A/N: Wow... talk about taking a long time to update. Sorry about that. But no worries, of the 10 chapters, this is the only one that I didn't know what to do with when I accepted the Album to Story challenge. I still don't own Harry Potter, still don't see J.K. Rowling when I look in the mirror... Also, please don't favo(u)rite without reviewing- let me know why you like it!
The seventh-years sat in Muggle Studies as Alecto tried to begin class, but no one was even trying to be respectful. Seamus and Padma were magicking a paper airplane back and forth. Lavender, a surprisingly good artist, had challenged Parvati to a game of hangman, and the half-formed hangman looked suspiciously like the witch in front of them. Neville and Hannah whispered about trivialities. "The waffles for breakfast this morning were stellar." "I'm excited for what Professor Sprout plans to teach us this week." Neville cautioned a look at Alecto. She was irritated, certainly, and a well-aimed curse at Ernie Macmillan, whose only offense was sitting too close to the front, got the class to pay attention.
She started straight into the history of witch burnings in Britain and America, but from what Neville knew about history from his Muggle-born friends and the little information he'd retained from Professor Binns's class, Alecto's version of events was beyond exaggeration- reduction of wizarding families to just one main line that had to be rebuilt, mass burnings of entire villages- Neville tried to tune her out, but started when he heard Seamus's voice cut over the droning of the professor.
"300 years ago is a long time," Seamus said. "Can you trace your ancestry back that far? If there really was only one wizarding family left, I wonder how many of those Muggles you're descended from."
She didn't grace him with an answer besides an impassioned "Crucio!" Seamus fell out of his seat, hit the floor head first, his body writhing in spasms that didn't even masquerade as natural. Neville rushed to his side to help him, see if there was anything at all he could do to soothe the pain. But before he could try, he was on his back, unable to keep in the screams. Even worse than his own unceasing pain was the noise he heard around him. Rapidfire curses hit the class, and his own scream became one in a choir until she finally relented, released her spells, and left the classroom.
With pain no longer unbearable, Neville sat up, took in his surroundings. He was overwhelmed by the smell of blood. Seamus's head was bleeding and he had a deep gash in his forearm. Something metallic and sweet hit Neville's lips and it was with a passive acceptance that he acknowledged the blood streaming from his tongue. Looking around, he noticed that most of the Slytherins, unharmed, had left with Carrow, but Draco Malfoy stood awkwardly at the back wall. Neville caught his eye.
"Go get Madam Pomfrey and Professor Flitwick. Most of us need to be in the hospital wing."
He nodded, seeming much younger than 17, and left the room.
Hannah slowly made her way over to Neville. "Are you sure we can trust him?"
Neville wasn't sure at all, but he spoke with conviction anyway. "He stayed."
She nodded, took his hand. "Now I guess we just see if he comes back."
As they waited, more members began to come to, assessing each other's wounds. Padma, herself injured, went to some of the most seriously hurt, conjuring bandages to stop the bleeding, doing whatever she could to help. It took Draco 15 minutes to return, but when he came back he was short of breath and followed by a short man and stout woman. He looked at Neville, nodded slightly, and left the classroom.
Neville found it telling that Professor Flitwick and Madam Pomfrey took in the situation with grave faces rather than seeming shocked. With no enthusiasm, the professor began to swish and flick his wand, lifting unconscious students up into the air and onto conjured hospital beds. Those who could move began to get up and walk, but Flitwick shook his head at them.
"No, I'd rather you took beds as well." He conjured a few more and helped the students into them. "Wingardium Leviosa." The beds rose to follow Madam Pomfrey out of the room.
It was only mid-afternoon when three-quarters of the seventh years ended up in the hospital wing, but Madam Pomfrey still had to work throughout the night to keep the students stable, healing scratches and bruises once more serious injuries were addressed.
"You do good work, Padma," Madam Pomfrey said, inspecting the location on Lavender's arm where a particularly nasty bruise had once been. "Are you planning to be a Healer?"
"Yes, I am, thank you." Padma acknowledged the compliment and went back to work on assessing damage to Ernie's knee.
By morning, though everyone was tired, they were healed enough to be cleared to go to classes. Neville and Hannah approached the Dark Arts classroom together, among the few students brave enough to enter class early. They paused at the closed door and could hear two voices talking.
"Amycus, you don't need to worry. Most of your class won't be coming today; I made sure of that. I betcha I got 'em bloody well enough that they'll be out through next week. Some Slytherins might show up, but they are never trouble."
"Good. I had thought that teaching here would be easy. About time it actually was."
As Neville heard chairs against the stone floor and the sweeping sound of robes, he opened the door himself, walked in, and sat down in the first row. Hannah followed, sitting beside him as if there was nothing out of the ordinary. In walked Seamus, Lavender, the Patil twins, inconspicuously and on much better behavior than they had been the day before. Even as the chairs filled up, Alecto was frozen in place, staring at the perfectly healthy students in front of her.
Neville turned in his chair to face her. "Planning to stay and observe the class today, Professor Carrow?"
The rage took over her face in an instant and she fumbled through her robes for her wand. "What are you doing here? I thought I took care of you! Cruci-" Amycus pushed the wand out of his sister's hand, and she turned to face him, anger still boiling beneath her skin. "Amycus! These students deserve-"
"I know what they deserve, Alecto. But Crucio them now and they will be back again tomorrow, healthy as can be. These stupid kids aren't the problem! Can't you see? What we need to do is make sure they don't have a hospital wing to run to." The rage in his sister's face was replaced by a menacing smile, which Neville found even more worrisome. "Well then, class, it looks like we'll be having a field trip today. Come along." The sweetness in her voice brought back memories of Professor Umbridge, but the compulsion in his body to follow her told him he'd been set under the Imperius Curse, and he marched in time with his classmates to the hospital room.
Amycus slammed the doors to the hospital wings and locked the students in, but this magic was too much when combined with holding most of the seventh-year class under the Imperius Curse and Neville felt himself snap out of the dreamlike daze he had been in. As he adjusted to having control over his own body, other students were already busy at work. Ernie's simple "Alohomora" unlocked the doors, and Hannah helped the few sick students out of the wing. But not a single seventh-year left the room.
Wands out, they encircled the Carrow siblings. Incompetent as they normally seemed, the two stood back to back and began firing hexes in a circle, and members of the D.A. who had just overcome their injuries from the day before started falling to the ground. Madam Pomfrey heard the noise and ran out from her small office at the back of the wing.
"Alecto! Amycus! What do you think you are doing?" Her wand was out and at the ready as she moved closer to them. "Have you had the thoughtfulness to bring the children here this time before cursing them to the edge of death?"
"We just thought today's class could use with a field trip, and some firsthand experience with watching someone fall. I don't think your services will be needed here any longer, Poppy," Amycus said.
Alecto chimed in. "I'm not sure your resignation papers will be necessary, either, ma'am. There is a good old-fashioned way of removing people from their posts, and guaranteeing they won't be returning." She raised her wand to the astonished healer. "Avad-"
Neville isn't sure how they all reacted at once, but the students closest to Madam Pomfrey conjured shield charms at the same time, and Alecto never finished the words of her curse.
"Neville, Hannah, Padma, kids, get out of here! How many times do I have to tell you that this is not your battle to fight?"
"We're of age, Madam Pomfrey. And you healed us yesterday. What kind of repayment would it be to leave you here now?" Seamus said.
"I can't say I'm not grateful, but this isn't a safe place to be right now!"
"Without you here, I can't say it will be much safer," Hannah added. "You've done so much for us this year."
Their shield began to lose strength and faded altogether as the Carrows finally blasted through it. Neville turned back to a distraught-looking Madam Pomfrey. "Run! Now!"
She didn't respond, but she held her ground for a few seconds, dueling impressively for a healer and surprising Neville in the process. Shots of green light were fired her way, but she deflected them and did what she could to protect the students as well. A few jinxes later and the combined efforts of Dumbledore's Army and the healer who had spent the year keeping them alive knocked the Carrows to the ground and bound them up, unconscious.
"I suppose we can't get rid of them forever," Seamus said, looking down at them. "Or else who knows what Snape would do to us. Or You-Know-Who."
"No, Seamus, we certainly can't. And we shouldn't fight fire with fire, either. Not yet. I think they are down fairly well. With the help of a little concoction I can brew up right quick, I should be able to spare you a few more days without them before they wake up again."
Professor McGonagall walked in to the hospital wing to the sight of several students holding open the mouths of the unconscious Carrows for the potion to be poured down their throats. "What's going on here?" When she'd been filled in on everything that had happened in the last two days, she pulled Madam Pomfrey aside and spoke to her in a low voice, but not so low that the students in the room couldn't hear her.
"Now, Poppy, as much as I would love to send the Carrows packing, you know that isn't possible right now. But if they are after you now, Hogwarts isn't safe. If I were you, I would be down in Hogsmeade ready to apparate to Ireland before the hour strikes. And I can guarantee that when Hogwarts returns to being the school it was intended to be, your position will be here and you'll be receiving an owl letting you know when everything is all right. But in the meantime..."
"I understand, Minerva, and you're likely right. I want to be here and help as much as I can, but I suppose the children are in danger whether I stay or go. Keep an eye on them, will you? Oh, and Padma?"
Padma started at the mention of her name, but got up to face the healer. "Yes, Madam Pomfrey?"
"I trust that you'll be very busy in my absence. Here's a bit to help you out." She began stuffing item after item from her personal stock of remedies into a small satchel that Neville suspected had been altered by the Undetectable Extension charm.
Padma took the heavy bag from her and nodded. "Thank you, I'll do my best."
That evening, Neville and Hannah sat by each other for dinner, talking in hushed voices about everything that had gone on. Hannah turned to face her boyfriend. "I'm sad to see her go. She did so much for us this year."
"I'm not, not really."
"Neville! What do you mean? You were in the hospital wing more than anyone; I thought you were really grateful for her."
"I was- I am. But I can't say I'm sad to see her go. Imagine the kind of trouble she'd be in if she tried healing even one more student. Her being here wouldn't have stopped the Carrows from going after us. But with her gone, at least we know she's safe. And I trust Padma. She did some brilliant work yesterday, don't you think?"
"I guess you're right. If there is a way to keep anyone safe, it's the right thing to do." She paused for a moment, squeezed Neville's hand. "You know, it's strange. It feels like forever ago that we were sitting in the snow and I was telling you how scared I was, how I might leave. It frightens me a little how indifferent I've become. I feel like I've forgotten everything that just a few weeks ago I swore that I meant."
"You're still you, though," Neville said, kissing her forehead. "I don't think anyone will make it through this school year and be the same as they were before. I can't be sure about everyone, but I would say that at least as far as you and I are concerned, we're better for it."