Lie in the Bed I Make
Chapter Five: Hogwarts Underground
Neville decided that it would be better to wait until after the meeting of the complete DA to broach the matter of the Sword of Gryffindor with Ginny. There was enough for them to discuss without getting into the complicated – and likely very risky – process of planning grand larceny.
Unlike most Gryffindors, Neville was a student of the art of patience. As a whole, Gryffindors were an impulsive lot, quick to spring into action in any direction, as long as it was action. They'd made many mistakes with that attitude, although most of the times the mistakes were fixable. But this time there was no room for error. A mistake could wind up with people hurt – or worse, dead.
Neville had learned the hard way that there were situations that he had no power to control. All those Sundays, visiting his parents at St. Mungos, had taught him that sometimes a person was powerless. The ability to recognize when to act, and when to wait, was essential right now. So he was still, even though the others around him weren't.
Seamus paced the Room of Requirement, back and forth over the lush, Ravenclaw-blue carpet. The room had expanded from the last meeting so it could hold more people, and was decorated in primary colors to represent the three houses that would be using it. Neville sat by Ginny and watched, wondering if he should try to calm his friend down.
It was pushing seven o'clock, and almost all the chairs were filled. The members of the DA were trickling in slowly, in ones and twos, trying to slip passed the teachers without gaining their attention. Finally the door slid close behind Parvati and Lavender, and there was no one else to wait for.
The room was filled with about twenty upper-level students. Unlike most of the school, the DA hadn't experienced a crippling loss of members – except to graduation. It was the students below fourth year that had been pulled out and sent to Beauxbatons in France or even the Salem Witches Institute in the United States. The older students had remained, primarily because switching this late in the game was a bad idea, or because they called Hogwarts home.
Or because they knew that the battle would follow them. Neville didn't have any illusions about what You-Know-Who would do if he conquered the Isles. He would look outward to Europe, and then the entire world, to force his form of order on everyone. You-Know-Who would never gain enough power to satisfy himself, but that wouldn't stop him from trying.
Neville looked at Justin Finch-Fletchley, who had somehow escaped from Madam Pomfrey's tyrannical hands to attend the meeting. Since his wounds hadn't been caused by magic directly, they'd been treatable in the infirmary. At least the physical wounds. Neville had never been particularly close to Justin, but he could tell the other young man was troubled.
Neville wanted to apologize for not speaking up sooner, for letting this happen, but felt that would be demeaning to Justin – obviously, no one in the DA had wanted to see another of their classmates be hurt. "Are you okay, Justin?" he asked instead, knowing that the others that witnessed the Imperius episode had to be wondering the same.
Justin pushed his dark bangs back from his forehead, showing the yellowing bruises. "It'll be fine by breakfast tomorrow," he assured them. "Doesn't even hurt anymore."
That wasn't the point, Neville thought, but knew better than to argue. Glancing around the room, he tried to find something to say that didn't include babbling about the Sword of Gryffindor. "Well, I guess we know why all the third years were terrified yesterday," he said lamely.
"I'll say," Hannah Abbott replied, her voice lacking irony. Once upon a time, Neville had thought her a flighty girl, but the murder of her mother last year had an obvious impact. Her blond hair was tied back in a low ponytail at the base of her neck, and her clothes lacked the usual accessories of the fashion-obsessed. She'd become entirely practical, one of those people who were able to evaluate a problem and reach a clear decision without letting emotion overrule their common sense. That would come in useful, since Hermione wasn't around.
Seamus, still pacing, wheeled around to glare at the group. "It shouldn't have happened," he said. "It's still against the law to use the Unforgivables!"
"Like that matters," Hannah replied. "The question is what we're going to do about it."
"We'll fight, of course," Ginny said. "Now that we now what they're ready to do, we can strike back."
"Are you willing to cast an Unforgivable?" Luna asked, sounding more curious than horrified. "Because you'd need that kind of spell to have a chance – that, or get a blibbering humdinger," she mused, pressing her finger against her lips thoughtfully.
It was a sign how far the DA had come that no one thought to mock her or rolled their eyes. Instead Boot spoke up. "Maybe we should start out by catching everyone up on what we talked about last night," he said, looking to Neville for affirmation. Neville just nodded back at him, glad for the suggestion. Hermione used to have an agenda for meetings; he missed her organization.
Boot pulled the sheet out, the contract that had been signed the previous evening, and passed it around to the members who'd missed the first meeting. Hannah and Susan Bones signed the document, but progress stopped when it reach Zacharias Smith. The Hufflepuff read the document slowly, shut his eyes, then read it again. "I can't do this," he whispered, hanging his head. His shoulders slumped as he looked to the floor, a man weak in defeat.
"What do you mean, you can't do this?" Ginny snapped, rising halfway to her feet and holding out her wand threateningly. "Do you want You-Know-Who to take over our school?"
"In case you haven't noticed, Weasley, he's already in charge of the school!" Smith replied sharply, and suddenly he was standing, facing Ginny squarely. There was a slight tremble in his body, and the sound of his breathing rasped loudly through the otherwise silent room. "We can't win! Potter's fled, Dumbledore's dead, and we're just students – how in hell can we fight against the Dark Lord?"
Ginny stepped toward him threateningly, her wand at the ready. "Why, you coward," and there was no worse insult from a Gryffindor.
"Stop it!" Neville cut in, jumping up and placing himself between the two combatants before a spell could be thrown.
Both of them turned to look Neville, Ginny angrily and Smith with confusion. "Let him go," Neville said, turning his back to Smith so he could look Ginny squarely in the eyes. "It's better he's honest now, than gets in over his head and betrays us later."
She opened her mouth, ready to object, then took a deep breath and let her wand fall to her side. "You're right," she said softly. "I wouldn't want him at my back, anyway."
Neville turned to Smith. "Get out," he said softly, wishing he was as intimidating as Harry. "And tell no one what you know."
Smith was flushed, either with anger, shame or a combination thereof. "I'm sorry," he apologized, shutting his eyes. "I wish I could believe in this, but I can't. I... just can't," and then he walked out the door.
Neville was glad to take his seat again so he could hide the shaking of his knees. He felt horribly guilty for being so mean to Smith, but he couldn't let anyone else know. "If anyone else wants out, now's the time to leave."
The remaining fifteen members of the DA remained firmly in their chairs. Lavender picked up the parchment Smith had abandoned, read it over quickly and signed, before passing it on to Padma. The room was silent as the contract finished making its rounds. Smith's departure had cast a cloud of gloom over the whole group.
Finally, Dennis Creevey signed the sheet, and rose to his feet to walk it over to Neville. It felt almost ceremonial as the scroll was presented. Neville unrolled it so he could see the final result; the signatures stood out, bold statements of defiance. Neville smiled as he realized that his friends wouldn't be cowed by the Dark Lord. The scroll represented their determination.
If it was found by Snape or one of his cronies...
Neville maneuvered in his chair slightly so he could throw the document into the fire. He watched as the flames eagerly consumed it, even as the room started to ring with very loud protests.
"What in blazes do you think you're doing, Longbottom?"
"Are you chickening out on us?"
Neville nearly wilted at their criticism. There was nothing worse than having a friend mad at you, and he'd just ticked of the entire DA. He turned his head back so he could explain his rational. "We need to learn from our past mistakes. This kind of evidence could get us all expelled," he said. Thank Merlin, he didn't end up stuttering.
"Or killed," Hannah chimed in softly.
"Then why do it in the first place?" Ernie asked in frustration.
"To know your commitment," Luna answered. Unspoken went the obvious example of Zacharias Smith. "Signing the paper is easy, any first year can write their name. But not every first year can stand the Cruciatus Curse." The way she spoke sounded like it was a foregone conclusion that they would all be tortured.
"That's a cheery thought," Seamus said, grimacing with what was meant to be a smile. He finally plopped down in the vacant chair that was meant for him. "But I guess it's going to be that kind of cheery year."
Silence reigned again. If Harry was here, he'd rally the others – or Hermione would preach about the importance of the work. Ron might even cut in with a joke, managing to lighten the grim atmosphere.
They're not here, Neville told himself again, for the hundredth time since school had started. "It's not going to be easy," he said. "But we'll do what we need to."
"Which is?" Ginny asked.
"Annoy the hell out of Snape!" Colin Creevey said.
"Make like miserable for the Slytherins!" his younger brother said at the same time.
"Make the Carrows wish they'd never signed up for teaching!" Justin snapped viciously. The bruise on his face caught the firelight, and Neville couldn't blame him for his antipathy.
"Believe in Harry," Ginny whispered. Her words had a chilling effect, pointing out the absence of their former leader. The excitement of the moments before faded away, leaving them all sitting thoughtfully.
Finally someone spoke to break the uneasy silence – surprisingly, it was a Ravenclaw. "Our priority should be to keep the younger students safe," Michael Corner said seriously, before a grin split his face. "And then annoy the hell out of Snape."
Seamus whooped gleefully, and then about half the group began to applaud. Neville felt bile rise in his throat; these idiots didn't have a clue what they were letting themselves in for. They hadn't seen the battle at the ministry, the loss of one of their own... they didn't understand. This wasn't like the Umbridge years, when the worst facing them was the blood quills.
He wondered if the twits were applauding their own impending deaths.
Have faith; believe things will be okay, he remonstrated his negative thoughts.
Thankfully, Hannah interrupted the group before they got too carried away. "This is serious, people," Hannah said, leaning forward intently. "We're not just breaking school rules; we're fighting the war against the followers of You-Know-Who."
Again the gloom descended. It was extremely depressing. "So what are we going to do?" Lavender asked. "It's great to say we're going to protect the students, but how?"
"We can't keep meeting each other like this," Ginny added. "They're sure to notice."
"But acting independently could get us in more trouble," Corner replied. "We could inadvertently trip each other up."
"How about organizing cells?"
"Cells?" Ginny turned toward Anthony Goldstein.
Goldstein adjusted his glasses slowly, clearing his throat like a professor about to launch into a lecture. "It's what the Muggle resistance used, back during World War II," he explained. "You work in small groups, and only the leader of each group – that's called the cell – knows what's going on. It limits the possibility of exposure; the only people who know what's going on is the leader, and if there's problems, a cell can be isolated."
"Carrow's already shown he doesn't care about using illegal curses. It's possible he might control a student – one of us – and get inside of our group. Remember Katie Bell?"
They all did, Neville thought. She had been one of them. Thankfully her cursing hadn't ended in death, but months in the hospital. "Or one of our friends might decide it's better to side with You-Know-Who," Neville said softly. Ron had told him about Peter Pettigrew. Even Gryffindors weren't above betrayal. "Voldemort's followers came from all houses, not just Slytherin."
Seamus looked irritated at that suggestion, but Luna nodded seriously. "There's probably already some spies," she stated, twirling her necklace through her hands in some obscure pattern that probably warded away nargles.
"But if we're using that kind of format, we're not always going to know what's going on. The regular members, I mean," Corner said. "And we might inadvertently get in each other's way."
"We just need to pick leaders we can trust," Ginny replied. "I know it hurts your Ravenclaw soul, but sometimes ignorance isn't such a bad thing."
Corner exchanged glances with Goldstein and Boot, his closest friends. "I see," he said neutrally. "I can't say I like the idea, but it is strategically sound."
"So who?" Padma asked. "Anyone want to volunteer, or nominate someone?"
"The leaders should be the Purebloods," Goldstein said.
"Isn't that just proving their point?"
"It's being smart and using our resources," Goldstein countered. "They're less likely to hurt Purebloods. The Death Eaters are going to try to persuade you to their side, but I don't think they'll do anything serious to you. They need all the Purebloods there are; it's too small a gene pool otherwise."
Neville inwardly shuddered at the thought of being part of a "gene pool," whatever that was. He didn't want to be part of anything with the Death Eaters. But Carrow's actions earlier today showed there might not be any choice.
"One leader per chapter, who knows what each house is doing. The leaders can meet as needed – they can pretend to be a study group or something," Boot outlined.
"And each chapter is a house?"
"That makes the most sense. So... who?"
"I'll do Ravenclaw," Luna volunteered. "Susan? Up for taking Hufflepuff?"
"Of course," Susan Bones replied she crossed her arms over her chest, and for a second reminded Neville of Sprout. She, too, had faced a very real loss in the war already. Amelia Bones had been her aunt, and they had been close.
"And Ginny can do Gryffindor," Luna concluded, smiling as she toyed with her necklace.
Neville tried not to feel hurt that she wasn't suggesting that he take responsibility. It was true he was no Harry Potter, but he'd thought he had gained some respect. And he was older.
"Wouldn't Neville be better?" Seamus asked, and Neville jerked his attention to his roommate. "No offense, Ginny," he added hastily.
"None taken," Ginny replied, raising an eyebrow at Luna. "And Neville might be a better pick. The Death Eaters already hate my family."
"Well, Neville needs to lead all of us, right?" Luna said, smiling in her vague way. "It's not fair if he has to take care of the day-to-day stuff in his house on top of it."
Neville almost choked as the others quickly agreed that was a good idea. Somehow it seemed dreadfully official, and he could feel the pressure of responsibility set onto his shoulders. "T-thank you, everyone," he said, stuttering slightly over the first words. He braced himself, Never let them see your fear. "I think it would be best if we hold house meetings tonight. Think up strategies to keep the younger students as safe as possible, and promote your house solidarity. Maybe even decide to disregard the point system; the House Cup is trivial, and getting mad at each other is useless over such minor things."
"Slytherin's going to win anyway," Ernie replied bitterly.
Neville was just about to dismiss the group when someone cleared there throat. Dennis, their youngest member, seemed tiny compared to the older students. "Are we looking for new members?" he asked. "I know a couple of my friends really want to join."
Neville opened his mouth to say they were too young, but stopped when he realized Dennis was a fifth year – the same year he'd been on joining the DA. "That depends. First, can anyone make more galleons?" Hermione had been an exceptionally talented witch, and her skill was tough to replicate.
"I can probably figure it out," Boot said. "If Luna and Parvati help."
The girls voiced their agreement. "Good. Figure it out, and then let me know. We'll figure out how to decide who to admit later," Neville said. He'd need to think of sensible precautions. Then he ended the meeting.
The students filed out, in ones and twos, just as they had arrived. Finally only he, Susan, Ginny and Luna remained. Taking a deep breath, he looked at his lieutenants and decided now was the time to broach the Sword of Gryffindor.
"Ladies? Are you up for a mission?"