Author's Note:This was inspired by a lack of NotNiceButGood!Slytherin students in Order of the Phoenix, one or two mentions of the mysterious Theodore Nott, and the Sorting Hat's song. Please forgive the paragraphing, as this is our first try at uploading to Fanfiction.Net and we haven't figured that out quite yet. Note that this is also our first fanfic, so don't be too nasty when reviewing (however, constructive criticism will be gratefully accepted.)
Disclaimer: Everything in this belongs to the wondeful JK Rowling, who created the HP universe, with the exceptions of Althea Chaudry and Thomas Everly (who belong to us), and Estella Haywood and Anne Fairleigh (who theoretically belong to us. However, we rather think they belong to themselves.) We are making no profit from this, etc., etc. Bottom line: it's just for fun.
Harry scowled at his Potions essay. While homework was not quite as bad this year as it had been last year, it was still heavy, and he did not want to be doing this. Between Voldemort's return, incipient captaining of the Quidditch team — now that had been a shock — and homework, he felt more than a little snowed under. Since Quidditch hadn't started and there wasn't an awful lot he could do right now about Voldemorthis mind pushed that thought awayhe was concentrating on the homework. It was a Friday evening, the first week back, and Ron and Hermione were at a prefects' meeting. Ginny had taken one look at the amount of homework she had, now she was starting her OWL year, gone pale, and dragged him off to the library to keep her and Luna company in their misery. Neville had avoided this adroitly by muttering something about watering plants. So Harry was sitting in the library, pretending to do his essay, and really watching the girls. Luna had her wand tucked behind her ear and her mind in another dimension entirely (fair enough given she was doing Divination homeworkas far as he could tell.) Ginny was muttering to herself and writing a Defence Against the Dark Arts essay, her hand barely pausing as it flew across the page. But then, thought Harry to himself, an essay on the theory and practice of Patroni would not present too much of a problem to a witch who could produce one, even if she'd never been tested against Dementors. That had been at that last meeting in April. Then they'd had to run from Umbridge, and Dumbledore had taken the blame. And then Ginny had put her training to use against the Death Eatersa situation that was unfortunately likely to reoccur.
The thought struck him — what about continuing Dumbledore's Army this year? Granted, they had a relatively competent Defence teacher, whose stated goal for the year was "to make sure if any of you meet a Death Eater you walk away", and granted, the need wasn't so great. But still it would be good to get that practise in — and truth be told, Harry missed the meetings, the pride of seeing the others master spells and learn, the companionship. The feeling of them being something more than just Gryffindors or Hufflepuffs or second years or seventh years. They had been a team, a group, and when six of them had been tested at the end of the year, they had already achieved what Professor Arcness had set as a goal. They had come face to face with Death Eaters, and been outnumbered, and walked away. Metaphorically speaking.
Even if Sirius hadn't.
Ginny looked up, brushing strands of flame-red hair out of her face. "Something wrong?" she asked quietly. Her mouth twitched. "You know, you haven't written anything for at least ten minutes." Luna was paying them no mind.
"I, was, I, uh" Harry grasped for something to say. "Looking at you", while true, seemed somewhat inappropriate. "Thinking. About stuff. Andthings."
Ginny snickered. "Right. Elucidate."
"Elucyou've been spending far too much time with Hermione, you know that?"
"I was thinking about Dumbledore's Army. About whether" he lowered his voice. "We should start up again. What d'you think?"
"I think of course" she said in a faintly puzzled tone. "Professor Arcness is good" she gestured with her quill, splattering ink onto the essay "Oh dammitbut we can use the practice. Next time we see Lestrange and Malfoy and the rest of them, I want to be able to stand up to them, not break my ankle and be Stunned. And we will see them." The last sentence was not a question.
"I guess I should ask, though", Harry said reluctantly. "They did repeal all those stupid decrees, but — if we can get permission — we won't have to go behind everyone's backs, or get in trouble, again, and it's not as if he's likely to disagree -"
"Professor Arcness thinks it's a good idea." Harry and Ginny both turned to stare at Luna, who, it appeared, had come down off her cloud long enough to hear them speaking. "He doesn't mind."
"How do you-" Harry managed to get out.
"Oh, he was asking why we did so well when we had our first practical Defence lesson, so I told him about what we did. Not everything, of course" she added with a slight frown. "Just that some of us had practised a bit outside of class last year, and we wanted to keep doing it this year." She smiled vaguely and bent her head to write again.
"Oh. Right. Well. I'llwe're going to have to contact everyoneand I dunno if they kept their coinsdo you two have yours?"
Ginny produced hers from an inner pocket. "What about you?" she asked, with a meaningful look.
"It's" Harry thought for a moment. "In my trunk?"
Ginny sighed. "I'll help you look for it later."
"You can't come into our dorm!"
She raised an eyebrow. "No, you look, and then when you can't find it, you tell me where you looked, and I'll tell you where it probably is."
"How does that work?"
She grinned. "Works for Mum every time."
"You are not my mother, Ginny Weasley."
Ginny smirked and tossed her hair. "I'm glad you noticed."
Harry had the sudden thought that Ginny was, really, quite pretty. Especially when she was smiling like that
"Hello, Harry, anyone there?"
He jumped and went a bit red. He had been staring.
"Um. So, I reckon most people won't be carrying their coins on them -"
"I am" said Luna brightly.
"Yeah, but, uh, I reckon more people will have left them somewhere like -"
"Ginny! Will you just let me finish! D'you think I could put up a notice on the House notice boards?"
"That'd work. Gryffindor's easy enough, Luna can do Ravenclaw and you can ask Ernie or Hannah to put one up for the Hufflepuffs." Ginny pulled across a piece of parchment briskly.
"What shall we put on it?"
She dipped her quill in the inkpot. "Right. We don't want to attract too much attention with this, I think, so"
Harry thought for a second. "All DA membersplease attend a brief meeting in our usual room to discuss arrangements for this year's practises at eight p.m. this Sunday?"
Ginny copied it down as he spoke. "Very professional."
He shrugged. "Same as all the other notices. You think Sunday's not to soon?"
"Gives people the weekend to see it, and there's only what, thirty of us."
"Twenty four" put in Luna, not looking up.
"I'm sure there were more" Ginny frowned. "Oh, but the seventh years are gone, of course, and Marietta won't be coming back." She scowled. "Or she better not try, anyway."
"Cho will" said Luna.
"What makes you think that?" asked Harry, surprised. He wouldn't have expected Cho to want to be within a mile of the DAalthough her boyfriend was in it, he supposed.
"She asked me about it. She said she wanted to keep practising, especially now You-Know-Who is back." Even Luna could not say that without a thread of tension creeping into her voice.
"Do we want to get more people to join?" asked Ginny. "I think they could learn a lot -"
"Y'know, there is a bit of a practical limit on how many people I can actually teach at one time" said Harry dryly.
"I think we should try and get more of the sixth and fifth years to come. If they want to. The seventh years might not want to come, and anyone youngerthere won't be time."
"What d'you mean, there won't be time?" Harry looked at her blankly. "You and Luna were fourth years when this started, Dennis Creevy's only a second year, wait, third year now -"
"Harry." Ginny shook her head. "The whole point of this last year was to get practice at practical Defence Against the Dark Arts, right? And we did. Because we knew T- he was coming back. But now we know he's back, we've fought Death Eaters, we know what we're up against, and the point this year isn't practice. The point, this year, is to get enough people good enough fast enough that when they are attacked, or caught in an attack — and people will be, especially with you around — they can fight back."
Harry acknowledged the truth of that last. People near him got hurt.
"Anyone younger than fifth year can learn a lot, but not enough to fight Death Eaters. So since there's a limit on how many people can come, we need to ask people who can learn enough because they already have the experience. Don't you agree, Luna?" She turned to the Ravenclaw for assistance.
"Oh yes" Luna said absently, turning a page in her Divination textbook. "Quite."
"So?" Ginny turned back to Harry.
"I guess you're right" he said slowly. "The little kids have a good teacher, but if this is about extra practice, nowI guess you two can ask around your yearand I know Hermione can find other sixth-years"
"We need to ask the Slytherins" said Luna, out of nowhere.
"What?" asked Harry and Ginny in unison.
"The Slytherins. They're not all bad. The Sorting Hat was talking about uniting all our Houses, wasn't it? In that song, you know, last year. And this year. Some of the Slytherins in my year are quite nice. Like E-"
"No" said Harry flatly. "Half of them are Death Eaters' kids, the other half agree with them! Unless you reckon we should help train up the enemy as well? Make it a fair fight?"
"I think Luna has a point" said Ginny quietly.
"But they'rethey're just Slytherins! That says it all!"
"And that's what we need to fight against!" Ginny sounded quite angry. "I bet that's what the Death Eaters say! They're just halfbloods, they're just Muggle-lovers, they're just the enemy, why bother? I was nearly Sorted into Slytherin! They're meant to be ambitious, Harry, and determined, and cunning, and those aren't all bad things. Sure, more Dark wizards come from Slytherin, but good wizards do as well! Look at Mad-Eye Moody, he was in Slytherin, and he's on our side. If we decide to leave them out of this, we exclude them deliberately because they are Slytherin, how will that make them feel? What if some of them don't want to be Death Eaters, want to fight You-Know-Who, but no-one's helping them do that? We can only win this if all the Houses work together!" She was quite flushed, now, and leaning across the table to make her point clearer. Harry moved back a couple of inches.
"Yeah, but — wait. Mad-Eye was in Slytherin? How d'you know that?"
"I asked him, once." Ginny shrugged. "I know it'll be hard to find any Slytherins who want to come, but I'm just saying, Luna's right. If we do, we should let them in. Hermione and Ron will probably agree with you on this, but — give it a thought?"
Harry sighed internally. If he did say no, he wouldn't hear an end to it. A small part of him was longing for the days when Ginny didn't talk to him, didn't come along to pull him out of himself when he wanted to be alone, didn't tell him offdidn't enlist him to pull pranks on Ron and laugh and be there and make him feel like maybe things could be okay when Ron and Hermione were off doing other things and he was alone
"Alright. I'll think about it", he said. He was rewarded with a brilliant smile.
"Will you put that notice up, Luna?"
"If you want me to."
"I'll just copy it out again -" Ginny got out some more parchment.
That night in his dorm, he thought about what Ginny had said. Slytherins. The ones he knew weren't very niceMalfoy, Pansy Parkinson, Crabbe, Goyleand he remembered Hagrid telling him almost every Dark witch and wizard had been a Slytherin. Voldemort had been. They were the enemy. Why get them into Dumbledore's Army, when they'd just take what he taught them and use it for Voldemort —
But then other memories came into his mind. Himself, being Sorted. The Sorting Hat telling him, not once but twice, that he would have done well in Slytherin. Not because of being marked by Voldemort, as he'd half-hoped once he'd known, but because he had power and ambitionthings he was born withand later, Dumbledore telling him he had many qualities prized by Slytherin. If he was that close to being one of themand then there was Ginny. Maybe it had only been because of her possession by Riddle, but he had a feeling it wasn't. She was powerful, too, the twins had said, and determined, and rule breaking, and knew what she wanted. And Mad-Eye, too, had been a Slytherin, Mad-Eye the Auror who was as strongly against the Dark Arts as anyone he knew. Andhe thought of the memories he'd seen of Snape's. The scared child, the lonely teenager, his own father and Sirius acting likelike Malfoy. Like those Death Eaters at the Quidditch World Cup. Maybe if they hadn't been that nasty to Snape — maybe he wouldn't have become a Death Eater in the first place. They had been Gryffindor, and he'd been Slytherin, but they had bullied himand he'd had the courage to come back, hadn't he? Or Wormtail, he'd been a Gryffindor, and he'd betrayed them all. Maybemaybe Houses weren't as important as he had thought. Maybe — Houses were just about what you were, not about what you did
With that on his mind, Harry drifted off into an uneasy sleep.
That Sunday evening, he stood at one end of the Room of Requirement and watched the mis-matched, oddball, and very competent group that made up Dumbledore's Army straggle in. There were the Patil twins, Seamus and Dean, the three Ravenclaw boys including Ginny's ex-boyfriend, Michael Corner, followed closely by his current girlfriend Cho. The Creevy brothers, the Hufflepuffs, Neville, Luna, Ginny, and Hermione all at once, Katie Bell, and lastly Ron, who closed the door behind him and locked it. Everyone was chatting animatedly as they settled down on the large cushions. Harry cleared his throat.
"Right, is everyone here? Okay. You all know how we got busted last year, but all those idiotic decrees and that have been recalled, so this is all legal now." There was a small burst of chuckles.
"So, I've talked to Professor Arcness and Professor McGonagall -" Dumbledore had been away — "and they say it's okay for us to start practicing again. I know we do, weirdly enough, have a Defence Professor who is not evil, stupid, or possessed -" another bout of chuckles and nods "but I reckon, with Voldemort backand doing thingswe can all use the practice. I know it'll be hard with Quidditch and real Defence lessons and everything, but I reckon it's worth it — it'll be worth it later. This is a war. Anyone who doesn't want to keep coming is free to leave, but I'd like it if you all stayed." Harry realised with a start he really, really didn't want anyone to go. They were allhe didn't think he could quite say students, but everyone had got so much better with this, and he wanted them to keep getting better, to know that they were learning to protect themselves and he was helping them do that.
"Harry, mate" said Ron "if any of us didn't want to be here, we wouldn't have come."
"Besides, who'd want to give this up?" asked Susan Bones. "Professor Arcness is good, but I don't think we'll get to learn Patroni anytime soon in Defence." There was a murmur of agreement and nodding.
"Well, if you all want to stay, that's, uh, great" declared Harry. "And-"
Padma Patil put up her hand. He blinked. This was getting far too much like a class. "I'm not Umbridge, you know", he said to her. She went red. "Oh. Oops. Well, I was just wondering, can we invite other people along this year? Because if you know Lisa Turpin, she's in my class, and I think she'd like to come. So could I bring her next time?" There were murmurs of agreement. Hannah Abbot and Colin Creevy both said they had people they wanted to bring, too.
"We have room for more people now the seventh-years are gone" said Hermione thoughtfully.
"Well" said Harry "I, uh, reckon you can bring people if you want to, as long as they really want to be here. Because the last time someone didn't, that was a bit of a problem." There were mutters, angry ones. Cho went red. Harry ignored her. "So, I don't want to keep you ages tonight, but we can work out the date for our next meeting. You can bring people then. How's Wednesday for everyone? At seven?"
"Quidditch practice" called out Zachariah Smith gloomily.
"What about Thursday?" suggested Hermione practically. There was general agreement at this.
"Cool, so, see you all here on Thursday at seven" said Harry. People got up to leave slowly, talking excitedly to one another about what they'd be doing. It gave Harry a warm feeling to see everyone so happy to be doing something, doing this, so united. When Dumbledore's Army got together, he could forget prophecy and fate and danger, because it really did feel like they could do anything.
"Harry" said Hermione, breaking into his thoughts, "I was just wondering, what are we going to be working on this year? I mean have you thought about -"
"Hermione" said Harry patiently "I do, sometimes, think further ahead than the next five minutes, y'know? I reckon we'll keep going with Patroni because with the Dementors working for Voldemort, everyone'll need to know that."
"Cool" said Ginny with a grin. "Maybe this time I can find out what mine is, I was getting close when we got interrupted that day"
Ron called Marietta Edgecombe something under his breath that made Hermione nudge him sharply in the ribs. "Ron" she said warningly.
He rolled his eyes.
Harry and Ginny exchanged wry glances. "We better get back to the Common Room" said Harry out loud. He and Ginny led the way, with Ron and Hermione following, still arguing. Harry leaned across to mutter in Ginny's ear — she was nearly the same height as him.
"What is with those two?"
Ginny patted him on the arm. "Wait and see, Harry, wait and see."
She grinned. All girls are mad, thought Harry gloomily to himself.
Harry was once again in the library; it was Wednesday night, and he had wanted to check out a couple of books that he thought might be useful for his nest Transfiguration essay. As he walked towards the library exit, he heard a voice hail him quietly from between two of the shelves.
"Hey, Potter." It was not anyone he knew. He stopped and turned to look.
"Potter, can I have a word?" The speaker, to Harry's enormous surprise, was a weedy-looking Slytherin with dark hair and a slightly sullen look. Harry recalled Hermione once telling him his name was Theodore Nott; they'd seen him talking to Malfoy and his croniesafter the Quibbler interview when Harry had named his father as a Death Eater. Harry remembered the graveyard, and a masked figure laughing as he'd screamed
"Look, Nott" he said "Let's not waste anyone's time. Your dad's on Voldemort's side, and we both know I know that. And frankly, if you're looking to get revenge on me over what happened last year with the interview, it's a little late. So just don't bother."
Nott scowled, and said hotly "Shut your mouth, Potter, this isn't about -" With a visible effort he took hold of himself.
"Potter, I'm not interested in what you said about my father last year. We both know that it's — that it's true. That's not what I want to talk to you about, okay? But I'm not stupid enough to be caught talking to you in the middle of the library, so would you mind coming over here?"
Harry realised that Nott had been speaking in a very low voice, and he was standing far enough back between the shelves that he would be invisible to casual passers-by. He considered it for a moment. What could a Slytherin have to talk to him about, that he didn't want anyone else to see? Mad-Eye Moody would definitely have things to say about agreeing to go talk to a known enemy by himselfbut then, they were still in the Library, which had a fair number of people, and Nott couldn't be that much of a threat.
"Alright, then" said Harry, walking towards Nott. His free hand was hovering near the wand in his sleeve. "What is it?"
Nott took a breath. Up close, he looked less sullen and more hunted. "Last yearlast year, you and your mates were running a secret Defence Against the Dark Arts club, weren't you? Malfoy helped break it up. He was pretty cocky about thatnot so much about what the Weasleys, Longbottom and Lovegood did at the end of term, though."
Harry suppressed a smile at the mental image of Malfoy hit by Ginny's Bat Bogey hex.
"Yeah, what's it to you?" he said warily.
"Well" Nott looked torn. And scared; his glance was flicking over Harry's shoulder constantly, almost as bad as if he were Moody. "I heard" He sounded hesitant. "I heard Granger and Goldstein talking in Ancient Runes, and it sounded like you're starting it again, this year. With permission, and everything."
"Can I join?" Nott said the words in a rush, as if he'd been wanting to get them out for ages, but was afraid to.
"What?" Harry's jaw dropped. "In case you hadn't noticed, we're trying to fight Voldemort, not help people learn so they can form a Death Eaters' Youth Association!"
Nott finally exploded. In a quiet and controlled manner, keeping an eye out.
"Potter, have you been listening?! In case you haven't noticed, I am not Malfoy! I don't want to be a Death Eater, I don't want to go around killing Muggleborns, and I am not my father! I want to find a way to join the people who don't want the Dark Lord to be in charge, and your group seemed like the best way to do it! But since you obviously think that all Slytherins are evil and unredeemable, I guess I'm wasting my time -" He made to push Harry aside.
"Wait!" Harry moved to block him. "You don't want to support Voldemort?"
Nott rolled his eyes. "Are you deaf, Potter?"
Harry pushed his anger down with an effort. "Why don't you go to the Headmaster? Or Professor Snape? Why me?"
"Not everyone can just pop into the Headmaster's office like you can, Potter, and as for Snape — he is a Death Eater, or so I've heard, and believe me, my sources are pretty good. None of the Muggleborns will listen to me, Weasley would be almost as bad as you are, and they and you are the only people in the school I can be totally sure aren't working for the Dark Lord."
Nott seemed to collapse in on himself. "Look, Potter, I know we're never going to like each other, but give me a chance. I don't want to be like my father. I don't want to have to kill and murder and torture, I know what it's like for him, it's as dangerous to be on the Dark Lord's side as to be his enemy! I don't like Muggleborns, or your sort, butnot enough to kill. Understand? And this is a war, you're for or against, and with my familyI'll be made to be for Him, and I don't want that. So I'm asking to join you people, not really to learn to fight, I think, but because if I do that then I'm placing myself against them. So — will you let me join?"
"How will you not let them know you'vechosen sides?" asked Harry quietly.
Nott shrugged. "I won't tell. No-one's tracking me. I'm one of the faithful, I'm not going to be a traitor, am I?" His smile was bitter. "I'm just like all of them. I follow Malfoy. Besides, only two more years, and then I'm done with Hogwarts, and I'm of age, and I can go." He laughed cynically. "If we all last that long."
Harry's ears pricked at the word traitor. "How do I know this isn't a trick, to spy on us?"
Nott met his gaze steadily. "You don't. You only have my word for it. If that isn't good enough, then I'm going."
Harry took a deep breath. He was a Slytherin, he was a Death Eater's son, he was the enemy
He saw again in his mind's eye his father's actions, saw Snape's memories, saw Dumbledore telling the court Snape was on their side. If he could be — if he was — not that Harry wanted to believe it, but if he was — then — maybe Nott was genuine. And then there was Sirius — his gut twisted at the memory. His brother had been a Death Eater, his parents had sympathised with Voldemort, but he had been true. If this had been him, would Harry have believed him? Would he not have suspected a trick? Ginny and Luna's words rang in his head.
We need to ask the Slytherins
What if some of them don't want to be Death Eaters, want to fight You-Know-Who, but no-one's helping them do that?
He held out his hand to Nott, who blinked in surprise, then shook it briefly.
"We're meeting at seven tomorrow. Go to the tapestry of Barnabas the Baffled on the seventh floor, and I'll meet you there. Is there -" he hesitated "- anyone else in your House who might be interested in coming?"
Nott frowned. "I don't know. I can't exactly stand up in the middle of the Common Room and say "Would anyone here like to join me in betraying everything half the House believes in and fighting You-Know-Who?" I'd be hexed half-way to London before I got two words out."
"Think about it, then."
Nott nodded, thoughtfully. "I will. Oh, actually, could I bring a Hufflepuff along? I think she'll want to come. She should, for her own safety"
Nott flushed slightly. "Anne Fairleigh. Fifth-year, your girlfriend Weasley might know her"
"Ginny is not my- oh, forget it. How do you- anyway, I'll see you tomorrow, Nott."
"Tomorrow, Potter." The two nodded slightly at each other before Harry turned to leave. He had a lot to think about. And some questions to ask.
That Thursday evening, before he left the Common Room to head for the Room of Requirement, Harry pulled Ginny aside. Ron and Hermione had gone ahead, for some reason, when he'd indicated he wanted to talk to her. Something weird was going on there, but Harry ignored it.
"Ginny, what do you know about Anne Fairleigh?"
"In my year, Hufflepuff, quite good-looking, does Care of Magical Creatures and Arithmancy, Mugglebornwhy, are you interested in her?" She raised an eyebrow. Harry blinked.
"Well, she might be turning up to the meeting tonight, that's all — someone else wanted to bring her along — hold on, she's Muggleborn?!"
Ginny looked at him quizzically. "You've never had a problem with that."
"No, no." Harry shook his head. "You know Theodore Nott? Slytherin? He came up to me in the Library yesterday, wants to join, and I said he could come. I-" He took a deep breath, and swallowed his pride. "I figuredyou were right, about House unity and all that."
Ginny smiled, and he suddenly felt a lot less grudging about it. "He wants to bring her along, but if she's Muggleborn, I don't know why he'd know her, his dad works for Voldemort — although he did say she needed to learn for her own protection, makes sense I guess -"
"She's probably his girlfriend." Ginny shrugged. She seemed to have relaxed slightly. "Not that I've heard anything, they wouldn't want to spread it around, but apart from that there's no reason she couldn't be. She definitely isn't going out with anyone else."
"Oh, okay. We'd better get going." They walked out of the portrait hole together. Harry remembered something. "By the way, Gin, Nott called you "my Weasley girlfriend." Why'd he do that?"
Ginny appeared a bit startled, but recovered quickly. "Well, you do talk to me lots more now, what with Ron and Hermione being — well, you know — and people do know I had a bit of a crush on you" she looked slightly embarrassed "so it's just one of those silly rumours. I mean, how many people think Hermione's your girlfriend? And she definitely isn't. Honestly, I reckon she and Ron will have to start snogging in the middle of the Great Hall to get rid of that one, and even then people will probably run to tell you she's cheating on you." She snickered.
"Ron and Hermione? Snogging? Not likely." Harry couldn't imagine anything less likely, in fact. "They'd rather volunteer to help Hagrid with whatever he has for us this year."
Ginny laughed. "Harry, if they aren't by the end of this year, I swear I'm going to lock them in the Astronomy Tower until they dothe rest of us could breathe a lot easier." She gave him a mischievous look. "Want to help?"
Harry just looked confused. They liked each other? When had this happened?
"Well, I would have thought they'd have told me if they liked each other" he said finally, in a very puzzled voice.
Ginny laughed all the way to the meeting.
When they got there, everyone seemed to have arrived early. Most of them had already paired up to practice, apart from a group of four or five students who Harry hadn't seen there before. They were accompanied by Hannah, Colin, Katie Bell, Padma Patil, and to his surprise, Luna. The new members were gathered around Hermione, who was holding a piece of parchment and a quill. She waved Harry over to them.
"There you are, Harry, I was just explaining to people that they need to write their names down."
The parchment was not the jinxed one Hermione had produced last year that had dissuaded Marietta from telling Umbridge too much about them, but a new copy. He could see that everyone present, except the new people, had signed it. The heading simply read "D.A."
"You and Ginny need to sign it, too. I haven't managed to get the old one back."
"Is there any chance that this one is jinxed, too?" dryly asked a Ravenclaw girl who Harry didn't know.
"What gives you that idea?" asked Ginny, who'd come up beside Harry and was now affixing her name to the list. Harry could not help but admire her straight face.
"The fact that everyone knows Marietta ratted on you somehow, and everyone knows she had to go to St. Mungo's to get her face fixed", replied the girl.
"Well, this one isn't jinxed", declared Hermione. "It's just to keep things straight, really. We don't have any reason to hide, now." Hermione did really like continuity, thought Harry idly. Ginny passed the list to Harry, who scrawled his name rapidly before handing it off to a Gryffindor called Thomas Everly who was in Ginny's year.
"I've just got to go outside for a sec", he told the group, before heading back out the door. He emerged in time to see Theodore Nott jogging up the corridor, closely trailed by a Hufflepuff girl Harry didn't know. She was small, and fine boned, with flyaway fair hair. Nott came to a stop in front of Harry.
"We're not late?" he asked with a frown.
"Nah, we're just in here", said Harry, jerking his head towards the door behind him. Nott and the fair-haired Hufflepuff looked blank. Harry explained how to make the door appear, and when they'd walked up and down three times, he led them in. Everyone seemed to have sorted themselves out, and the last new person — a lanky Hufflepuff girl, unknown to Harry — was writing her name down. The fair-haired Hufflepuff looked around, eyes wide. Nott, meanwhile, had locked eyes with one of the other new members — who Harry saw with a start was a nondescript Slytherin girl with hard grey eyes. She was standing next to Luna.
"Haywood" he said tersely. "It's a surprise to see you here."
She smiled grimly. "You, too." She seemed to relax a little as she saw his companion. She smiled at the Hufflepuff girl, who smiled back. "Estella."
Nott and Anne Fairleigh — at least, Harry assumed it was her — signed their names. Harry picked up the whistle on the nearest table, and blew it The talking stopped, and everyone turned to look at him.
"Right" he called "Usual drill, everyone, in pairs, and practicing Patronuses. Lots of you were doing really well with that, so, if you've got the spell — if you're getting a corporeal Patronus — can you try helping other people, or you can practice Stunning spells down the far endon the cushions, please, guys. Everyone who's new this time, stay down this end with me. Okay?"
The varied group moved off — Harry saw Ginny make a beeline for Neville, who had been struggling if he remembered rightly, and Ron and Hermione working together. He turned to face the newcomers. There were seven of them altogether, Nott and Fairleigh, the hard-eyed Slytherin, Thomas Everly, the Ravenclaw girl, a Hufflepuff girl, and Andrew Kirke — a seventh-year, and one of Gryffindor's Beaters. They were all looking at him with differing expressions — expectation, curiosity, wariness. The last was most evident in the faces of Theodore Nott and the Slytherin girl. He cleared his throat, suddenly as nervous as the day Hermione had first talked him into this and twenty-five people had turned up at the Hog's Head to listen to him.
"First thing" he said to Haywood, the Ravenclaw, and the Hufflepuff "I don't know you, so if you wouldn't mind-"
"Estella Haywood, fifth-year Slytherin" said the grey eyed girl. The Hufflepuff introduced herself as Althea Chaudry, a seventh-year, and the Ravenclaw as Lisa Turpin, in Harry's year.
"Thanks." He nodded to them. There wasn't much point introducing himself. "I don't know how much you all know about this" he began, "but this all started because some of us wanted to practice practical Defence and that — uh, Umbridge, wasn't teaching us. Not properly, at any rate." There was a round of cynical chuckles. "We're keeping going because Voldemort's back." Several people flinched at the name. "Last time, a lot of people died. You probably — you probably have family who died, or know someone who does. More are going to die this time. If we practice — if we learn — then it won't be us, and it won't be people we can protect. So that's what we're going to keep doing, this year, just practicing stuff that come actually help us. Not things like Jelly-Legs curses — that's first year stuff. Things that will keep us alive."
"Like what?" asked Chaudry.
"The Disarming spell, stunners, a lot of hexes and jinxes, Patroni-"
"The disarming spell's second year!" said Lisa disdainfully.
He looked at her levelly. "If you disarm a Death Eater, they can't attack you. It worked for us. If a Death Eater is trying to kill you, you want to stop them as fast as possible — and based on what I saw when we started this last year, a lot of people here can't do that. Some of them thought that we didn't need to practice things like disarming either. You ask them, any of them, what they think now."
"So you're in charge here?" asked Estella Haywood, tilting her head slightly to gaze at him.
"Yeah" said Harry. "Yeah, I am. We had a vote, last year. If any of you have a problem with that, then-"
"No" she shook her head. "Just checking. That's why I came."
"Huh?" Harry stared at her. The Gryffindors were nodding, and so were Althea Chaudry and Anne Fairleigh.
"You're the Boy Who Lived." She shrugged. "If anyone has a chance of leading us, teaching us how to surviveyou do. And the others — Granger, Longbottom, the Weasleys, Lovegoodword gets around. You tangled with You-Know-Who's best people, and you're all still here to tell the tale. Sure, you had help, but you're alive. Longbottom was useless, the first four years he was here. He's not anymore. He Stunned one of the Slytherin prefects. You did that."
They were all nodding, now, and Harry felt uneasy. "Look, I'm not, leading, really, or anything, just showing people some things I know — it was Hermione and Ron's idea-"
"You are leading." That was Andrew Kirke. "Face it, Potter. None of us would be here if it wasn't for you. Gryffindors, Hufflepuffs, Slytherins, third-years, fifth-years, seventh-yearsthere's too much enmity around. I don't think there's anywhere in the rest of the school Gryffindors and Slytherins are in the same room voluntarily! You're the only one right now who could get us all here together."
Anne Fairleigh spoke up. "People trust you. I'm Muggleborn, so I wasn't brought up with it, but you're the Boy Who Lived. You lived. This is a warthe teachers are doing everything they can to keep us safe already, but you can't put all your faith in teachers."
"Even with everything the Prophet said last year?" He couldn't help a little coolness creeping into his voice. That had hurt, the way the whole school had turned against him.
"Yeah, well" Thomas Everly was a bit red. He'd obviously believed it. "We were wrong. And everyone believed you after that interview. Everyone does, now. Even the Slytherins." He looked sideways at Nott and Haywood.
"It was never a case of not believing, for some of us, Everly, it was a case of being forbidden to tell. You-Know-Who didn't exactly want everyone to know he was back before he was ready, did he? No-one would know he was back, except for Potter." Several people shifted uneasily at that remark. It wasn't as if anyone here didn't know that Harry had named Nott's father a Death Eater, but to have him practically say it
"Why are you here, then?" Lisa challenged him.
"Same reason you all are." He stared back at her, equally defiant, and even more arrogant. "Because I have better things to do with my time than go around killing people. Or being killed. And both are equally likely in the Dark Lord's service." She jerked her head in the approximation of a nod, but his point was made. Harry could feel the tension inherent in this group, but - they were all still here. No-one snapped. No-one left. They were trying to control it. Looking at him. Here because of him. They trusted him. Even two Slytherins. He'd thought of them only as the enemy, and still they'd come
"Okay." He squared his shoulders. "Right. If we're finished with acting like strange cats-" That got indignant stares, but a few giggles too. "Have any of you cast a Patronus before?" Andrew Kirke stared at him, eyebrows raised.
"But that's harder than NEWT level!"
Over Kirke's shoulder he could see Ginny and Neville. She raised her wand and cried "Expecto Patronum!" Not a cloud of mist, as he had expected, but a silver phoenix erupted from the end of Ginny's wand, soaring above her head. Neville was cheering. She shot him a brilliant smile. A few of the newcomers turned to look. Althea Chaudry nearly dropped her wand.
"If we can do it, so can you" he said to the group at large. "Everyone got your wands out? Good. Now, when you're casting a Patronus"
Harry called a halt to the lesson at nine o'clock. Everyone was getting tired, and there were curfews to observe. He reminded everyone to have some chocolate when they got back to their Common Rooms, and congratulated them on an amazing effort. And it had been. Hermione, Ron, Seamus, Ginny, Cho, Terry Boot, and Ernie Macmillan had all produced corporeal Patroni at one point or another — the room had got quite crowded. Ten or so others were getting close, as well, including Neville, who had almost succeeded near the end of the lesson. The most unusual Patronus had definitely been Ron's, which had turned out to be the knight from McGonagall's enchanted chess set. Only he and Hermione had understood that, but Hermione had thrown her arms around Ron's neck and given him an enormous hug. Ron had gone very red.
The real surprise of the lesson had been just before Harry had called a halt. He'd sent the newcomers off in pairs after an hour — not that Patroni could be cast against someone, but it was easier in twos. He'd got Nott, Haywood and Anne Fairleigh to work in a three so he could go around the room. While he was talking to Padma Patil and Anthony Goldstein, he'd looked over to see leggy Althea Chaudry cast a Patronus — an ethereal silver dove. And, better maybe than that, Haywood congratulating her with genuine admiration. House differences, it seemed, had been temporarily laid aside. The two Slytherins had really relaxed as the lesson went on, stiffness dropping from their stances. Theodore Nott had even laughed at one point. Anne Fairleigh had positively blossomed, at least when there wasn't anyone else too close — she might be shy, but Harry had seen her give Nott a lecture on wand movement that to his surprise had been received well. Harry reckoned they had to be going out — there was no way Nott would have listened to a Muggleborn, younger, Hufflepuff for any other reason.
There was a new feeling to the group; last year it had been one of rebellion. This year it was purpose. They had a goal. It was grim purpose, and there was an undercurrent of tension — people had stopped Harry to ask him more about Dementors, what they'd felt like up close. But purpose all the same. And all the time, Harry had been noticing what Estella Haywood, Andrew Kirke, and Anne Fairleigh had pointed out — these people looked up to him. They followed him. They trusted him. It was exhilarating, it was scary, it was unnerving. And he wouldn't have given it up for the world.
They organised a time for the next meeting, and then people left fairly rapidly, realising what the time was. The newcomers all stopped to thank him.
"This is so cool" said Thomas Everly.
"I think it will be very useful, certainly" Lisa said graciously.
Kirke grinned. "It's brilliant". Harry reflected he certainly showed more talent for this than Quidditch. Anne just smiled before heading out with Chaudry.
Ron, Hermione, and Ginny were left waiting for him at the door. So were two other figures; the Slytherins.
"Potter" said Nott quietly.
"I just wanted to saythanks. For letting us come, both of us. Most of Gryffindor wouldn't give any Slytherins the time of day. But this means a lot to us. We're doing the right thing, and it won't be easy, and it'll probably end up with us on the end of Unforgivables, but it's the right thing. Thanks for that, and for trusting us. I know -" he looked bleak. "It probably isn't easy, having seen my dad — but — we owe you one."
"You know" said Harry, feeling a sudden wish to be totally honest "it's Ginny you should be thanking, not me. She's the one who talked me into letting any Slytherins join. I — I reckon I wouldn't have talked to you, myself, if she hadn't said it was a good idea." Ginny blushed and muttered something about how she hadn't done anything, really, but both Nott and Haywood did thank her.
"Besides" said Haywood "united we stand, divided we fall. You won't get anywhere with most of our House — Malfoy's got too strong a grip." She scowled. "But we'll do — what we can. Not every Slytherin is evil."
"Just most" Nott's grim laugh suggested he was, at least, half joking.
With that they left. Harry was the last to walk out of the Room, and he closed the door behind him. As Nott and Haywood vanished around the corridor, he said to Ginny "You were right. They're not so bad. I mean, they're pretty arrogant and they don't like us and all that, and they're not going to be friends or anything, but — they're not -" he searched for the right words. "What I'd expected, after thinking they were all like Malfoy."
"I still don't trust them" said Ron darkly. "Who knows what they really want?"
"We have to give them the chance" said Hermione complacently. "Or we're just as bad as they are."
"But we have a chance, now" said Ginny, as they walked back to the Common Room. "Slytherin and Gryffindor and Hufflepuff and Ravenclaw. All of us together, the way it was meant to be. You've done this, Harry." She smiled impishly. "Sure you can handle what you've started?"
Harry rolled his eyes. "Oh, get off it, Weasley."
Voldemort and Snape and all Harry's troubles suddenly seemed close and far off at once. There was a war on, and lives at stakebut they'd followed the Sorting Hat's advice, hadn't they? Not all the school, but this was more than a start. They were united, now.
We have a chance.