Chapter 5 : The Most Mutating and Indestructible Form of Magic
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The Gryffindor table was alive with whisperings and mutterings. The reason behind it was obvious to anyone who had not been on Mars for the past month. The absence of Harry, Ron, Hermione and even Dean Thomas was being discussed earnestly throughout the table. Though the latter were being mentioned, the person who was being discussed the most was Harry. Some excitable second years were talking of him dodging dragons, duelling Death Eaters and grappling with giants. The older and wiser students, especially the former DA members were, however, muttering worriedly. They had seen the Daily Prophet accusations against Harry's alleged involvement in the death of Albus Dumbledore and that, in particular, was being discussed at great length.
"I knew that Harry wouldn't be back, there is definitely something fishy going on at the Ministry," Demelza Robins was saying. "My mum says that He must be behind it."
"You Know Who, in charge of the Ministry? I think that's highly unlikely, we would’ve heard about it," a 4th Year replied, looking very sceptical.
"They wouldn't want it getting out though would they," Demelza replied, a little more forcefully. "Think about it, before Dumbledore died things were bad but the Ministry still had the same ideals it has had for decades. Now suddenly Muggle-borns have stolen magic, Harry Potter is a wanted criminal and that evil murdering bastard is our new Headmaster!"
“But that’s ridiculous, how can you...”
"Settle down, settle down," came a familiar voice, sending the Great Hall into total silence as the man who had murdered the former Headmaster of Hogwarts stood up from his place at the head of the Staff Table. "I would like to welcome you all back to Hogwarts for the start of this new term. There are a large number of notices that need to be given out but first we must sort the new students into their houses." The doors to the Great Hall at that moment slammed open revealing Amycus Carrow who was flanked by Professor McGonagall, the new first years in toe.
Was it just his imagination, or were there far fewer first year students than usual? Neville commented on this to Ginny who looked on with increased concern. The first years walked up in single file, stopping just before they reached the Staff table, and Professor McGonagall placed the old battered Sorting Hat on the stool in front of them. The Great Hall waited for the hat to sing, to provide its own take on the events of the past year, but nothing came, no song, not even a comment. The silence that had enveloped the Hall ever since Professor Snape had stood up was broken as hundreds of whispers let loose, commenting on the silent hat.
"They don't want it upsetting their little coup," Ginny hissed in Neville's ear. "Remember last year it calling for House unity against dark foes? It can’t exactly say that with Snape and the Carrows in charge."
Neville nodded in agreement. “I wonder how they kept it silent? I mean they can’t exactly threaten it can they, cos it’s a hat.”
“Maybe they put a silencing charm on it?” Ginny suggested. “Or maybe they threatened not to dust it for another 10 years.”
Neville, sniggering, watched on interestedly as the first student, announced by Professor McGonagall, Lewis Abedson, an enormously fat boy with prominent white teeth, waddled up to the stool and put the hat on his head. Giggles and sniggers came from much of the hall as the stool creaked under his vast girth. "Hufflepuff!" cried the hat. Neville looked away from the new Hufflepuff as he walked to his house table, to Jess who was standing in the midst of the queue of first years. He smiled at her in what he hoped was a comforting and uplifting sort of way, and she smiled nervously back.
The sorting continued with 2 more Hufflepuffs, 3 new Ravenclaws, no Gryffindors, but 6 new Slytherins. "It seems like the Muggleborn Registration Commission is doing its job," remarked Ginny, as yet another Slytherin joined the table at the far end of the Hall. "So many Muggleborns join Gryffindor every year, I mean just look at Hermione and Dean. Looks like it may be a lean year for us."
"Organa, Drew," called out Professor McGonagall. A thin scrawny looking boy, who looked like he was a few meals short of full health, ran up excitedly to the stool and put the hat on.
The hat deliberated for a long time over Drew, finally shouting, "Gryffindor!" The table which had been so subdued all evening, erupted with shouts of glee and excitement as Drew Organa joined the table. He was patted on the back by everyone around him, and looked in danger of being broken and smothered as seemingly half the house enveloped him.
Neville crossed his fingers, hoping that she would be sorted into his house as Jess walked up towards the stool. She sat on it, and put the hat on and after a few seconds it shouted, "Ravenclaw!" Jessica gave Neville a disappointed look, but walked quickly over to the Ravenclaw table to enthusiastic applause. She sat down with her fellow first years, and Luna went over to congratulate her.
The rest of the sorting ceremony saw 5 more students being divided between 3 houses, but no more new Gryffindors. After the hat was put away, Professor Snape stood once more. This time, however, there was not silence; it was more of a pantomime reaction. The Gryffindors were booing and hissing and even a few Ravenclaws and Hufflepuffs were joining in. "Silence!" shouted Professor Snape, and many fell silent, except for a few Gryffindors who merely increased their volume.
"Silence!" The voice was not the usual sneery voice of Snape or even the wheezy voice of either of the Carrows, it was the stern voice of Professor McGonagall, who was glaring at the members of her house. "You will show your Headmaster some respect!"
Neville was shocked by this response, as was Ginny, who had been leading the cat-calling. Professor McGonagall had been one of Dumbledore's staunchest supporters, and here she was defending his murderer. It seemed that her natural loyalty to the office of Headmaster still held strong despite the events of the past year and the personality of its occupant.
"Thank you Professor." Despite his reception, Snape did not look perturbed as he started his speech. "I have a number of items to get through. First, I would like to announce a much-needed reorganisation of the magical curriculum here at Hogwarts. Due to the need to study all aspects of magic, not just those that seem nice to those with bleeding hearts, Defence Against the Dark Arts will be reorganised into 'The Dark Arts' so that," Snape had to raise the volume at the cries of disbelief by many students around the hall: cries of glee from the Slytherins, horror by Gryffindors, confusion by the rest, "all students will be able to catch up their knowledge of this most varied, ever-changing, mutating and indestructible form of magic.* This new subject will be taught by Amycus Carrow. Professor Carrow is also now in charge of discipline at Hogwarts in the new position of Master of Discipline, an office he will be sharing with the other Professor Carrow. If you break rules your teachers will refer all punishment to them, so be warned." Many of the younger students were by now looking at each other nervously; this was clearly not the welcoming speech they had been expecting.
"Muggle Studies will now be compulsory for all students where you will all learn the place of muggles in our society." This surprised Neville and, judging by the renewed eruption of chatter around the Hall, everyone else. Why would Death Eaters make the study of muggles compulsory? "Lessons," Snape continued over the babble of talk, "will take place once a week here in the Hall attended by every student in the school, taught by Alecto Carrow who replaces Professor Burbage who resigned last month. Professor Slughorn will replace me as Head of Slytherin House. I hope that you will show these teachers the respect due to their positions." Normally the Headmaster would wait for applause after these announcements, but given the reception Snape had received so far, he seemed to want to forgo this and went on.
"As usual the Forest is forbidden to all those who do not want to experience the wrath of our new Masters of Discipline. Quidditch trials will take place in two weeks, ask your Quidditch captains for further details regarding admission into the new teams, I understand that some of them are missing a number of players from last year.” Neville noticed that Ginny clenched her fists at this comment, realising that this was a reference to Ron and Harry. “Mr Filch has asked me to inform you that 126 new items have been added to his list of banned items inside the Castle, anyone wishing to consult it should go to his office, where the list now covers the entire corridor I believe. All that remains for me to say is not to make yourselves stupidly ill during the coming feast or your may face the ire of Professor Carrow."
*quoted from HBP p169
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