Disclaimer: JK Rowling was not just following orders.
Parts of this chapter were quoted from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.
Hermione woke in a cold sweat, desperately grasped for her wand, and lit it to see her familiar bedroom at Prewett Manor. She gasped for breath as it took her a few moments to register that she was not in fact, being set upon by a horde of flesh-rending pseudo-zombies amid a rain of falling body parts. She understood why Bill had been so rattled. Even though they'd won the fight in the cave, the sheer visceral horror of seeing hundreds of human bodies torn to bits haunted her.
With a sigh, Hermione turned over and tried to go back to sleep. Just before she did, she noted the book on her side table and shoved it onto the floor. The Life and Lies of Albus Dumbledore. What a crock.
It was Rita Skeeter's new tell-all book, and it was a "tell-all" that the woman must have been working on since long before Dumbledore's death, maybe even during the forced sabbatical she had taken. What had possessed her to release it in the middle of a war, Hermione couldn't fathom. Maybe bribed or threatened by Death Eaters, or maybe she was just that greedy. None of those would surprise her.
Skeeter quoted people who claimed to have known the Dumbledore to spin her tale, most notably Bathilda Bagshot, author of A History of Magic and Hogwarts, A History. Hermione was torn. She of all people knew Dumbledore wasn't as squeaky clean as most people thought, but she fumed when she saw Skeeter's usual mix of half-truths, spin, and slanderous lies levelled at the man. She should have exacted more concessions from her when she discovered she was an unregistered animagus. Skeeter claimed, for example, that Dumbledore had been friends with Gellert Grindelwald in his youth, which was actually probably true; but also that he convinced Grindelwald to surrender without a fight in their famous duel as part of some grand conspiracy, which was almost certainly false—and that was just the start. Even worse was the blatant speculation of foul play in the death of his sister. She didn't know why she even bothered trying to read it. She knew it would only make her angry, and in the pleasant climate, it wasn't worth her time.
After finding the two horcruxes, this seemed like the calm before the storm to Hermione, but she was still very busy. They had a few housekeeping-type things to deal with in terms of the war effort. Like the fact that Harry still had never been bound against the Taboo and was instead silencing himself in his sleep to stay safe. They gathered the troops to take care of that, worried that You-Know-Who would come in force if he saw another person breaking the Taboo, but apparently as uncommon as it was, it was common enough that it didn't raise flags, and they only had to deal with what seemed to be the two Death Eaters. They were lucky. She doubted that would work again if they had to repeat the process, even if they waited for months after the pair were bound, Obliviated, and hand-delivered to the Ministry.
Harry was safe after that, staying with Sirius for the time being, but to Hermione, it became even more urgent to find a better way to deal with prisoners. Right now, the best they could come up with was a futile "catch and release" policy, handing them over to the corrupt Ministry, which put them right back into circulation soon afterwards. As awful as it would be to kill prisoners, it seemed like there were no other options that would get them off the street for good. She had some ideas on that, but she was still scouring through medical references to piece together the information she needed to make it work.
Hermione next found herself in a spot of trouble in mid-June when she was slipping around muggle London, collecting newspapers. Ever since the Heaven's Gate disaster and the occasional reports of Death Eater attacks in the muggle world, she'd been trying to keep up with the muggle news a bit more in her limited time. It wasn't hard to get copies of the Times or even the New York Times by slipping off to muggle London. The Weasleys needed to make supply runs anyway, being so isolated, so it wasn't much of an imposition.
Unfortunately, showing her face at all was dangerous these days, what with random attacks happening in daylight. She'd already been caught up in one once, so it wasn't unreasonable to expect it to happen again.
The last time, it had been just two Death Eaters, hitting targets of opportunity. This time, it was still a hit and run attack, but there were four of them, and they seemed to be attacking a particular shop, presumably muggle-born-owned. A few people were fighting back, ineffectually. Hermione considered joining them, but then, she was spotted.
"Get her! Rookwood wants her dead!"
All four Death Eaters started running her way, curses flying around her, and she decided discretion was the better part of valour. She ran, the papers under her arm. She had to get out of the Alley.
Dobby. She wasn't about to make the mistake of forgetting him again. But she couldn't call him in the open. She remembered how that went when they were attacked by dementors way back in third year. She needed enough cover for him to Apparate in.
Just a few seconds, she thought. She conjured a cloud of smoke and ran into a shop to hide her movements. Inside, she vaulted over the counter with a skill that surprised even herself and dropped to the floor out of view. She couldn't see the shopkeeper. They might have run for it.
"Dobby!" she called. When the elf popped into view, she didn't give him time to speak before she grabbed his hand and said, "Get me out of here!" For once, her plan actually worked.
Once she came down from the adrenaline high, Hermione actually got to read the newspaper. The most notable headline for her today was one that read, MERCURY EXPOSURE KILLS DARTMOUTH PROFESSOR. That was surprising. Of course, mercury was poisonous, but Hermione didn't think a chemistry professor would make that kind of mistake in this day and age. Apparently, the mercury in question was dimethylmercury, though. She looked up the chemical and blanched. Dimethylmercury was absolutely hideous stuff—more hideous than most of the awful magical poisons she'd learnt about in Potions and Herbology. A few drops were lethal through skin contact alone, through latex gloves. It took ten months to kill the unfortunate professor and indeed, three months to even show symptoms. The only cure was chelation therapy, which was itself aggressive and somewhat dangerous and still had no guarantee of working.
And most frighteningly, it would be trivially easy for her to make by rearranging a few atoms.
She had no reason to make it. A poison that took months to kill was useless as a weapon of war. The more salient question was whether she could cure it. Death Eaters weren't completely ignorant of the muggle world; Comet Hale-Bopp had proved that. For them, it would be a weapon of terror and assassination that they might actually use—at least Rookwood probably would. A bezoar might cure it, although even then, she wasn't sure if it would work on something so long-acting. A blood-cleansing charm? She'd probably have to rebuild her metal-filtering charm from the bottom up to work on live tissue, but it might be a worthwhile project.
And perhaps there were other obscure chemicals that could be more useful to her, she thought…
Despite some progress, as the Hogwarts term wrapped up, Hermione was waiting for the other shoe to drop. It always seemed to do in May or June, and while she didn't consider herself superstitious, if felt like it was just about due. She was worried what form it would take with You-Know-Who in open war.
Finally, it happened.
Hermione was reading a book (not Skeeter's) in the sitting room at Prewett Manor, when she heard the chime that signalled someone at the door. It was a Saturday night, one week before the end of the Hogwarts term, so George, Fred, Bill and Fleur was already there for a family dinner. Molly jumped at the chime. They weren't expecting anyone, and hardly anyone ever came for Muriel. She hurried to the door and called, "Who is it?"
"Mum, it's Percy," a worried-sounding voice called back.
Molly gasped: "Percy?"
Percy must have anticipated her asking a security question because he said. "When I was five, I found Peter Pettigrew disguised as a rat in the garden. You and Dad only let me keep him as a pet because I was jealous over Bill being given an owl to take with him to Hogwarts. It's me, Mum."
Molly threw open the door and hugged her prodigal son. "Oh, Percy!" she cried.
Percy hugged his mother briefly. But she drew back in horror when she saw the state he was in. His robes were tattered, and he had cuts and burns on his face. He slumped against the door frame when she let him go. "Merlin's beard! What happened to you?" she gasped.
"Spot of trouble at the Ministry," Percy answered. "We'll have to act fast. I barely made it out of the Ministry in one piece." He pushed past her and waved a sheaf of parchment over his head. "We have a big problem," he announced. "They're going to round up the muggle-borns."
Hermione squeaked, and everyone turned to look at her. "Percy, what's happening?" she said
"What have you been doing?" Molly asked.
"Mum, listen to me. I've been gathering information on what the new administration is up to." He leaned over a table and started spreading out pamphlets and posters. "That's why I've been so long coming home. I had to make them think I'd really switched sides."
Arthur sat down across from him. He looked remarkably calm given the circumstances, but he questioned Percy with an intensity Hermione rarely saw from the man. "You mean you haven't—?" he said.
"No. Not since Scrimgeour was killed. Not really since the Ministry declared You-Know-Who was back, but I was a pompous prat and too proud to admit I'd been wrong. I'm sorry—to all of you—and Harry too when I see him. I was a fool. I was an idiot. I was a…a…"
"Ministry-loving, family-disowning, power-hungry moron," said Fred.
"Yes, I was!"
"Well, you can't say fairer than that," said Fred, holding out his hand to Percy.
Percy endured a quick round of hugs from his family, but he quickly got back to business. "Look, I wanted to tell you sooner. I tried to leave a hint with Fred and George when they cornered me."
"We got the message, son," Arthur said. "We didn't like it, but we tried to be understanding."
"What do you mean, you barely got out of the Ministry, Percy?" Molly said.
"It wasn't easy finding all this information, Mum. It was scattered across half a dozen different departments, and they're keeping it secret until they're ready to release it. You-Know-Who has eyes everywhere, too. I'm pretty sure Thicknesse and the new Head of the DMLE are either Death Eaters or controlled by them. I got caught trying to dig up more information and had to make a break for it."
"Oh, Percy!" Molly exclaimed. "Are you alright."
"I'll be fine. Wasn't hurt too bad," he grunted.
Then he fell over.
Molly and Fleur sprang into action and helped Percy over to the sofa. He protested, saying they needed to get the message out, and Hermione was on his side, honestly, but they compromised with Molly treating his cuts and bruises as best she could while he sat and went through the stack of parchment. He was too absorbed in his investigation to complain about his mother doting on him.
"I had to finish building my case," he said. "I thought if we could get in front of the Ministry and show the people what they're planning to do, it would break them out of their trance. I hope it would've broken me out of mine. I hope people won't swallow this much at once."
"I don't know," Hermione said. "People will swallow a lot. But we need to prepare for what they're doing either way."
"What did you find?" Arthur said.
"It'll start with these," Percy said, and he threw two letter-sized posters on top of the pile. They were Wanted posters, featuring Harry's and Hermione's faces. Both of them had the header written over them:
WANTED FOR QUESTIONING ABOUT
THE DEATH OF ALBUS DUMBLEDORE
The Twins howled with outrage, but it made perfect sense to Hermione. She and Harry had been the first on the scene at Dumbledore's death. The Ministry could plausibly try to argue that they hadn't been truthful about their involvement.
"That's just the start," Percy cut back in. "After a few weeks, they'll switch to these."
The second pair of fliers were also Wanted posters, but on Harry's poster, the header was changed to UNDESIRABLE No.1. Hermione's read, UNDESIRABLE No.2. And at the bottom, they said, REWARD: 10,000 GALLEONS ON HIS/HER HEAD.
"Wow, I'm an enemy of the state," Hermione quipped. "Is it a bad thing that I feel weirdly proud."
"Hermione, this isn't a laughing matter," George said. "They're going to offer ten thousand galleons for you? That's huge."
"I'm aware of how serious it is, George, but you know, there's an old maxim that says, 'You can always judge a person by the quality of their enemies…'" she said with a forced smile.
"Well, if that's true, then we're all in the good books somewhere," Percy said. "By the way, Dad, you're being tracked."
"Excuse me?" he said.
"They're watching your movements in public, especially your contacts with 'undesirables'. They can't get here, and they're not acting on it yet, but let's just say it's a good thing you're already at a safe-house."
"Goodness!" Molly said, slumping in her seat. "Arthur—"
"We'll worry about it later, Molly," he said in a voice that brooked no argument. "There's a lot more here, Percy. What else is coming?"
"I don't have a lot of the documentation on what they're doing when, but I managed to save a few memos. This is the centrepiece of the campaign their running this summer. Here, read it," he said with disgust. The document he produced was the draft of an article in the Daily Prophet—an article that hadn't run yet. He handed it to Hermione. She frowned as she read it as if she were handling a particularly distasteful insect.
Ministry Forms Muggle-Born Registration Commission.
"Oh, that's a bad sign," she said. Muggle-Born Registration Commission. Those were were words that just automatically sounded like bad news together—like Committee on Un-American Activities or Democratic People's Republic.
The Ministry of Magic is conducting a survey of so-called "Muggle-borns," the better to understand how they came to possess magical secrets.
Recent research undertaken by the Department of Mysteries reveals that magic can only be passed from person to person when wizards reproduce. Where no proven wizarding ancestry exists, the so-called Muggle-born is likely to have obtained magical power by theft or force.
The Ministry is determined to root out such usurpers of magical power, and to this end has issued an invitation to every so-called Muggle-born to present themselves for interview by the newly appointed Muggle-Born Registration Commission.
"Those bastards!" she spat. "No muggle-born will fall for this—no properly-educated muggle-born, anyway. Invitation? Bollocks!"
Hermione had once seen a Holocaust survivor speak in school—in that year before Hogwarts when she started muggle secondary school a year early. She remembered the greying Polish woman describing how the Nazis had invaded her town, which was just over the Polish border, on the first of September, 1939. One day, somewhat later, they came to the Jewish quarter of the town and gave the order—she repeated it in Polish and English—"Wszyscy Żydzi mogą wyjść—All Jews may come forth." Many of the men did so, it being so early in the war that they didn't know what it meant.
Those who did wound up in a mass grave by sundown.
"Yes, it's a fairly obvious ruse," Percy admitted. "But the Ministry's been getting away with those for years. Most people don't pay enough attention."
"Not muggle-borns," Hermione insisted. "I'm sorry, you wouldn't know. You didn't grow up in a muggle culture. This will trip our radar from miles away."
"Radar?" Arthur said.
"Not important. It'll be too obvious to ignore."
"Anyway," Percy said, "the Muggle-Born Registration Commission is the main thrust. Anyone who can't prove magical ancestry will lose their wand and with it their job prospects, with worse penalties if they try to hide or resist, or—" Percy actually rolled his eyes. "—if they can be proved to have stolen magic from someone."
Hermione scoffed: "I'm sure a few will be 'proved' so as to make an example of them."
Arthur frowned. "That could be," he said. "Maybe trot out a couple squibs to make claims about them having their magic stolen. The Death Eaters don't like squibs either, but they're opportunists."
That made quite a lot of sense. "Honestly, stealing magic," Hermione grumbled. "Even I wouldn't know where to start to do that even if I wanted to. It's probably impossible."
"It is impossible," George said. "You're born with magic or you're not."
"Exactly. I suspect it's a dominant gene that occasionally gets knocked out or goes inactive for a few generations," she said.
George stared at her: "Hold up, could you prove that?"
Hermione thought for a moment. "Probably yes…I'd need twenty years and a muggle genetics laboratory, but I could do it."
The Weasleys were all surprised by that—both that she thought it was possible and that it would take so long. Unfortunately, it wasn't at all useful, so they couldn't really say anything further.
"But stealing magic?" Fleur spoke up. "Everyone already knows zat ees impossible. Who would believe zat, even among purebloods?"
"They're going to build it up slowly over the summer," Percy explained. "Some of the worst bigots might already believe it, but they'll spread rumours about what the Unspeakables are doing, run letters to the editor suggesting it, get opinions from 'experts' speculating on it, and so forth. By the time they run that article, it'll be in people's minds, and they'll be wondering about it. Then, they start the propaganda campaign."
More pamphlets followed. One was titled Mudbloods, and the Dangers They Pose to a Peaceful Pure-Blood Society. It showed a picture of a young female face emerging from a red rose, which was being strangled by a green weed with fangs and a scowl. Another was Mudbloods and How to Spot Them, which showed a half-dozen blood-red hands grasping towards a white-silhouetted wizard. When Muggles Attack, had a shadowy, evil-looking man on the cover raising a knife above his head—a knife that just happened to be shaped like a lightning bolt. And The Muggle Conspiracy had a plain grey cover reminiscent of a conspiracy theorist's manifesto.
It was odd, Hermione thought. She'd been thinking about Nazis through all this, but the propaganda they were creating looked distinctly Soviet. Not that it made much difference.
"Once the propaganda sinks in," Percy said, "they'll move to the final phase." The next pages were the worst yet—not pamphlets or articles, but blueprints and schedules—technical details of one very bad plan.
"The Mudblood Relocation Camp?" Hermione growled.
"Relocation camp?" Molly said, confused. "They want to put the muggle-borns on a campsite."
"I don't think it's that kind of camp, Molly," Arthur said softly, showing a surprising amount of muggle awareness for him.
"No, Molly," Hermione agreed. "Definitely not that kind of campsite. This kind is surrounded by barbed wire fences and filled with mass graves."
Molly gasped softly. "Do you really think that, Hermione?" she asked. "I know You-Know-Who wants to kill all the muggle-borns, but to get the Ministry to do it…?"
"It's only one small step from a propaganda campaign to Ministry officials carrying out mass executions and saying, 'I vas just folloving orders.'" She said the last bit in an exaggerated German accent.
"'I vas just folloving orders?'" Percy asked in confusion.
Hermione sighed heavily: "Any muggle-born would know what that meant. Honestly, you got an O in Muggle Studies. You ought to—never mind. I'll tell you later. What else do you have?"
"I didn't see anything about mass executions here," Percy cautioned, "but it wouldn't surprise me if the camp was 'attacked' by Death Eaters at some point. The official story is that they're building it because they're anticipating not having enough room in Azkaban for muggle-borns who 'stole' magic…This is big enough to hold all the muggle-borns in the country." He paused a minute to let that sink in. From that fact alone, the implications were obvious. "So…then there's the changes they're making at Hogwarts," he continued awkwardly. "They're doing the Educational Decree thing again." He showed them:
Educational Decree Thirty-Four: Hogwarts is the only educational institution accredited to the Ministry of Magic.
Educational Decree Thirty-Five: Accredited education programs are forbidden to teach muggle-borns.
Educational Decree Thirty-Six: Accredited educational institutions must submit their staff to review by the Ministry.
Educational Decree Thirty-Seven: Accredited institutions must provide instruction in Muggle Studies to all students.
Educational Decree Thirty-Eight: The Wizarding Examinations Authority will offer a Dark Arts qualification.
"They're going to use Thirty-Seven to spread their propaganda at Hogwarts and Thirty-Four to enforce it on everyone this time. Thirty-Six lets them replace McGonagall with Snape as Head of Hogwarts."
"But that's okay, isn't it?" Hermione said. "Snape's on our side."
"He still has to keep up appearances. And they can always appoint more Death Eaters to other posts. These decrees basically let them take total control of the school."
"Can't the Board of Governors overrule them? The Ministry can withdraw accreditation, but if they won't accredit anyone, people will just ignore them."
"They could in principle, but the Death Eaters control the Board. They have the muscle to bribe, blackmail, and threaten the Board into submission, just like Lucius Malfoy did before they kicked him out."
"But even Umbridge didn't go that far," she protested.
"Umbridge didn't have an army…until now, anyway."
"What? What do you mean?"
"I haven't told you the worst yet." Percy looked around at his whole family, who were on the edges of their seats by now. "The Muggle-Born Registration Commission? I overheard Thicknesse saying he's going to let Dolores Umbridge out of Azkaban to lead it.
"No!" Hermione shouted.
"They can't do that!" Fred shouted.
"She had George whipped!" Molly cried.
"She Crucioed a student!" George said.
"Yes. Yes to all," Percy scowled. Hermione wondered how he felt about having supported the woman. "But the Unforgivable Curses might not be unforgivable for much longer. It's part of the new push for the Dark Arts they're making." He pulled out some more articles with headlines like What's so Dark About the Dark Arts? and The Noble History of Dark Magic.
"What's this crap?" Fred demanded.
"Trying to make it like the Dark Arts are just misunderstood. Like how a lot of magic in the old days was ritual magic, or how the Killing Curse was invented for a good reason to fight muggles during the witch hunts."
"That's awful," Molly said. "And they're going to be teaching this to children?"
Percy nodded while Bill frowned in thought. "I hate to say it, but that's a smart move on their part," Bill said. "The scary thing is, they're kind of half-right. After the last war, Dumbledore, Minister Bagnold, and Barty Crouch Sr. made a big push against the Dark Arts. They all had their own reasons, but they worked together on it. It wasn't regarded as negatively before then."
"That is true," Arthur admitted. "That's one of the reasons you hardly see ritual magic taught anymore."
"Right," Bill said. "But Aurors still use a fair amount of dark spells in a fight—the good ones, anyway, and Cursebreakers have to as familiar with it as your average Defence Professor. But this—" He looked over the articles. "Allowing the Unforgivables is too far. The Dark Arts have their place, but there are lines you just don't cross."
"Well, they're crossing them big time," Percy said. "That's what happens when the Ministry is run by Death Eaters. And that's why they're letting Umbridge out. She's the most Death Eater-like non-Death Eater I've ever met, and I wish I'd seen that earlier. She's the perfect person to go after muggle-borns. And if it's muggle-borns now, you can bet it'll be 'half-breeds' next."
"Terrible," Arthur said. "So what do we do?"
"I want to publish them," Percy said at once. "All at once. Lay it all out and hopefully shake people out of their complacency."
"The Ministry controls the Daily Prophet, though," George observed. "You won't get them to print any truth."
"I know. Hermione, as far as I know, The Quibbler is still running. Can you get an article to them again?"
"Yes, easily," she said. "But I think we should do more."
"More? What do you mean?"
"Not many people read The Quibbler regularly, even after Harry's big interview. We should make an effort to get the word out to other muggle-borns by word of mouth at the very least."
Percy nodded: "Yes, I can see that. That way they'll be warned in advance to go into hiding when the time comes."
"Or rather to get out of Britain now while they still can," Hermione corrected. "Or better yet, join the Resistance."
"Join the Resistance?" Molly said. "Since when is there 'the Resistance'?"
"Just mention the words, 'Mudblood Relocation Camp,'" Hermione said. "Trust me, Molly, there will be then. Every muggle-born will understand that."
"Merlin's beard," she muttered. "And Percy, you really gave up your job for this?" Hermione had been equally surprised by that, and George and Fred were absolutely stunned. They never expected Percy to do anything like this.
Percy shook his head: "Mum, I've never had a real job at the Ministry—not a worthwhile job, I mean. Mr. Crouch was Imperiused, Fudge was a joke, Scrimgeour only kept me around to get closer to Harry, and I'm pretty sure Thicknesse is Imperiused again. Beating You-Know-Who is more important."
"Bloody hell, Perce, you finally got the stick out of your arse," George said.
"Yes, yes, laugh it up," he groaned.
Hermione waved at the Twins to back down and stepped forward. "We mean it, Percy," she said, offering her hand to him. "You've done a great service for muggle-borns. Welcome to the Resistance."
Percy looked at her in surprise for a moment. Hermione was arguably the person he'd hurt most in terms of her personal safety by sticking with Fudge for so long. He shook her hand in gratitude: "Thank you, Hermione."
"Percy, what about your father?" Molly said. "Will he be safe to go back?"
"You don't need to worry about that, Molly," Arthur tried to assure her. He wasn't convincing.
"I don't know, Dad," Percy said. "They'll question you, for sure. It should be pretty clear I acted on my own. You can truthfully say I acted without your knowledge."
"Arthur, I don't think you should." Molly said. "Merlin knows what we'll do, but I don't want you going back if it's not safe."
"Molly," Hermione spoke up. "I've got money—more than I could possibly need. I know you won't want to take it, but this is war. We have to get by however we can."
"We've got money too," Fred added. "The shop's doing well." For now went unsaid, given the current climate.
"Boys. Hermione," Arthur stopped them. "We don't need to worry about all that yet. I'll ask around with the other Order members to poke around to see if I'll be allowed back. I figured I was being watched already. Percy's right. They'll know we weren't talking to each other."
"But if you're going to publish this—" Molly said.
"He doesn't need to be involved in that either, Molly," Hermione said. "I can organise it, and frankly, he couldn't stop me if he wanted."
"That's fair," Arthur agreed. "What about Ron and Ginny, son?"
"They'll be safe at Hogwarts until the end of term," Percy said. "They won't make any changes until summer. Come autumn…well, they'll probably have bigger problems to worry about."
"Yes. Percy's right. We need to move fast," Hermione agreed, standing up.
"So, Xeno Lovegood's place, then?" Arthur asked.
"Not quite yet," Hermione said. "Hogwarts first, I think."
Through Ron and Ginny, Hermione called a full meeting of the D.A. the next day and sneaked a newly-informed Harry into the castle with her. The group was back up to about thirty now, still bound by magical contract to keep it a secret. And predictably, they were disproportionately muggle-born, which was a good thing.
"Alright, everyone, listen up," Hermione addressed the group. "This isn't a training session today. This is a warning—a warning for all of you, but especially for my fellow muggle-borns. Everyone here should know the truth by now: the Ministry of Magic is compromised—Death Eaters running the show behind the scenes…We have now been given a secret dossier about what this Ministry is planning for the coming months. We plan on releasing this information to the public soon, but we want to control how we do it. So be careful about who you tell it to…Many Bothans died to bring us this information."
The muggle-borns laughed, albeit nervously, but the rest of the group looked worried.
"Huh? Who died?" Neville asked.
"What's a Bothan?" said Ginny.
"Sorry. Muggle joke. No one died. Our informant did get hexed pretty badly, though." Most of the group still looked cheerful. She looked around at the people who had laughed. Many of them seemed young. Dennis Creevey was only a third-year, and he wasn't the only one anymore, although she'd got up to all sorts of trouble younger than that. And now, she had to drop a big bombshell on them. "The muggle-borns are going to have to go into hiding," she said seriously.
The meeting immediately sobered up. "What do you mean? Why?" asked Justin Finch-Fletchley.
"Three words: Mudblood Relocation Camp."
The muggle-borns paled and gasped in horror as the words sunk in. The Creevey Brothers cursed loudly, and Anthony Goldstein exclaimed, "No! They wouldn't!"
"I've lived here as a muggle-born for six years, Anthony," Hermione said. "Trust me, they would."
"But that's mad!" said Dean Thomas. "British people won't stand for that."
Anthony shook his head: "British wizards would, Dean. Not enough of us get it. A lot of us don't even know what they did to Jews during Grindelwald's War. I just didn't think the Death Eaters would sink that low."
"Death Eaters don't have a limit to how far they'll sink," Harry said darkly.
"What's this all about, Anthony?" said a younger Ravenclaw Hermione didn't know. It was strange not to know all of the D.A. by name anymore.
"You can explain it later if that's alright, Anthony," she interrupted. "I have a lot of ground to cover, and some of it affects the purebloods, too." She explained in brief the other intelligence Percy had collected: the anti-muggle propaganda, the changes to Hogwarts' curriculum, and Snape as Headmaster (this elicited howls of protest, the loudest from Ron and Neville). By the time she was done, everyone was well aware of how serious this was.
"So what do we do?" asked Parvati, looking to Hermione.
Hermione looked to Ron and Ginny as the leaders of the D.A., but to her surprise, Ginny looked to Neville. Neville didn't hesitate when he saw her looking to him. "We keep fighting," he said. "Any way we can. We help muggle-borns, sabotage the Death Eaters, get the word out—although I guess Harry and Hermione are doing that?"
"And what do we muggle-borns do?" asked Sally-Anne. "We can only do so much to hide, especially the younger ones."
"My family doesn't even know most of it because I haven't been fool enough to tell them," Dean pointed out.
"Then it's time to be honest with them, Dean," Hermione said. She looked around at the muggle-borns again. "I'm sorry, but you won't be able to stay at home. The Ministry knows where most of us live. And Hogwarts knows where all of us live. My parents tried to stay at home, and they're dead now." She felt a little bad about lying about her parents like that, but it probably would have happened sooner or later. The other muggle-borns shivered. "Get out. Make yourselves Untraceable, or find someone you trust who can do it for you. You can try to fake your family history, but you'll be in that much more trouble if you get caught. I could probably fake a relationship to Hector Dagworth-Granger, but I'm not going to. You-Know-Who already wants me dead."
"I'll find a way to hide you, Sally-Anne," Lily Moon said. "My family has connections."
"I'm going to talk to my family," Anthony said firmly. "I'll make sure we find a way to help as many as possible. My grandparents nearly died in Grindelwald's War. They'll understand."
Several of the other D.A. members expressed similar intentions to hide muggle-borns or help them go into hiding. It heartened Hermione to see it. She had high hopes for this group. "Alright, that's all I have for you," she concluded. "Spread the word to the other muggle-borns, but don't let it go any further. We're going to try to make this public within the week, and we want a clean slate when we do." The meeting started to break up, and she added, "Ron, Ginny, Neville, Luna, and the Creevey Brothers, stay behind, please."
They did, and the group dropped down to eight. Ron and Ginny looked a little surprised that she invited Colin and Dennis. "Okay, the first thing we need to decide is how we're going to get the word out," Harry said.
"Luna, how does your father feel about the current situation?" Hermione asked. "Can we still print in The Quibbler?"
"Oh, certainly," Luna said. "Dad is against You-Know-Who. He's going to keep publishing against him as long as he can. We'd be happy to print your information."
"Good," Harry agreed. "And you'd better make it a special edition. We can't afford to wait until the next issue."
Luna nodded in agreement: "I'll write him a letter. But you two can probably visit him in person sooner. Do you want to bring in Rita Skeeter again?" asked Luna.
"After the hit piece she did on Dumbledore? Hell no," Hermione said. "We'll manage on our own. What about photos? Do you take them?"
"We're always happy to take freelance submissions. Unfortunately, we can't really pay anyone for them."
"That won't be a problem, Luna," she replied. "That's why I invited Colin and Dennis. Colin, this offer is mostly for you. I have a job I'd like to hire you for. It'll be dangerous, and if you get caught, they'll probably kill you."
Colin stared at her with wide eyes. "What is it?" he said.
"A war photographer."
Colin and Dennis looked at each other with a manic excitement. "Bloody hell," Colin said. "How does that work? What do you need me to do?"
"Basically, when an attack happens, you have to go in, get the photos, and get out fast, before you can be caught. Sonya will be able to help you with that. She might need to help you go into hiding as it is. The idea is to show people the horrors of war—people like the 'loyal' purebloods who wouldn't normally see it, I mean—or who would otherwise think it's justified. We need to bring more people to our side with things like that. It's that kind of thing that helped kick off the muggle anti-war movements of the sixties and seventies."
She realised Harry was staring at her. "What?" she asked.
"Nothing. It's just that you've thought a lot about this," he said. "You're way ahead of me."
"Don't worry, Harry. There's plenty for you to do, too. So Colin, are you willing to do this."
Colin agreed worryingly fast. "Yeah, I'll do it," he said. "I really wanna stop those bastards."
"Me too!" Dennis piped up.
"Good. Just be careful. Make sure Sonya is on hand in case of emergency, but have another backup plan on top of that. You can talk to Luna more about it later. Right now, Harry and I need to talk to the others in private."
Colin and Dennis agreed and left the room, leaving just six of them. "Okay, then," Harry said. "So Ron, Ginny, there's something else you should know. Our informant in the Ministry who dug up all this information? It was Percy."
Ron and Ginny gasped. "Percy?!"
"Yeah. He's okay, but he won't be able to go back to the Ministry."
"Percy quit his job?" Ginny gasped.
"Yeah, you should've seen him, you two," Harry said. "He's been gathering this information for months, and he came in and said beating You-Know-Who was more important and everything."
"No way!" Ron protested. "Are you sure that was Percy?"
"We told you about the hint he gave to George and Fred," Hermione pointed out. "He was really serious about getting their dirty secrets out."
"Bloody hell! Who would've thought?"
"So if Percy's in trouble with the Ministry, what about Dad?" Ginny said worriedly.
"We don't know yet," said Harry. "He's gonna talk to Kingsley and some other people in the Order to try to find out if it's safe. He says he'll work it out. And you'll be safe here for the rest of term. After that, we'll probably all have more to worry about."
"Well, I don't think I'm coming back anyway," Ginny said firmly.
"What? Ginny!" Ron said.
"Oh, like you're coming back," she said.
"Well…maybe not, but—"
"But nothing. I've got my O.W.L.s. Our family might be going into hiding as it is. Harry and Hermione are going to be going off fighting You-Know-Who. I'm not letting them go alone."
"But you're underage. You can't do magic."
Ginny laughed: "Ron, I had Hermione take the Trace off me at New Year's."
Ron gaped at her, but Hermione felt the need to clarify her. "Just so you know, this won't be a job of traipsing around the country for months, camping out, and looking for the…" She glanced at Luna and Neville. "…items we need. We have one item to find that we have absolutely no leads on, and most of the rest of it will be me doing research."
"But what about finding new ways to fight, like Neville said?"
"We'll do that too, but that's more Harry's department," she said.
Everyone looked at Harry, who looked uncomfortable. "Er…I can work out something," he said. "Like…I dunno, if they do start rounding up muggle-borns, I'd want to do something about, that if we can."
"Then I'll be with you, Harry," Ginny said, and she kissed him.
"So what does that mean for us?" Neville said uneasily where he stood with Luna.
Hermione smirked. "This is why I asked you to stay," she said. "Neville, Luna, if Ron and Ginny leave, this means you will be in charge of Dumbledore's Army next year. Harry and I talked it over, and we decided we trust you more than anyone else."
"Oh…" Neville said. "I…I guess we can do that."
"Of course we can," Luna said. She had turned serious and lost her usual dreamy quality. "You'll be a very good leader." She stood on her toes and kissed Neville on the cheek. He blushed heavily.
"I'm sure you can do it, Neville," Hermione repeated. "And we have some things to give you that you might need. You've already got the rings and the galleons, but these should help you with the D.A. more. Ron, you have the contract?"
"Uh, yeah. Here." Ron pulled out the apparently-blank parchment that housed the D.A. contract and gave it to Neville. "Um, you make it show up by saying, 'Now is the time for all good men to come to the aid of their country.' And you hide it by saying, 'Loose lips sink ships.'"
"Right, got it," Neville said.
A few quick changes from Hermione gave Neville and Luna the authority to recruit new members. She then pulled out another blank piece of parchment and held it out to them. "This is the Mathemagician's Map. I don't think I've shown it to you yet, so I'll show you how to use it. Look." She tapped her wand to the parchment and said. "Dos moi pa sto, kai tan gan kinaso—Give me a place to stand, and I will move the Earth."
"Whoa," Neville said as he saw the map of Hogwarts draw itself. "This is your map? You're letting us have this?"
"It's no big deal. I can always make another one," she assured them, and she quickly walked them through its basic functions. Since she needed a quick way to wipe it, the code for that was simply "Eureka!" since one had presumably found what one needed on the Map when done with it.
"Thank you, Hermione," Luna said. "This will be very useful."
"I'm sure it will," she said. "Harry?"
"Ginny, you have your mirror?" Harry said.
"Yeah. Here it is."
"Good." Harry took the mirror and handed it to Luna. "This is a two-way mirror. Sirius gave it to me. If you say my name into it, you'll be able to talk to me directly. This way, we'll be able to keep each other up to date on everything, and it's untraceable."
"Wow. Thanks, Harry," Neville said, sounding relieved. As far as he'd come in the group, he would still want a lifeline to fall back on.
"And there's one more thing," Hermione said. Slowly, she reached into her robes and pulled out a notebook filled with extensive notes from her Dictaquill. She handed it to Neville. "This is my spellbook," she said.
Neville looked shocked and jerked his hand back. "You want to give us your spellbook?" he said in surprise.
"Yes. I know it's customary to be protective of the spells you invent, but this is war. We need every advantage we can get. I'm trusting you two to use it well and choose wisely which spells you teach to whom. Not all of them are suitable for everyone in the group. I didn't put all of my spells in there, but I put in everything I've taught Harry, which is more than I've taught to anyone else—including some spells to rearrange molecules, which is powerful and dangerous magic. Can you two handle this?"
Faced with this responsibility, Neville rose to the occasion. He stood up straighter and said, "Yes, Hermione, we can. This is a lot of trust you're putting on us. We won't let you down."
"Of course, Hermione," Luna agreed. "We're with you. And I bet a lot of the D.A. will be excited to have your spellbook on hand."
"Very good," she said. "Thank you for doing this. I think Dumbledore's Army is in good hands."
A/N: The story Hermione recalls about the Polish Holocaust survivor is a based on a real woman I saw speak twice in middle school. I'm sorry to say I don't remember her name, nor can I find it anywhere. (This was before the days of online news.) I hope I'm remembering her story correctly, and that I'm not conflating it with someone else's story. The details are fuzzy after so much time. I do clearly remember her repeating the order in Polish and English, though, so I pretty sure that part is right. I used Google Translate for that, so I apologise for any mistakes.