Chapter 4 : War is not a game
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I don’t think I’ve ever not seen you for a whole summer. Quidditch training felt odd on my own. I ended up getting some of the house elves to play with me – until Mother found out, anyway.
Yes, I have picked my electives, despite Mother and Father heaping mountains of contradictory advice on me. I’m taking Arithmancy, Ancient Runes, Care of Magical Creatures and Muggle Studies. Yes, I am aware that taking an extra subject is nothing like me, but the parentals only let me take Muggle Studies as an extra they think they convince me to drop.
Not happening. I’ve always wanted a legit excuse to tinker with Muggle stuff. When I get my hands on the parts to an automobile, can I stash it at your place? Please?
Dear Mother and Father,
Orion Black has invited me to spend Christmas with him and a few of the boys while their parents join you for the pureblood congress in Vienna. I assure you Grimmauld Place is well staffed and we will be more than adequately provided for
Your loving son,
Dear Mother and Father,
I hope Congress was a success. Christmas was satisfactory, I thank you for your presents and will see you in the Easter break.
Your loving son,
Dear Uncle Ben,
It's has been months since I wrote you, longer since I saw you. It’s just so easy in Hogwarts to forget that a world exists outside these walls, that life goes on, and that there’s more to it than irritating Professor Slughorn and raiding the Hufflepuff common room.
No, I haven’t heard from Min, but she appears well. Like me, she is cramming furiously for the final exams, unlike me, she has colour coded study notes and a detailed plan for. Or so I’ve heard. It’s not like I keep tabs on her or anything. Must dash – have about a years worth of Runes translations to start.
My detention wasn’t for dueling actually. I had no idea there was actually a secret passage behind the urn of the Godellian Empire at all, let alone roomy enough for a duel, but I will certainly check out – thanks! And of course I won’t mention it to Mother – I’m not that daft! If she asks… then you don’t remember that I got two week detentions for smoking behind Greenhouse Six. I was with Orion Black, and he only got a warning. Blatant favoritism, as usual. Must dash – think I have a History of Magic essay due today..
Your loving son,
Hogwarts is divided into four houses, from the moment you remove the Sorting Hat from your head, you are forever branded. You have forever set your feet on one path, you are forever denied three. You are adopted into a ready made family, you are slipped into a second skin that is never shaken off. The news of war spread quickly through Hogwarts, but was received very differently in different houses. Each of the vials before you, coloured for their namesakes, contains fragmented memories uncovered from the common rooms of each house. All you need to do is open them to experience the immediate aftermath of Grindelwald’s declaration of war.
The Green Vial
Orion Black was well aware that he had been blessed with extraordinary good looks. What he was far more thankful for was the effortless brilliance – the natural result of eleven generations of impeccable lineage – which allowed him to skate through classes others (most mudbloods) found bewildering and impossible. He could not help the slight sigh of satisfaction that escaped him as he scribbled the final line of his Transfiguration essay with a flourish. He might not be quite up to the standard of McGonagall or even Prewett, but even Dumbledore admitted he had talent. There was very little Orion Black could not do. Unfortunately, convincing his sweetheart to talk to him was currently on the top of that short list.
A staccato tap repeated twice on his door caused him to look up from his essay and grimace. He twitched his fingers irritably and the door to his private bedroom swung open, allowing his older cousin Walberga to glide in. She leaned against the doorframe, her usually sallow face flushed. Like him, she had inherited the distinctive Black profile and thick dark hair; however her light eyes had a tendency to bulge when, like now, she was excited.
“Have you heard the news?” she asked breathlessly.
“What news?” he asked indifferently. He had far too many relations, between Walberga, Cygnus and Lucretia Black, not to mention his wayward brother Alphard, Orion would have his work cut out in assuming his place as head of the family.
“War,” Walberga crowed. Orion lifted an eyebrow.
“Don’t be absurd,” he drawled. “England will not have anything to do with the uprisings in the continent.”
Walberga huffed, reminding Orion forcibly of a ruffled bird. “Why does no one ever listen to me?” she half shrieked. “It’s true! I even overhead the Head Boy talking about it with that Bones chit of yours!”
Orion knocked over his inkpot, submerging his essay in black pools, but he did not take his eyes from Walberga’s.
“Alex Prewett was chatting up to Amelia?” he clarified, his jaw clenching.
Walberga sniffed loudly. “Yes, they were very cosy together in the corridors earlier. I don’t know what you see in her, she’s not even that pretty-” Walberga trailed off as she found herself talking to thin air. Orion had disappeared, leaving an unlocked room and a livid cousin behind him.
Orion did not get far. He had no sooner stepped into the Slytherin common room to find it flooded with noise. He blinked, unable to make any sense of it and found himself tugged by insistent hands to the centre of the room, where a cluster of seventh and sixth years were gathered around a large wireless. Henry Avery nodded to him as he joined them, his blunt features more animated than Orion had seen since the World Cup.
“What the hell is going on?” Orion demanded, surveying the general chaos with disgust.
“War,” babbled Alphard, sparing a quick glance from the tuning the wireless for his brother. “What a lark!”
“Good lad,” Avery said approvingly, clapping Alphard on the back.
“The devil you say,” expostulated Orion. “Chaps, there is no way England would involve itself in trifling battles on the continent-”
“Grindelwald has completed his construction of Nurmengard and declared himself,” broke in Tom Riddle. His pale face was alight and his green eyes held a strange gleam that chilled Orion. He shrugged it off – Riddle’s eyes were merely reflecting the lighting of the common room, that was all – and focused his attention on the wireless. The speaker on the radio coughed portentously.
“Well, Barry, you are quite right,” he said unctuously. “Young wizards are flocking to the continent in droves to enlist on both sides. This is a tragedy which could well see the end of the wizarding world.”
“What an idiotic way to run things,” Riddle said suddenly, almost to himself. Alphard rolled his eyes good naturedly.
“How would you do it?” he asked teasingly. Riddle frowned in thought for a moment.
“Grindelwald makes the mistake of gathering huge armies and drawing attention to himself. He would have far more power if he used a select group of the very best wizards. With enough well connected contacts in certain positions, he would have gain complete control quite quickly, subtlety is always more effective than brute force.”
“How very Slytherin of you,” Alphard quipped with a knowing grin. Orion caught sight of Caradoc Dearborn half hidden in the shadows of the corner of the common room and he left Alphard to rant about the various flaws of Grindelwald’s campain with Riddle to join him. Caradoc was slumped in an armchair, his face dark with thought and he made no sign of greeting as Orion seated himself beside him. They sat in silence for some time, watching the spectacle of the usually reserved Slytherins flutter about the wireless like first year Hufflepuffs. Caradoc, surprisingly, was the first to break the silence.
“They have no idea – any of them!” he said bitterly. “They’re going to go off and enlist for Grindelwald and be killed by their own school mates.”
Orion lifted an eyebrow.
“I doubt it will come to that,” he disagreed. “The wars will be over by Christmas,”
Caradoc shook his head impatiently. “Grindelwald has been building up his forces for years; this is not just going to blow over!”
“It won’t affect us though,” Orion said stubbornly. Caradoc looked at him steadily, the faintest traces of pity flickering across his face.
“You’ve never kept track of affairs outside of the house and school,” he began.
“You’ve never kept track of affairs within the house and school,” Orion countered. Caradoc merely waved this off impatiently. “Grindelwald is promising his followers on the continent what pureblood have been clamoring for years.. this will splinter our world in two, can’t you see that?” he demanded.
“You’re wrong,” Orion persisted, although with less conviction. Caradoc shrugged and rose to his feet abruptly.
“I’m going to bed,” he announced. “I can’t look at these fools anymore. War is not a children’s game.”
The Blue Vial
The Ravenclaw common room; that airy, light drenched tower top was the refuge of Hogwart’s most intelligent and currently buzzing with noise. Even the first and second years were huddled in groups, intently discussing the wisdom of openly declaring war, as well as the far reaching ramifications of the Bromberg Treaty, or the Austrian architectural influences on Nuremgard’s structure. Alex had packed them all of to bed when he returned to his common room to find it bustling with activity, but more kept creeping down, for once unnoticed by the Head Boy, engaged as he was in a passionate debate by the fire place.
“I give it three weeks before Grindelwald’s army deserts,” Indira Patil said confidently, tossing her glossy fall of dark hair.
“Balderdash,” Roger said flatly. “Grindelwald’s been preparing for this war for years, he’s got armies, actual armies. The wizarding world is never going to be the same after this.”
“I just don’t how we didn’t see this coming,” Sophia Nott said for the fourth time. Indira tsked impatiently.
“We didn’t see it coming because it isn’t the logical thing to do,” she said loftily. “Grindelwald’s a fool, he controls his armies through terror alone, and without him his entire movement would dissipate in an eye blink.”
“Yes, but who is going to get close enough to capture him?” Alex asked drily. “He’s roused the rabble nicely with his ‘for the greater good’ nonsense, recruits are flocking from Austria, from Russia, even from the Asian continents.”
Selena bit her lip, not meeting the eyes of her house mates and friends.
“Can you really blame them?” she asked quietly. At the gasp which escaped Indira, she looked up to be confronted with three faces identical only in horror.
“I don’t agree with him!” she said hastily, her words tripping over each other. “But he’s promising the end of a lifetime of concealment, of hiding who we are for the sake of muggles! Look at it dispassionately; it’s a perfectly intelligent proposal.”
“Reports suggest he’s sending muggles to work camps,” Alex said rigidly, a muscle twitching in his jaw. Roger was spluttering incoherently beside him, but Indira looked thoughtful.
“She does have a point,” she admitted grudgingly. “He’s rather crude and undeniably barbaric in his methods, but you can see why he has such an appeal to so many.”
“Lunacy,” Roger said hoarsely, his fair skin flushed dangerously. “I can’t believe I am hearing this from – I expected better from you, Indira, if not-”
“Enough!” Alex said harshly. The whole common room fell silent, newspapers falling as a note of unprecedented anger rang in the voice of their unshakably calm Head Boy.
“It’s late,” he continued more quietly, aware that every eye remained on him. “You all have classes tomorrow. I understand that you are excited, that many of you are scared and upset, but it does none of us any good to keep going around in circles. War is not a children’s game. Focus on your school work; keep making me proud to be a member of this House. As long as we are in Hogwarts, we are safe.”
The Yellow Vial
The Hufflepuff common room, like Slytherin’s, was underground, but there all similarities ended. It was a warm, cosy round room filled with squishy yellow sofas and brightly coloured wall hangings depicting woodland animals. At this time of the night, there were only a few sixth and seventh years scattered about, reading novels and playing card games. Even here, however, there was one discussion shadowed by war.
“I do hope no one is hurt,” sixth year Cynthia Fudge fussed, neatly folding her newspaper to remove the leering photograph of Grindelwald from sight.
“It’s a war,” Augusta Bones pointed out incredulously, stirring from her position by Altair McMillan’s side. “You can’t honestly expect no one will be injured!”
Cynthia did not fire up as Augusta hoped. She would have liked placid little Cynthia far more if she ever showed some spirit, but as usual she crumpled before Augusta’s fierce stare. Altair cleared his throat portentously.
“I’m sure the war will be over by Christmas,” he said kindly. “In any case, it’s nothing for you girls to worry your pretty heads about.”
At this, Griselda Marchbanks stopped fiddling with the aerial of the wireless to look up, her eyes far from their usual abstracted dreams.
“That’s a very poor joke, Altair,” she said crisply. Augusta remained uncharacteristically silent, her wide blue eyes flicking between her dangerously calm best friend and unruffled beau. The tension in the air was only heightened by Altair’s easy smile.
“I’m not joking, love,” he said genially. “Why should you concern yourself with war? Even if, Merlin forbid, it should last past Christmas, none of you lovely ladies will ever have to face the ugliness of battle.”
Griselda’s fair skin flushed, she opened her mouth to give Altair the telling off of a lifetime and was forestalled only by his casual stroll over to a corner where the other seventh years were laughing over the outrageous stories printed in the new and fashionable paper The Quibbler. The vast majority of Hufflepuff house chattered away happily, serenely unaware of the tragedy hurtling towards them. Augusta’s dorm mates, with the exception of Griselda, were tittering over their horoscopes and flicking through Witch Weekly avidly. Augusta grinned despite herself as Griselda let out a shriek of frustration and sent a cushion flying towards Altair’s general direction.
“Feel better?” Augusta asked blandly.
“No,” admitted Griselda. She threw herself in the seat beside Augusta, still clutching her battered wireless, which was emitting crackles of transmission periodically, to her chest. Augusta leaned over and pried it from her hands, turning it off and ignoring Griselda’s wounded expression.
“I can’t listen to it any longer,” Augusta said simply, closing her eyes and trying to be soothed by the familiar hum of the common room. She felt Griselda’s head slide on top of hers and shifted to rest more comfortably on her friend’s bony shoulder.
“War is not a game,” Griselda said distantly. Augusta felt a shiver run through her spine at her words caused not by the December cold but by the unshakable feeling they were going to see the full truth of the words with their own eyes.
The Red Vial
The Gryffindor common room was ablaze with students yelling excitedly over one another, brandishing newspapers and boasting of enlistment plans. Minerva was flanked by Juliet and Amelia when she at last returned to the raging chaos that was her common room, and it was a testament to just how dazed she was that she allowed them to half carry, half drag her past the fifteen year old Gryffindors wondering if ageing potions would trick the recruitment officers and that she barely noticed the maps of the continent that had been pasted on to the walls, complete with enchanted thumbtacks tracking the movement of Grindelwald’s troops.
“It’s nothing to worry about,” Juliet said bracingly as Minerva collapsed on an armchair in a quieter section of the common room, staring unseeingly into space. Juliet turned to Amelia, who was pacing nervously, for support, but Amelia remained silent. The three girls were the sole pocket of silence in the common room, a charged silence broken by Amelia’s sigh.
“I don’t know,” she admitted. “I talked to Alex earlier, and this doesn’t seem like the little battles that Europe has been having in the last few years.”
Juliet seated herself cross legged on the common room floor, her gaze wandering from Septimus Weasley, who was arguing loudly with Edmund Bell over the exact number of prisoners Nurmengard could contain, to Leda Lockhart, who was squealing over the prospect of dashing young men in uniform.
“Minerva, are you alright?” Juliet asked tentatively, sharing a bewildered look with Amelia. Minerva had not said a word since informing them of the declaration of war, had not heard their questions or seemed aware of her surroundings. She had never, in all the years they had known her, been so withdrawn and absent. Her daze frightened Amelia far more than any declaration of war in a far off country could, the blank look in the emerald eyes normally snapping with energy and intelligence told Juliet, as much as the tingle behind her neck did, that something was very wrong.
“I’m fine,” Minerva said at last, blinking slowly. She looked around the common room properly, a slight frown creasing her still pale face as she took in the moving models of troops and the whooping children gathered around the wireless or huddled around newspapers.
“What are they doing?” she asked, emotion creeping into her voice at last. Anger wasn’t quite what Juliet had hoped for and Amelia expected, but it was preferable – anything was preferable – to the catatonic shell masquerading as their best friend. “The idiots!” cursed Minerva, standing up, flushing vividly. “They have no conception – not the slightest idea – of what war really is!”
Amelia took Minerva’s arm consolingly and flinched as she was shaken off roughly.
“Go to bed,” Minerva commanded, her voice, although shaking, loud enough to silence the rowdy room. “Go to bed,” she repeated again. “You have classes in the morning. You have lives to live. War is not a children’s game – be happy, that this does not need to affect you. I pray it never does.”
And with a strange glitter in her eyes the Head Girl did not pause to see if her commands were followed through but crossed the common room in a few quick strides and disappeared into the girl’s dormitory.
Thankyou so very much for your amazing support, I can't tell you how much it means. Apologies for the wait, I've posted three oneshots in the interim *hides*
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