Staying silent was impossible for Athena, but she resolved to be more subtle about it, and put this into practice in Muggle Studies. She would question the material, but in a genuine inquiring manner rather than a confrontational one, and her class would turn it into a discussion. While Alecto Carrow hated it, her own experience of Ravenclaws during her Hogwarts days told her they always debated ideas, and when the Slytherins in the class began joining in, she convinced herself that the redhaired Head Girl was just being a typical Ravenclaw and Severus wouldn’t have appointed her if she was really a dissident.
For Athena’s eighteenth birthday in September her parents sent her an expensive quill set and Cassian gave her an owl necklace, both of which made it through the school’s mail screening systems with ease. Nathaniel and Artemis joined forces with Fred to smuggle some of her favourite Honeydukes chocolate into the castle, and she shared it with them in the Room of Requirement. She was surprised at Fred’s involvement in the scheme.
“Because he misses you, idiot,” Artemis said with a roll of her eyes.
“He wants to be friends,” Nathaniel explained, shooting an exasperated look at Artemis. “And let’s face it, we kind of all have to stick together with this stuff.”
Nathaniel had a point, and if she was honest she didn’t want things to be awkward with Fred forever; she still cared about him, and it would be nice to be mates again. She wrote him a brief message and owled it off to Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes.
Being in classes with Neville Longbottom, Athena knew his constant challenging of the Carrows would lead into something more serious and organised, so it came as no surprise to her when he pulled her aside and told her he would be reinstating Dumbledore’s Army.
“I’ve already spoken to Ginny and Luna,” he told her. “And I know there are a few more people who are interested, who we can trust. We don’t have Harry any more, so would you be able to teach us?”
“Neville,” she said carefully, “You know this is much, much bigger than fifth year, right?”
“Of course,” Neville replied impatiently. “I know what will happen if we get caught. But I’m not scared, and even if I was, that’s not a good enough reason not to resist.”
“You really are in the right house.”
Neville flushed with pride. “I never thought – I always thought the Hat made a mistake, you know? But yeah. I guess you’re right. Anyway, you’re in, right? When and where should we meet?”
She sighed, knowing there was no way out of this that would make her look good. “Neville…look. I really admire what you’re doing and I respect you for it, but…I can’t be a part of it this time. I’m sorry. It takes a braver person than me.”
“You’re in the Order of the Phoenix!” Neville protested.
Athena’s eyes widened as she stared furtively around the abandoned corridor. Leaving a slightly stunned looking Neville behind, she strode from one end to the other, casting homenum revelio every few feet and scanning the walls, floor and ceiling for anything that could be used to record or listen to their conversation. At last satisfied the corridor was clear, she returned.
“Don’t ever say that out loud,” she whispered, her fear at being discovered making her voice come out harsher than she’d intended. “Ever. That’s an automatic death sentence on my head, and that’s exactly why I can’t join Dumbledore’s Army. Do what you want, get caught, get punished. But I need to lay low, and my life depends on it.”
While the Death Eaters had done what they could to change the content of every subject at Hogwarts to a Death Eater-centric perspective, there was one subject they were unsuccessful in corrupting, one which, Athena noted with some satisfaction, would be among the most important for implementing the new ideas. To change the course of history would be the surest way to begin turning the minds of the people. But the Carrows hadn’t counted on one Professor Cuthbert Binns.
Only a small handful of students took History of Magic in seventh year – the Carrows had allowed it to remain an optional subject for seniors for the simple reason that it was compulsory up to fifth year, and it was much more important to indoctrinate the young ones before they formed their own belief systems. Traditionally, seventh years studied the Statute of Secrecy – which, judging by the Death Eaters’ Magic is Might propaganda, was meant to be presented as an oppressive piece of legislation forced upon witches and wizards by Muggles.
Knowing this, Athena wasn’t the only person to be surprised when Binns opened the first lesson with “This year we will be studying the Statute of Secrecy of 1692, the reasons for the signing, and the ways in which the Statute has allowed and encouraged progress in the wizarding world over the last two hundred years,” in his customary monotone. The fact that the book he was reading from was at least one hundred years old, and the way he presented the material as if in his sleep, lead the class to believe he had simply forgotten or was not aware of the changes to the course, and nobody was in any hurry to point out his mistake.
Three days later, Alecto Carrow walked in during Binns’ speech on one of the contributing factors of the signing of the Statute – ‘The Desire of Prejudiced Purebloods to Create an Exclusive Wizarding Society’ – and asked him what the hell he thought he was teaching.
“The curriculum,” Binns replied with a haughty voice.
“We have a new curriculum,” Alecto hissed.
“I read your notes on it,” Binns told her absently, “But I’m afraid you’ve got it completely the wrong way around. With all due respect, I have been teaching this subject since before the Carrow family came to Hogwarts as wide-eyed Muggleborns in 1735, and I know a thing or two more about it than whichever new lad you’ve got writing.”
Alecto grew red with rage. “How dare you!”
“Now, if you’re done,” Binns said, turning his attention back to his book, “I have a class to teach.”
“You will teach what we tell you to teach!”
Binns gave her a puzzled look. “Alecto, I do recall you had no passion or affinity for History – your OWL marks certainly reflected that – therefore I’d ask you to stick to what you know best, and leave me to mine.”
Alecto was utterly speechless, and hurled herself out of the classroom. Far down the corridor, Athena could hear her yelling, “Severus! The ghost!”
Binns gave no indication at all of having noticed anything out of the ordinary, and instead turned his attention back to the book in front of him. Outside, Alecto and Snape were having a heated conversation.
“There’s nothing I can do about the ghost, Alecto. He has been here for four hundred years, and yours is not the first attempt to have him fired. We cannot remove him from his post anymore than we can banish Peeves from the castle, which I assure you is something I would want more than anything.”
“There’s no use threatening me either, Professors,” Binns added, floating abruptly through the wall to join the conversation. “It would be a sorry state of affairs indeed if they had any effect on me. I am, after all, already dead.”
Finding a new respect for Binns, Athena wrote her notes with new relish. It was the most subtle method she had come across of resistance, but it gave her a glimmer of hope all the same, which, over the next few weeks, ignited into a flame.