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Chapter 1 : The Line you can't cross.
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She still hadn't reconciled herself to if she'd be able to teach this vitriol. It turned her stomach and made her sense of justice revolt. What was the point of having convictions if you didn't stand up for them? But what could she do in the face of the Ministries power? An average well into her middle age teacher didn't go marching into the streets carrying signs and shouting down with the Government when she didn't agree with their policies. Maybe when she was younger, Charity would have done it without a thought. What was it about age that made you more timid about these things, she wondered and then thought, oh yes, you understood the consequences of your actions better. Voldemort would hardly take kindly to public protest.
She and the other teachers loyal to Dumbledore had spoken extensively about how they needed to pull together to protect the students entrusted in their care. She'd agreed with them, but had found no peace in that decision. She was torn by her need to stand up and defend those whom she had studied with, befriended and defended against such small minded prejudice all of her life. She'd devoted herself and her classes to bettering the understanding between her students and the muggle world. She had hopes that one day that understanding could lead to a lifting of the Ministry's decree of secrecy. With each passing day those hopes looked less and less likely. Charity gave a soft sigh of despair. Where ever Harry Potter was, whatever he was doing, she hoped he was safe and wished him luck. She would have liked to do more to help him, but her place was here. That and the need to ensure the safety of the youngsters left within her care was more important, she told herself firmly. They had a responsibility to protect those who were not old enough to yet protect themselves.
With a sigh she acknowledged she was even less likely to find an answer to her doubts lingering in bed and got up. Where ever her eyes wandered in her small two room teachers flat reminders of her subject met her gaze. Pictures that did not move of her and her muggle friends, books, a battery powered clock, a record player that she had converted with the help of Arthur Weasley so it would play on the grounds of Hogwarts. She fascinated her new wizarding born students with it every time. She smiled at it fondly remembering when Remus Lupin had borrowed it once to help interject some humor into a lesson on boggarts for his defense against the dark arts class back when Dumbledore was alive and things were so much better. Today they all seemed to stare accusingly back at her. Demanding to know if she was going to betray them and teach the bundle of hate that Umbridge had handed her last night.
Charity met Minerva McGonagall and Filius Flitwick in the hall on her way down to breakfast. Minerva looked fit to spit nails. She greeted Charity quickly and she and Prof. Flitwick fell in step with her. "Have you read over that load... of... of... Hippogriff dung the Ministry has declared this morning?", Minerva asked in a hushed aside. Charity shook her head.
"No. I've been trying to plow through the smear campaign they've assigned me as the new Muggle Studies syllabus.", Charity whispered back feeling more than a little out of sorts herself. Minerva gave her a worried look.
"Is it that bad, Charity?", She asked apprehensively.
"Worse.", Charity admitted through clenched teeth. She gave Minerva a look of despair and added. "I don't think I can teach it. I don't think I'll be able to force myself to tell those malicious lies. You should read it, Minnie! It should be criminal to spew such garbage as a lesson for children."
Minerva took a deep breath and shot a dirty look at Charity. She hated being called Minnie like that ridiculous American cartoon mouse. Charity would never let her forget her early obsession with that stupid thing. Minerva knew it wasn't mean-spirited, Charity just liked to tease her. Your oldest friends could be the most annoying at times. She swallowed back a sigh and exchanged a concerned glance with Filius. The charms professor clenched his fists with a heavy frown. "There must be something we can do?", He murmured with concerned look at Charity as he stretched his short legs to keep up with the taller women.
"Yes, protect the students." Minerva replied firmly, but even she looked shaken. "No matter what we believe personally we have to put the student's first.", on that there wasn't the slightest hesitation in her voice.
"Ahem.", a tiny cough came from behind them. They turned slowly and looked back down the hall at Dolores Umbridge, who was thankfully standing too far away to have over heard. "I do hope you've had a chance to look over the new lesson plan I gave you last night, Charity.", She gave a simpering smile that made the hairs on the back of Charity's neck stand up. "The Ministry will be expecting it to be implemented immediately, of course. For a teacher of your standards that won't be a problem will it?", Dolores asked delicately tilting her head, a sly unpleasant look in her eyes.
"No Ma'am.", Charity forced herself to reply. "I was just getting some advice from the other professors on how best to introduce the change, coming as it does in the middle of the term." She fell her stomach roil. She hated Dolores Umbridge ever since she'd come to Hogwarts last year, but all the teachers had learned not to cross her. Dolores smiled delightedly.
"Oh wonderful!, I'm so glad. I'll look forward to checking in on your first lesson later today.", She cooed and minced away with a self satisfied look.
Charity gritted her teeth and spun on her heel so fast she nearly knocked poor Filius down. "That evil, simpering, pink excuse for a waste of perfectly good oxygen.", Charity hissed under her breath. Minerva and Filius hastened to catch up with her.
"Charity, please.", Minerva urged sympathetically. "We can't afford to lose anymore of us. I know that woman is a horror, but we need to stick together and stand strong." Her longer legs made it easier to keep up with Charity despite her pace. Poor Flitwick was left to try and catch up as best he could.
Charity slowed her steps, then stopped and waited for him to reach her side. They had been a couple a long time ago when they were at Hogwarts, but it had faded over the years spent away from each other to a very good friendship. That and Charity had bowed to the wishes of her father, who had nothing against Filius as a friend for his daughter, but would have been scandalized beyond imagining to have him as a son-in-law. She smiled wanly at him as he joined them. He gave her a grin as he said. "Still got the temper I see, Sweet Charity?"
Charity laughed, her first real laugh in days. Filius always did know how to make her smile. It was the thing that had first attracted her to him in fact.
"Thanks.", She smiled down at him and moderated her pace to walk evenly with both of them again. "It's just so hard. Some days it really feels like they're winning." She admitted her deepest fear. Filius patted her hand gently as Minerva looked grave.
"I know what you mean Charity, truly I do, but we have to have faith in Harry. Dumbledore did.", Minerva reminded her.
"But surely there must be something more we can do to help him?", Charity frowned again as she tried to reconcile herself again to staying unnoticeable. To keeping her head down and behaving like a good Great Pyrenees protecting it's flock until the time was right to strike. But when was the right time?, She wondered as they went into breakfast.
The tension among both teachers and students was a tangible thing. Where the rafters had once buzzed with the noise of a thousand children lively and excited to begin their day. There was only a strained silence, broken infrequently by the occasional muttered conversation between the Carrow siblings. Umbridge was having her breakfast in the Headmaster's rooms with Snape. Charity knew that meant Severus would be in a very foul mood for the rest of the day. Thankfully, Umbridge didn't come down from the Ministry that often anymore since Snape had jumped over McGonagall's head to become the next Head of the School, by Ministerial Decree.
Charity slogged through breakfast without any interest, her nerves making it to hard to eat anything as her first class of the day neared. She determinedly steered her steps towards her classroom and made herself go in. Everywhere brightly colored muggle posters advertising different things from Hoovers to music concerts stared down at her. There were no rows of regimented chairs here, bean bags and lounger chairs were scattered around the room in the attempt to make it look like a muggle family room. Charity had wanted to engage her students in her subject to encourage curiosity rather than distain or fear regarding muggles. Oh, she didn't skip the harsher realities, but she tried very hard to emphasis the similarities rather than the differences. She gazed around the room one last time and sighed before giving a wave of her wand.
The comfortable chairs vanished and were replaced by hard benched school desks in neat rows facing the front of the room. Her own overstuffed lounger changed into a heavy oak desk with a straight backed rolling swivel chair that so many of the other teachers used. Her students for her first class began filing in as she swept her wand over the walls and posters carefully folded themselves back along their original creases. Everything on the walls packed itself away as the students gathered in a tight confused cluster to one side of the room watching her with bewildered expressions on their faces.
"Take your seats, please.", Charity ordered moving to the front of the room. "The Ministry of Magic has decreed changes to the Muggle Studies course. We will no longer be using your assigned school books, but a pamphlet provided for us by the Ministry.", She continued as the door opened and Umbridge came in.
Umbridge looked over the transfigured classroom with a gloating smile and the students watched her warily out the corners of their eyes. It wasn't just the teachers who'd learned to be watchful of Umbridge. "Oh my Charity!, It looks so much better in here. So much more conductive to learning without all those distracting things on the walls, don't you think? I'm sure your students will pick up their new lessons faster than ever now.", She beamed at them all with a faint menace.
Charity quickly spoke calling Umbridge's attention away from her students. "How nice of you to join us, Ma'am, I like to pace when I teach, may I offer you my chair?", Charity asked gesturing to her desk. Umbridge looked wary and to Charity's disappointment avoided the bait.
"Oh, I wouldn't dream of it. You are the teacher here, Charity.", She smirked widely. "I'm just here to observe on behalf of the Ministry. I'll stay back here out of the way.", With that she moved to stand near the back of the room and pulled out a tiny violent pink notebook and quill. She gave Charity a bright expectant look.
Charity bit back a sickly smile and turned back to her desk to retrieve the pamphlets Umbridge had delivered to her last night. They were dark things, with illustrations of the worst slums and ghettos Charity had seen. The drawings in them were practically cartoons in their exaggerated features and actions that were suppose to be depicting muggles daily lives.
"These will be your new study guides.", She told the class as she passed them out. The students took the thin booklets with bewildered faces. One boy opened his and laughed out loud. Charity gave him a stern look as Umbridge jotted something down in her note book. He sobered quickly.
How she got through the rest of the class Charity wasn't sure. Umbridge gave her a delighted nod as she left the class that upset Charity's stomach for the rest of the day. Each class started with confused students and ended with Charity feeling more ill. She was glad when lunch came if only for the break it provided from teaching that disgusting twaddle.
She and Filius shared a free period after lunch, and Charity went to him to vent. She hadn't been able to eat any lunch at all her stomach was in such knots. He just let her pace and rant as he sat uninterrupting in a chair in front of his fireplace. Filius' apartments were a mix of furniture fitted to him and to his much taller visitors. It was welcoming in a slightly fussy, neat and tidy kind of way. The home of someone who liked their things just so, but was willing to allow a bit of leeway for other's to be comfortable as well.
Spent Charity sat on the floor, leaning back against his chair like she used to do when they were so much younger. She wasn't a tall woman, just average at five foot, six inches. Her formerly thin figure was rounded with age now. A rather square face surrounded very straight light brown hair which she styled very simply. She looked as physically un-intimidating as it was possible to be. Just an older single woman, who would likely end up living by herself and owning too many small animals one day. It made people dismiss her sometimes as weak or a push over. Filius knew her so much better than that. He had always taken her seriously and listened to her opinions carefully when she spoke. At first Charity had simply thought it was just a courtesy. Filius had always been pleasant and friendly from the first day she'd met him. Time had changed her mind though, there were still days she wondered what would have happened if she hadn't accepted her fathers offer to further her studies and they hadn't drifted apart.
Filius laid a worried hand on her shoulder as he said. " You can't go on like this, Charrie, You're going to make yourself sick."
Charity covered his hand with her own and smiled up at him wanly. "I know Fil', but what am I going to do? I didn't think it was going to be so hard. How do you box up everything you believe in and just toss it away? There's a voice inside of me that just keeps crying out that what I'm doing is wrong."
"You're not tossing it away. You're still upholding it, but in a quieter way. Who would teach the Muggle Studies classes if you left? How would letting them take over make things any better? At least with you here, we still have some modicum of control over how it's taught. You can still make a difference. You can at least answer the students honestly if they ask you about the Ministry's lies. You can be the example of why the Ministry is wrong if you're here, but if you leave, if you let them drive you out. Then they've won and can teach whatever they want, how ever they want to and there's no one here for the students to turn to get the truth from.", Filius pleaded with her passionately. He knew her so well. How deep her sense of justice ran and he feared for her because of it. They sat there in silence staring at the fire. Neither was willing to be the first to bring it to the other's attention that they were still holding hands.
The Ministry couldn't force her out of her class through the Muggle-born registry act. Charity had no doubts from Snape's warning that they had tried, but her family were all wizards. They weren't all British, her mother was Greek, but witches and wizards every one. That was part of why her father had disapproved of Filius. His daughter was a pure-blood despite her strange fascination with muggles. Maybe if she'd have brought home a muggle boyfriend or two her Father would have softened towards Filius, but it was too late for such things now. They were well past the age of teenage romance and why lose a good friendship over something that might not even be there anymore, Charity thought halfheartedly as she let go of Filius' hand to stand up again. Afternoon classes were due to start soon.
To her surprise he held her fingers, letting them slid through his only with the greatest reluctance. Charity looked at him questioningly and Filius returned her gaze gravely. "Promise me you won't do anything rash, Sweet Charity?", He asked with a melancholy smile.
Breath caught in Charity's throat at the look in his eyes and she felt herself smile back in a forlorn way. " I'll try, Fil'. I promise I'll try.", it was the best she could give him. They parted ways both silently mourning what might have been.
Afternoon classes went on much the same as the morning's had. Her older students though were full of derision and protests at their new lessons. Charity counseled them strictly to outward obedience. She picked her words carefully to warn them of what rash outbursts against the new regimen might bring. A new sense of repression and distrust settled over her classes. Something that Charity had tried to avoid from the very first day of her teaching career. She thought back on how proud she had been when Dumbledore had come to ask her to teach Muggle Studies at Hogwarts. Of how encouraging he'd been towards her ideas and philosophies. She looked around the bare walls of her room and her heart cried out against the change.
She was in the middle of her last class before the evening meal when the Carrows came in unannounced. Charity as well as her students stared at them in surprise as the siblings began to move down the rows of desks. "Algernon Bigsby?, Laura Dooley?, Who's Algernon Wolaver Bigsby and Laura Dooley? We know you're in this class you nasty little mud bloods. Yer' Dad's confessed to being a blood traitor, Laura. And deary me, 'ittle Algie, yer Mum has done a runner with yer' dear old Dad, but the Ministry reckons she'll come out of hiding for you.", Alecto hissed in a sing-song voice.
"What are you doing?", Charity demanded striding over to stand in front of the Carrow sister.
Amycus snarled at her. " Get back to yer' place, Burbage. This is a Ministry matter."
"When it involves my students, it involves me.", Charity snapped back at him indignantly.
The Carrows laughed evilly as Alecto said. "Oh, don't worry stupid woman. You'll get yours. Algernon Wolaver Bigsby and Laura Dooley stand up now or.", She pointed her wand at Susan Bones, who was seated in front of her, but whatever she was going to do was lost as Charity's spell flung her back against the wall, knocking her out. Charity spun around to defend herself against the attack she was sure was coming from Amycus, but found that three of her students had gotten there before her.
"What are we going to do?", Algernon asked glancing at them both fearfully. He had been one of the students who'd jinxed Amycus before he could hex Charity.
Quickly Charity conjured ropes and gags onto the Carrows. "You, go get Prof. McGonagall, Algie'.", she ordered as she hid the bound bodies behind her desk, just incase someone else came in. The monstrosity was proving useful for something at least, Charity mused.
"The rest of you please take your seats. Who knows where Umbridge might be?", She took command quickly resuming her lesson, but all the while her eyes lingered on the door wishing for Minerva to come quickly.
It seemed like hours, but Charity knew it must only be minutes before Minerva strode though the door with Algernon right on her heels.
"Whatever has happened Charity?, Algernon pulled me out of my class saying that you blasted the Carrows?", McGonagall demanded as she came to the front of the room.
"They were going to take students, Minnie! They were going to snatch them right out of my class!", Charity snapped back, still shaking and upset. McGonagall stopped in her tracks, taken aback. She hurried forward and hugged Charity tightly, taking her hands in her own.
"What? Are you sure?", she demanded, still not quite able to believe.
"They were trying their evil snatcher tricks right here at Hogwarts! They were going to take Algernon and Laura right in front of me! I couldn't let them do that!", Charity protested, slipping her hands out of Minerva's to begin pacing again. Her mind racing as she tried to think of a way out of what had happened.
"You should have, you foolish woman! Now everything is ruined! All our careful planning is shot because of you. " Headmaster Snape hissed through gritted teeth as he strode through the door looking highly annoyed. "You lot, back to your common rooms and not a word to anyone.", He glared at the students. " Algernon Bigsby, Laura Dooley, get your things and be in my office in ten minutes. There are Order of the Phoenix members waiting to get you to safety in Hagrid's hut. If you hadn't interfered, we could have done this all smoothly.", He glared at Charity, who stared back stunned. "Umbridge wants to replace you. What do you think I bothered to risk speaking with you earlier for?", He growled as he joined her and Minerva at the front of the room. "I knew she was going to try something to force you out, but not what. I alerted the Order to have people on hand just in case it was something like this. If you'd have kept your head and let them take those two, we could have rescued them even before they left the grounds. You would still be here and Umbridge would be none the wiser. Now you've blown that plan all to hell!", He snarled at her as he spotted the Carrows and went over to check on them.
"We can obliviate their memories...", McGonagall began, but Snape waved her down.
"Umbridge knows they were coming here. Didn't you hear me? She was the one who sent them.", He frowned annoyed as he removed their ropes and gags and preformed a spell of his own to keep them silent and unconscious. "Why do I always feel like I'm talking to a wall for all you people listen to me?", He growled under his breath through clenched teeth.
Minerva's lips pinched and she drew herself up to give him a scathing retort, but Charity's hand on her elbow stopped her. "You could have just come out and said it might be something like this, Severus. The way you dance around a topic sometimes it's hard for the rest of us to follow you. Not that it likely would have helped.", She sighed and went over to sit at one of the students desks. Her eyes wandered over the bare stone walls that had seemed so full of promise for the future a year ago.
"I don't think I could have done it even if I'd known. I'm sorry, Severus. I'm not as strong as you. I saw them go after the children and I just snapped. It's like I hit a wall and I couldn't back up any further. I couldn't back down to them. I had to make a stand.", She tried to explain. To put all the thoughts that had been haunting her since Umbridge had come to the school the year before into a coherent order.
Snape looked at her coldly for a second then nodded, sharply, once. Charity caught a dark kind of understanding in his eyes and knew that he understood her perfectly. That he too, at some point had found that wall, that line that even he couldn't cross.
Calm once again, Snape stood up and said quietly. "You'd better go pack. I can arrange for you to go with the others, but we'll have to hurry. Take only what you need, there won't be time stop or rest for who knows how long once you leave. Get out of the country if you can, go somewhere and keep your head down until this passes over. I doubt they'll follow you, but don't draw their attention if you can help it."
Charity nodded and hurried off to her rooms. Minerva's gaze followed her worriedly as Snape continued. " Minerva, I need you to go back to your class and pretend like everything is normal. I'll take care of these two. We have to hurry before Umbridge comes looking for them."
Hastily Charity threw a few clothes in a bag and all of her muggle pictures. She knew time was precious, but something made her sit down and pick up a quill and paper. She had to say this while it was still fresh in her head and her heart. It seemed to just spill off the end of her quill nib as if the letter was writing itself. Hurried she blew on the ink to dry it and then folded the paper. She'd wait to mail it till after she'd left Hogwarts. She didn't want to risk any of her friends suffering from her foolish behavior. As she snapped the bag shut, the door to her apartment flew open and she snatched up her wand, certain it was Umbridge. So certain she almost cursed her youngest brother, Adrastos, as he plunged into her room.
"Charity!, What happened?, Brad said you blasted Alecto in class! That the Carrows tried to kill Susan, Algie and Laura right in front of everyone!", He cried in alarm. Charity looked at his round boyish face and felt her heart sink. She wondered if she should talk Snape into letting him come with her. Would he be safe without her? No, it was best he stay at Hogwarts. He was a pure-blood and he knew nothing they could punish him for. Filius would keep him safe for her.
"It's all right, Addie. I'm fine. Susan, Algernon and Laura are fine. Algie, Laura and I just have to leave for a while. Tell Mama and Papa I'm alright and I'll be in touch when I can. You need to get back to your class. You can't be seen here.", She cradled his face in her hands and kissed his forehead. He stared at her like she'd gone mad.
"Charity!, What's going on!?", He demanded his voice breaking as he did so. He was so close to being a man, Charity thought, in a distant kind of amusement. It was like she was seeing him through someone else's eyes for the first time.
"I made a choice.", She told him simply and picked up her bag. He trailed behind her bewildered as she walked quickly to Snape's office.
She left him standing outside the door to the office still asking her questions and not giving him any answers. Filius was waiting along with the others. He didn't ask her anything, just gave her a faint knowing smile tinged with sadness. Charity felt herself echo it back to him.
"I tried Fil'. I really did.", She apologized as best she could. He gave a funny, slightly strangled laugh. Charity sat down on a footstool by the fire and for a brief second they forgot there was anyone else in the room. He touched her cheek gently and Charity realized she was crying. "I couldn't do any longer, Fil'. I couldn't keep swallowing my conscience and still be me."
"I know.",was all he said. They kissed, gently. It was a quiet good-bye. Both knew she would not be back. As the sun touched the edge of the lake below Hogwarts, Charity Burbage left the grounds never to return.
Two weeks later the following letter was published in The Daily Prophet. Less than a month after that Charity Burbage disappeared and was never heard from again. Her fate was suspected, but not confirmed until after the Final Battle.
To whomever may read this,
I am Charity Burbage, a witch and a former teacher at Hogwarts. I am writing this letter as I can no longer stay silent in the face of the misinformation and injustice that is rampant around us. I can only hope someone at the Daily Prophet is still brave enough to print it.
A campaign of slander, hate, and corruption is being aimed at our neighbors, our relatives, our friends and our loved ones. It is being conducted under the guise of 'cleansing' our ranks of those who are unworthy to be a part of our world. I should not need to remind you of what happens when a people decide that they are superior to their fellow human beings around them. When such people declare that they are going to 'purify' their ranks, hundreds of thousands of innocents die at their hands.
The Ministry of Magic now tells us that muggles are worthless, unproductive, filthy creatures that are a burden on the wizarding world. That we must need to subdue and subjugate them for our own protection. That we have to tear apart families, terrorize children and steal away old people in the dark of night. That imprisoning, torturing and killing them is all that will keep us safe. That some of the people we went to school with, work beside, or even in some cases fell in love with, are dangerous because they are not pure blood wizards. That their muggle blood makes them little more than thieves of their magical talents and traitors to the wizarding world.
I stand before you as others before me have in times such as these to raise my voice against the sheer nonsense of this idea. I have listened long and thought hard on the Ministry's rhetoric, on their claims and their propaganda. The sheer groundlessness of their logic is astounding. It is a biased and unfounded collection of misdirection and outright lies.
In turn I have looked for wisdom, in not just the words of other wizards, but in the speeches and replies of muggles, who have stood where I stand today. A lone voice raised against a self serving tide of injustice. If what I have to say does not stir a cord within you to defy the Ministry and protect the muggles or half bloods who are your neighbors, your friends, or your family. Then I have failed, but at least I will have tried. However if even one witch or wizard stands up and defies the Ministry. I have won and my words are not in vain.
I hope both the muggles and wizards who have spoken out so much more eloquently than I am, will forgive me for paraphrasing their words to speak out against this new Ministerial Regime.
When a government chooses to lay all worldly woes upon the shoulders of one group of people and to say that without them we would not have these troubles. When a government declares that it is a right and a 'good thing' to attack, harm or murder people because they label them 'unworthy' or 'unproductive', it endangers us all. Who among us has the right to say their life is worth more than another's because of their birth?
Woe betide us, If we let them do so. For how long will it be before they declare we must look to our grandparents and their parents before we can be considered worthy? Woe betide us who are found to be part muggle or not 'pure-blood' enough. Woe betide those who do not leap to do the Ministries bidding or agree with their policies. Woe betide us, if we do not speak out against this growing shadow of that hunts our land and steals the very lives of those around us.
If the muggle born and half bloods are traitors, then what of the squibs of this world? They have no magic, are they any better for having been born of 'pure-blood'? Shall they be given mercy and their lives by the sake of their parent's birth? A government so steeped in the blood of others who have stood defenseless before them, whose only crime was to be born to the wrong parents, does not promise much hope for mercy for any of us.
I will quote one of the most famous speeches calling a people to action against the oppression of others that I know. Friedrich Gustav Emil Martin Niemöller gave a sermon that ended with these words.
When they came for me,
there was no one left to speak out."
I ask you to read the poem of Maurice Odgen's titled The Hangman and then ask yourself which member of the town will you be? I have chosen to be the man who cried shame from crowd. I can hear The Hangman's' footsteps coming across the square. I must face my fate and answer for my words, but I leave you this final thought. When I and those like me are gone. Who will speak when they come for you?
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