"Out of my way! Hurry it up! Out of the way!" Zacharias Smith yelled in frustration as he tried to shove his way through the slowly moving queue. Here and there, he passed other students who seemed to be frozen in place: some crying, others searching for friends and family members, and a few who seemed to be in shock. He had a fleeting desire to stop and help a small first year boy he recognized from his own house, but quickly shook off the feeling and continued pushing his way through.
If there was about to be a battle here, he was going to make sure that he was as far away as possible. He would leave the fighting to the adults and those foolish enough not to run when they had the chance. Zacharias was going to look after himself. Everyone else could do the same.
Several moments later, he found himself spilling out of a portrait hole into the small, grimy upstairs of the Hogshead pub. He looked around in disgust. The room was crowded with students, and was only getting worse. He shoved his way through the crowd to the spot where several prefects from various houses were speaking rapidly in hushed voices to an old man who bore a striking resemblance to the former headmaster.
"We can't all stay here, it might not be safe."
"And I want my bloody pub back!"
"Not to mention that we're already running out of space."
"Besides, we need to keep the passage clear for others who are showing up to fight."
"Others, what blasted others are you talking about?"
"We'll have to dissapparate them some place else. That's all I'm comfortable doing."
"But that'll take ages! I want to go back and fight!"
"And where will we take them, anyway?"
"Diagon Alley, I suppose. It should be safe enough, with all of You-Know-Who's followers outside. Maybe there will even be some help there."
"What's going on? What's the plan?" Zacharias asked in a raised voice, pushing himself into the center of the circle.
The others looked at him with disgust. "We were just deciding that, Zacharias," one of the Ravenclaw prefects responded. "Do you know how to disapparate?"
Zacharias shook his head. He had taken the lessons, but had, thus far, been unable to complete the task successfully.
They turned their backs to him and continued their discussion. Zacharias wandered off, annoyed that they didn't seem to have a plan. He looked around the room for any sign of someone who might actually know what they were doing. Instead, he noticed a small boy glancing around guiltily and attempting to climb back into the portrait hole. Zacharias recognized him from his time in the D.A. and pushed his way towards the boy.
"Oi, Creevey, what do you think you're doing?" Zacharias said, grabbing the boy by the shoulder, pulling him out of the tunnel and back into the pub. "You heard McGonagall. You can only stay and fight if you're of age."
"Oh yeah? Then why aren't you back there, fighting?" Colin bit back, struggling to escape the hold Zacharias now had on his arm. "You're of age, aren't you?"
"Well, yeah," he responded dully. "But she never said we had to stay and fight. Only that we could if we wanted to. I'm no bloody idiot. If there's a battle going on, I'm staying far away, and you'd do well to do the same."
"I'll do no such thing!" Colin yelled back. "I'll be 17 in just a few months, but You-Know-Who is back there right now! I'm going to fight him! Just because you're a coward doesn't mean we all are! Aren't Hufflepuffs supposed to be loyal?"
Zacharias released his arm as if stung, and Colin began to crawl back into the portrait hole. He stared after the small boy. Then, without realizing what he was doing, he climbed into the portrait hole after him.
"What the bloody hell am I doing?" he muttered to himself as he raced through the tunnel, back toward the school, the battle, and the mobs of people who would be trying to kill him. "Some dumb kid insults my pride and I go racing toward my death. Brilliant, Zacharias. It's obvious why you didn't get sorted into Ravenclaw," he grumbled. Shortly after, he stumbled out of the portrait hole back in Hogwarts and ran headlong into the battle.
I hope I live to regret this.
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