Ginny caught me after the Welcome Feast that night. Apparently, Luna thought herself perfectly fine, if a tad uncomfortable, and that she had been taken by Snatchers at the start of the Christmas break, although she wasn’t quite sure where she was being held yet.
Again, there wasn’t a need to say anything; there was an unspoken acknowledgement of “Well, at least she’s alive and seems as sane as ever!” and some strange relief for that.
We swung quickly back into the absurd routine of things; so quickly, in fact, that soon the Christmas break began to feel like it had been some strange sort of out-of-body experience for me.
The teachers were still on edge, there were tears from the younger students (and some older – Lavender Brown broke down in Herbology when she dropped a plant pot) and injuries were beginning to appear from all angles again. Ernie has joined the ranks with a bloodied nose and, although Neville and Seamus had healed quickly while with their families, they appeared keen to get some fresh wounds going again.
It was definitely mostly the boys who were loading up the visible physical injuries, but I noticed about a couple of weeks into term that Alecto Carrow appeared to have developed a taste for targeting girls to torture. When I pointed this out to Ernie, he suggested that this perhaps was because the boys would try very hard not to make much noise, whereas the girls would break and cry out in pain quite quickly. I spluttered and argued with him out loud for a moment, but quietly noticed that I struggled to actually come up with any evidence against his point.
“Or maybe it’s just because we’re harder to catch out,” Ginny pointed out at the first DA meeting of the year. “So she relishes it more when she gets the chance.”
It was true that most of the girls (and, I noticed, a select few boys including Terry Boot) were about quite clever about it. While sometimes we might crack, it was the boys that were mouthing off and getting themselves beaten up. It wasn’t that the girls were any less keen to rebel – no, Ginny would have thrown herself into a boiling cauldron if it would’ve – but we were waiting for the underground movement that was about to become active.
Neville swallowed, looking around at the dozen faces aimed at him. He hadn’t trimmed his hair while he was home, and it seemed to grow quite quickly because it was already getting a little long. His cuts hadn’t had a chance to heal properly because of the amount of times they got knocked back open, and the way the candlelight hit his face threw the scars that had already formed into striking relief. But there was something in his eyes; a sparkle that couldn’t be beaten out, a steely determination, a few flecks of gold...
“Ginny and I have loaded up on supplies,” he continued with a side glance at Ginny. “Everything we’ll need, from Fred and George and anywhere else – a lot of the shops are boarded up in Diagon Alley, but a few Dark Arts shops have popped up. Nice to see what we’re up against.”
“’Nice’ is a choice word...” Michael Corner muttered.
Neville ignored him, “So we’re all to break people out of detentions, mess up the Carrows’ plans, maybe wreak a little untraceable havoc in their classes,” he went on. “But I’ve been thinking. Before Christmas, a couple of people approached me and Ginny about the DA, asking if they could join or help in any way. Now, I still have a bit of an issue about people properly joining, because such large meetings are risky, and it’s difficult to keep in contact with everybody when we have big plans that can’t afford mistakes. I’m also a little wary of younger students putting themselves at such risk.”
He stopped and glanced at Ginny. She grinned and nodded encouragingly. Neville caught my eyes and beckoned me over, then did the same to someone over my shoulder.
“But the thing is,” he continued as I hesitantly stood myself next to Ginny, a little lost. Terry joined at my side, looking slightly less lost. “We’re not some exclusive club. That’s completely the opposite of what we’re doing here. Most of you will already know that a few months ago, I asked Hannah to be something like a DA representative for Hufflepuff. With Luna gone, last night, I asked Terry to do the same for Ravenclaw.
“Basically,” Neville glanced at me and Terry. “Their jobs are to report back to us at each meeting. So for example... Susan, if you were to hear somebody in your common room showing interest in what we’re doing, then you would tell Hannah and she would tell all of us at the next meeting. Then we could discuss it, and Hannah could then go back to that person and let them know that they’re kind of... under our protection or whatever. So we have honorary DA members, in a way.”
He stopped, frowning to himself, “Does that make sense?” he asked. “I feel like I’m not explaining this very well.”
“What if it’s something that needs to be resolved immediately?” asked Lavender. “Something that couldn’t wait for a meeting.”
“Then you tell your house representative – you, Lavender, would tell me or Ginny – and it would be their job to resolve the issue as soon as possible,” Neville answered. “You can discuss it with them, of course, but ultimately the decision would be theirs.”
There followed silence. Most gazes were fixed upon me and Terry, and I got the distinct impression that a couple of people were thinking the same thing that I was – was I really the best person for this job? Maybe Neville was right in that I could deal with people and calm them down better than Ernie or Susan, but both of them were much better under pressure than I was and Ernie would certainly make a far more confident representative.
“Any more questions?” Neville offered.
I looked at him, trying to ignore my enhanced doubts for the moment. He’d made a good choice in Terry, who was very quick in stressful situations, and somehow managed to be both a lovely, easy-going person while at the same time never holding back what he truly thought. Maybe Neville did know what he was doing. Or maybe he was showing blind faith because we were friends.
“What about these ‘honorary members’, then?” piped up Parvati. “What does that mean?”
“They’re just the same as us in that they’re keeping up the spirit of Dumbledore’s Army,” Ginny explained. “Some of them might be let in on any bigger plans – more people means more areas of expertise covered – and we’ll look out for them in the same way we look out for each other. Only, they won’t get coins or attend regular meetings so that we don’t arouse suspicion. They stay in contact via the house representatives.”
“The day will come soon enough when we’ll have to fight,” Neville announced. “Harry’s going to come back, I’m sure of it. We’re going to need as many members as possible when that day comes – we’re just trying to keep relatively safe in the meantime.”
The prospect of Harry coming back or of us having to fight wasn’t anything new; it had been passed around a few times at previous meetings already, but nonetheless, Neville always spoke of it with such rousing determination, as if it was about to happen there and then.
“What about the Slytherins?”
All heads turned to look at Colin Creevey in surprise. Neville glanced at Ginny, apparently a little perplexed.
“Well... they can’t all be like Crabbe and Goyle, can they?” Colin continued. “Just because You-Know-Who and Snape were Slytherins, doesn’t mean they’re all like that.”
“Name a single Slytherin that would join Dumbledore’s Army, Colin.” Seamus demanded.
“He’s right,” I suddenly heard myself proclaim. “The Sorting Hat puts purebloods into Slytherin because that’s how Salazar made it. They’re characteristically sly and ambitious, we’ve all heard the song – it doesn’t say anything about being inherently evil.”
“But Hannah, they’ve got nothing to gain by joining us,” Terry pointed out. “They’re safe how they are now.”
“Neville has nothing to gain from us,” Colin argued levelly. “He’s pureblood – he could easily just get on and keep his head down and he’d be perfectly fine. But here he is, leading us, fighting for what’s right.”
I turned to Neville and Ginny, “Look, I’m not expecting you to walk down to the dungeons and come back with Crabbe and Goyle announcing that they’ve seen the light and are becoming freedom fighters,” I said, running a hand through my hair. “All I’m saying is that, if someone from Slytherin does approach us, then they should be treated fairly.”
“Treat them fairly – you are such a Hufflepuff, Hannah Abbott,” teased Seamus. “When has any Slytherin treated you fairly, eh?”
“And you’re supposed to be chivalrous, Gryffindor,” I returned. “What if there’s some scared little girl in Slytherin that doesn’t want to become a Deatheater? What if she doesn’t care about blood-status? Isn’t it our job to make sure she stays safe?”
My face was incredibly hot. I’d never actually really thought that much about any of this, but as soon as Colin had brought it up, I’d found that I apparently had a firm opinion on it.
“There’s a third year in Ravenclaw,” Anthony divulged after a moment’s silence. “Who has a little sister in Slytherin. I heard him say after the Sorting Ceremony at this start of this year that they used to make friends with the muggles in their village. I can’t imagine she’s a future Deatheater.”
I watched Neville and Ginny expectantly with everyone else, nibbling on my bottom lip. She was twisting her wand between her fingers and he was scratching the back of his head. After a second, I caught Neville’s gaze; he held it for a moment, then turned to the rest of the group.
“If you are approached by a Slytherin about the DA, or you come across one that might need our help,” he finally said. “Then direct them to me. Only me. Do not give out any other names – just in case. I’m all in the interest of being fair, but I’m not compromising anyone else’s safety like that.”
Having said that, he looked back at me, raising an eyebrow in an “is that okay with you?” kind of way. I grinned and nodded.
Alright, then did anyone else have anything they wanted to say?” Ginny asked the group, and when more silence followed, “Right, then I think that’s it for tonight. Glad to have you all back and rearing to go – see you next time!”
There was a murmur of assent, and people began to leave in twos or threes as usual, but Neville caught me and Terry before we could move.
“Well... I was going to ask you if you were okay with what your jobs are now, but,” he raised his eyebrows at me, smirking, “I think you’ve just proved that you’re more than ready, Hannah. But you’re still alright, Terry?”
“Yeah, fantastic,” Terry shrugged. “You know I’ll do anything if it’ll help!”
Neville grinned, “Brilliant,” he looked back at me. “Both of you, brilliant. Couldn’t have picked anyone better. Never knew you felt so strongly about all that stuff with the Slytherins.”
“Nor did I,” I admitted. “I just, kind of... said it.”
“Well, I’m glad you did,” Neville beamed. “You and Colin – I never would have thought of it that way. Bet you’re not doubting my choice so much anymore, are you?”
I vaguely registered Terry’s hand landing amicably on my shoulder, but all I could think of was that he knew. He knew I’d be doubting myself again, yet he knew that I’d prove my doubts wrong. And prove him right by extension. Maybe, I considered, I wasn’t completely the worst person for the job.