Chapter 8 : The World Is Going Nuts
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When Harry and his friends arrived in the Great Hall for the Welcoming Feast, they noticed there were a lot of students that didn’t come back this year. A lot of families had gone into hiding when Voldemort took over the country and apparently many parents didn’t trust Hogwarts to be safe for their children.
“This is just sad.” Ron said as he looked around the half empty Hall.
“It’s quite understandable.” Hermione said while they sat down at the Gryffindor table. “Parents want to keep their children safe.”
“But it’s Hogwarts!” Harry said. “This must be the safest place in the country right now.”
He stopped talking when the doors opened and Professor McGonagall appeared, followed by a short row of nervous first years.
The Sorting ceremony had never passed so quickly as there were only about fifteen students to sort. When the Sorting Hat was brought away, Dumbledore stood up from his chair and opened the feast.
“This feels weird.” Ron said as he looked around the Hall again. “Even McLaggen didn’t come back. He’s a pureblood, isn’t he?”
“What does that have to do with it?” Hermione asked offended.
“No! I didn’t mean that.” Ron said quickly. “It’s just… With V-Voldemort in charge, they are the ones that are safe, aren’t they? You’d think that it would be the Muggleborns that would go into hiding, but most of them seem to have come back.”
“Maybe that’s just the point.” Ginny said.
“What do you mean?”
“Muggleborns would know that Hogwarts is the only safe place for them right now.”
Harry looked at Colin who was sitting two seats to the left of him. “What did your parents say?”
Colin looked at him uncomfortably. “We didn’t actually tell them. We didn’t want to risk it.”
Ron smiled approvingly.
“I wish my parents didn’t know about it.” Parvati sighed. “We had to nag them for three weeks to let us come back. We had to promise to write every two days and to not get into any trouble or do anything dangerous.”
“Well I’ll expect your letter of resignation from Dumbledore’s Army then.” Harry grinned.
“Don’t count on it.”
“My mom went nuts too.” Seamus spoke up. “I think she was planning on tying me up this morning to prevent me from leaving.”
“What did you have to promise?” Hermione asked.
“Nothing. Though I did promise her I’d get her Voldemort’s autograph when I see him.”
They were all still laughing when Dumbledore stood up again to make his usual start of term announcements.
“Good evening to all and welcome back for another year at Hogwarts.” the headmaster spoke. “You have probably all noticed that our student body has noticeably decreased over the summer. A lot of students chose not to return. Also, it is my biggest regret to inform you that two of our students have lost their lives during the summer in Death Eater attacks. I would like to ask all of you to join me in a moment of silence to remember and honour Kevin Whitby and Malcolm Baddock.”
The students bowed their heads and remained silent. Harry looked quickly at Ginny and then at Ron and Hermione. They hadn’t even known about them. Harry knew Malcolm Baddock was a pureblood and a Slytherin. Apparently no one was safe in this war.
“Thank you.” Dumbledore said after about a minute. “On another note, I would like to introduce our new Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher: Professor Kingsley Shacklebolt. Like Professor Tonks, Professor Shacklebolt is an Auror. He has most kindly agreed to come back to Hogwarts for a year to teach Defence Against the Dark Arts.”
Kingsley stood up from the staff table when the students applauded for him. Harry, Ron, Hermione and Ginny clapped extra loud and Kingsley smiled faintly and raised his hand towards the Gryffindor table.
“As you all know, the Ministry of Magic has fallen during your absence. Lord Voldemort is now in control of the entire country except for Hogwarts. He has probably never been more powerful than he is today.”
Dumbledore paused and all the students were looking at him in anticipation.
“The staff of Hogwarts’ primary concern is the safety of our students. Therefore I must ask you to act responsible and follow the new rules that have been made to assure your safety. Students are no longer allowed out in the hallways past 8 o’clock without authorization from a teacher. Quidditch try-outs and Quidditch practices will be surveyed. Teachers, prefects and members of the Order of the Phoenix will be patrolling the hallways day and night. Also, I regret to inform you that no one will be allowed to visit Hogsmeade during the year. I am sure you can all understand why.”
Dumbledore looked at his students for a moment before he continued: “Lord Voldemort is trying to take over our lives and our freedom. The biggest weapon he has is fear. Our fear. We can only oppose his tyranny by showing unity and stand up for ourselves. There are things that are more powerful than fear and those things will help end this war. One such thing is hope. Fear has no chance to paralyze and control us, as long as there is hope… Now off to bed. Goodnight!”
“He sure has a thing with the speeches.” Ron said as they left the Great Hall. “Binns could learn a lot from him.”
“So could you!” Hermione said. “And from Binns too for that matter.”
“The only thing I learned from Binns was not to take his N.E.W.T. class.” Ron said. “I can’t believe you’re still taking History of Magic this year.”
“I think it’s an important subject.” Luna said, who had joined them after the feast. “If people learned from the past, wars like this could be prevented.”
They reached the seventh floor and Luna said goodnight and walked towards the Ravenclaw common room. The Gryffindors walked to the Fat Lady.
“Padfoot.” Hermione said and the Fat Lady swung open to gain them access to the Gryffindor common room.
“Padfoot?” Harry asked. “Are you serious?”
Hermione shrugged. “McGonagall chooses the passwords.”
They sat down in front of the fireplace and they were quickly joined by the other sixth years.
“We’re still going to have meetings, aren’t we?” Lavender asked.
“Sure.” Harry said. “There’s still a lot we can do. We have to be prepared for what may come.” He thought about what Voldemort would do when he find out Harry was still alive.
“So when are you holding the Quidditch try-outs, Harry?” Dean asked eagerly.
Harry knew Dean and Seamus wanted to try out for Beater and now that the Weasley twins had graduated there were two spots open.
“Saturday I thought. After lunch.”
“Well, you’d better brace yourself.” Hermione smirked. “I reckon half Gryffindor will be there.”
“Why’s that?” Ron asked. “There are only four spots open. It’s not like we need a whole new team.”
“Yeah, but the captain is The Chosen One.” Ginny said teasingly.
“Oh shut up.” Harry laughed.
He raised from his chair. “I’m going to bed.” he announced. He quickly kissed Ginny on the lips before he walked towards the staircase that led to the boys dormitories. “Goodnight!”
Lucius Malfoy was crumbling on the ground, screaming in agony. He had been tortured for the last half hour by his master. He knew when he told him what he had heard, this would happen. But not telling him was no option. He always knew.
Malfoy had been released from Azkaban prison when Voldemort took over the Ministry of Magic. He had been happy then that he was a free man again and that he could serve his master. Now he silently hoped he was still in his cell. He realized he would never be a free man. He was nothing more than a slave. A puppet used to do the Dark Lord’s bidding. He didn’t even fail his master, he had just been the carrier of bad news.
“Are you sure?” Voldemort snapped.
“Yes, master.” Lucius said quivering. “I received the message from Vincent Crabbe.”
“Crabbe is dead.” Voldemort growled. “He died during the battle at the Ministry.”
“I know that, my lord. I mean Vincent Crabbe Jr.”
“His son? Of course… He is still at Hogwarts, isn’t he?”
“Yes, my lord.”
“And why, may I ask, are you in contact with him? Children of Death Eaters are not allowed to join us until they are from under Dumbledore’s big nose unless I say otherwise!” Voldemort said viciously.
“My lord…” Lucius begged. “Please.”
“Of course…” Voldemort realized. “You have been using him to solve your pathetic family problems once it became apparent your worthless son chose the wrong side!”
“He didn’t… Draco hasn’t – “
“Silence!” Voldemort yelled. “Your son has chosen the side of Albus Dumbledore and Harry Potter, Lucius, and you know it. I will make sure he will be killed. Be happy you won’t be yourself… for now.”
“Please, my lord. Have mercy.”
“Mercy?” Voldemort laughed his high cruel laugh. “Crucio!”
“It has been a long time since you had a dream like that, hasn’t it?” Ginny asked.
Harry, Ginny, Ron, Hermione and Neville were having breakfast together. Today would be their first day of classes. Harry had told his friends about the dream he had that night, about Voldemort and Lucius Malfoy.
“Yes. I don’t understand.” Harry said. “Snape said I mastered Occlumency and he taught me to block my mind permanently. Even when I’m sleeping…”
“You should talk to him.” Hermione said. “Or to Dumbledore.”
Harry nodded. “Maybe I will.”
Professor McGonagall chose that moment to appear beside them with their class schedules for that year.
“Well, if you want to talk to Snape you won’t have to wait long.” Ron said as he quickly scanned his schedule. “Potions is our first class.”
“Followed by Defence Against the Dark Arts.” Neville said. “I wonder what the new teacher will be like.”
“He’s alright.” Harry said. “I think we can pretty much expect the same as last year with Tonks.”
“He’s a member of the Order of the Phoenix too.” Hermione explained when she saw Neville’s blank face.
The first Potions class for the sixth years was extremely difficult. Snape asked them to brew the Draught of Living Death, a very powerful sleeping potion. After class, Harry told his friends he would catch up with them later and hung back until everyone had left the dungeon.
“Professor?” he said nervously. Although Snape’s attitude had drastically changed over the last months, like he had promised to Sirius, Harry was still nervous to talk to him.
“Can I help you, Potter?”
“Yes” Harry said. “I wanted to ask you about Occlumency.”
Snape raised his eyebrows. He knew Harry had mastered Occlumency a long time ago. They had been working on Legilimency for a while and he didn’t think Harry would have trouble with closing his mind anymore.
Harry told him everything about his dream from the night before. “That shouldn’t have happened, should it?” he asked when he had finished his story. “My mind should have blocked it. But it didn’t… Do you think I have problems with my Occlumency again?”
Snape considered his answer for a long time. “No, I don’t think you have any trouble blocking your mind.” he finally said. “What you just described to me has happened before. You have been blocking your mind automatically for months. That does not just stop.”
“Then what happened?”
“It isn’t that your Occlumency isn’t strong enough. Your Legilimency has improved drastically over the summer. You have been able to look into my mind when I close it of completely for a while now.”
“I don’t understand…”
“You used Legilimency, Potter.”
“Are you saying that I chose to see it myself?”
“Yes.” Snape said. “Unconsciously of course. But yes, you chose to see it yourself.”
Snape was looking at him piercingly, almost calculatingly. Harry recognized that look. Suddenly he realized it was the same look that Snape had given him when he found out Harry was a Parselmouth back in second year.
“Is it a bad thing?” Harry asked nervously.
“No, certainly not.” Snape reassured him. “But not a lot of wizards can use Legilimency unconsciously. There are only a few known examples of it in wizarding history. All of them were extremely powerful.”
Harry thought about what Dumbledore had told him after the Horcrux he had carried with him had been destroyed. The headmaster had said that his magic would be more powerful and that he would discover powers he never thought he possessed. This was the first time he truly realized Dumbledore had been right. And what did he know that this was only the beginning.
“I thought you said he would be alright.” Neville grumbled.
The sixth year Gryffindors were on their way to the Great Hall for lunch. They had just finished their first Defence Against the Dark Arts lesson with Kingsley Shacklebolt. The new teacher had made it clear immediately that their lessons would be strict and tough. He had already tested their defence against the more serious curses. Harry, Ron and Hermione had done alright, but Neville’s legs were still shaking uncontrollably from the hexes Kingsley had fired at him.
“I didn’t see this coming either.” Ron said.
“Well I think he’s right.” Hermione said. “We won’t learn to defend ourselves if he treats us like first years.”
“It’s a good thing you taught us a lot in the DA, Harry.” Neville said.
Over all, the DA members had performed well in class. Their classmates who weren’t part of the DA had been easy victims for Kingsley.
They stopped talking when they came downstairs and saw a very weird scene before them. Ginny and Luna had been waiting for them at the double doors of the Hall to go to lunch and were now in deep conversation with Draco Malfoy.
“What the hell?” Ron mumbled.
“Oh there you are!” Luna said happily when she saw them.
“Hi.” Harry said, looking inquisitively at his girlfriend.
Ginny merely shrugged and said: “Come on, let’s have lunch. I’m starving.”
“Hear, hear.” Ron said.
Harry made to follow them into the Great Hall, but was stopped by Malfoy. “Can I talk to you?”
“Sure…” Harry said slowly.
“Jacinta told me she joined that group you started last year.”
“Well, Weasley and Lovegood told me what you do exactly and…”
“Don’t worry.” Harry said quickly, realizing where Malfoy was going with this. “She will be perfectly safe. I won’t let her fight Death Eaters if it comes to that.”
“I know that.” Malfoy said. “But that’s not it. I want to join.”
Harry was stunned. This was the last thing he had expected. “You want to join?”
“I don’t know, Malfoy.” Harry said. “I know you broke with your family and you say that you have changed, but how can I be sure I can trust you?”
“I guess you can’t.” Malfoy said. “But I have a lot to make up for. Give me a chance. Please.”
Harry looked into the grey eyes of his former nemesis. He concentrated hard on the feelings the Slytherin was having and saw that he was not lying. Malfoy was either a very good Occlumens, which he doubted, or was truly being honest.
“I believe you.” he said finally. “But I can’t guarantee you that the others will. And you can’t really blame them if they don’t.”
“I know.” Malfoy said. “But you trust me?”
“I guess so…”
“So you’ll give me a chance?”
“I can’t just decide that by myself.” Harry said. “We didn’t really plan to accept new members, except for Jacinta. And Dumbledore actually asked me not to invite any Slytherins when he asked me to start the group.”
“Not all Slytherins are – “
“I know.” Harry interrupted him. “But some of them are and we can’t have them know too much about us.”
“I understand.” Malfoy said. “Thanks anyway.” He started to walk towards the doors of the Great Hall.
“I’ll talk to Dumbledore.” Harry suddenly said. “If he thinks it’s alright, it’s alright with me.”
Malfoy turned around. “Really?”
“Yeah, what the hell.” Harry said. “But I can only let you join if every member is okay with it. I owe them that much.”
“Thanks, Potter.” Malfoy said.
Harry joined his friends at the Gryffindor table and started loading his plate with food.
“So... What’s up?” Ron asked.
Harry looked over at the Slytherin table where Malfoy was sitting all by himself. “The world is going nuts. That’s what.” he said.
“Fear does not work, as long as there is hope” – Suzanne Collins (The Hunger Games)
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