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Dragons Awakening by ad astra
Chapter 11: Gathering
The next issue of The Voice of Reason nearly causes another riot in the Great Hall, and my stomach drops when I read the headline.
“This is bad news,” I mutter, passing the paper to Scorpius. “Really bad news.”
“Hate killing by extreme Muggle cult,” he reads. “This just backs up DOWIAH’s chief argument. Merlin’s beard, it’s creepy…stabbed her, stabbed her cat, nailed a cross to her door. How in the name of all that is magical did they find out she was a witch? How many wizards do we have living as Muggles anyway?”
“Forty-eight,” I reply. “Unity’s systematically interviewing the lot of them—well, I suppose it’s forty-seven now, isn’t it?”
“I guess this is that the Hat meant,” he comments. “This is getting bad.”
“What, you think they’re interrelated?”
“How could they be? The Auror Office investigated, went to the crime scene, and declared it the work of a cult, and there’s nothing in the world Harry Potter would overlook when it comes to a case like this. If he says it’s the work of Muggles, it’s the work of Muggles. But it’s bad news at any rate, especially for our cause. It’s going to do nothing but fan the DOWIAH flame.”
“That’s what I’m worried about,” I agree. “Support for Mum hasn’t decreased, but opposition has increased, and more importantly, it’s increased in intensity. I have a terrible feeling there’s going to be a picketing of the Ministry tomorrow, and half the school will be missing from class.”
“Are the head prefects organising it?”
“If they are they’re doing a shit job of being head prefects,” I growl, my resentment flaring up again. “And if they are Antigone’s going to wake up tomorrow with no face. I have nothing to lose.”
Scorpius cocks his head in curiosity. “How are you going to manage that?”
“When there’s a will, there’s a way,” I say airily.
“Maybe so,” Scorpius agrees. “What do you think about starting a student branch of Unity? I’m pretty sure there’s one for DOWIAH, either that or Mum’s been holding large meetings with fifty plus students in her classroom in the evenings for shits and giggles.”
“Good idea,” I say, nodding. “So long as we can track down a teacher to support us—it’ll have more weight that way.”
“We don’t need a teacher,” Scorpius points out. “We’re born leaders, we are.”
“Granted. What do you think we should do about Dragons Awakening? Try and revive it?”
“If you want to add fuel to the fire,” Scorpius says, shrugging. “I can see a Unity member and a DOWIAH member facing off in a duel and someone ending up in the hospital wing, but that’s just me. That, and good luck getting Jem and Alyssa back on board.”
“Don’t remind me.”
“But yeah,” I say, returning to the topic at hand, “Teddy might be interested.”
“Good thinking. And we can borrow his classroom, the Room of Requirement’s a bit too clandestine.”
“See, that’s why I wanted to find a teacher. Shall we ask after Transfiguration? I assume he’s part of Unity.”
“Of course not, he’s a placard-waving member of DOWIAH.”
“Hey, Teddy,” I begin, hanging back as the rest of the class files out of Transfiguration.
“You talking to someone, Rose?”
I roll my eyes. “Professor Lupin.”
“Yes, Rose, how may I help you?”
“Are you a member of Unity?”
“Course, you had to ask?”
“I was just making sure. Would you want to be involved in a student branch of Unity?”
“Gee, I’d love to, Rose, but I’m not a student.”
“A Hogwarts branch then, if you want to be pedantic.”
“Are you sure this is legal?”
“If it’s not, then half the school including the Head Boy, Head Girl and Ast—Professor Malfoy are breaking the law, because there are weekly meetings of DOWIAH.”
“Count me in. Do I have to lead anything?”
“I’ll take care of that.”
“I thought you would. What do you need me for? My sparkling personality? My classroom?”
“Both would be great.”
“When are you planning to hold this meeting?”
“Uh…Wednesday night. Why not Wednesday night? Okay, Wednesday night. Seven o’clock. Here.”
I don’t bother posting notices about Unity in the Slytherin common room, but recruit minions from Gryffindor, Hufflepuff and Ravenclaw to put posters up in their common rooms, and by 7pm on Wednesday night about sixty students have squeezed themselves into Teddy’s Transfiguration classroom.
“Welcome to the first meeting of the student branch of Unity,” I begin. “Next week, we’ll move it to somewhere bigger, but for now you can all pack in like sardines. Nothing like suffering for the cause, am I right? No? It’s okay, I brought freebies for you all.”
I pass out dozens of copies of Progression, the official Unity newspaper, and allow fifteen minutes for people to flick through them while I observe who’s here. Albus, Fred, Molly, Roxanne, Lysander, little brother Hugo and a great many people I’ve never met before.
“Right,” I begin, clapping my hands for attention and fishing behind myself for a pile of parchment and quills. “Who found that ever so slightly dull and boring?”
There’s a general murmur of assent and I pass around the parchment. “Good, because the first thing we’re going to do is send in things to make it better. Letters, essays, cartoons, anecdotes, anything, and I’ll owl it off to Mum tonight. That’s right, I have connections. So hop to it.”
“With the cartoons,” Fred begins, “Can we draw insulting pictures of various DOWIAH members suffering varying degrees of humiliation?”
“It depends what DOWIAH members you’re talking about,” Scorpius says warily.
“The Head Prefects.”
“By all means!” I say emphatically. “Not that I have anything against them or anything, I’m sure they’re lovely…No they’re not, they’re arsewipes. It probably won’t get published, but it’s worth a try.”
“It’s for our own gratification,” Fred explains. “Doesn’t need to be seen by anyone else.”
For the next hour and a half we work together on articles, essays, letters, cartoons and creative writing tasks about integrating with Muggles, and by the end of it I feel like I’m walking on air, having spent so long having fun and spending time with people who don’t want my mother dead. It’s refreshing.
“Good work, Rose,” Teddy says as Scorpius and I stay behind to help clean up. “You planned that well.”
“Thank you,” I say, scooping up a particularly well-drawn depiction of a Hippogriff defecating on Antigone’s head and tucking it into my robes. “I should go owl these contributions.”
“I’ll come,” Scorpius volunteers, and Teddy frowns at us.
“Don’t let me catch you two going at it on the floor of the Owlery,” he warns.
“Oh please. The Owlery?”
“We have a bit more class than that.”
“The Room of Requirement’s a great thing.”
“We’re kidding, Teddy!”
“Room of Requirement, seven pm tonight,” Natalia whispers as she and Damascus pass me in the hallway on the way to breakfast.
I track down Lorcan to pass on the message. “Wonder what that’s about.”
“Possibly the Honour Guard,” he whispers, eyes alight at the thought. “I can’t wait to find out more about it. And to do something to stop the Statute being lifted. Something huge, I gathered from Natalia’s speech the other night.”
“That we can be part of,” I add, sharing in Lorcan’s excitement. “But for now, we’ve got Defence Against the Dark Arts. Kind of a delicious irony, isn’t it?”
“Maybe we could demonstrate to Professor Bones how to cast a good Imperius,” Lorcan continues, eyes twinkling. “I love that one. I shouldn’t, but I love it.”
“Good evening.” Natalia’s voice is smooth and cool. “Glad you could make it.”
The Room of Requirement looks significantly different to usual; today it’s a small, bare room with stone walls and stone floor, like an extension of the corridors. At Natalia’s feet lies a copy of Advanced Potion Making.
“Been studying?” Damascus asks, raising an eyebrow at the book.
“This,” Natalia says, picking it up from the floor, “Is a Portkey, and it’s leaving in thirty seconds. Good thing you were prompt.”
“Where’s it going?” Lorcan asks.
“Headquarters,” Natalia replies, holding it out. “Of the Honour Guard.”
“Which is where?” Damascus asks.
“You’ll find out in twenty seconds, now put your hand on the book.”
I glance at Lorcan, who shrugs and places a palm on the front cover.
“Ten seconds,” Natalia warns, and I quickly seize a corner of the book.
“Ever used a Portkey before?” Damascus asks.
“Thought so, you’re gonna have to hold it tighter than that!”
Heart racing, I grip the book harder as the room seems to spin out of control, blurring into nothing, and I feel something yanking at my stomach. I’m falling; falling through time and space, collapsing in a heap on a cold wooden floor.
“Gerroff me,” Damascus growls at Natalia.
We struggle to our feet, coming face to face with one of the most commanding witches I’ve ever seen.
She’s tall, taller even than Natalia, with long, dark hair tinged with red that flows as a river down her back. Her eyes are dark with unflinching authority; she stands proud and regal, dressed in an almost medieval dark red gown and a black cloak fastened at her chest with a gleaming silver brooch embossed with the Slytherin serpent.
On either side of her stand two men; one clearly much older, but whose shoulder-length brown hair and goatee show no signs of grey. His eyes glitter with malice; gaze raking over us in a manner which sends shivers down my spine.
The other man is younger, unflinchingly still and regarding us with ill-disguised contempt through wisps of black hair. He stands apart from the others, coldly emanating power.
“Welcome,” the woman says at length, strolling around us and revealing another three men behind her. “The Hogwarts students. You are willing to join our cause?”
“Yes,” Natalia replies with unwavering confidence, looking the woman in the eye.
“I’m glad to hear it, Natalia,” she says softly, and her voice makes me think of an eagle—swooping silently with talons outstretched. “Now…what do we have here? This is a curiosity.” She stops her pacing, coming to stand face to face with me, her eyes searching mine.
“Lily Potter, if I am not mistaken.” She whirls around, snapping her fingers and striding away. Without a word spoken between them, the younger man steps forth, wordlessly raising his wand. A wave of panic washes over me—what’s he going to do? Is he going to kill me? Torture me? I don’t dare speak, simply watch the man. He utters no incantation, but immediately my mind begins racing, memories and thoughts flying through my head, as if they’re being sifted through.
I refuse to show my fear, standing defiantly as the man flicks through my memories. I have nothing to hide.
Lowering his wand, the man steps forward. “Daughter of the Chosen One,” he begins with a slight sneer, “You are willing to join us.”
“A delicious irony,” he observes, and I remember saying the exact same thing to Lorcan only hours before. “You enjoy power, Lily.”
“So, it would appear, do you.”
“I do not recall asking you to analyse me. However, entirely correct. Everyone in this room has power, Lily Potter, and is willing to use it. We use any means possible to achieve our goals. You understand this concept?”
“Shall we introduce ourselves?” the woman asks. “Natalia, you and your friends first, if you will.”
“Natalia Dolohov,” she says briefly. “Emily Burke. Damascus Zabini. Lily Potter. Lorcan Scamander.”
“Scamander?” the woman repeats, raising her eyebrows. “Any relation to Luna?”
“She’s my mother,” Lorcan replies stiffly.
“Another one,” the woman notes. “But I digress. My name is Medea Avery. Octavian Prince—” she gestures to the Legilimens—“Rabastan Lestrange—” to the older man beside her, “And behind me, Adrian Rosier, Emerson Montague and Cadmus Lestrange.”
She steps aside and, as if in a rehearsed move, the three men behind her step forward. One of them, Adrian, looks maybe twenty-five, the others look like they’ve just left Hogwarts in the last couple of years. I thought Damascus, Natalia and Emily were powerful, but standing in this room the very air seems charged with magic and a shiver of excitement runs through me; I know without having to see them in action that any one of these wizards standing before me could take on Dad in a duel and win
“Shall we get down to business, then?” Medea asks. “You young ones will need training. Natalia, I can imagine you’re the leader of this little group, what have you taught them?”
“Just the Imperius, casting and blocking. It was more Emily teaching them, though.”
“Ah yes. Emily Burke, you’re very accomplished at mind games, aren’t you? Are you a match for Octavian?”
“Easily,” Emily replies, turning her gaze to Octavian. “You doubt me. You think I can’t penetrate your mind, and you look forward to proving me wrong. As I speak, you panic, because you realise I have. Too late, you start to build your walls, and attempt to convince me they’ve been there all along.”
“Non-verbal Legilimency,” Octavian says curtly, nodding at Emily. “Wandless, too, I assume?”
“Naturally,” Emily replies calmly.
“Their other talents?” Medea asks, turning to Natalia.
“Lorcan’s very good at focused, complex magic. Lily’s a duellist, Damascus has powerful combat skills, but he’s not as good at one-on-one.”
Medea nods. “Good. A good selection. Our next…mission will be in three weeks time, and I would like to take a few of you. Lorcan Scamander, I want you to work with Adrian; there’s some very complex magic required and I need to know you can do it. Emily Burke, you’re working with Octavian. Lily Potter, work with Cadmus, he’s a duellist. Natalia, you’re with me, which leaves Damascus with Rabastan. Emerson, what can we do with you? Go with Lorcan and Adrian. When is curfew at Hogwarts?”
“Ten for seventh-years, nine for sixth-years.”
“Sixth-years?” Medea repeats, glancing at us. “Who’s a sixth-year?”
“Us,” I reply, gesturing to myself and Lorcan. “But we’re prefects, so we have the same curfew as the seventh-years.”
“Good,” Medea says. “Because I don’t want anyone nosing around why you weren’t back in time. Do I need to tell you this is a top-secret organisation? We get found out, we go to Azkaban. Even you kids.”