Students started getting off the train. Ron and Hermione had to go to help supervise the first years. Neville went ahead of the others to act as lookout, and to signal when the way was clear. As they’d suspected, Malfoy had chosen to keep an eye on the coach that Harry was in, and he had Crabbe and Goyle as backup. Neville saw that everyone was in position, and signalled to them. Dean Thomas was standing behind Malfoy, Crabbe and Goyle. He raised his wand.
“There she is!” said a voice behind Malfoy, that sounded like Crabbe. Malfoy turned and saw a startled looking Crabbe pointing toward a girl in a red sweater with long dark hair walking quickly away toward the head of the line of carriages, dragging her trunk behind her.
Malfoy took off after her, with Goyle right behind him. After a beat, Crabbe went too, still wondering why his arm had pointed that way, and who had spoken.
“Now!” called Neville back into the coach.
Harry, Ginny and Dawn came out of the coach, and quickly merged with a group of other students (all members of the DA) who had been milling around on the platform. They started to move toward the carriages at the other end of the line from where Malfoy was heading.
Malfoy caught up with the girl he was chasing, grabbed her elbow, and spun her around.
“What do you think you’re doing?” asked Cho Chang. “UNHAND ME!” Draco was too startled to say anything. “JUST BECAUSE YOU’RE A PREFECT DOESN’T GIVE YOU THE RIGHT TO START GRABBING ME!” yelled Cho. “I OUGHT TO POUND YOUR FERRET FACE INTO THE GROUND!”
Cho was attracting lots of attention. She kept yelling at Malfoy, really heating up as she got into it. Nearly everyone on the platform was looking her way now. No one was looking at the small group of students headed in the opposite direction. The other Slytherin prefects had all heard Cho shouting, looked toward her, and seen that she matched the description of the girl they were looking for. They all started to rush to Malfoy’s aide. It wasn’t until they got close enough to get a better look at her in the dark that they realized who she was. By the time a couple of them figured out that she was a decoy and started to look around again, Dawn was inside a carriage.
A couple of Slytherin prefects inspected each carriage before it pulled away from the station. When they looked in Dawn’s carriage, they saw that it was full. Harry, Ron, Hermione, Ginny, Neville and Luna all had seats. Dawn was wearing the invisibility cloak again, and sitting in Harry’s lap.
Everyone was applauding the fifth first year to be sorted into Gryffindor when Dawn felt someone watching her. She looked across the hall and saw Draco Malfoy was staring at her. She smiled and waved at him. “The jig is just about up guys,” she told her friends. “Malfoy just spotted me.”
Malfoy didn’t do anything right away. The rest of the sorting ceremony went ahead with him glaring across the hall at Dawn.
A hush fell over the hall once the first years were all sorted into their houses. Professor Dumbledore rose from his seat at the high table. “Welcome!” His soft voice carried all the way across the hall. “Welcome to a new year at Hogwarts! I have a couple of very important announcements to make, but they can wait until after we have filled our stomachs. Enjoy the meal everyone!”
The tables all filled with food, and everyone started to reach for whatever was closest. A subdued chatter of conversation started up again, but most people were more intent on eating than talking. Dawn kept half an eye on Malfoy while she tried to get a taste of everything that was on the table. She didn’t want him doing anything that took her by surprise.
Once everyone had crammed in enough food to take the initial edge off their appetites, conversation started to pick up again. Dawn saw Malfoy get up from his seat and move along the Slytherin table, pausing to speak with a few other students. He pointed Dawn out to them. This time she pretended to be ignoring the attention. The last of the students he talked to—Dawn recognized him as the prefect who had first looked in their train compartment—got up from his seat and moved to the high table. He spoke quietly to Professor Snape.
“Uh-oh,” said Dawn. “Looks like they’re calling for the big guns.” She saw Snape look her way and scowl.
Snape got up out of his seat. He came around the high table and started to walk toward her. “Here comes Professor Snape,” she told the others around her. “Whatever happens, let me handle it.” She looked across the table at Ron and Harry. “Especially you guys. You’ve done more than enough already; let me take it from here.” Dawn snuck a glance toward Malfoy, and saw a smug look on his face.
Professor Snape stopped on the opposite side of the table from Dawn, behind Harry. “Good evening, Miss Summers.” All conversation died around Dawn.
Dawn looked up at Professor Snape and smiled. “Good evening, Professor. Great meal, huh?”
The area of silence was spreading fast. It had reached the far side of the hall when Professor Snape spoke again, so everyone could hear him. “Why are you wearing Mr. Malfoy’s wand in your hair?”
Everyone heard Dawn’s reply too. “Well, he tried to curse me with it, so I took it away from him.”
“I see,” said Professor Snape. “Are you planning on keeping it as an accessory all term?”
“No,” said Dawn. “Just until he apologizes, and asks politely for me to give it back.”
“Very well.” Hermione and Ginny, who were sitting on either side of Dawn, couldn’t believe they saw just the barest hint of a smile cross Snape’s face. “Enjoy the rest of your meal.”
An even deeper silence fell over the hall as Professor Snape turned and started to walk back toward his seat at the high table. It was broken by a snort of laughter from someone at the Hufflepuff table. All the other students from Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw and Gryffindor joined in about half a second later. Stunned silence still reigned at the Slytherin table. Draco Malfoy was ashen faced, his mouth hanging open in disbelief.
Everyone at the Gryffindor table who hadn’t met Dawn yet wanted to meet her now. She spent the rest of meal feeling that she was getting short changed on all the wonderful desserts, because everyone wanted to talk to her. Eventually though, things quieted down again.
Dumbledore rose from his seat at the head table again. “Now that we have finished that wonderful meal, I have a few start of term announcements to make. First of all, I would like to welcome Remus Lupin back to Hogwarts as our Defence Against the Dark Arts Professor!” There was wild applause from nearly all the students in fourth year and above. Professor Lupin looked quite embarrassed by the attention. Dawn couldn’t help noticing that he was wearing new robes, one of the benefits of also drawing a Watcher’s salary. They looked much better than the ones he had been wearing the last time she saw him.
“Second, I would like to remind all students that the forest on the school grounds is strictly out of bounds. This is more true this year than in the past. The centaurs are still quite upset with us. There will be very severe penalties for all students caught in the forest…” He looked directly at the group surrounding Harry as he said that. “…assuming they get out alive.”
Dumbledore picked up a piece of parchment from the table. “The final announcement comes from the Ministry of Magic.” He looked at it through his glasses. “Ahem. Educational Decree Number Thirty.” A groan went through all the students. Dumbledore smiled at them, and went back to reading:
BY ORDER OF THE MINISTRY OF MAGIC
Educational Decrees Twenty-two through Twenty-nine are hereby rescinded.
The above is in accordance with Educational Decree Number Thirty.
Signed: Cornelius Oswald Fudge, Minister for Magic.
Wild applause swept through the hall.
“What’s that about?” asked Dawn.
“The Ministry tried to take over running the school last year,” said Hermione. “They came out with all these horrid ‘Educational Decrees.’ They tried to fire the teachers who didn’t toe the Ministry line, outlawed all clubs and student organizations they didn’t approve of, banned the reading of unapproved magazines, and eventually tried to replace Professor Dumbledore as Headmaster, all because he and Harry kept telling people the truth about Voldemort being back. Fudge nearly wet his pants when it was finally rubbed in his face that they were telling the truth.”
The hubbub died down, and Dumbledore announced that it was time for everyone to go to bed. A couple of prefects from each table—the new fifth year prefects, Hermione told Dawn—rose, and called for the first year students to follow them. Ron and Hermione did a quick head count as the new students passed them, making sure that all of the first years did indeed follow the prefects out of the hall. They followed along behind to make sure that no one wandered off. The rest of the students waited in the hall for another fifteen minutes before they started to move out, to give time for the first years to get sorted into their dorm rooms before they reached them.
When Dawn, Harry and Ginny reached the portrait of the Fat Lady they found a group of students standing outside it. “Hey, Harry!” called Colin Creevey. “Do you know the password?”
“Try ‘Queerditch Marsh,’” said Dawn.
The Fat Lady heard her, and the painting swung open.
“How’d you know that?” asked Colin.
“That’s what it was a week ago,” said Harry. “Now go on in, you’re blocking the door.”
Everyone quickly filed through into the common room, and most of them continued up the stairs toward the dorms. There was a bit of confusion among the senior girls, when some fifth and sixth years discovered they weren’t with all the roommates they were expecting.
Dawn soon found that the room she was to be sharing with Hermione and Ginny had half a dozen extra girls in it. “Hey, Hermione! What’s going on?” asked Lavender. “Why aren’t you with us this year?”
“With so many girls leaving last year, there’s room to put only three girls to a dorm room for the senior years,” said Hermione. “So Ginny and I volunteered to move in with Dawn, since we’ve already known her for a few weeks.”
“How are you going to help us with our homework, if we aren’t sharing a room?” asked Parvati.
“Same way I help Ron and Harry,” said Hermione. “We can still visit each other you know. I’m only one floor up from you. It’s not like we’re in a separate house or anything.”
Everyone started talking, catching up with each other on how they’d spent their summers. Some of the girls filtered away, and others came in. Some of the new arrivals were in their pyjamas, and some of the ones who had left came back in their pyjamas. It was starting to look like it might turn into a slumber party.
Everyone wanted to hear how Dawn had taken Draco’s wand away from him again, and then when she let slip that she was from Sunnydale they wanted to hear all about the collapse of the Hellmouth. Dawn gave them the version of the story she had told to Harry and Lupin the first day she met them, once again leaving out all the most exciting bits. Ginny and Hermione had both heard the full story by now, so they knew what the rest of the girls were missing.
Hermione stopped it from developing into a real slumber party at eleven o’clock by reminding everyone that classes started tomorrow morning, and chasing all the visitors out of their room.
|Chapter 22: Practical Defence||Contents||Chapter 24: Betting Pool|