"Were you trying to start a riot?" Rowle asked.

I stared up at him and didn't say anything. I was used to having to look up at everyone, but he was a very large man, and he was clearly used to using his size to intimidate people. He loomed over me, standing just a little too close, although I noticed that he carefully kept his hand away from his wand.

It shouldn't have worked; even the smallest Wizard could beat the largest muggle. Human nature was what it was, however, and it had apparently worked often enough for him to keep using it.

"Do you really think being hauled off to Azkaban would do your classmates any good?"

"They wouldn't be..."

"If I was what you think I am, I'd have them sent to Azkaban or possibly home in pine boxes," he said. "I'm no Dumbledore, but I could have taken the lot of them."

If he was really that confident, he wouldn't be so cautious with me... unless it was because I was an unknown quantity. I'd been known to kill six Death Eaters, and he hadn't really seen me fight. That kind of caution spoke well of him; it suggested that he was a little less stupid than some of them.

Either that, or he simply didn't have a lot of confidence in the kinds of Wizards produced by this school, which might be another sign of not being stupid.

"The Ministry just tried to kill us," I said.

"I agree," he said.


"Dementors don't go off plan like that, not unless they are offered a temptation they can't resist or they are ordered to. I can't imagine that any muggleborn is particularly happy right now, not with the way the political world is... which means that they'd make substandard targets.."

"You knew..."

He shook his head and scowled. "I don't know why you think that we're your enemies. Most purebloods don't agree with all this claptrap. Muggleborns are Wizards too; it's not like they are muggles."

I let that pass. He hadn't answered my question.

"There are elements of the government who don't agree that muggleborn deserve the same rights as everyone else," he continued. "I had no idea that they would go this far, but I suspected that they would try something."

"And that's why you were already on your way to us?" I asked.

He shook his head and scowled.

"I just knew that leaving a class of over a hundred children without supervision was a terrible idea," he said. "We're lucky you didn't burn down the castle."

"You don't think much of children, do you?"

"I was a child once," he said dourly. "That was enough. Where do you think the evil in Death Eaters and their ilk comes from? They never outgrew what comes naturally to them as children."

Ah. So children were evil.

"So what do you intend to do about it?" I asked. "They just tried to murder possibly a quarter of the students remaining in Hogwarts. Whatever you think of muggles, do you think they'll leave their children in this school once they found out what happened?"

"Nobody was hurt," he said.

"Wizards think like that," I asked. "Because they can heal from almost anything. Muggles are a lot more fragile, which means they ware even more protective of their children. If you don't believe me, just ask professor..."

He waved his hands.

"I'll think of something. The important thing is that you don't spread rumors that I had anything to do with this."

"Why?" I asked. "It would probably make you more popular in the government."

"I don't care about that," he said. "I came here to turn boys into men, and girls into women, not to kill them."

Presumably to make them less evil?

I stared at him assessingly. It was possible that I'd misread him; I still wasn't sure.

"Is the Ministry going to remove the dementors?" I asked.

He stared at me, and then said, "I'll protest, but they'll insist that this was a tragic mistake, that they are doing everything they can to keep the students safe."

"Then teach us the patronus spell," I said.

"That's a high order spell," he said, "Difficult to learn. Ask Lockhart."

"Do you really think Lockhart can cast it?"

There was the slightest wince on his face before it smoothed into impassiveness.

"Perhaps have Flitwick teach it in his classes," I said. "To everyone who can learn it, but especially the muggleborns since we've been targeted."

He frowned, then nodded.

"I'll speak to Filius," he said. He stared at me. "As for you, I'm going to have to have you in detention."

Looking at the chains hanging behind him, I shook my head.

"Not the chains," he said. "Those are just for the worst of the worst...the Weasleys if we can catch them. But if I'm not seen to discipline you, I will have no authority whatsoever."

I realized that I was shivering.

"What's wrong with you?" he asked. He reached out and grabbed my arm, then hissed.

Pulling out his wand, he pointed it at me. Immediately I felt warmth surrounding me.

"What is this?"

"It's cold around the dementors," I admitted. "And once I stopped moving..."

This body was smaller than my last, and that meant that the cold penetrated faster. I didn't have enough body fat to keep myself warm. The cold had penetrated all the way to my bones, even with the warming charm, I felt chilled.

"We'll get you down to Pomfrey," he said. "Do you need chocolate?"

"Chocolate?" I asked. Was he like Dumbledore? I'd always wondered if those candies he offered everyone were laced with something. I was probably wrong.

"To deal with the aftereffects of dealing with the Dementor's affect on people," he said. He stared at me. "You didn't feel it at all, did you?"

"You have to have happy memories for them to steal," I said. I met his gaze. "And I haven't had that many since I moved to this world... the Wizarding World."

"And before that?" he asked.

"I grew up in a tough neighborhood," I said. "I haven't been happy in a long time, and I know how to deal with that."

He didn't look convinced, but he gestured for me to follow, and we headed for the infirmary.

The room was filled with weeping students. It looked like a war zone. Some of the students had been trampled in the panic as the others tried to get away; others were dealing with the emotional aftereffects of what had happened.

Heads started to turn as soon as we entered the room, and voices quieted, although I could hear some of the students still moaning in the background.

Everyone was staring at me.

Hermione wasn't here; the students who'd fought and not been injured had all been sent to their quarters. These were those who'd been left lying on the ground, the wounded, and the most vulnerable.

I saw a sudden movement from my left, and my hand went to my wand. Before I could raise it, I was enveloped in a hug by Colin Creevy. He sobbed into my shirt, and muttered something, I assumed thanking me.

I stood stiffly in his embrace. The cold must be affecting my reaction speed, or the exhaustion. I felt suddenly drained, as though I'd been running for miles. Slowly, Colin pulled away from me and looked up with me, with something in his eyes that it took me a moment to identify.

It was gratitude.

One student, I didn't see who, began to clap.

The others rose to their feet, those that were able, and they all began to clap. I heard them cheering, and it took me a moment to understand.

This felt strange.

I'd had moments like this in my own life; there'd been a moment in a school cafeteria when students had stood up for me against the world's premiere heroes, forming a human shield.

But this was the first time it had happened in this world. I'd had more rejection here than I'd had at home; for being a mudblood, for being violent, for being different. It shouldn't have mattered; they were just children, and their opinion should have meant nothing to me. For some reason, though, I felt a lump in my throat.

Rowle must have sensed my unease, because he said "Being on the side of what's right often means no one notices or cares. But then there are moments like this...appreciate it while it lasts."

Rowle waited until the applause had died down before gesturing for Madam Pomfrey.

"Miss Hebert got chilled when she was fighting the dementors," Rowle said. "Take care of her as you will."

"Are you injured, Miss Hebert?" she asked, moving suddenly to my side. "I've been hearing some unbelievable stories about you."

I shrugged.

Most of the stories about me were unbelievable, including some that were outright ridiculous. That Luna girl still thought I was some kind of mutant boggart.

"Nothing that can't be fixed," I said.

She pointed her wand at me, something I wouldn't have allowed from another wizard without an explanation.

"Some muscle stiffness," she said. "Bruises on your left arm and right knee. Your core body temperature is low; that's why you are shivering."

She made several notes on a sheet of paper, which she handed to me. I looked at it, but didn't understand anything on it, except that there was an outline of a human body that looked a little like the targets used on a gun range. She's made marks on the places where I was presumably injured.

"I'll be fine in a little bit," I said. "Why don't you help those who need it?"

"I've got the sixth and seventh years helping with the minor sprains and injuries," she said. "With those who are emotionally more stable handing out chocolate. Take a bed, Miss Hebert, and someone will be around to you shortly."

The beds were all taken up, so I sat in one of the visitor's chairs.

Students surrounded me almost immediately, hands reaching out to touch me as they thanked me over and over. Some of them had questions.

I didn't like being crowded like this; it would be easy for someone to slip in and attack me in the middle of all the well wishers.

"Back off," I heard a male voice say. It was one of the seventh years, and he pushed his way through the others. "She needs help just as much as any of you, so back the hell up!"

It took a little bit, but everyone seemed to get the hint. They backed up, leaving a ten foot ring around me.

"I'm sorry about that," he said. "I don't think anybody's really themselves right now."

He pulled out his wand, and looking at my paper, I proceeded to cast spells on the parts of me that had been injured. I felt a sudden absence of a pain I hadn't even been aware of.

"I don't know what to make of you, Hebert," he said. "It was all I could do to stand up out there and you... it was like it didn't affect you at all."

"You don't give in to despair," I said after a long moment when I realized that he was looking for some kind of an answer. Everyone huddled around us was listening too. "You fight through it, and you beat it."

I knew it wasn't that simple. I'd seen my own father's depression, and there had been times in my life where I'd been so depressed that it had been hard to move. But these kids needed something more than the idea that working through despair was a long and arduous task. They needed something to aspire to.

Miss Yamada had even questioned whether my throwing myself at Lung on my first night as a hero had been an unconscious form of committing suicide.

Looking up at everyone, I said, "I've had some experience with all of this, and I can tell you one thing."

Everyone stared at me expectantly.

"We're going to have to help each other," I said. "In America, the muggle military has a saying... Leave no man behind."

I saw people looking down at their feet. These weren't the people who'd tried lobbing spells. These were the people who had run, or who had been trampled, or those who'd simply collapsed.

"I can't fight," One girl said. "Not those."

"Then you help somebody else run," I said. "Get to a door and enlarge it so they can't get through."

"I'm not brave," she said.

"You don't have to be brave to help people," I said. "You just have to do it. Things like this are going to happen in this world, more now than ever."

Helping people at a risk to yourself, even when you were afraid was the very definition of brave. But I couldn't let them think that bravery was something that was inborn; it was the result of choices people made to overcome fear.

"Maybe I'll just go home," a fourth year said.

"And how will you explain missing three and a half years of school?" I asked. "What kind of a job will you get without an education?"

I saw the realization on the faces of some of the crowd, while I could see that others had already thought about it.

"This place is a trap, even when there's not a war on," I said. "They make it so that we can't ever go back to the muggle world; they cut our tied and they make us live completely in their world."

"We could still go home, at least until this is all over," One sullen boy said.

"They've been killing muggleborn before they come here," I said. "How are you going to defend yourself at home? By yourselves? They'll start picking through everybody who goes home and you'll all be dead in a week."

There was a sudden murmuring of dismay from the crowd.

"They've backed us into a corner," I said. "And the only way we're going to survive is if we are better than they are. That's not just morally. Most Wizards don't even know the shield spell by the time they graduate. We all need to know the patronus, shields and other spells... enough that we can get away if we are attacked."

I could see some resistance on the faces of some; I'd have had an easier time convincing those who had stepped up to fight in the first place. I could see a sort of resigned acceptance on other faces.

"How?" I heard a girl say. "Lockhart isn't teaching us anything like combat spells."

"Then we have to take things in our own hand. How many of you were in the dueling club last year?"

A smattering of them raised their hands; mostly those who had collapsed without having a chance to fight. I had an ugly suspicion that those were the children who'd had the worst childhoods, given what I knew.

None of the others raised their hands, or even admitted to have attending.

"We need to do something like that again," I said. "In secret, because if some people in the Ministry hear about it, they'll make it out like we are a muggleborn army training to take over."

"Is that what we'd be doing?" a small boy asked.

"No," I lied. "We'd just be learning to protect ourselves."

Eventually the Wizarding world was going to have to change. The statute of Secrecy was going to be incredibly difficult to maintain once cell phones started uploading suspicious activity to an Internet the purebloods did not understand.

If I were running things, I'd have muggleborns joining the muggle military and intelligence agencies. With key people in place, it would be easier to keep track of what governments knew, and to be able to make changes as necessary. Once those people retired, they'd be able to train aurors to be better at their jobs as well.

The seventh year said, "You sound like somebody who wants to overthrow the system. You know...after today, I'm kind of OK with that."

I looked around.

"There will be traitors among us, people who will try to sell us out to the Ministry or the Death Eaters."

Everyone shook their heads.

"What if they threatened to kill your family?" I asked. "That would be different. If we were to start teaching each other, it would have to be something that no one knew about and no one could talk about."

"You just told it to all of us," the seventh year said. "Kind of hard to keep it a secret."

"There are ways," I said.

I'd had something like this in the back of my mind for a while, and I'd researched what had to be done.

"How many of you might be interested?"

A hand went up, followed by another, and then another. Pretty soon, almost everyone standing around me had raised their hands.

"What's going on?" I heard Pomprey say. She'd left the room to get some more potions, something that I'd made sure of before I'd started my treasonous remarks.

"Go back to your beds this instant!" she said. "Miss Hebert will still be here tomorrow, assuming young Mister Jeffries knew his healing as well as his marks say he does."

"Mark Jeffries,' the seventh year said. "I think this is going to be an interesting year."