Hogwarts had changed. Athena never thought she would miss the sound of giggling, gossiping girls swarming through the corridors, or obnoxious boys shouting suggestive comments at her through classroom doors. But she did. Hogwarts was lifeless, silent, sterile. Without the careless chatter of a thousand teenagers, the stone walls and flickering torches looked sinister, imposing. She felt imprisoned, and she wasn’t the only one.
“Good evening and welcome to Azkaban,” Lydia Moody said in a toneless voice when the seventh-year Ravenclaw girls met in their dorm that night.
Cassiopeia Green shivered. “Feels like that, doesn’t it?”
Jessica Ainsworth, usually full of gossip, didn’t say a word; just climbed into bed and drew the curtains around her.
“Her dad’s Muggleborn,” Lisa Turpin whispered. “He’s gone into hiding. France. She doesn’t know when she’ll see him again.”
“I wish I could go into hiding,” Padma Patil muttered. “We spent the summer in India with my grandparents, but they would have hunted us down if we’d stayed.”
“I don’t think any of us want to be here,” Lydia said flatly. “Considering one of our teachers could have been the one who killed my uncle.”
In the silence that followed, Athena glanced around the common room. Though their year as a whole, born in the final years of the First Wizarding War, was a small one, the Ravenclaw girls were a big group by comparison. Normally there were eight, but Mandy Brocklehurst and Morag MacDougal were both Muggleborns. Their beds lay empty, an almost haunting reminder of the world they now lived in.
Nobody asked what had happened to them; whether they were in hiding or had been found by Death Eaters. They were afraid of the answers.
In sixth year, Athena had hated Transfiguration. She battled with it constantly; struggling to maintain even an Exceeds Expectations average when for her other subjects she was at Outstanding. But this year, walking into Transfiguration was a relief beyond any she’d ever known. Professor McGonagall was a member of the Order, and while Athena had never been particularly close to the stern elderly woman, her presence was strangely comforting. Charms, also, was a favourite. While Flitwick wasn’t part of the Order, he had been friends with Dumbledore since they were schoolboys and she knew he was loyal to Dumbledore through and through. That, and he was both her teacher and her Head of House, and the teacher who took the most interest in her education and general wellbeing. Flitwick was like that, though. He took an almost grandfatherly interest in all his Ravenclaws.
Muggle Studies had been taken over by Alecto Carrow, the curriculum one designed exclusively to foster intolerance and hatred. Ancient Runes texts were chosen to show the brutality of Muggles against early wizards; the History of Magic course had been altered; Dark Arts was a compulsory subject. In addition, two days into the year the students were handed out pieces of parchment detailing the Ministry’s new ‘Magic is Might’ movement.
MAGIC IS MIGHT: The New State of Wizarding Britain
The Ministry of Magic has undergone massive changes of management and policy. We have done so to create a better life and a better world for witches and wizards, free from the oppression of Muggles. History has taught us that Muggles, since the beginning of time, have persecuted, tortured and oppressed innocent witches and wizards out of sheer ignorance and hatred. The British Ministry of Magic is dedicated to being the first nation in overthrowing the travesty that is the International Statute of Secrecy which calls us to live in secret and shame. These implementations begin at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, which has recently banned enrolments from Muggle-born “wizards.” Under a carefully prepared new curriculum, students will be taught to value their magic, to learn new ways of putting it to use, and will learn about the injustices of the past that we believe every witch and wizard should be aware of. Strict measures will be put in place at Hogwarts School to begin with, to ensure false information is not getting through to the students and affecting their judgement.
“Propaganda!” Athena shouted before she could consider the sensibility of what she was doing. “Blatant propaganda!”
A hush descended over the Great Hall, and she felt her knees go weak as she saw the Carrows approaching, menace written across their ruddy faces.
Snape Silenced her from across the hall, striding towards her with robes billowing and a look that could freeze Fiendfyre. “My office, now,” he said in a clipped voice, and Nathaniel threw her a frightened glance as she followed him.
“I should have left you to the Carrows,” he said icily once he had shut them in his office, “But I thought it might be more prudent to explain the situation you are in more comprehensively, as you haven’t seemed to have grasped it. You have influence in this school, Athena Selwyn. That’s why you are Head Girl. And if you entertained thoughts of using that influence to conduct some sort of student uprising, let me explain why that would be an incredibly stupid thing to do.”
“Because you would kill me?” she asked sardonically.
“I wouldn’t, but I wouldn’t stop others,” he said, and a shiver ran down her spine at his words. He meant them.
“It makes no difference to me what happens to you,” Snape continued. “If you choose to rebel, you are choosing to subject yourself to the Cruciatus Curse and whatever other punishments the Carrows may send your way. My issue is when younger students copy your example, as younger students are wont to do with figures of authority, they will be punished, without making their own decisions to suffer for the…cause. I told you that my first duty is to the students of this school. I also told you that I will not intercede for anyone if they incur the wrath of the Carrows. Therefore, I’m asking you to model behavior that will not see your peers or those younger than you tortured. Is that a fair request?”
“I can’t agree with this,” she said simply, throwing the Magic Is Might parchment on his desk.
“You don’t have to agree with it,” he said, a touch of impatience in his voice. “Just don’t voice your disagreement. Or is that an impossible task? If so, Pansy Parkinson will take your place as Head Girl.”
“It’s not an impossible task,” she said resolutely, thinking of Cassian’s words. Play the game.