. "You can't seriously believe that He had taken over the Ministry! It's absurd! Even if He had, what is a group of kids going to do against the whole school? You will all be expelled, and I'm not sure I won't be happy about it. Don’t you think that I have better things to do than hang around in the Room of Requirement engaging in your pointless little rebellion."
"I wonder if he had been attacked by a nargle," she wondered out loud, as she walked away from Michael, but suddenly something of what he said exploded like a firework in her mind. She knew where Ginny was!
She hurried out of the common room, down a flight of stairs to the Seventh Floor and headed towards the familiar sight of Barnabas the Barmy and the Trolls, which guarded the entrance to the Room of Requirement. She had hoped to see its door to be visible as it was a lot easier to enter the room if it were. Sadly it was closed so it was going to be a lot harder than that. She was going to have to guess the exact command that Ginny had given the room
"I want to find a place to hide." she thought in her head, as she paced 3 times outside the room. She turned to look at the space on the wall, but the door did not appear. She repeated this with a number of related requests such as “I want to find Ginny Weasley,” and “I want to escape” but to no avail. That she could not open the room at all at the very least proved there was someone in the room, otherwise the room would have appeared for her. She therefore decided to play the waiting game, so conjured herself a chair and sat, staring at the door.
As luck would have it, she didn't have long to wait. Barely five minutes had passed when Ginny appeared, her eyes swollen and head bowed. As soon as she saw Luna, however, to Luna’s dismay she ran off again, away from the Room of Requirement. As Luna followed, she screamed, "Leave me alone! I just want to be left in peace!"
"And that is one thing you ain't gonna get dearie."
Both girls stopped in their tracks. Alecto Carrow was standing in front of them, a full head shorter than them both, but standing in total confidence in her own position.
"Ginevra Weasley, you have been charged with truancy. I have a not from my brother that you did not attend his class this morning. Not the best start to the year is it?"
Ginny replied with a few of her own choicest swear words, but that only made Carrow smile all the more. She waved her wand and Ginny thrown against the nearest wall and was pinned hard against it. Luna shouted out, but she suffered the same fate, slamming into the wall opposite Ginny.
"Now girls," Carrow said, mimicking cruelly a mother ticking off a naughty child. "You have both been very naughty. You," she pointed at Ginny, "for skipping lessons, and you," she pointed at Luna, "for covering for her. As it's the first day, I am going to be lenient with you, I will only ask you to apologise to my brother, and do whatever menial tasks he needs doing but if I find you doing anything like this again, not even Merlin himself will be able to save you."
Ginny replied to this as eloquently as she could. "Why don't you just..."
She never finished that sentence, because Carrow had slapped her hard across the face. The sound reverberated like a whip crack, bouncing off the stone walls of the corridor. Carrow got even closer to Ginny, now standing only inches from Ginny's face. "You will show me more respect missy! Now apologise!"
Ginny responded to that by spitting in Carrow's face. The responding slap, even harder than the previous one, would have sent Ginny reeling had she not been still magically pinned to the wall. Carrow was unmoved by Ginny’s pain "Now unless you want me to keep on doing this, you will apologise."
Luna looked at Ginny pleadingly, wanting her to swallow her pride and just let them go. Ginny it seemed got the message to have caved in. She no longer had any fight in her, her breakdown earlier seemed to have sapped most of the fight out of her. She at least had enough in her to make her apology as condescending as she could.
"Now that's better, now you can go. Report to the other Professor Carrow at 8pm tomorrow, and don’t be late!”