Chapter 2 : NO LONGER THE SAME
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NO LONGER THE SAME
Ginny sat quietly in the carriage with Neville and Seamus as it rolled on toward the castle. She couldn't escape the foreboding feeling that grew as they approached the gates. Shivering, she drew her robe around herself and crossed her arms.
Neville leaned over. "You okay?"
"I'm fine, just have a sense that our lives are never going to be the same after this year."
Neville turned to look at her. "What do you mean?"
"I don't know. I just, have a feeling. Why?"
Neville took a deep breath. "I have the same feeling."
Ginny pulled her robes even tighter around herself as she watched a line forming at the gate. Soon, she noticed Death Eaters checking every carriage.
"Please tell me," she whispered, keeping an eye on the nearest Death Eater "that you two have your wands out just in case."
"Seriously Ginny," Neville placated her, "what kind of a D.A. member would I be if I didn't have my wand in hand?"
"Aye, but 'tis a question of which wand you British blokes—"
"Shut it Seamus," Ginny ordered as the Death Eater walked up to them.
"Names!" he ordered.
As the Death Eater checked the name against a list, Seamus introduced his Irish wit as well, "But me magical mam just calls me 'Mudblood'."
"What, you think that's funny, Mick?
"Mick?" Seamus responded. "No, no. Finnigan is me last name! There's no Mc o' any sort. Let me help. "F-i-n-n-i-g-a-n."
Ginny and Neville kept quiet, whishing Seamus would do the same. And what is with the thick accent today? He never used to talk like this. She wondered.
"I don't know how the Muggle-lover ran this place last year and I don't care," their inquisitor was informing them. "But this year, it will be very different. Real magic and tradition will finally be respected. If you don't fall into line quickly, it'll be my pleasure to help out in the transition."
He turned to Ginny and stood still for a moment, then reached up and took off his mask. "Hello Pretty. Fancy me teaching you this year."
Her blood froze in her veins. Unfortunately, her mouth didn't. "Yeah, fancy that. Maybe you should fancy better aim."
A vicious backhand caught Ginny square across the mouth and nose. The back of her head bounced off the carriage as blood trickled from both, but before she could even react, two wands on either side of her were out and pointing at Amycus Carrow.
"Was it common practice at this school to raise a wand against a teacher?" he asked.
"No," Neville answered. "It still isn't, at least not for real professors." Neville smiled benignly, then lowered his wand along with Seamus, thinking the confrontation was over.
Neville was hit with the curse and lost control of his body, as it jerked around in the carriage, but he somehow kept himself from screaming.
Ginny kicked out, connecting with Carrow's wand and sending it back over his head and into the trees.
"Wandless?" she asked, displaying her innocent schoolgirl smile. "I wonder, is that a common problem amongst Death Eaters?"
Carrow walked back to the trees, picked up his wand, and was about to strike again before he thought better of it. Instead, he turned to Neville. "I hope you enjoyed your little taste of our Dark Arts class this year. We're going to have such a fun time."
As he walked to the next carriage behind them, Ginny happened to catch a glimpse of two heads peering around the fabric sides of the carriage in front of her. The Creevey brothers had their wands in hand and looked ready to fight it out on the spot. Ginny waved them off and they disappeared back into the carriage.
She breathed deeply, then balled her hands into little fists and punched both Seamus and Neville in the chest. "What the hell was that?" she ranted, " 'me magical mam calls me mudblood?' you idiot!" Then she turned to Neville. "Don't even get me started on you! 'Not for real teachers'? What the hell were the two of you thinking?"
"Memory's a funny thing Gingernut. 'Tis telling me o' a ginger flah gobbing, 'Maybe you should fancy better aim' and 'Wandless, is that a common Death Eater problem'? That was you, correct?"
Neville didn't give her a chance to answer. "We are in it deep this year Seamus," he laughed. "Without Harry and Ron, I guess we're going to have to take the brunt of Ginny."
"That's a threstal kick in the Bollucks." Seamus laughed right along with Neville.
"You're both prats," Ginny informed them. "Gits too. And if you keep it up, I'll come up with a few other names for the two of you."
Neville laughed even harder, turning bright red.
Frustrated at him laughing at her, she swatted Neville on the chest, which made Seamus laugh even harder. Ginny turned and swatted him as well and Neville doubled over in laughter; by the time they had passed through the gates, Ginny had finally joined them.
About five minutes later, the carriage came to rest at the doors to the Entrance Hall and all three sobered up immediately. Seamus hopped out, followed by Ginny and finally, Neville. In a blink of an eye, Colin and his brother were standing on either side of them, wands out and held low.
Seamus reached over and put his arm on Dennis's shoulder, which came to his chest. "A good lad, you are."
Dennis nodded once and stepped sideways to get out from under Seamus, the better to curse someone if necessary.
Neville leaned over and spoke to Colin. "Thanks, but it's probably better if we don't walk in looking like we're loaded for Dragon, you know what I mean?"
"As long as you think you're safe," Colin answered.
"I saw you back at the gates Colin. You and your brother were ready to bring a hexing party to the Death Eater for us." Neville quieted down even more. "You're a Muggle-born, that's quite a risk you took. I am glad you're here this year, but I don't want you drawing attention to yourself. Come to think of it, neither do I want to know how you got passed the registry."
"Easy, I have the right friends," Colin told him, nodding to his girlfriend. He put his wand away and gestured for his younger brother to do same. Together, the five of them walked into the Entry Hall through massive doors, turned right, and then continued on into the Great Hall.
The mood was very subdued compared to the previous year. Footsteps could be heard over hushed voices as the students found their tables. Ginny noticed the ceiling overhead was still charmed to reflect the sky outside, but the sky itself seemed darker, more ominous than before.
She looked around and noticed that despite the mandate to be educated at Hogwarts, the Great Hall was about a third empty. She was on the cusp of realizing why when the door to the anteroom holding the First Years opened and twenty First Years followed out behind Professor McGonagall.
Ginny thought back to the First year who was probably sitting in a cell in the bottom of the Ministry, if not already killed. Then she realized why the school felt so empty; None of the Muggle-borns are here, except for Colin and Dennis. They've already successively purged the school. Ginny sat in stunned silence, the reality of the new world crashing in on her.
Professor McGonagall walked out to the middle of the floor and set the old four-legged stool down, then gently laid the Sorting Hat on it.
The Hall went silent as the Sorting-Hat began its song:
Now we sit, divided by four,
divided again, to divide once more.
The four shall be in three and one.
Come play your hand, learn your sum.
Futures will be earned by this year's lot,
but not by what is taught.
Generations have passed under my sway,
from time of old, to this day.
But of this Hall,
I cannot recall,
a second generation so needed to display.
What game is this? Weaved in Fate's Loom,
The Three Sisters who have placed in this room:
sons and daughters,
from mums and fathers,
now drawn together far from home,
from those minds, I have a score known.
So come and find, to what house you'll be sorted,
to see by what destiny you'll be courted;
a Ravenclaw and a mind that is strong;
a Slytherin to rule amongst the throng;
a Hufflepuff's loyalty, which shan't be ablated;
or Gryffindor's bravery, never abrogated.
Yet remember, there is no finality
in what the Sorting Hat shall espouse.
The truth remains in all its totality,
one amongst us, already knows the wrong house.
Not a sound was heard in the Great Hall. The enthusiastic clapping, the cheers, even the muttered questions that sometimes accompany the Sorting Hat's song were forgotten.
Ginny noticed Professor McGonagall not looking at the hat, but through it, absorbed in her own thoughts. All the color had drained from her face and her normally thin lips trembled. After a moment she blinked it away and called out the first student.
Averson walked up to the stool and sat down, putting the Sorting Hat on. After a moment it called out, "Hufflepuff."
He took the Sorting Hat off, jumped off the stool and walked to the table. There was a smattering of applause.
"Azara, James," Professor McGonagall called next.
No one stepped forward. Ginny watched as Professor McGonagall stood, arms folded, waiting for the dawdler.
Finally, Snape spoke from his high-backed chair at the center of the Staff table. "Move on, Professor."
"Bennoit, Angie," she called out.
Angie Bennoit walked up to the stool and put on the Sorting Hat. A moment later it shouted out, "Ravenclaw."
She smiled, looking relieved that it was over and walked to the Ravenclaw table.
After two more Ravenclaws, a Slytherin, and a Gryffindor, Professor McGonagall called out, "Mackie, Everett."
But no one stepped forward. She waited again, studiously ignoring the grunts and promptings of the Carrows at the end of the table. Finally, Snape told her to continue once more.
Again, no one stepped forward. Professor McGonagall crossed her arms, and stared straight ahead at the Sorting Hat. The Carrows were furious.
"Professor," sneered Snape. "Perhaps it is a Gryffindor trait to grandstand, but I prefer that you simply move on to the next student."
The Slytherin table giggled and laughed at Snape's remark. But they were the only ones.
"Zuzeem, Holly," she called out next.
"She's out of order!" Parvati gasped at the Gryffindor table. "Look, she's doing it on purpose! No one is coming up again."
"Professor McGonagall!" Snape snarled out her name. "You know full-well that she is not here. Now move on and use the amended list you were given once the train arrived."
"I am sorry, Headmaster," she snapped back at him. "I seem to have misplaced that list. But I do find it odd that there is such a discrepancy. Why would that be?"
The Carrows were apoplectic. Amycus Carrow rose from his place at the table. "YOU KNOW WELL ENOUGH WHY MINERVA!"
"Excuse me, Professor," she answered, "but at this school, we respect magic and magical traditions, including those who teach them. That means faculty call each other 'Professor' in front of the students."
Carrow was shaking with anger and turned to Snape. "Just what the hell kind of school do you plan on running here? Neither student nor teacher shows a bearer of The Mark respect!"
"In an educational institution," Snape spoke crisply, "it is the mind, not the mark that is respected. The Dark Lord understands this. I suggest you learn it quickly."
He turned to Professor McGonagall. "Finish with the Sorting, properly." The last word came out as a threat.
"I am at a loss, Headmaster," Professor McGonagall just about choked over the title, "as to why the students are not here. Would you please enlighten us?"
"Merlin's Pants!" Ginny whispered, "that's one plucky witch!"
"Plucky?" Seamus whispered back. "If 'plucky' you call that, 'tis no hope o' mine that I see your 'obstinate.' "
Ginny turned to face Seamus, "Oh, trust me, I think you're going to have good reason to see that this year."
Snape paused, then answered Professor McGonagall, "They do not have proper blood-status to be considered magical. They have therefore been denied admission." A number of gasps filled the room. It was obvious that The Prophet had not made it to every home before some started their journey to King's Cross earlier in the day.
Professor McGonagall, satisfied that the truth had been stated in front of the entire school, finished the list without incident.
The normal pre-meal announcements were short and to the point. "Things have changed this year. Let it be known, the lenient manner which this school has been run is no longer applicable. You all have been warned. Obey what you are told to do and there will be no problems. Furthermore, there will be no owl service except through the Carrows. Please contact one of them if you would like to send or receive an owl."
He sat down and waved his wand. The food appeared on the table, but somehow, neither Ginny, nor many of the others were hungry. An hour later they walked to the Gryffindor common room, but no one wanted to go up to their dorms yet.
"I wonder what tomorrow is going to look like?" Lavender asked everyone and no one in general.
"Tomorrow's not what I'm worried about," Ginny surmised. "Our first Carrow class is a couple days away. It's well known that Harry is a Gryffindor, most of the D.A. was Gryffindor, and most of the people who have fought the battles so far have been Gryffindors. It's not going to be an enjoyable class."
"Me Gingernut's talent lies in understatement. There's going be blood spilled, and plenty o' me own as well as Neville's, Ginny's, and a few others. 'Tis time to be one house, not many people."
X O X O X O X
Seamus's words proved true three days later. Ginny, Neville, and the rest of the Gryffindors walked silently to class. Every Gryffindor student entering the dungeon-like room knew that this lesson would be far more 'hands on' than they were used to. Entering and sitting quietly, they also knew why the top three years were put together for this class. They were the ones most likely to know Harry.
The door to the classroom closed and four Death Eaters stepped out of the shadows, each in a corner of the room. Then Amycus Carrow walked through the doorway leading out from his office and the door slammed shut behind him of its own accord.
"Welcome Gryffindors, to your first lesson in the Dark Arts."
The way he said it sent a chill up Ginny's spine. Seamus and Neville caught each other's eye, then both of them caught Ginny's eye. We are wand deep in it now, they all thought.
Carrow grinned. "Lesson one, always give the Dark Lord what he is asking for."
"What is he asking for?" Andrew Kirke asked, in rapt attention.
The Seventh years cringed, sensing what was coming.
"The location of Harry Potter and the Mud-Blood," Carrow responded.
Ginny almost snapped her quill.
With a speed few knew he had, Andrew came up out of his chair, wand in hand attempting to curse Carrow. Two other Death Eaters stepped forward, but Carrow waved them off after deflecting the curse and binding Andrew's arm to his side.
"Andrew Kirke is it?" Carrow asked. "What right does a half-blood have at this school?" The dictation was letter perfect, with an undercurrent of manufactured sweetness that rang of intended malice.
"What right does a half-blood have of your loyalty?" Andrew shot back.
Merlin why? Ginny thought just before Andrew was lifted out of his seat and thrown across the room with a Levicorpus spell.
"We were wondering who should be the first person to personally get acquainted with the Cruciatus curse. Thank you for volunteering Kirke." Amycus Carrow stepped to the side of the room and bound Andrew with an Incarcerous spell as he lay on the floor, bleeding from the head. After affixing him to the wall with a sticking charm so he couldn't move, Carrow turned to the class.
"Ginny Weasley, where is the Mudblood?"
"I have no clue," she answered honestly.
"Not good enough," Carrow smiled.
Andrew cried out in pain.
Carrow turned to the class again, "Neville Longbottom, where is your roommate?"
"I have no bloody idea."
"Crucio!" Carrow was truly enjoying himself as Andrew cried out again.
Ten minutes later, the sticking charm was released and Andrew fell to the floor. Demelza and Ginny helped him back to his seat.
Amycus Carrow addressed the class again. "The Dark Lord gets what he wants. We will be at this all day. Who is next to experience the Cruciatus curse for Harry Potter's stupidity?"
With a clattering of overturned chairs and books falling on the floor, every Gryffindor stood up, volunteering to be cruciated for the cause.
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