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Love Breaks The Noble Spirit by Hippothestrowl
Chapter 5 : Best Laid Plans
 
Rating: MatureChapter Reviews: 2


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Happy now being in love with you. Ginny was now cleverly cloaking the medallion with a flow of her hair so she could daydream over Harry's messages. To know she made him happy brought light to the days that now darkened Hogwarts. His affectionate kiss still lingered within her and she felt a contentment she could turn to when trouble stirred around her. Neville gave her a gentle nudge to draw her attention back to their lesson. Ginny sighed. She wished she could respond to Harry's message immediately but she knew she should wait until she could be alone: looking was one thing but kissing something in her hair several times a day before an audience of curious students would hardly go unnoticed.

"To really get the Dark Arts you've got to have a wide variety of hexes, jinxes, and curses." Amycus Carrow paused for effect, watching his class closely, then added, "Unforgiveables is not the only dark stuff."

He was standing at the top of the short flight of steps that led up to his office as if to dominate his students from on high. One hand grasped the stone rail and the other clutched the edge of his robe as he gazed proudly outwards like a Roman emperor addressing his legions from a palace balcony. Yet as soon as he spoke, his uncouth manner contradicted his lofty stance.

"You see, you can deform the fool to get him out your way. Busted fingers means he ain't going to handle his wand no more and he can't dodge your next curse if his feet or knees is twisted."

"Not everyone gets it - this curse is hard to learn. But that's good - likely your victim can't do it back at you! But when you've got the hang of it then it's dead easy and real quick. And they can't get rid of it - it's tough to counter this curse. Only the best wizards got the knack, right? So you're one up, right from the start. The idiot can't hang about waiting for it to wear off can he? And usually it hurts so that's a ruddy distraction for 'im right there! He's yours for the taking!" He gave a nasty wheezy giggle.

"Right - let's have a volunteer."

Carrow's gazed around the classroom. He seemed to relish the sight of students avoiding his eye contact, cringing down into their seats, hoping they would not be noticed. His attention finally alighted on Luna who was gazing out of the window, unconcernedly watching a cloud pass by.

"Lovegood! Get yourself over 'ere!"

"Mmm... sorry?" said Luna. "I was distracted for a while..."

"Yeah - well, I'll sort out your dozy daydreamin' soon enough - and your attitude. Get here - now!"

Luna said serenely, "I'm happy with both thank you. Would anyone else like to volunteer instead?"

Neville's hand went up. Ginny sitting beside him tried to drag down his arm but she knew it was too late. Several Slytherins sneered including Crabbe and Goyle who were making comments to one another. Draco Malfoy seemed withdrawn and nervous, however, and he looked away.

"Ah! two - even better!" smirked Carrow at Neville and Luna. "Here - now! Both of you."

Carrow turned and walked down the curving steps to meet them. While he was not looking directly, Luna whispered, "Sorry, Neville."

Carrow gloated over his victims while he thought for a moment. "You do too much stargazing, Lovegood - get ready to defend yourself." He had already pointed his wand at Luna's face and now gave a subtle turning motion ending with a wide pull away. "Detorqueo!"

Luna's eyes closed up like peas. She cried out and reached blindly in front of herself.

"Always in the dark ain't you?" sniggered Carrow. The Slytherin crowd roared with laughter.

"Your victim's a sitting duck so you can do what--" Carrow raised his wand but he never had a chance to use it for Luna had, unnoticed, turned her own wand in the direction of Carrow's voice.

"Expelliarmus," said Luna as quietly and casually as she could and Carrow's wand was plucked out of his hand and fell at his feet with a clatter.

"You little whelp!" bellowed Carrow. He glared angrily at Luna and stepped forward as if to strike the blind girl but then seemed to think better of it and brought himself under control.

"Yeah, well if it were for real you'd be quick and stealthy - not tell 'em what you're gonna do, would you?"

He picked up his wand and stepping silently to one side he cast a nonverbal tripping spell. Luna went down in a heap and Carrow sniggered. As she tried to get up he pointed his wand again. Down she went again.

"You're s-- sick, you know that?" said Neville to Carrow. He helped Luna to her feet and placed her hand on his arm.. "Hang on, Luna."

"Five points off Gryffindor for that wisecrack!" snarled Carrow. "You gotta big mouth, Longbottom - Detorqueo!"

Neville's lips bloated out like a bright-red bicycle inner tube and he staggered back, feeling his face.

"Bloo obble gobe doo bell!" burbled Neville angrily.

Most of the Slytherins erupted into applause and howled their approval; everyone else remained silent - impotent to help and glad it wasn't them.

His fun over, Carrow frowned at the unfortunate couple. "Right - back to your seats and maybe if you don't cause no trouble I might use the counter-curse."

Neville guided Luna back to her seat next to Terry Boot.

"Wob baibs, Bebby," babbled Neville.

"Swap babes? What d'you mean?" said Terry, confused.

"Baibs! Baibs! I wob bu bib wib Buba!"

"Sit down, Longbottom! - in your own chair!" A curse hit Neville from Carrow's wand and his left leg twisted like a stick of barley sugar. He tumbled headlong into the aisle between the desks. He clambered back to his own seat next to Ginny, wincing in pain and falling several times along the way.

"Now everyone's gonna do this on the one next to you," said Carrow. The students groaned. "You won't get it at first but I'll come round and set you right till you do. Look at me wand carefully - but it's not just how you shift it about - how you feel matters as well - you got to be nasty with it." He repeated the wand movements several times for everyone to observe then he walked around checking the students' attempts.

Neville contented himself with aiming his wand ineffectively at Ginny and mumbling "Bee-blorbleeoh." Ginny, in turn, rotated her wand in every direction but that which Carrow had demonstrated and muttered viciously to herself.

None of the students succeeded to so much as turn a pimple but Ginny took careful note of the counter-curses that Carrow used on Neville and Luna near the end of the lesson when the teacher made a final threat:

"For homework you've gotta learn it proper. Anyone who don't - you'll be volunteers next lesson so I'll keep doing you till you get it."

—oOo—


Harry fell silent and flung himself down on a stool in a corner of the tent. The three had been arguing for half an hour - going round in circles and getting nowhere.

"But why don't we--" Ron began - but shut up immediately when he saw Hermione shaking her head ominously.

Me as usual. Always me they expect to have all the answers, thought Harry miserably. He was bitterly disappointed in everyone - especially Ginny. For over two hours he had awaited her response. He dug out his Marauder's map again. He could see she was in a class but that seemed no excuse. Damn you! You might think of me once in a while! If only he could go back there and see. Doesn't she realise how hurtful it is to keep me waiting!

His scar began to prickle and he turned from the other two and braced himself for the expected pain. He grimaced at the bland tent canvas wall - it was as meaningless and empty as his entire life seemed to have been. He felt oppressed and confined; things were not going well. He did not hear Hermione quietly approaching.

"It's Ginny, isn't it?" she said very softly so Ron would not hear. "That's the real reason you want to go to Hogwarts."

"No it's not!" snapped Harry. "You-Know-Who went back--"

"But he didn't get the job, did he?" said Hermione. "So he never got the chance to hide a horcrux there. We've been through this over and over."

"ALRIGHT - fine then!" said Harry, "Forget Hogwarts."

Hermione face twisted in anxiety. She could see Harry's pain but to give in to him and return to Hogwarts seemed suicidal.

"Might as well try the orphanage then," said Ron.

"Ron!" raged Harry, leaping angrily up from his seat, "For the last time I tell you he wouldn't--!"

"Take it off, Harry," said Hermione. "Take the locket off, now!"

Harry stared at her. "I've only had it on an hour!"

"Nearly two!"

"I'm not... Why should--" Harry muttered incoherently.

"It's affecting you more though, isn't it?" said Hermione. "Give it to me. Give it to me while we go to the orphanage. Just for a few hours - see how you feel."

"Oh take the damn thing then!" spat Harry. He almost flung the locket at Hermione. She held it for a while, looking at him.

"Better?"

It seemed almost as if a great black stone had been lifted from him and Harry nodded groggily like a man waking up from a bad dream. His hand clutched at his throat, seeking his medallion but he stopped himself. The other two were looking at him strangely.

"Fresh air - give me a minute."

He dashed out of the tent, sought his silver disk, and sagged to the ground with relief when he saw his last message to Ginny, Happy now being in love with you.

Waves of emotion swept through him and remorse tore at his heart. Though he knew the horcrux had made him do it, he was sickened that he had thought badly of Ginny. He hated the evil locket more than ever. It had only been chance that he put it on after using his medallion and not before. He must warn Ginny. No, when I wear the locket I must first tell Ginny I won't be able to--

"Harry?" It was Hermione from the tent.

The medallion trembled. Right there in his shaking hand it trembled and Ginny's gentleness kissed his soul. Hot tears spilled down his cheeks.

My love always supports you. Only ask.

"Harry?" Hermione again. There was concern in her voice. "We ought to go."

"Minute..." said Harry weakly.

He kissed the medallion. Ginny. Need your strength. badly. often. cannot answer yet.

He regretted his message immediately. The burden he placed on her was too much - but he let it go. He wiped his face with his sleeve, gritted his teeth and went back to the others.

"I'm alright now," he said. "I'll take it back - I'll take my turn."

"No, Harry," said Hermione.

"Yes - I have to, Hermione. Give it back... Please."

Hermione reluctantly handed over the locket. Harry put it on, grasped Hermione's arm, and looked across at Ron expectantly.

The Apparation to London was a waste of time. Harry had known it would be but at least they eliminated the orphanage from their list of possible sites that might contain a horcrux; perhaps Ron and Hermione would stop nagging him now. He felt irritable for the whole trip - even worse when they returned. Yet he found if he grasped both locket and medallion he could read Ginny's words freely because Ron and Hermione thought he was inspecting the horcrux. Her simple words comforted him and helped foil the anxieties of the dark object; they kept him sane and focused. I am with you.

How she was doing it he did not know. What risks she took through the day he dare not think. He lived in her kisses. We shall come through this together. He did not analyse but absorbed their meaning like a prayer. He would not answer her while he wore the horcrux - though he seemed not so irritable as before. Their medallions were sacred to them. It would be a blasphemy to risk a harsh word to fester in her thoughts.

"Think you can open it then?" said Ron, as he watched Harry's endless preoccupation with the locket in his grasp.

"I reckon so, I think maybe parseltongue should do it," said Harry as he read between his fingers, The love between us cannot end. "I'm not that bothered to be honest. We'll figure it out once we find out how to destroy it."

Ron looked at Hermione in surprise and she rolled her eyes and shook her head. He gave a wry smile and wolfed down the last of his egg sandwich.

"Yes, that really is the end of the eggs," said Hermione, worriedly. "There's half a loaf but we'll need to scavenge again tomorrow."

Harry suddenly tumbled off his chair impulsively and dived for his rucksack. "I just remembered something. I got some chocolate ages ago - you know, for emergencies. I'd forgotten."

He handed it over to Hermione who looked a little puzzled but said nothing. She turned to Ron whose eyes were bulging. "This is to be rationed - one square at a time - to supplement what we have - and only then when we've not got enough."

She ignored his protests, tucked the chocolate away in her beaded bag and looked at her watch.

"It's time, Harry," she said.

"That's alright. I can manage a bit longer if you like."

"It's twelve hours. Stick to the plan. My turn. Hand it over."

Harry took off the locket and felt a welcome relief. He handed it over. Apart from his scar prickling now and again, Harry felt better than he had for some time. "I'm just going for a stroll for ten minutes - get some fresh air," he said.

After he had stepped out into the fresh evening air, he could hear them talking as he stood just outside the tent for a while breathing in the woodland scents.

"Have you noticed he's acting a bit strange, Hermione?"

"I think he's just handling the horcrux better, that's all. It affects different people different ways."

"Even so..."

Harry smiled to himself. He looked at Ginny's previous message then pondered what he might tell her. Finally, he knew...

Back with you. You carried me. Thank you. Love you.

He sent his tenderest kiss and smiled up at the friendly stars as he wondered what she might be doing in this shared moment. Sweet Ginny. Gentle Ginny...

—oOo—


"We've got to make those rat filth pay!" roared Ginny, banging her hand on the only table in the Room of Requirement and making everyone jump. "What Carrow did to Luna and Neville was just plain evil!" She looked angrily around at the gathering before her then sat back down. All the old D.A. members were there who could still be at Hogwarts and there were some new, eager faces. They knew this would be a serious discussion because all were provided with chairs in classroom formation. Neville had thought up this room and made it more secure and with extra exits.

"Leanne, you said you had an idea," said Ginny, taking out her notebook and a go-anywhere quill. "Oh and Luna and Neville also have come up with a really good plan - let's do that first."

"Hope it's nothing to do with changing parts of the body," laughed Terry.

"Well, it is to do with deflating someone's ego," said Luna, joining Ginny at the front of the room to face the others. She dumped her school bag on the table and pulled out a round cosmetic case which opened up like a flower at her touch. "Behold!" She lifted out the powder puff and held it up dramatically for all to see.

"So... this disguises the effects of giant noses and twisted ears?" said Ernie.

"You definitely don't want to use it on your face," said Neville, getting up and joining Luna. "You see Luna had this terrific idea to--"

"I got Daddy to print out these posters..." She dived again into her school bag and dragged out a pile of large paper sheets. She held one up. Neville handed round a few.

"It's Snape!" laughed Seamus. "How'd you smuggle these in?"

"Inside Daily Prophets," said Luna. "Nobody thinks to check inside them."

Ginny remained stone-faced as Harry's longed-for kiss touched her heart. Perhaps her quill trembled just a little as she looked around for an opportunity to read his message, but otherwise she showed no indication of the euphoria that swept through her.

"It's a wanted poster!" said Anthony.

"WANTED FOR THE COWARDLY MURDER OF PROFESSOR DUMBLEDORE," read out Parvati. "SEVERUS SNAPE."

"We'll never get away with this," said Anthony.

"That's where Neville's part comes in," said Luna excitedly. "Neville, you explain it!"

"Well, it was Luna's inspiration really," said Neville. "I would never have thought of it my--"

"Get on with it, Neville!" grinned Seamus.

"Right - there's a bookworm called Liburina - it's really microscopic, more like algae or mould. You sometimes find decay and overprinting in books in old bookshops - that's Liburina; it messes up the print something horrible," said Neville, excitedly.

"What use is that then?" said Parvati, "if it ruins the posters?"

"Wait - years ago they used it to digest newsprint from unsold Daily Prophets so they could re-use the paper. Only it didn't work very well because although it absorbs the print it really feeds on the paper - anything organic really - dirt, slime." Neville laughed. "You might say it has a snack while its reading the news!"

"You must be joking, surely?" said Anthony.

"Erm... yes - that was a joke," said Neville, flushing slightly, "but the thing is it also absorbs the print - I don't mean just the ink, I mean the shapes of the letters and all that as well as the paper. At the Prophet it kept regurgitating the news over and over so they finished up with different days all over one page. It's not really any good for that... Anyway, if you scrape it off after it's had a good meal you can use it to get the page back - it's very hardy and I've dried out some to form a convenient powder..."

"It's going to... poo Snape onto posters?" said Padma, wide-eyed. "- Awesome!"

"Sort of," said Neville. "Only you don't even need the actual posters! That's the best bit!"

Ginny looked at all the puzzled faces. "It's easier if you show them, Neville."

"Yes, well, watch..." said Neville. "I've made up lots of powder already... Luna?"

Luna skipped eagerly to the wall. She tickled an area with the fluffy brush then after a last grand flourish, stepped back with a little giggle to admire her invisible work. Neville tried to monitor the results carefully but found himself diverted. He had noticed an appealing freshness in the way Luna did the most mundane tasks. Here she was merely looking at a drab, grey wall yet one foot was tilted neatly against her opposite ankle; her head was turned just so - betraying the cusp of a precious smile; and honey hair bedraggled the line of her neck and shoulder like playful surf frozen in a golden sun. It suddenly struck him that she did not know this - she had not learned to pose like the other girls. Neville blinked and tried to think about black mould.

Ginny had been shown the demonstration before. While everyone's attention was diverted, she slipped away to the equipment shelving and pretended to busy herself finding something while she read Harry's message.

Back with you. You carried me today. Grateful always. Love you.

She stood there half-hearing the others talk behind her. Ginny's eyes were unseeingly upon the shelf paraphernalia: a dummy wand, a broken target charm, an old whistle - but she was dwelling inwardly on Harry's words and his lingering kiss. It was sheer joy to know she had supported her man; had been of use to him.

"Nothing's happened," said Ernie, after they had waited half a minute.

Neville chuckled. "That's the best bit - gives you ages to get away... Keep watching..."

Another half a minute passed with no visible effect and several of the group were becoming restless.

"It'll work - just give it time," said Neville anxiously, "You see the mould needs damp - not much - everywhere's got a tiny amount of moisture even in a desert but it just takes longer for the mould to grow if it's a fairly dry place. We tried it in a steamy bathroom and it was nearly instant!"

"It's working!" squeaked Hannah, pointing at the wall.

An area of the wall was becoming lighter and lighter. There was no detail for a while but gradually a clear white rectangle emerged smothered in dark patches which gradually sharpened into large black letters and an unflattering picture of Professor Snape.

Everyone gaped at what was clearly a wanted poster apparently painted straight onto the wall.

"Merlin's hat!" said Ernie. "So..."

"So... we don't need to carry around incriminating posters," said Luna. "All the girls can put one of these brushes in their makeup and daub a wall here and there."

"That's not all!" said Neville, "It's really hard to get rid of this stuff even with cleansing charms and even when you do - it spreads itself - it's like mould after all. It's really hard to get rid of magical mould - you can't just scrub it off. Once we've got plenty of it spread around then as fast as they try to remove it - the next day there'll be more without us even adding it!"

"You are totally brilliant!" said Hannah, beaming admiringly at Neville.

Ginny absent-mindedly came back with the whistle. It had seemed familiar somehow. The joy on her face fortunately mingled with the excited faces and general enthusiasm in the room as Luna used the transforming spell to duplicate the cosmetic boxes and handed them around to the girls.

"Just remember to get far away from the area as soon as you've used it," said Luna.

"Don't want to sound negative but what exactly is the point of all this?" said Ernie.

"The point is they want to oppress us, control us, and intimidate us," said Neville. "We're not going to let them! We're going to show them they can never, ever break us. It keeps us together in a fellowship and helps to organise in case we're needed."

"Needed? For what?" said Zacharias.

"To help Harry, of course, you wally!" said Ginny.

"Why don't you face it, Harry's abandoned us - he's looking out for himself," replied Zacharias.

Luna spoke up, "If you really think that's true then you should go and join the Death Eaters because without Harry, we're all lost."

"Luna's right," said Neville. "Harry is planning something, I'm sure of it. We need to be ready. Every little bit we do now prepares us - or would you rather we all split up and do nothing? Each be one separate, frightened little child? Together, we support one another; who knows what we might achieve? We're only just starting really; finding our way; still looking for new suggestions we can try."

There was a stirring amongst the group as they pondered these thoughts. Nobody protested. There were a few puzzled faces but there were many nods and positive expressions of encouragement.

"Leanne, what was your idea?" said Ginny, trying to keep things moving.

"Well, not much really." She began to redden. "Seems silly now - after Luna and Neville's plan..."

"Well, let's hear it anyway," said Seamus.

"Burping powder." said Leanne almost inaudibly.

"Belch powder?" smirked Seamus. "That old thing? Been in Zonko's for years. Fred and George do it now."

"No, let's hear Leanne," said Ginny. "How did you plan on using it?"

"I just thought it would be fun - make the Carrows looks ridiculous," said Leanne. "You know, put it on their food."

There was silence.

"How?" said Michael Corner.

More silence. Leanne fidgeted in her seat.

"Are you going to walk up to them at breakfast in the Great Hall and sprinkle it on their cornflakes?" smirked Seamus.

"Before that..." offered Leanne timidly, wishing she had never mentioned the idea.

"Nobody can get in the kitchen can they?" said Anthony. "And anyway, they'd know who'd done it."

"Crabbe's always getting in there," said Leanne. "That's why I thought it wouldn't be difficult. He's pretty stupid so..."

"Well, the Slytherins have their common room down there so they're practically next door--"

"So do we," said Leanne meekly.

"So..." said Ginny.

"I think it's a wonderful idea," said Luna. "It's perfect."

"What is?" said Ginny.

"Well, what Leanne said," said Luna serenely, looking around as if puzzled at everyone's lack of comprehension. "Well don't you see? Leanne's idea is to use polyjuice potion to imitate Crabbe then charm the powder with his wand and go down into the kitchen and tell the house-elves that the headmaster and his deputies want this magical security putting on all their food in future so they don't get poisoned."

Everyone stared, including Leanne.

"I knew that," said McLaggen.

Parvati squealed with laughter which set everyone shrieking and joking loudly. "Can you imagine Snape's expression when they start burping in the Great Hall!"

"What about Crabbe when they check his wand!" said Ginny.

"Leanne, you're a genius!" cried Michael.

Ginny fumbled with her notes while the yelling and shouting continued then she looked at her watch. "Next on the agenda, as some of you know, I'm going to..." The excited voices were drowning her words. She suddenly noticed the whistle in her hand. It was Harry's whistle; the one he had used when he led the D.A. two years before. Ginny blew it long and hard then continued in the ensuing stunned silence, "I'm going to speak to Professor McGonagall and Luna is going to ask Flitwick and Neville's asking Slughorn and Sprout - oh and Madam Pomfrey of course, about things we can use during detention."

"Like what?" said Zacharias.

"Yeah, wondered why you'd turned up, Smith," said Ginny with no attempt to conceal her disdain. You decided yet whether you're going to sign up?"

"Depends what else the D.A. gets up to. No point in risking one's neck recklessly is there?"

"Or at all, according to you," said Ginny, "but OK to come and see what you can get out of it, right?"

"Were you thinking of shields, Ginny?" said Ernie.

Well, maybe if there's an invisible one... I wondered about pain-killers and I know there's a daydream spell and..."

"There's a hex that causes a numbing sensation!" said Lavender. "I remember reading about it in the library last year when I was looking for something for... erm... hyperactivity."

"Was that so you snogged Ron less... or more?" sniggered Seamus. Lavender glared at him.

"Probably so Ron snogged better," said Ginny. She instantly regretted saying it. Last year's jibes now seemed mean considering the dangers Ron was braving.

"Ron's a perfectly good kisser thank you for very much," said Lavender scornfully but she noticed a flicker of worry passing over Ginny's face.

"Well he's had enough practice," laughed Romilda.

"Sorry, Lavender - see if you can find that numbing thing again and we'll try it out," said Ginny.

Lavender stared for a few seconds at Ginny's unexpected courtesy then wailed, "He's dying isn't he?" She began sobbing. It seemed half the others were asking what it was all about and half were explaining Ron's illness.

"No - he'll be fine, I'm sure!" said Ginny, wondering how best to restore order then blurted out, "I'll mention you asked when I go home at Christmas."

"Oh would you?" blubbered Lavender, big eyes shining. "Tell him I... Tell him I miss him, still."

Ginny nodded, wished she had not taken this route.

"Tell them about that pollen I mentioned," said Neville.

"Oh yes, Neville thinks there's some pollen that causes a feeling of detachment." Ginny was glad of the chance to get the meeting back on the rails.

"No, it's definite but I'm not certain how it works," said Neville. "I think it makes you feel like you're out of your body so when they're hurting your body it's like watching someone else."

"What about when you go back inside your body afterwards?" asked Ernie. "Say you'd had to use that Blood Quill?"

"Erm... not sure. I'd think it's - probably still as sore as hell!" laughed Neville. "I guess your mind could stay out for a day or two until the body has healed."

"But wouldn't people notice?" said Zacharias.

"Not in your case, no," laughed Hannah.

"Anyway, well, there must be all sorts of possibilities for relieving the punishments but we need to make sure they're not obvious so we can use them over and over. We'll know better when we talked to the teachers." Ginny shuffled through her notes.

"Right, any other suggestions?" She waited for a while then continued, "If there's nothing else to discuss I want us to practice Carrow's distortion curse so--"

"What!" said Zacharias, loudly. "Thought we weren't--"

"If we don't then we'll be in for more demonstrations," said Ginny. "I'd rather we choose our own thing rather than let Carrow do it - how about curling hair or big eyebrows - that shouldn't hurt?"

"Finger nails!" said Romilda, "I always wanted long nails but mine split so easily."

"I know what I want," smirked Zacharias.

"How about shrinking Smith's foul mouth?" said Parvati.

"Watch it, Patil!" said Zacharias.

"Save it for the Carrows, you lot," said Neville.

The chairs were quickly whisked away and the group split into pairs to practice the distortion curse. Ginny was showing Luna who had only seen the wand movements once. Hannah had asked Neville for help because she said she felt unsure about the incantation itself. Padma and Parvati were squabbling about their eyelashes and Michael was trying to impress Romilda with an excessive flourish of his wand that nearly hit her in the face.

After twenty minutes though, they were all rather discouraged. Only Susan Bones and Zacharias Smith had managed even slight changes on each other: Zacharias' skin was now a sallow yellow while Susan had become noticeably more shapely.

"He was right about one thing - it's difficult," said Seamus.

"Difficult to master, he said - but easy when you know how," said Ernie.

"We don't hate each other enough," said Luna abruptly and rather loudly. She and Ginny had stopped trying to curse each other and everyone else soon joined them. "Don't you see? This is why he's set this assignment. He wants to divide us; make us hurt one another; make us... more like them."

There was a shocked silence as they all digested this suggestion.

"We need to practise on someone we don't like then," said Hannah, looking at Zacharias.

There was an outburst of suggestions and a mix of laughter and anger but Neville called a halt. "You're all forgetting - this is the Room of Requirement. If we really need something then it provides it. I thought up this room so I only have to think about what we really need."

Someone pointed at the magical training dummies in the far corner of the room.

"They're transfiguring!" cried Parvati. "...into the Carrows and..."

"Snape! Bagsy a Snape!" squealed Romilda.

They all found it easy to think hateful thoughts at the training dummies and soon succeeded in producing jug ears and fat butts on them. Once they had begun to get the feel of casting the spell, most of them found they could cast it on each other by thinking up hateful thoughts.

"It's rather like making a patronus only backwards," said Luna after she had finally managed to increase Ginny's height by a few inches.

Getting rid of the effects was not so easy and most of them set out for their common rooms with strangely-altered appearances which might not fade for hours. Ginny had only managed to counter-curse the spell once when she transformed Seamus' long fangs back into normal teeth.

Ginny could sense something was wrong as soon as she saw the expression on the Fat Lady's face.

"Next week's password will be Cumulonimbus" said the portrait. She gave a huge, melodramatic wink.

"Thundercloud - Plan B," whispered Neville, "Seamus, Ginny, me, Romilda, we go in - rest of you - Scatter and return!"

They braced themselves for that which awaited them within the Gryffindor common room; it could not be good.

—oOo—


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