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Chapter 23 : So It Begins
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On Tuesday afternoon, the members of Dumbledore’s Army gathered in the Room of Requirement. None of the members knew what they were summoned for, except for the six leaders and Jacinta. Malfoy had already told his sister everything that morning.
“What’s he doing here?” Zacharias said loudly as the DA members were starting to arrive. He was looking at Malfoy furiously.
When everyone was there and had sat down Harry spoke up. “I know you must all be wondering why Draco is here again. The truth is that there is more to the story than all of us thought. He agreed to tell evryone what happened to him over the last year and a half. The only thing I ask from you is to give him a chance to explain himself.” Everyone nodded and Harry looked at Draco. “Whenever you’re ready.”
Draco nodded and cleared his throat nervously. Once he finished his story, the room fell extremely quiet.
“Voldemort asked you to kill Dumbledore?” Cho asked unbelievingly.
“Last year…” Lavender said slowly. “But you were only fifteen years old!”
“Why didn’t you tell us?” Hannah Abbott asked.
Malfoy shrugged. “It’s not exactly something that I’m particularly proud of.” he said softly.
“How do we know you’re not lying?” Zacharias asked firmly.
“Everyone has the right to decide for themselves if they do or do not trust someone.” Harry said. “No one else can make that decision for you.”
“Do you trust him?” Seamus asked, who was sitting in the chair besides Malfoy.
“Yes. I do.”
“That’s enough for me.” Seamus said. He held out his hand to Malfoy, who looked surprised but shook it. “Sorry I doubted you, man.”
Some of the members seemed to have a bit more trouble to trust Malfoy again, but none of them objected about him staying with the DA.
“It’s more important than ever that we stick together right now.” Harry said. “We’re all members of the DA and we have been through a whole lot together. We experienced both hope and loss in this room.” He quickly glanced at the pictures of Dumbledore and Angelina that were still pinned to the wall. “If we can’t trust each other, there is no one in this world that we can trust.”
He looked at his fellow DA members who were all hanging on his every word. “Voldemort will attack us in just a couple of days. All of you have decided to stay here and fight. The only way that we will have a chance of defeating him is to stick together and fight as one.”
“Hear, hear!” Dean said.
They didn’t practice anymore that day. Harry thought that they had gotten enough of practice over the last two years. He decided they’d better enjoy the few days of peace they had left by hanging out with each other and trying to have a bit of fun. All the members of the DA stayed in the Room of Requirement, talking and laughing with each other until it was time for dinner. When everyone was preparing to leave, Harry stood up.
“This was probably our last meeting.” he announced. “Unless something else comes up. I want to thank you all for everything you have done and what you are going to do. I can’t put into words how much I appreciate it.”
“Thank you, Harry.” Parvati said. “You have been an amazing teacher.”
Harry grinned as the whole room erupted into applause. “Thanks, guys.” he said. “And don’t throw away those coins. You never know.” He walked towards his friends as all the other members started to leave.
“Are you coming to dinner with us, Luna?” he asked.
“No thanks, I have a date.” she smiled. “Bye guys.” She was humming a cheerful tune as she left the room.
“She has a date?” Ron asked with raised eyebrows.
“Yeah, she’s been seeing someone for a while.” Ginny said. “Seems to be going quite well actually.”
“Who?” Harry asked surprised. He didn’t know that Luna had been seeing someone and it came as a bigger surprise than he cared to admit. He really liked Luna, but he couldn’t really see what guy would be able to look past her eccentricity.
Ginny shrugged. “She doesn’t want to tell us.” Hermione said, clearly annoyed by the fact that her friend was able to keep such a thing from her.
Harry looked at Neville, who happened to be looking the other way. “Neville?”
“Let’s go to dinner!” Neville said quickly. “I’m starving.”
“You know, don’t you?” Harry grinned.
“Please, don’t try to get it out of me. She made me promise not to tell anyone.”
“Alright, we won’t try to get it out of you.” Ron grinned.
They left the Room of Requirement and made their way towards the Great Hall for dinner. “Is it Colin?” Ron asked as they reached the end of the corridor on the seventh floor.
“Ron, leave him alone.” Hermione said, but she couldn’t help smiling when she saw Neville struggling to keep quiet.
“Is it Seamus? It’s Seamus, isn’t it? He’s weird enough to date her.”
“Ron!” Ginny scolded. “Luna’s not weird. She’s just…” She didn’t seem to know a word that described Luna.
“Different.” Harry finished her sentence.
Saturday came far too soon for everyone’s liking, but they all knew that the battle would happen eventually. There was no point trying to win time. Voldemort would come, if they were ready or not.
Harry had let all the DA members know to be in their headquarters in the Room of Requirement at 5 o’clock sharp. Then they would lead all the younger students who wouldn’t fight in the battle to the room and Harry would appoint a couple of DA members to stay there in case they needed protecting. They would all have their coins with them so they could send short messages to each other if it was really necessary.
After lunch Harry, Ginny, Ron, Hermione and Neville sat together in the Gryffindor common room quietly. They hadn’t seen Luna all day. None of them said anything during the next few hours. They just sat together, thinking about what was coming.
When four o’clock came, Hermione suddenly jumped from her chair. “We might as well go to the Room of Requirement already. Maybe some people will come early.”
The four others nodded in agreement and followed her out of the common room. Every Gryffindor who was there watched them leave, but no one said anything. It had probably never been that quiet in Gryffindor Tower.
The five friends walked across the seventh floor in silence. When they entered the headquarters of the DA they saw something that brought their minds of the battle for the first time that day. There were already two people in there, namely Luna Lovegood entangled in a tight embrace with Fred Weasley. The couple hadn’t even noticed that five people had suddenly entered the room.
“Bloody hell.” Ron said loudly.
Fred and Luna let go of each other and looked at them. None of them seemed to know what to say, probably for the first time in their lives, but they didn’t seem to be embarrassed at all.
“You have to be kidding me!” Ginny said.
“Not awkward, guys.” Fred said, grinning broadly. “Not awkward unless we let it be awkward.”
Neville smirked as his four friends were looking at Fred and Luna with open mouth.
“Alright, you can stop staring now.” Fred said.
“Aren’t you happy for us?” Luna smiled.
“Oh of course we are!” Hermione said quickly. Together with Ginny she walked to Luna and both girls gave her a hug.
“Well, you certainly picked out a special one.” Ron said to his brother.
Fred grinned. “Did you expect anything else?”
Over the next hour the DA headquarters was filled with people. Luckily, the Room of Requirement simply expanded as more people arrived. All the members of the DA were there, together with all the members of the Order of the Phoenix, the teachers, some older students that weren’t part of the DA and the delegations from France, Bulgaria and Romania. Over the last few days there had also arrived a small group of witches and wizards from various European countries like Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Belgium. When everyone was seated and had quieted down Mad-Eye stood up and faced the crowd.
“Tonight is the night that we expect Voldemort to attack this school. He won’t stop at nothing before he has full control over Hogwarts. It is our duty to stop him. In a few moments we will leave this room and go to the school grounds. The House-Elves are waiting for us downstairs and the Centaurs are waiting at the edge of the Forbidden Forest. The school also has a herd of Hippogriffs and a herd of Thestrals. They will also be assisting during the battle. The members – “
He stopped talking when the door of the Room of Requirement slowly opened and Bill Weasley entered. He quickly walked towards Mad-Eye and whispered something in his ear. “Bring them in.” Mad-Eye grumbled. He turned back to the crowd and said: “It seems that we have gained another group of allies. The Goblins of Gringotts have decided to fight too.”
Bill entered the room again, followed by a large group of Goblins who were all dressed in armours and armed with knives and swords. Harry raised his eyebrows when he recognized the Goblin who was leading them as Ragnok. The manager of Gringotts bank saw Harry and nodded shortly. Harry looked at Bill who merely shrugged and winked at him.
“Alright.” Mad-Eye continued as everyone quieted down again. “As I was saying, only the members of Dumbledore’s Army will stay here. They will make sure that all the younger students, who are still in their common rooms will be brought here safely. Some of them will stay here to keep the students safe, the rest of them will join us in the battle. Harry Potter is the one in charge.” Mad-Eye divided the crowd into smaller groups and appointed a leader in each of them. “Everyone follow me to the grounds.” he said when everyone knew what to do.
Before he left the Room of Requirement, Mad-Eye walked over to Harry, together with the Weasleys, Remus, Tonks and Kingsley. “Good luck, Potter.” he said shortly. Both of his eyes, magical and normal, were looking straight at him. “We all have faith in you.”
Mrs Weasley sniffed loudly and gave them all a bone-crushing hug, even Neville and Luna. “I wish you kids wouldn’t have to do this.” she said tearfully. “You’re so young.”
“It’s going to be okay, mum.” Ginny said, carefully breaking out of her mother’s embrace.
Remus walked towards Harry and pulled him into a tight hug. “I’m not good at this.” the werewolf said softly.
Harry grinned. “That makes two of us.” When he saw Remus’ worried face, he grew more serious. “I’ll be fine, Remus.” he said softly. “Make sure you are too.”
Remus nodded with a serious face. “I will.” He turned around to follow the last Order members out of the room. Tonks was waiting for him by the door. When he had almost reached the door, he turned back to Harry. “When you face him… Remember that your greatest strength is his greatest weakness. Remember that you have much more to live for than him.”
Harry didn’t know what to say, but Remus had already turned around. He took Tonks’ hand and left the Room of Requirement, leaving Harry wondering if he would ever see his last remaining father figure again.
A small hand slipped into his. “Are you alright?” Ginny asked.
“Yeah.” Harry said, pulling himself together. “Yeah, I’m fine.” He turned back to the room and saw that all the members of Dumbledore’s Army were looking at him expectantly.
“Alright, I want at least four members going to every common room to evacuate the students. Lavender, Parvati, Seamus, Dean: you guys take care of the Gryffindor students. Ernie, Zacharias, Hannah and Susan for Hufflepuff and Terry, Michael, Marietta and Cho for Ravenclaw. Draco, Professor Snape is waiting for you in the dungeons. He’s going to let you into the Slytherin common room as you can’t get in there anymore. I’m going to need two volunteers to go with him.”
“We’ll do it.” George said after exchanging a quick look with Fred.
“Excellent.” Harry said. “The rest of us will be waiting here. Be quick.”
It didn’t take long for the Gryffindors and the Ravenclaws to get there, as their common rooms were both on the seventh floor too. It took a while longer for the Hufflepuffs to get back and it took Fred and George nearly half an hour to get the small group of Slytherins to the Room of Requirement.
“What happened?” Harry asked. “Where’s Malfoy?”
“They’re already fighting. And Malfoy took off.” Fred grumbled.
“What do you mean he took off?” Ron said sharply.
“When we arrived in the dungeons Snape was already waiting for us.” George explained. “He let us into the Slytherin common room and left to help the others outside. The moment Snape disappeared out of sight, Malfoy left. We couldn’t go after him, we needed to get this guys here, before the Death Eaters got into the castle.”
Harry nodded. “Good work, guys.” He looked at the small group of Slytherins who were looking around them frightfully. “Where is the rest of them?”
“All the older students left.” George said.
“We searched all of the dormitories. They were all gone.” said Fred.
Hermione gave Harry a meaningful look and he realized that she had come to the same conclusion as he had.
“Alright DA members, gather around. We’ll leave soon.”
“What about Malfoy?” Ginny whispered.
Harry shrugged. “I’m not his babysitter. If he chose to run for it then that is his decision.”
He turned to the members of the DA. “Okay. As we decided, Hannah, Susan and Colin are staying here with the younger students. The rest of you will be going outside with me.” He divided the DA members into small groups. “When we get outside we will spread, but always stick with your group. Don’t go wandering around alone. Keep your coins close to you. If you are cornered and need help urgently, send a message and someone will come and help you.”
Harry took a deep breath and looked at his fellow DA members. “It has been an honour training and fighting with you. We may be fighting older and more experienced wizards today, but remember: we know what we're fighting for. They don't. Good luck, everyone.” He raised his wand . “For Dumbledore.”
The others followed his example, raising their wands.
“Let’s show them what we’re made of.” Seamus said firmly.
They all followed Harry outside the Room of Requirement. Harry quickly looked outside at the first window they passed. The fighting had already broken out. It was a surreal sight. Hippogriffs, Thestrals, Centaurs, Goblins and House-Elves were fighting together with the defenders of the castle against an enormous army of masked Death Eaters, Dementors, Giants, Trolls and other creatures. The violent image made them all realize what they were getting into. Harry reached for Ginny’s hand beside him and squeezed it tight.
“I love you, Ginny.”
“I love you too.” Ginny said softly. Her brown eyes had widened when she saw the sight below them, but when she looked at Harry her face had changed back to the determined expression he knew and loved. She kissed him full on the lips. It was a brief, but probably the most meaningful kiss she had ever given him.
“Let’s go.” he finally said. He didn’t let go of Ginny’s hand as he walked towards the silver staircase. Ron swallowed, grabbed Hermione’s hand and followed them downstairs.
When they reached the double front doors, Ron turned to Hermione. “Hermione, I –“ He didn’t seem to find the words to express himself.
Hermione gave him a weak smile and gave him a quick kiss on the lips. “I know. Me too.”
Harry and Ginny raised their eyebrows at each other as they saw the brief exchange between their best friends, but they knew this wasn’t the time to comment.
“Everyone ready?” Harry asked, pointing his wand at the wooden front doors. “Let’s go.”
“There is no greater glory than to die for love.” – Gabriel Garcia Marquez (Love in the Time of Cholera)
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