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Year of the snake by melian
Chapter 3 : The Carrows
 
Rating: MatureChapter Reviews: 5


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The next morning Professor McGonagall walked down the Gryffindor table, handing out timetables. “Here you are, Longbottom,” she said as she passed it to him, barely affording him a glance before flicking through her pile to find Seamus’, next to him. Neville didn’t take it personally. He had never been particularly noticeable.

He looked at his paper and grinned. “You might be wrong,” he said quietly across the table where the red head of Ginny Weasley was busy consulting her schedule. “It says Defence Against the Dark Arts. Not just Dark Arts.”

Ginny looked at him, ignoring the much-smaller-than-usual group of friends who always seemed to surround her. “Really?” She checked the paper again. “You’re right, it does. Well, maybe I was.”

Neville knew it was more hope than conviction, but then again it was much easier to feel hopeful this morning. The storm had dissipated, leaving the sky-ceiling of the Great Hall a beautiful clear blue, and in the light of day everything seemed much less spooky than it had the night before. Even Snape and the two Death Eaters flanking him appeared – well, not friendlier, but certainly less intimidating.

A Slytherin-robed boy of third or fourth year came shyly up to Ginny and handed her a small scroll, which she took with obvious surprise. “What’s this?”

“Professor Slughorn asked me to give it to you,” the boy said nervously, then skittered away with a terrified look on his face.

Ginny stared at him. “What was that about?”

“Maybe he thinks you’re going to give him Harry Potter germs,” one of her friends said. Neville watched her curiously for a reaction.

“Harry has germs now, does he?” Ginny asked, raising her eyebrows. “Oh, whatever. It’s not like I could pass them on anyway, given we broke up last June.” She glared at the girl who had brought it up. “Which I really like being reminded of, by the way.”

“Of course, Gin. Sorry.” The girl looked chastened, but Ginny, far from looking angry, instead flashed a very quick grin at Neville before opening the scroll the boy had brought her.

“What is it?” Neville asked. He had an idea he knew, as the scroll looked vaguely familiar, but he wasn’t sure.

“Slug Club,” Ginny said dispassionately, dropping the parchment in her bag. “Wants us to meet tonight. Anyway, I have to go – Potions class. Coming, you lot?” She turned to her sixth-year companions as she stood to leave. Two got up with her, while the last muttered something about not getting into Potions and stayed put.

“What was that about?” Seamus whispered as they got up too, heading towards the greenhouses for Herbology. “Do you think she hasn’t really broken up with Harry?”

“Oh, I think they’ve broken up all right,” Neville said. What he wasn’t sure of was whether this meant they weren’t in contact, but he didn’t want to say that now. If Harry and Ginny were writing to each other, it was clear that she didn’t want the fact publicly known.

“And what about the Slug Club?” Seamus asked, walking a little too close to one of the rosebushes and getting his cloak caught. “You’re in that too, aren’t you?”

“Me? No, I’m not,” Neville said, waiting as Seamus disentangled himself. “I mean, I was, but I’m not any more. Slughorn didn’t think I had enough promise, I don’t think.”

Seamus stared at him. “Really? He just ditched you? But that’s not fair.”

Neville just shrugged, not really surprised Seamus hadn’t noticed this the previous year. “It’s what he does. You have to be useful to him to stay. I guess I just wasn’t useful enough.”

Seamus muttered something under his breath that Neville was sure his mam wouldn’t want him saying. “I still think that’s not right. You should show him, Neville.”

Neville sighed. His grandmother, Professor McGonagall, and now Professor Slughorn. Just another person he had to impress.

Fortunately, Professor Sprout was far easier to deal with. Neville had established a good relationship with her back in fifth year when he had produced a Mimbulus Mimbletonia, much to the professor’s delight. He had found himself heading for the greenhouses a few times that year and the next, looking for a sympathetic ear, and wondered more than once why the Sorting Hat hadn’t allowed him to be in her House.

The lack of students this year was more obvious than ever now classes had started. Less than half of the NEWT Herbology students had returned, which meant that Professor Sprout had far more Venomous Tentaculas on hand than necessary.

“Dear, dear,” she said, looking Neville, Seamus, Draco Malfoy and Terry Boot, who comprised the whole class. “Well, it looks like you’ll have a lot more personal attention this year, doesn’t it?” She smiled brightly, though it looked pained, and Malfoy squirmed a little.

“Can we get started?” he asked bluntly.

“Yes, of course.” Professor Sprout seemed to get her usual brisk manner back in nanoseconds. “Right, we’re working on the Tentaculas today. I want you to remove their pods, extract the venom and save it in these flasks. Oh, and mind you don’t get bitten.”

The fact there were only four people in the class meant that it was impossible to talk or do anything not related to Herbology, but Neville found he didn’t mind very much: he had plenty of things to occupy his mind. The titling of Defence Against the Dark Arts had been a relief, for example, but he shared some of Ginny’s cynicism about what it meant. He was also curious about the return of the Slug Club, and Ginny’s inclusion in it, because that meant that Snape hadn’t put his foot down either about the Club’s existence, or who Slughorn could invite. The twin facts of Ginny being a Weasley and her (past) relationship with Harry meant she would certainly have been left out had Snape been exerting his influence, and as she was still invited it gave Neville hope that this year wouldn’t be as bad as they feared.

Before long, however, he was distracted by Draco Malfoy, who was back to his usual pastime of pestering people behind the teacher’s back. As soon as Professor Sprout turned around, he would encourage his Venomous Tentacula around to where Neville and Seamus were working, trying to get it to bite them. His trick was to extract the pod just as one of them was within striking distance, making the plant lash out at the nearest living being it could find. So far he’d had little luck, as Seamus (who was closest) always managed to get out of the way in time, but that didn’t stop him trying.

Finally, Seamus had had enough. Narrowly avoiding the plant’s teeth for the twelfth time, he whipped out his wand and angrily Transfigured it into a puffapod. Malfoy, who had been struggling to extract the pod, pulled it out easily at the transformation but was so surprised he dropped it, making it burst into a large flower. The resultant noise was enough to turn Professor Sprout’s attention to them.

“Ten points from Gryffindor, Mr Finnegan,” she said, seeing his wand still out and the puffapod in Malfoy’s pot. “And I’m supposed to send you to Professor Carrow as well, so can you go to the staff room after class please.”

Seamus looked up in surprise. “Which Professor Carrow?”

Sprout seemed momentarily confused. “Well, either of them, I believe. They’re in charge of punishments this year. Now, Mr Malfoy, I believe you know enough magic to Transfigure that back, so how about you get back to work.”

Malfoy looked a little gleeful at the mention of the Carrows, and a shiver went down Neville’s spine. Why was Professor Sprout supposed to send miscreants to them? Was there a new discipline regime in place as well as a teaching one?

Sure enough, at the end of the lesson Seamus had a piece of parchment in an envelope which they assumed carried details about his crime. He didn’t seem too concerned, though. “I Transfigured a plant, big deal,” he said carelessly as they walked back to the castle. “What’s the worst they’ll do to me?”

His answer came that afternoon, when the seventh years had their first Defence Against the Dark Arts lesson. They all sat silently in the classroom while their new teacher, a short, lumpy man with what looked like a permanent leer, faffed around at the staff table at the front.

“Quiet, you lot,” he said finally, when he’d finished whatever he was doing. “Finnegan, up ’ere.”

Seamus looked warily at Neville, then shuffled out of his seat and stood at the front of the room next to Professor Carrow. He was a good head taller than the teacher and, Neville would have wagered, knew more than him as well. However, he stood there obediently and waited.

The rest of the class did, too. Some reports had been whispered around the school of earlier DADA classes, in which students were humiliated, punished and even hurt, all in the name of teaching. The students already understood that crossing the Carrows was not a good idea. Neville felt a guilty relief that it was Seamus standing up there and not himself: thanks to the likes of Snape, he felt he’d been humiliated enough for one lifetime.

“Finnegan ’ere cast a spell on our Head Boy this morning,” Amycus Carrow said in his wheezy voice. “We can’t have kiddies casting spells on ’im like that. ’E’ll lose all authority.”

Neville turned to look at Malfoy, who had a greedy, almost rapturous, smirk on his face. Only when Carrow spoke again did his attention return to the front, and then it was in horror.

Crucio!”

The class sat up as one as Seamus collapsed into a heap on the floor, screaming. Amycus Carrow was using an Unforgivable Curse on him, probably to set an example. Neville covered his eyes and ears, unable to witness it.

We need Harry here. Harry would have done something by now, Neville thought furiously. Harry would have put a stop to it. Why did Harry have to be somewhere else when they needed him here?

By now Seamus wasn’t the only one screaming, as most of the girls and more than one of the boys reacted to the horror that was happening in front of them.

Finally he could take it no longer, and braved the wrath of Carrow himself. “Stop it!” he yelled over the sounds of Seamus’ torture. “Stop it!”

Carrow looked at him and grinned evilly, but he did stop the spell. “It’s Longbottom, innit?” he asked. “Yeah, I guess you’d know all about that one.”

Neville ignored the jibe and instead went to help Seamus back to his desk, shaking almost as much as Seamus was. When they were both seated Carrow spoke again.

“Ye’ll be learnin’ ’ow to do that,” he wheezed. “We don’ want troublemakers at this school, so we’re gonna make sure that anyone ’oo does break the rules don’t do it more than once.”

Neville gasped, and by the sounds of it most of the class did as well. Michael Corner put up a hand.

“Yes?” Carrow said.

“You’re going to teach us how to do Unforgiveable Curses?” Michael asked in a shocked voice.

“Ye’ll do more than learn ’em,” Carrow smirked. “Ye’ll be doin’ ’em. On people like Finnegan ’ere ’oo don’t know ’ow to behave. But firs’,” he went on, “ye’ll be doin’ some jinxes an’ stuff. Let me know what ye can do and what ye’ can’t.”

Seamus was still shivering by Neville’s side, and Neville subtly put a Copying Charm on his parchment so Seamus wouldn’t have to write any notes down. Not that Neville wanted to take notes at all, but then again he didn’t fancy facing what had happened to Seamus. Longbottoms didn’t come out well from the Cruciatus Curse.

Muggle Studies, which they had directly afterwards, wasn’t much better, as they came face to face with the other new professor.

“In ye come,” Alecto Carrow cackled when they crowded into the classroom. “Pure-bloods at the back. I want the half-bloods where I can see ’em.”

Neville and Seamus looked at each other and parted ways, Neville for the shaded rear seats and Seamus, thanks to his Muggle father, prominent at the front. He still looked shaken from his torture during Defence – or, as Neville reminded himself, Dark Arts, as there was no defence in sight any more – and Neville hoped there wasn’t anything like that in store this lesson. Slowly, his classmates filed in around him, pure-bloods like himself in the back of the room, and half-bloods at the front. There were, of course, no Muggle-borns left at Hogwarts.

“I’ve put this lot at the front,” Professor Carrow said, looking at them with a slightly lopsided gaze due to one eye being significantly larger than the other, “’cuz I don’ trust ’em. They got Muggle blood in ’em. That means they’re almost Mudbloods. It’s only the pure, magical blood they got that’s let them into this school.

“Muggles, see, are filth,” she went on. “They’re low as rats, and they’re not worth our time.”

Why are you making us learn about them then? Neville thought furiously. But he wasn’t game to say it. After what had happened to Seamus, he wasn’t game to stick his neck out at all.

Alecto Carrow was looking puzzled, or as puzzled as she was able to. “Well? Why aren’t you writin’ this down?” There was a flurry of movement as people reached into bags and extracted pens, parchment and ink bottles, and started scribbling down the professor’s words.

Professor Carrow flicked her wand at the board and the class looked at it expectantly. Nothing appeared. Unperturbed, she tried again, and again, until frustration showed on her squat face. “Bleeding Muggle probably made it,” she hissed. Neville stifled a laugh, noticing as he did so that many of the others were doing the same thing. He just hoped Carrow didn’t notice because he suspected she wouldn’t see the joke. Finally the spell worked for her, and a triangle appeared on the board featuring the heading, “Magical Hierarchy.” Pure-bloods were at the top, prominent in their domination. Below that, in smaller writing, were the half-bloods, and at the very bottom, noticeable only by their numbers, were Muggles.

“This is what ye’ll need t’ remember,” Alecto Carrow said. “Pure blood’s the only blood worth anythin’. If ye’ve got pure blood in you, then ye’ll have a place in our world. The more Muggle blood ye’ve got, though, the less ye’re worth. People like Finnegan ’ere –” and Neville shuddered that Seamus had been singled out again – “aren’t worth as much as, say, Malfoy, see, ’cuz Malfoy’s got pure blood. An’ that’s why he’s the ’Ead Boy and Finnegan ain’t. Because blood’s important.”

“But inbreeding makes no difference,” Parvati Patil, who was sitting next to Neville, whispered. Neville offered her a weak smile and tried not to laugh. What Professor Carrow was spouting was no laughing matter.

“Muggles,” Professor Carrow went on, “are on’y good fer doing stuff that we can’t do by magic, an’ we don’t wanna do ourselves. There’s enough of ’em to do our dirty work, but not enough of ’em that we can’t control ’em. That’s what it’s about, see. Gettin’ Muggles to understand how much better than them we are.”

Susan Bones put up a tentative hand. “But what about the Statute of Secrecy?”

Alecto Carrow snorted. “Statute of Secrecy? Missy, we won’t need no Statute by the time we’re done. They’ll know plenty about us, and they’ll bow down to us too.”

Another shiver went down Neville’s spine. I don’t like where this is going. I don’t like it at all. Someone needs to stand up to them. He looked around helplessly at the rest of the class, wondering why none of them said anything. Frustrated, he wished for it once more.

Where’s Harry when you need him?

 


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