A Sixth Year Story: Voldemort's Return brings in the International Confederation and a team from the North American Wizarding Confederation to take control. In this chapter, Ron ponders himself, t...
"This class will be very different than last year's," Professor Jones stated. He looked over the 22 students with a cold, calculating eye. "If any of you paid attention last year, you should be well-grounded in theory. Some of you may be a bit weak on the practical side, however. Who here thinks they're good?"
"Go on, Potter," Draco hissed. "You know you think you're good!"
"Ah, Mister Malfoy I believe. Thank you for volunteering. Come up here, please." They were not in the usual classroom, but in an old dungeon set up as a dueling area. "Now, I wonder who might prove a challenge to the great, expensively and privately tutored Mister Malfoy?" Jones looked one student right in the eye, and after a moment's hesitation, the student nodded.
"Yes . . . Mister Longbottom, come on up."
"Longbottom!" Malfoy was obviously insulted.
"What's the problem with Mister Longbottom, Mister Malfoy? Is Mister Longbottom too much for you to handle? Should I try to find someone easier?"
Draco gave Jones an evil grin. "Why, no sir."
"Now, nothing above a Third year hex for offense except the disarm spell, understand? Anything more will result in at least expulsion from this class." Jones looked down at Malfoy with such a look that Malfoy actually shook for an instant. "And don't think I couldn't make it stick! Defensively, you may use any shields you know. Now remember, this is a proper duel, not a fight!"
Draco bowed with a smirk, and then sent off three straight curses in what he thought was a rapid salvo. Compared to what he had practiced against that summer, Neville considered them almost leisurely. He could have avoided them, but instead blocked them easily. When Draco paused for a brief instant, mostly due to surprise at his attack's ineffectiveness, Neville caught him with a leg-locker curse while he was off-balance. Draco toppled over on his face and Neville disarmed him easily.
"Well done, Mister Longbottom. One point to Gryffindor. Would someone please unlock Mister Malfoy? One point from Slytherin. Would someone like to challenge Mister Longbottom?" The other eleven non-Gryffindors didn't make a move, mostly from surprise. Neville's fellows were not going to challenge him. Just as Ernie Macmillan, Justin Finch-Fletchley, Anthony Goldstein, and Blaise Zabini each started to make a move, Jones said, "Very well. Mister Potter. We will continue in this fashion until we get through everyone."
Harry managed to get through dueling everyone in class. The only ones who came close to beating him were Hermione, who was tricky, and Ron, who went last, when Harry was tiring. Most of the class he managed to beat in under two minutes, which was still more than twice as long as Draco Malfoy had lasted against Neville. When Harry finished Ron off, there were only five minutes left with the class.
"I now have a good idea of everyone's skill. Next week, we're going to be practicing the basic shield spell -- nearly everyone's needs work. For those interested in dueling, there will be a Sixth year's dueling club meeting Mondays from Seven until Eight-thirty, starting in three weeks. Dismissed."
Draco gave the entire class a dirty look, and fled the room while the rest of the class went to congratulate Neville.
Technically, Harry and Ron had all of Thursday and Friday off. In reality, Harry would have individual coaching most Thursday and Friday mornings. On Thursdays, it would usually be Professor Jones, but Professors Spellman, Lupin, and Lawrence would also help out on occasion, as Tonks and the other security people assigned to Hogwarts and Hogsmeade would as well. On Friday mornings, it would usually be the security people only. Ron would take Thursday mornings to plan out Quidditch strategies -- they had selected Ginny and Third Year Natalie Macdonald as the new chasers, with two Fourth years, Paul Robinson and Jason Prince, as the beaters. Ron did agree to study all Thursday afternoon. Considering the large pile of assignments they would have to finish by Christmas, even Ron realized that delay or procrastination would be fatal.
Hermione had Runes from 8:00-9:20 and Arithmancy from 9:30-10:50 on Thursday, and the College Prep Friday mornings, while Neville had the Accounting course Thursday morning and Herbology again at 11:00 Friday. Hermione decided that the best time for the group to get together as a group to talk would be from 3:00 to 5:00 on alternating Thursday afternoons (alternating with a Quidditch practice Harry had set up).
Harry found September and most of October sweeping by. The only real break had been giving Hermione a birthday party in mid-September. Charms, Defense, and Transfiguration had nearly as much homework as the year before. Even though Percy seemed to be trying to be polite, perhaps even nice, to the trio, the Regs class generated as much homework as any two classes ever had before. Add in Harry's time devoted to dueling, Quidditch, and snogging Luna, and Harry had little time to worry about the time passing by. In addition, the entire Medical group had passed their anatomy exam (although some just barely), and the added workload made this Harry's second busiest and most difficult year academically after the Fifth year. Only Hagrid's Care class kept what Harry and Ron felt was a reasonable work schedule.
As Councillor Dorff had predicted, nothing was heard of Voldemort. Professor Spellman had passed on two brief messages, both merely saying that Dorff was well and his mission 'progressing as expected.'
Tobias Jones still held himself somewhat aloof from all the students, not just the sextet. Most of the Slytherins had joined the various dueling clubs, and found all the professors overseeing them fair. A number of the Fifth and Sixth year Slytherins who had never closely associated with Draco were now found gravitating towards the impartial Jones, who treated them well without showing any favoritism. The sextet, and a number of other students from all four Houses, found Professor Spellman easy to talk to outside of class. A few of the Ravenclaws, and Hermione, also found themselves drawn to Professor Lawrence. Lawrence and Spellman were even happy to help Hermione with her private research on sentients' rights.
The Ravenclaws had settled down to a large degree by the end of the second week of classes. Things were tense, but everyone was taking care not to annoy each other. Things were also tense in Slytherin, but no one inside the House would elaborate to those outside.
Of the sextet, Ron was having the most difficult time adjusting to the new year. Luna and Neville, on the other hand, were blossoming. Neville's performance in the first DADA class had just been a preview of the abilities which had just started to show themselves in the DA the year before. Now, except for Harry, Neville was the star of the Sixth year dueling club. Add to that the powerful physique he had gained from his summer workouts and his dating the undeniably attractive Ginny Weasley, and Neville was becoming to be considered something of the 'stud' of the term. Ginny had had to defend her 'property' a number of times. Not that Neville ever encouraged any of the other girls -- or Colin -- he just didn't have the experience yet to know how to send them gently on their way.
Parvati and Lavender had kept their promises, and, by working with Padma and some of the Ravenclaw Sixth and Fifth year girls, Luna was partially incorporated into a strong support network. Luna would have just as soon been left alone, but believed it would be rude to send these late-coming supporters off to mind their own business. After all, they did insure that the Clique kept to themselves and left Luna, and some of their other, younger, victims alone (Luna had been far from the only one they had bullied, just their favorite target). Putting up with having the other girls primp her every Saturday and keep an eye on her the rest of the week was a small price to pay, she decided, for helping the other girls who had been harassed. It also made the helpers feel better about having failed to help before.
Luna was happiest when she was alone with Harry, or when she was sketching her Housemates or her new friends. Still, finding time to be with Harry as well as either Ginny and Neville or Hermione and Ron (or sometimes all six teens) gave her life more variety, and made it easier to go back to her O.W.L. work when the time came to study.
Ginny was busy with Quidditch, Neville, dueling, her O.W.L. work, and her prefect duties, often in that order. Hermione had her myriad research projects, her prefect duties, her studies, and she had decided to knit everyone jumpers for Christmas. Harry was just plain busy, although he was often found late at night in the common room, reading one of his fantasy novels.
It was Ron who was feeling a bit left out.
Ron found his prefect duties boring and useless, unlike Hermione who adored them, and Harry, Neville, Luna, and Ginny, who found them worthwhile. He had the least direction in his studies -- Harry still wanted to at least train to become an auror, Neville would have a small estate to run, Hermione loved to study, and the two girls had their O.W.L.s. Ron was just in school. Ron knew his relationship with Hermione was stronger and at least as intimate as most of the relationships he saw around him at school -- except for Harry and Luna's, and Neville and Ginny's.
He decided he would have to work through these problems on his own. There was still Quidditch to plan for, and You-Know-Who to deal with.
Most of the other students were able to put the threat of Voldemort out of their minds as the mundane concerns of everyday life took over. The same seemed true outside of Hogwarts, and towards the middle of October a few discreet paragraphs in The Daily Prophet hinted that it might be time to turn power back over to Fudge.
The date of the four semi-formal dances was announced in late September, and as expected the first would be right after Halloween. The first Hogsmeade weekend would be October 26th and 27th and the actual dance would be Friday, November 1, while of course the Feast would be on Halloween. All Fourth years and above were invited to the dance, as were any younger students who could find a date with an older student.
As soon as it was announced at dinner, Neville asked Ginny, while Harry asked Luna right after dinner. Ron, however, got in trouble with Hermione, and then everyone else in Gryffindor immediately thereafter, by not asking Hermione to the dance. All four of his room mates tried to convince Ron that he needed to ask Hermione to accompany him both to Hogsmeade and to the dance. Ron refused for over a week, saying that since they were dating, of course they would go together, and had in fact planned on going to the dance since August. Ron said this many times, and rather too loudly at least once, making Hermione run from the other end of the Common Room in tears, although Ron, who hadn't seen it, didn't believe it.
Ginny, Neville, and Dean had had to drag Harry away that night before he hexed his best friend, while Seamus tried to talk some sense into Ron.
It was because of this incident, and Hermione's growing shortness of temper, that Lavender, Parvati, Ginny, and six other girls cornered Ron the morning after he had made Hermione cry and threatened to collectively hex him if he didn't do something about Hermione (and they told him they would then turn what was left over to Harry, and finally turn anything left after that over to Snape for potions ingredients) that Ron was convinced to actually ask her. Hermione managed to hold her temper and agree to go with him, although Ginny and the other Fifth year girls still dragged him into a deserted classroom that evening to explain the facts of dating to him a second time. They didn't want to have to deal with a grumpy prefect again.
Harmony seemed to reign again, at least in Gryffindor. The Clique, as well as Draco Malfoy and the group around him, was still very quiet throughout the opening weeks of the term, to everyone's surprise. Then, on the morning of October 12, Ginny pointed out, "Where are the Slytherins?"
Everyone looked, and sure enough, there were no Slytherins at breakfast. None showed up for breakfast or even lunch. The entire House finally showed up for dinner as a group.
"They're sitting . . . oddly," Hermione said softly.
They were indeed. Normally, the Houses sat roughly by year, youngest up near the teachers, the oldest back near the entrance. All 75 Slytherins were present, but seemed to be arranged in four groups of 6, 12, 12, and 45. Three Seventh years (Adrian Pucey, Miles Bletchley, and St. John Montague) along with two First years (Maurice Flint and Andrea Pucey) and Third year Margaret Montague sat at the far end, scowling. The second group seemed based around Malfoy (and included Crabbe, Goyle, Nott and Parkinson), the third around Head Boy Terence Higgs and Millicent Bulstrode and her friends Margot Rivers and Doreen Spinks. The largest group seemed based around the Pritchard brothers and Zabini.
"Lisa and I are supposed to meet with Daphne and Tracy tonight, to set up a study time for the entire Medical group the day after the dance," Hermione said softly. "If they show up, I'll find out what happened."
"We can guess as it is," Harry said, looking the group over.
"What do you think?" Neville asked.
"Those in the smallest group are almost certainly pro-Death Eaters who still support Voldemort, although the younger three might still be saved. Malfoy's group are the pro-Death Eaters who like the program but aren't willing to follow him any longer."
Seeing some puzzled looks, he explained, "Voldemort was revealed to be a Half-blood, failed to kill me, failed to save some of their parents, and hasn't been heard from in months. They're probably all still waiting for some Pure-Blood messiah to come and sweep away all their enemies."
"Voldemort just isn't who they expected him to be," Hermione agreed.
"Like I said, he's a Half-blood, and that's not good enough, especially when he's not winning," Harry said.
"And Higgs, Bulstrode, and their group?" Lavender asked.
"They don't like us, they don't trust us," Hermione said. "They probably want to stay as neutral as possible." She paused. "If that's so, that's quite an improvement for Bulstrode."
"Of course, they could be divided those that want to kill us right now, those who want to wait to kill us as soon as they get the order, those that will help them kill us, and those who don't care if they kill us," Ron pointed out.
"You're just a ray of sunshine today," Lavender said.
"How much verbal abuse have you taken from that lot over the years?" Dean asked, backing Ron for once. He turned to Parvati. "Your family has been magical longer than any of theirs by thousands of years. Do they accept you as a Pure-Blood, or are you another wog, or worse?"
"They've called me worse," Parvati replied, "or I should say some of them have. Tracey and Daphne went to Little Witches School with us, and have always been friendly, even after we came here. I know Bulstrode's been more than mean to Hermione, but the only ones that have ever said anything nasty to me have been Pansy, Malfoy, and Crabbe."
"The whole House isn't bigoted," Ginny piped up from down the table, "but that's the House that tolerates bigotry."
"Ginny's right," Hermione agreed. "Except for the near-universal bigotry against sentients that I see everywhere, the only bigotry I've ever seen in Gryffindor is some anti-Slytherin prejudice."
Before anyone could jump on those remarks, Harry intervened. "You're right. I've never heard a racial or ethnic slur in Gryffindor, other than people complaining about being insulted by Slytherins."
"I've heard a few," Seamus said, drawing everyone's attention, "even if people were saying them in fun."
"So have I," Dean said, "but nothing like I heard in school before I came here."
"Well, we should all watch our language. . . ."
"No more Irish jokes, please," Seamus asked.
"Or other ethnic jokes," Parvati added.
"How about 'these two Slytherins walked into a pub, one with a duck on his shoulder'?" Ron asked.
Silence descended on the table for an instant.
"Right. Let us know what you find out," Harry asked Hermione over the silence.
"I will, although I suspect you guessed right."
Harry had, as it turned out, guessed right. How that might affect things, both internally in Slytherin and in general, remained to be seen.
Friday, October 18, 1996
"You wanted to see me, Headmaster?" Harry asked, poking his head through the inner office door. Lupin had passed the message on to Harry at dinner that night. Harry had wondered if there as news to share about the strange actions of the Slytherins the previous weekend.
"Yes, Harry; come in please." Harry came in and saw that Professors Jones and Lawrence were there. "Councillor Myrddin asked that we meet. He is expected shortly. He asked Professor Spellman to meet him and escort him here."
Harry sat, refusing the offer of his choice of sweet. Harry instead entertained himself by talking softly to Fawkes while the two professors talked academic shop with the Headmaster. After nearly ten minutes, both Fawkes and Dumbledore looked up towards the door.
It was not Councillor Myrddin who came in, however. It was a broadly grinning Councillor Dorff, his arm wrapped around an equally-smiling Professor Spellman.
Dumbledore and the two professors welcomed Dorff back, while Harry exchanged a nod with him. Dorff started to sit in one of the armchairs, but Tabitha stopped him. She transfigured the two remaining armchairs together into a love seat for the pair of them. Dorff sat and Tabitha snuggled up together, making Dumbledore smile, Jones frown, and Dorff actually blush a bit.
"Tudor agreed that I should come brief all of you," Dorff finally said, after more pleasantries were exchanged. "I come with some good news and some bad news. The good news is, we managed to chase Voldemort out of Afghanistan. As best we can tell, he is seriously injured, and accompanied only by Bellatrix Lestrange and perhaps a few Afghans. Part of the bad news is, we have lost all trace of him."
He took a deep breath. "We had a series of violent run-ins from the moment we arrived in early September. Some were with Voldemort's forces, some were with the Muggle Taliban, and a few were with local wizards who just don't like, let alone trust, anyone else. We made successful contact with the hidden Zoroastrian wizards, but they only form about a third of the small wizarding population. They are well-hidden from the Muggles and well-able to defend themselves from Voldemort, with just a little help from us. The others are really much closer to the general population. They have been under attack since 1980, first by the Soviet Muggles and then by the Taliban."
"But I thought most Moslems who know about us accept the wizarding community," Jones protested.
"Most do, this group doesn't. Voldemort tried to make contact with the regular Afghan wizarding population, but they didn't trust him, either. So, Voldemort did something that he thought was being clever -- he revealed the location of one of their hidden villages to the Muggle Taliban. He thought they would attack and he would appear and save them, thus creating a situation where they would accept him as their leader."
"What actually happened? Didn't the Muggles take the bait?"
"Oh, they took the bait all right! It's hard to believe Voldemort was raised Muggle during the Second World War! He should have some idea of what Muggles are capable of, even if he's a bit behind the times! He was apparently expecting a group would show up with a few old-fashioned rifles at best. Instead, a group appeared with a dozen shoulder-launched missiles, and they all had automatic or semi-automatic rifles and some heavier weapons, RPGs and the like. They launched eleven of the missiles and six grenades into the village, and then two attack helicopters came in attacked the village with machine-guns and rocket-fire for half an hour. Then the troops when in and shot the few who were alive but injured. About a third of the village managed to apparate or port-key out."
"What happened with the twelfth missile?" Harry asked quietly.
"Very good," Dorff acknowledged. "The twelfth man was a young Muggle-born who refused to be trained for religious reasons. He saw through the simple concealments they had set up, because he saw a glint off to the side -- probably Pettigrew's hand. He then saw six figures there, only a hundred meters away, realized they must be wizards, and launched his missile right at them just as the others were launching theirs. They go far too fast for any human's reaction time. If Voldemort were fully human, he'd be dead right now. As if is, he nearly bled to death, lost most of his left arm, and may never fully regain the use of his left leg. Pettigrew and the other four wizards were all killed."
"Can't he just give himself a new arm and hand, like he did Wormtail?" Harry asked.
"No," Dumbledore stated. He then explained, "That type of magic puts the wearer under the control of the caster to some degree. Voldemort can not put the spell on himself, and of course would not dare allow another to cast it on him. If it were merely a matter of power, don't you think Alastor Moody would have had me create a new leg for him years ago, if not a new eye?"
"I had wondered," Harry admitted. The group looked thoughtful for a moment.
"However," Dumbledore added, drawing attention back to himself, "Voldemort can reconstitute himself. He took his father's remaining bones when he fled the resurrection scene after your duel with him. He can use the bones to rebuild that body, although Pettigrew's flesh would have been better."
"I'll have our people check to see if his remains have been tampered with -- not that there was much that could be identified as him. If he hasn't, we'll destroy what's left. It was remarkable that Voldemort survived at all." Dorff stretched and then let his right arm pull Tabitha even closer. "Still, it's good to be back, although I'm not looking forward to seeing all the paperwork that's no doubt built up."
"It can wait until Monday morning," Tabitha stated. She slipped out from under Dorff's arm and stood. "You're staying here until then. Come on. Let's get the grime of Afghanistan off you." She held out her hand.
"I assure you I've showered a few times since I left, including right after I returned yesterday morning, Tabby."
"I'll find some place to wash, now come on!"
"Yes, ma'am!" Dorff said with a goofy smile as he stood. "Headmaster, professors," he nodded. He then turned to Harry. "Don't tell anyone except your five friends, and them only in private. This news will be released by the International Sunday afternoon. Understand?"
"Yes, sir. Will I see you this weekend?"
"Yes. . . ." Dorff started to say, but he was interrupted.
"Maybe," Tabitha said. "We'll let you know. Come, Harry."
"Yes, ma'am," Dorff said with a smile, and he let her lead him out of the room.