Chapter 4 : The new arrival
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Seamus was surrounded at the Gryffindor table, his punishment at the hands of the Carrows already widely known. Neville could hear a dozen worried voices all blending in with each other. “Are you okay?” “How did it feel?” And even, “How are you going to get back at them?”
While Neville could understand the sentiment of that last question, he doubted its wisdom. Going against the Carrows would earn you an Unforgivable Curse or two, he now knew. And he wasn’t sure they would stop at Crucio.
“How is he?” Ginny asked, sidling in next to him at the table and reaching for a plate.
“I’m not sure,” Neville said. It was the truth: while he thought Seamus was dealing with the trauma remarkably well, he hadn’t been able to get close enough to him to find out since they were in Muggle Studies.
“I haven’t had either of them yet,” Ginny said, indicating the staff table – and the Carrows – with her elbow. “But I can tell you that Snape’s on the warpath. He dropped in on Potions and threatened me with detention because I put the wrong ingredient in my cauldron – even though what Slughorn had written on the board wasn’t clear. Gotta say, though, I’m glad he didn’t. After what Seamus and Romilda went through …”
Neville turned to look at her, his fork pausing in mid air on its way to his mouth. Mashed potato dropped to his plate. “Romilda?”
“Romilda Vane,” Ginny said, pointing down the table. “Fifth year. She didn’t get it as bad as Seamus – probably because she’s pure-blood – but Amycus Carrow got to her as well. Apparently she was found with a love potion that she’d bought from Fred and George’s.”
Neville stifled a grin. “I remember her. Wasn’t she the one …”
“Who tried to use one on Harry last year? Yep, that’s her. Wonder who she’s got her sights on this time. Surely she can’t have thought Harry was coming back.” Ginny looked completely unconcerned with the romantic exploits of her former rival, and Neville found himself wondering, as Seamus had the day before, whether she and Harry really had broken up after all. There was something in her expression that made him think he might have had it wrong.
“So what’s the punishment for a love potion?” Neville asked. He wasn’t entirely sure he wanted to know, but then again it was good to be aware of what they were up against.
Ginny shrugged. “Apparently he threatened her with the Entrail-Expelling Curse, but because she’s a pure-blood, and to the best of their knowledge no one actually got hurt, he just practiced Engorging her.”
Neville looked sideways at her. “What are you going to do about your things from Fred and George’s?” He didn’t know what she had, but he knew she’d have something.
She just shrugged again, looking around furtively, but her friends and hangers-on were gathered around Seamus and, to a lesser degree, Romilda, and no one seemed to be paying any attention to the two of them whatsoever. “I checked the list on Filch’s door,” she said. “It says that anything bought at Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes is contraband. Thing is, though, I didn’t buy any of my stuff. As soon as word got out that Snape was the new Headmaster, Fred and George gave it all to me free.”
Neville was skeptical. “Do you really think they’re going to see the difference?”
“I’m just following the rules,” Ginny said, a look of determination on her face. “Nothing bought from Fred and George’s shop. Well, I don’t have anything bought there. So as far as I’m concerned, I’m okay.”
Neville let it slide. While he was confident at Ginny’s ability to argue the point effectively, he was just as confident that Snape and the Carrows wouldn’t care. But then again, they could cross that bridge when they came to it. “So what exactly do you have?”
“A few trick wands, some decoy detonators, a few skiving snackboxes and some extendable ears,” she said. “Though I’m sure they’ll send more if I ask them.”
“And you don’t think Snape will be having your mail searched?” Neville asked.
Ginny just shrugged again, then smiled wickedly. “Then they can send it to you.”
When it was time to go back to the dormitories, Neville found himself unexpectedly joined by Luna. “I’ve been talking to a few people,” she said without introduction, “and they all think that you should start the DA up again.”
Neville stopped halfway up the staircase between the second and third floors. “Luna, are you mad? What do you think something like this will do once Snape gets wind of it? Don’t you know what happened to Seamus?”
Seamus, on the other side of Neville, nodded seriously.
“Of course,” Luna said. “That’s why we have to start it again. We can’t let them get away with it.” She looked at Seamus. “And even you will join up right at the start this time, won’t you?”
Seamus looked surprised. “Well, of course,” he said, then paused. “But you can’t be serious. Doing something like that right under their noses? That’s – that’s crazy!” He shuddered, and Neville was pretty sure he knew what Seamus was thinking. He didn’t want a repeat of today happening any time soon.
Neville nodded. “It was okay for someone like Harry, who knew everything and what it was like to use it,” he said, “but us?”
“Why not?” Luna asked, putting her hand on his back to hurry them up the stairs. “You’ve done it too. I remember, I was there.” She smiled briefly. “And I’ve still got my Galleon.” With that, she skipped on ahead of them, leaving Neville and Seamus looking blankly at each other.
“You’ve got to admit, it would be nice,” Seamus said slowly as they made their way up yet another staircase towards Gryffindor Tower. “But who’s going to set it up? It’s not like we’ve got Harry and Hermione here.”
“That’s exactly it,” Neville said heavily. “If there’s to be a DA this year, it has to be us.”
This thought troubled him for the rest of the evening. He sat by the fire in the common room, his back to the rest of the room and his thoughts drowning out the background noise of overexcited first years looking around, older students playing Exploding Snap and Seamus being swarmed by curious well-wishers. Ignoring the homework they’d been set, his mind kept going back to the idea of a new DA. He hadn’t realised before now just how much he’d relied on Harry – and Ron and Hermione, for that matter – to get things going. He was happy to go along with things, but he’d never been the leading type.
Ginny didn’t help. “Did I hear Luna right before?” she asked, coming up and perching herself on the arm of his chair. “Are you going to start up the DA again?”
Neville spluttered. “No, of course not. Luna was just thinking out loud.”
Ginny stared him down, clearly unconvinced. “Well, if you do, make sure you let me know, okay? I want to help.” She went to stand up again, but he grabbed her arm to stop her.
“What is it that makes everyone think that I’m going to be the one to do all this stuff? You know me, Ginny. I’m not Harry. I’m not anyone.”
“Of course you are. You’re Neville. And really, who else is there?”
“You,” Neville said, grabbing a piece of sudden inspiration. “You could do it.”
She stood up and stared at him. “Me?”
“Well, why not? You’re smart, you know everyone and people listen to you.” The more he thought about it, the more Neville liked this idea.
Ginny frowned at him, clearly considering the matter. “I’ll think about it,” she said eventually. “But if I do, you’ll be on board, right?”
Neville smiled, feeling as though a weight had just been lifted off his shoulders. “Yes. Yes, of course I will.”
The next morning, the first of the new arrivals showed up. They hadn’t even finished breakfast when two very rough-looking men Neville hadn’t seen before opened the doors to the Great Hall, dragging someone between them. “Snape!” one of them bellowed. “Got one for ya.”
Neville looked at Seamus in puzzlement, then stared at the person being dragged in. It was a girl, maybe a couple of years below them, who looked vaguely familiar. Snape, for his part, just nodded curtly and paid no further attention to their visitors, instead continuing a conversation with Amycus Carrow next to him. Professor Flitwick, on the other hand, got up and hurried forward.
“Orla! Are you alright?” he asked as the girl was summarily dropped by her captors. She was clearly not alright – one eye was black, there were cuts on her face and hands, and she was plainly struggling to stand, one knee buckling beneath her weight.
“Who’s she?” Seamus asked. “And what happened to her?”
“I don’t know,” Neville said heavily. “And I’m not sure I want to find out.”
“What’s that?” Ginny had clearly heard his last statement. She had taken to sitting opposite Neville at mealtimes, perhaps because of the link they shared with Harry. After all, there were precious few other people at Hogwarts who she could talk to about him. “Of course we need to find out. What did they do to her?”
“I bet she was trying to stay away from the school this year,” Seamus said. “My mam was talking about not letting me come back, but then they made it compulsory.”
Neville looked from the injured girl, who Professor Flitwick was now helping to the Ravenclaw table, to Seamus. “You know, I think you might have something there,” he said slowly. “They must be rounding people up and bringing them in. So they can all get brainwashed by the Carrows or something.”
“See?” said Ginny, moving bacon around her plate with her fork. “And look, they’re not even letting Madam Pomfrey look after her.” Neville turned to the staff table again, where indeed Madam Pomfrey seemed to be held back by an invisible force as she tried to get to the girl, the distress on her face evident. “See, that’s why we have to do something.”
“Well, that’s up to you,” Neville said, glad once more that he had managed to absolve himself of this responsibility.
She just looked at him, finally spearing her bacon and bringing it to her mouth. “We’ll see.”
“What does that mean?”
“It means,” she said, putting her fork down again, “that this is going to have a lot more weight if there’s a seventh year involved, rather than just a couple of sixth years.”
“Well, obviously I’m including Luna,” Ginny said disparagingly. “This was her idea, after all.”
Seamus looked confused. “What was her idea?”
“Restarting the DA, of course.” Ginny looked even more disparaging. “But yeah, a seventh year will make a difference.”
“But back when we did it, Harry and Hermione were only fifth years,” Neville pointed out.
“Duh. That was Harry Potter, who had gone up against Voldemort only a few months earlier.” Neville flinched at the name but Ginny didn’t seem to notice. “Of course people paid attention.”
“Well, you went up against the Death Eaters last June,” Neville said hopefully.
“And so did Luna, and so did you,” Ginny said. “That’s why it has to be us. All of us.”
Neville was silent, his gaze going beyond Ginny to the injured Orla at the Ravenclaw table. If they were going to do that to people simply for not attending school – and if they were going to practice Unforgivable Curses on students, like they had the day before – then Ginny was right. Something had to be done.
And they were the ones who had to do it.
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