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Chapter 6 : The Daily Prophet
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= = =
Nothing made sense anymore. I didn’t know when I was dreaming or when I was awake. All that made sense was that blurry state of mind between consciousness and unconsciousness. Between sleep and alertness; between light and dark; between life and death. I didn’t know which way was up or which was down. I wasn’t living anymore – simply existing and going through the motions, walking from breakfast to class to lunch to class to dinner to the common room. This was the only life I knew. And that, in and of itself, may have been a dream for all I knew. Any sense of alertness I once had had vanished, along with my sanity, captured from me by that dreaded Dream Catcher. It didn’t just catch my dreams as the name would suggest. It captured my very state of existence.
I really am going crazy, I thought one day during dinner, on my hands and knees with my head lowered into my pile of slop. Even my taste buds were deceiving me. I licked my plate clean, desiring more of the disgustingly wonderful brown bubbling mush.
Arriving back at the common room after dinner that night, Hermione padded up to me. “Feeling any better?”
“What do you mean?” I asked, insulted.
She sighed. “There’s something I’ve wanted to show you, but didn’t think it wise these last few days considering your current state of … well, your mentality hasn’t exactly been …”
“I know you think I’m going out of my mind,” I said. “Maybe I am. But what is it that you wanted to show me?”
She looked at me for a long moment, seemingly examining the deepest depths of my eyes to make sure I could handle whatever her big news was. “All right. Just don’t go fainting on me again,” she said as her lips turned up into a grin. Then she lowered her voice and brought me to the corner of the common room where we sat on the ground out of ear shot from everyone else, and she opened her school bag. “Look inside,” she said. “I can’t take it out. Not here, in front of everyone.”
I raised an eyebrow at her in curiosity, and then obeyed. I peeked into her bag, and upon seeing the white parchment scattered with black words and moving pictures, had to struggle to hold in my woops of delight.
Controlling my voice so that it wouldn’t’ reveal my excitement level, I asked, “Where did you get a copy of it?”
“It wasn’t easy,” she said, zipping her bag shut. “Turns out Snape still receives the Daily Prophet. Nicked it from his office after dinner one night a couple of weeks ago.”
“Well, what’s it say in there?” I asked anxiously. “Does the Ministry even know about what’s going on here at Hogwarts? What are they doing to stop it?”
“Keep your voice down,” Hermione hushed me. “I wouldn’t count on the Ministry for help …”
I could literally feel my face drop in disappointment.
“The Death Eaters have infiltrated the Ministry,” she explained. “It’s the same there as it is over here. The entire Prophet is about –”
“Honestly,” came a voice from the couch. The back of it was turned to us, and Lovegood popped her head around the side, her long pale blonde hair veiling half of her face, “I told you two to be careful what you say; when are you going to listen?”
“Loony, the only eavesdropper I see around here is you,” I said.
“Fine.” She stood up from her chair and closed the book she was reading. “But don’t say I didn’t warn you.”
I watched Lovegood walk away from us, and then turned to Hermione. “What were you saying the whole Prophet is about?”
She looked around suspiciously. “Maybe Luna’s right,” she whispered. “I’ll tell you later, after everyone’s gone to bed.”
= = =
As it turns out, I wouldn’t hear what news The Daily Prophet was filled with until days later, as on that very night in common room, every student was forced by the Carrows to leave the common room and go directly to their dormitories. They locked the doors after we were all inside.
“Educational Decree Number One,” Father began from his podium the next morning at breakfast in the Great Hall, “Every student is to be inside their dormitories between the hours of nine o’clock p.m. and seven o’clock a.m.”
No one in the hall seemed as disappointed by this news as Hermione and I.
“Educational Decree Number Two,” Father continued, and I cringed at the fact that there was more. “Students will not speak to each other unless granted permission by a person of higher authority.”
He’s got to be joking!
“Educational Decree Number Three, any student roaming the halls without having been given permission by a person of higher authority will be severely punished.”
Amycus grinned. Alecto dug her hand into her pocket, probably fingering her shiny silver glove. Auntie Bella glared at me with big inky black eyes.
“And last but certainly not least,” Father’s voice was smooth as silk as he scanned the Great Hall, “Educational Decree Number Four, which hardly needs mentioning at all.” He paused again. Father always was one for dramatic effect. “Speaking of or daring to perform an Unmentionable is strictly forbidden. Do I make myself perfectly clear?”
“Yes, Headmaster,” the Hall chorused back, and upon his instruction, we each began chanting “The M word does not exist,” twenty times in succession.
= = =
Filch brought us outside for class that day, to observe the different plants scattered on the school grounds. However, I was having a bit of trouble keeping my attention on the lake where we were supposed to be pointing out different mosses on the rocks. The Quidditch pitch in the distance held me captivated and mesmerized, for there was no Quidditch pitch there at all. The poles that were once suspended high up into the air seemed to have disappeared, and from far off I could make out the grass below painted with white lines and a netted goal on either end. Probably some Muggle sport. I couldn’t believe they’d taken away Quidditch … what did anyone in the future do for fun?
“Professor Filch!” Hermione exclaimed, waking me from my reverie. “I think I may have found something.” She was crouched low by a rock on the edge of the lake.
Filch, who couldn’t have possibly been less interested in today’s lesson, said, “Very well, Fifty-three, keep looking around.”
I figured this was as good an opportunity as I was going to get to have a word with Hermione, and crouched down next to her, pretending to examine the rock as well. The completely spotless rock …
“I thought you said –”
“Of course I didn’t find anything, it was an excuse to get you over here,” she whispered frantically. “There’s no time to lose. After dinner, ask Amycus for permission to go to the library. I’ll ask Alecto.”
I smiled at her brilliance. “No wonder Potter and the Weasel liked you so much,” I said, and then felt my cheeks flush scarlet as I realized what had just slipped out of my mouth. “Someone’s got to have the brains, and they sure didn’t,” I said as way of clarifying myself, because of course I didn’t mean that I was actually enjoying spending time with Hermione. She was a Mudblood. It was just nice to know that I wasn’t going through this whole mess alone. And like I said, her brains did come in handy.
I stopped talking at once as Hermione gasped. Mrs. Norris was padding through the green blades of grass straight toward us, looking as though she were about to pounce at any moment. “Go,” she whispered. “I’ll see you tonight.”
I left her at once, leaving a very disappointed Mrs. Norris stalking the grass with no one to get into trouble.
= = =
It had taken a bit of persuasion, but I finally managed to talk Amycus into allowing me the privilege of going to the library to do a bit more research on different forms of fungi for my essay I had to write on plants.
“What took you so long?” Hermione asked from behind a stack of large leather bound books she had piled high on the table top. She slammed one down on the top of the pile, and before I could even open my mouth to answer her, she said, “Never mind, get over here.”
“Yes, ma’am,” I said with a smirk and followed her behind the pile. She thrust a book into my hands. “Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell? What the bloody hell would I want to read this crap for?” I asked, examining the picture on the cover of a man and a woman holding each other as if it would have killed them to ever let go. She wasn’t trying to give me some kind of a signal or something … was she?
“Honestly,” she said rolling her eyes, and then stuck her copy of The Daily Prophet over the book and in front of my eyes. “It’s in case anyone sees us.”
I laughed. “Oh yes, because it won’t look suspicious at all to see me reading a girly romance novel! And a Muggle one at that!”
“Shh!” Hermione hissed, whipping her head from side to side frantically. “Don’t say things like that so loudly! Didn’t you hear your father today? We’re not allowed to speak any Unmentionables.”
“Chill out, Granger,” I said, suddenly getting very annoyed by her constant … goody-ness. “It’s not like anyone’s here to hear me.”
“You never know, it might set off an alarm or something …”
I smirked at her. “Who’s loosing their mind now?” I asked, and then bent my head to read the Prophet she’d thrust in front of my face.
Five anonymous students attending Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry were sent on their first Muggle Hunting mission Thursday night in Surrey.
“Witchcraft and wizardry! They’re talking about MAG --!”
“I know what they’re talking about!” Hermione shouted. “Keep reading!”
“These students in particular have been ready for quite some time,” said Lucius Malfoy, Headmaster of Hogwarts School. “They were handpicked by Amycus and Alecto Carrow, two of The Dark Lord’s most experienced Death Eaters, and as I am told, have done exceptionally well for their first time.”
It is reported that eleven Muggles were killed in the spree, by use of various new methods of torture.
Malfoy refused to give away his newly invented spells, but says we can expect to see more of his students in the future. “They are in constant training,” he said, “And are always ready and willing to serve the Cause.”
Rita Skeeter, The Daily Prophet
I dropped the Prophet and watched as it floated to the ground in a crinkled heap. “I don’t understand.”
“Don’t you see?” asked Hermione. “They’re telling us the M word does not exist, but they’re still using it themselves! It’s the Advanced classes, I’d bet anything. They’re training the students in the Advanced classes to kill Muggles.”
“But … God, this doesn’t make any sense!” I threw my arms up into the air in frustration. “Why would they try to brainwash us into thinking there’s no such thing as the M word if they’re only going to make us use it once we’re upgraded into the Advanced classes?”
“I know,” said Hermione. “I don’t understand it either.” She picked the Prophet up from the ground. “Eleven people are dead, Draco. Dead. And look at this.”
She opened the Prophet to a new page where the headline read in big bold letters: “What to do if you see a Muggle.”
“I mean, it’s absolutely horrendous,” she said as she scanned the words. “There’s always the ever popular killing curse, but who’s to say we can’t have our fun first?’ Who on earth wrote this? This is terrible …”
I pretended my brain was a sponge and imagined it absorbing everything I’d just learned – soaking it all up. The only question I could come up with was, “How are they supposed to know if they’ve found a Muggle?”
Hermione glared at me incredulously. “Eleven people are dead and you’re worried about how they’re telling people apart? What, are you worried that someone will mistake you for a Mudblood, Malfoy? You’re so bloody selfish.”
“I was only wondering, okay?” I grabbed the Prophet out of her hands. “It was only a question. No reason to get all pissy with me. As usual.”
There was a long moment of silence until Hermione spoke. “There’s a sign.”
“You know the red ribbons the Advanced students wear on their breast pockets?”
“Yeah,” I answered.
“All witches and wizards wear them.”
“We don’t,” I said, stealing a glance down at my empty grey sweater, stitched only with my number in black thread.
“Of course we don’t,” Hermione said nonchalantly. “The M word does not exist.”
= = =
With all the excitement, I’d completely forgotten to tell Hermione about the screaming in the dungeon. Now I began to really wonder what was down there … maybe they’d captured some of the Muggles and were holding them hostage …
I dreamed I was torturing Muggles that night – hanging them upside down in mid air so that their skirts flailed over their heads and their knickers were a show for everyone – just like Father had done at the Quidditch World Cup in the summer before my fourth year. I seemed to be really enjoying myself in my dream … it was, after all, something I’d always dreamed of doing. Father had always said I could join in when I was older …
I was awakened by a pinch in my arm.
“God kid, you really are a light sleeper, ain’t you?”
Macnair. Again. “What are you … how thick are you? I thought I told you no? Now get this bloody needle out of my damn arm and leave!”
I couldn’t watch as the red liquid seemed to overflow out of my arm and down the tube. The clear bag was filling up quickly. “Settle down, you’ve still got about five minutes to go.”
“I will not settle down!” I bellowed.
“That’s what I thought you’d say,” said Macnair as he dug into his pocket. “That’s why the Carrows gave me this.”
He held out another needle in front of him, this one much longer than the one sticking in the inside of my elbow, and jabbed it forcefully into my shoulder. “That’ll teach you to calm down the next time I come,” he said, although his voice was already sounding scattered and slurred.
“You … fucking … bastard …”
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