Author: John Sexton
Genre: Harry Potter Slash
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Chapter Twenty-Four -- Dumbledore's Army Resurrected
Breakfast, on the second day of the new year at Hogwarts, was decidedly more upbeat than the first. At least for everyone at the Gryffindor table, except for Weasley and his dwindling entourage.
Sals could not believe how much had happened in barely thirty-six hours; he had already seduced two of Weasley's closest allies to his side. Dean Thomas and Seamus Finnigan were sitting with him, Neville and the girls.
Weasley was looking blacker than ever, but ironically showing more restraint; no doubt the effect of losing more support. Maybe, just maybe, that thick head of his was getting the message.
Hermione, on the other hand, was not her usual self, and Sals already knew why. He hadn't needed to invade her mind to know, either; she was projecting so hard she was almost shouting at him.
He looked up, past her, to the other side of the hall. He was relieved to see that the blonde was there, and looking no worse for wear. But The Prince was clearly bitter and angry, and ignoring Crabbe and Goyle, who had obviously got the owl, and were keeping to themselves.
Sals focused next on Ginny, who was bright as a button, and cooing salaciously with Thomas, as they shared their toast, and whispered sweet nothings. It almost made Sals want to throw up.
He looked back at Hermione and realised he'd have to have it out with her, sooner than later, because he already knew that she was not going to let it go.
She squinted at him, then flicked a glance at Finnigan, who was on his left, with Neville on his right, then flicked back to Sals, with a look that was almost an outright glare.
Knowing that it was going to piss her off, Sals grinned at her cheekily, as he wiped the egg yolk from his plate with his last crust of toast. Then, as he motioned to pop it into his mouth, he quipped, "want to go for a walk before Charms?"
"Yeah, where were you thinkin' of goin', Sals?" the Leprechaun piped up eagerly.
"Hermione?" Sals added pointedly.
"Sure," Hermione replied.
"Oh," Finnigan slumped down, having caught the hint.
Sals was relieved that things settled down over the next few days.
Weasley gradually stopped trying to needle him, and had retreated, in fact, to a fairly solitary existence.
By Friday of the first week back at school the odious redhead was, more often than not, eating by himself at Gryffindor table in the Great Hall.
Otherwise, apart from playing the occasional game of Wizards' Chess with the odious Cormac McLaggen from year seven, he spent most of his free time walking around the lake, talking to himself it seemed, or sitting alone in the common room, reading about his favourite Quidditch team, the Chudley Cannons.
Sals was excelling in all his classes, particularly DADA and Potions, so much so that Slughorn had declared, on Friday afternoon, that he was the most talented student he had ever taught.
That was much to the chagrin of Draco, Hermione and, of course, Weasley, who McGonagall had seen fit to enrol in that class; only Merlin knew why.
McGonagall was no less critical of Sals, and was watching him like a hawk.
He went out of his way to ensure she had nothing to pin on him.
Even so, she still seemed to be looking for every opportunity to criticise him, for everything from his tie, to his shoes and his hair, which he had begun to wish he had kept as it was when he'd made his debut in Diagon Alley, if only to piss the old witch off.
The first tryouts for Quidditch were still a week away, and Sals was wondering if he was going to be allowed to play, especially as Seeker, given the wandless skills that he had already exhibited, even before he had arrived at Hogwarts.
However, it was those wandless skills that were proving to be Sals's greatest asset, in attracting Gryffindors to his side.
By the end of the first week quite a few of the younger Gryffindor boys had been seduced by Sals's abilities, and his willingness to pass on some of the simpler tricks to them.
Best of all, some of these recruits came from the ranks of Weasley's cadre, which infuriated the obsessed lunatic, but ironically served to temper his outbursts, as it gradually seemed to dawn on him, that his incessant rants were only helping to drive them away.
Of course Sals didn't waste his time trying to seduce any of the females in the house with his wandless magic.
He was bored shitless by the incessant attention that he garnered from the dozens of covens throughout the entire school, not just Gryffindor.
After word of his tats, especially "the tat," got round, he was beating them off with a stick, while simultaneously doing his best not to piss them off.
After all, he needed the female half of the population's support, just as much as the guys'. The only problem was that he found witches about as attractive as a pit full of Flesh-eating Slugs!
To say that Ron was suspicious of Snape's growing popularity, would have been a bloody understatement.
He was adamant that the slimy git was bewitching the entire school, bit by bit, with Dark Magic of course.
Even Dean and Seamus had betrayed him and gone over to Snape's side.
Ron smarted with that thought, as he recalled the Dark curse that Snape had cast on him on the first night at Hogwarts.
That was almost a week ago, but it seemed like months had passed since last Sunday night.
Ron could not believe that Dean and Seamus really liked Snape. He had begun to suspect that they were actually afraid of him, despite their denials.
When he'd suggested as much, last night, they both had a hissy fit, as if he'd accused them of shagging McGonagall.
Snape had chosen that very moment to walk into the dorm, and Ron had dropped the subject, immediately. Actually, he'd been relieved to have had an excuse. But now he smarted with the recollection.
Then there was the situation with his traitorous sister and Dean. Ron was really starting to hate the tall, black lad, first betraying him with Snape and now trying to get into his sister's pants.
There was a hell of a lot of hushed prattle during lunch in the Great Hall, that Saturday afternoon, much more than usual, especially for a weekend.
Ron was particularly uneasy about the dodgy behaviour at the Gryffindor table, and Granger and Snape seemed to be at the centre of it all.
But what was really getting up Ron's nose, just at that moment, was his traitorous sister. She was huddled together with Thomas again, along with Granger, Snape, Longbottom and the equally treacherous Finnigan, at the far end of the Gryffindor table.
Ron glared at Seamus, just as the inept fool had cast a sideways glance in his direction. But the gutless wonder looked away quickly, and Ron was certain they were up to something.
He decided to go out for some fresh air. The sight at the end of the hall was making him sick to the stomach.
The handsome youth stood alone, before the fearsome gargoyle that guarded the entrance to the headmaster's office.
"My name is Salazar Snape," he hissed boldly, in the language of the basilisk, "I wish to speak to The Sorting Hat, in the name of Mighty Slytherin."
The stone beast remained as impassive as ever.
Suddenly the walls rumbled loudly, the hallway echoed, and the great spiral staircase rolled into view.
Sals stepped off the top stair, whispered an incantation, and waved his wand smoothly, with great concentration. The young wizard smiled, as the door to the great man's office creaked open... equally smoothly.
The tall, handsome youth's wand had disappeared, by the time he flicked his index finger at the ancient hat. It glided obediently from its perch, high on the shelf to the left, down onto the boy's head.
The powerful magical entity draped itself casually across the young warlock's brow, then it drawled sarcastically, in the youth's head.
"You've got balls, young Snape, I'll say that for you!" the hat flattered him, "I doubt, if either Potter or Riddle had known about the gargoyle and Parseltongue, that either would dared to have done what you are doing right now... well, maybe Riddle," it recanted.
"I really need to talk to you," the boy interjected urgently. I would have spoken to you earlier, but this is the first opportunity that I've had, I just found out about Dumbledore's meeting at the Ministry."
"Here to talk tactics?" the ancient magical entity enquired.
"Well... yes... but short-term, not long term... I need your advice," Sals pleaded, "I have a meeting in a few minutes, I had only just called it, when I learned of the old man's departure for London, or rather Hermione Granger had just..."
The boy stopped talking in his head, and with an enormous effort, he projected a mass of thoughts and images at the hat.
The hat remained silent, for some considerable time after Sals had stopped projecting.
"You are rather ambitious," the hat chided the youth, "hoping, let alone expecting, to be accepted as the leader of this group. This is the first move you have chosen to make that will identify you as a challenger to Potter's place as The Chosen One."
"I " the youth began, but faltered.
"You know very well that is exactly how this move will be perceived, the hat admonished him."
"So, what do you suggest?" the boy whined mentally, "should I rename the group?"
"No!" the hat rationalised, "that would be unwise, on two fronts:
"You need Potter's good will, and you have it, in the form of a proxy, three, proxies, in fact; you need to demonstrate your allegiance to the old man, you need to create the impression that you have the headmaster's support, this is one way of doing it.
"You do realise that Dumbledore will learn of this little adventure of yours the minute he returns," the hat added rather jovially, as it cocked its peak at the array of previous headmasters, all glaring at the intruder, from their gilded frames.
Sals glanced at the portraits that lined the walls, every last one was alert and many were chatting openly about the youth's outlandish daring, invading the headmaster's private study.
"Then I'd better be honest and upfront with the old man, as soon as he returns," Sals added craftily.
"You're learning, Snape," the Sorting Hat quipped. "But you'd already considered that when you decided to place me on your head," the hat quipped playfully.
"Your tactics intrigue me," the ancient magical entity teased.
"It's simple really," Sals grinned wickedly, quite proud of his rationale. "The first time we spoke, you did so telepathically from the shelf, so the portraits were oblivious to our interaction.
"The second time, I had come here specifically to talk to you; I saw no point in letting either Dumbledore or the portraits know that we could communicate so."
"Since I am going to have to confess to the old man, again it needs to be obvious that we are communicating!"
The hat laughed at that, equally impressed and amused by the boy's logic and tactic.
"Well done, Snape, Dumbledore will, no doubt, be impressed by your honesty!" it crooned sarcastically.
"That's all well and good," Sals griped, "but getting Dumbledore's Army to accept that I am not trying to destroy Harry Potter's memory, nor trying to usurp his god-like status within the group, will not be easy. By comparison, getting Dumbledore's support will be a snap!"
"You have to get Granger, Weasley and Longbottom to convince the others that you should replace Potter as the leader of the group."
"How am I supposed to do that?" the youth griped again.
"You will just have to demonstrate it!" the hat declared haughtily, "if not with the proxy, then with the real thing!"
Sals huffed in frustration; he was still far from convinced that the hat was right on this issue.
"Sorry!" he apologised genuinely, as he chastened his own unruly arrogance, and waited for an explanation...
The air outside was dank and cool, as had become the norm throughout most of the summer, ever since the Dementors had started breeding. Now, with the onset of autumn, it had become even more pronounced.
Ron wandered down towards the lake, as he had done every day this week past.
He wasn't sure what had triggered it, but as he stood on the shore he suddenly remembered the second task in the Tri-Wizard Tournament... and Harry.
A feeling of guilt descended on Ron, as he realised that he couldn't remember the last time he'd given Harry any thought.
If the truth be told, he'd almost given up hope of ever seeing his best friend again. He grew suddenly depressed, and he felt betrayed by everybody and everything.
Ron's thoughts drifted into darker deliberations about Harry's guilt, he had almost given up hope there as well.
His anger began to resurface, as he dwelt on the fact that he'd not had a single word from Harry, for more than two months. Ron's so-called friend had made no attempt to contact him, not even to assure him that he was safe, nor tell him he was innocent.
These thoughts were plaguing the lonely and dejected redhead; but Ron's musings were derailed, the moment he felt his pocket growing warm.
He panicked, at first, thinking it was a jinx, put on him by that bastard, Snape! Ron's anger surged, until he realised that it was his Dumbledore's Army Galleon that was calling him.
He'd taken to carrying it around, more as a keepsake than for any practical reason; after all, he'd never dreamed that the group would be recalled.
Anger suddenly flared, as the Knut dropped...
"Granger!" Ron spat.
"So that's what all that whispering and secrecy was about... and no one had said one word to me! Not a bloody word!"
Ronald Weasley raced towards the school; if that bloody bitch thought she was going to do anything behind his back, she had another thing coming.
Hermione stood nervously in front of the assembled group, flanked by Ginny, Neville and Luna. But, even with their support, she felt terribly nervous. It was essentially a full attendance of the Defence Association, or Dumbledore's Army, as it was now known. The only two absentees were Harry and Ron Weasley.
"Thanks for coming to this first meeting of Dumbledore's Army," she started uneasily, "we're just waiting on a few more arrivals, before we get under way."
"I thought everyone was here," Michael Corner interjected impatiently.
"Well," Hermione baulked, looking nervously to Neville and Ginny for support, "in the interests of house unity, we thought it would be a good idea if every house was represented."
A rumble of apprehension flitted across the assembly, but to Hermione's great relief it was disrupted by the opening of the entrance to the Room of Requirement. But when the door swung open, instead of Sals and Draco, Ron Weasley burst into the room, in a fit of rage.
"What the bloody hell do yer think yer doin'?" he growled at Hermione viciously, while glaring at his sister and Neville.
"I thought it was pretty obvious, Ronald," Hermione retorted, having regained some of her composure, "we've recalled Dumbledore's Army, to help prepare us for what's coming."
"What gives you the right to call the meeting?" Weasley spat. "If anyone was going to call it, it should have been me!"
"This isn't about you, Ronald Weasley!" Hermione snapped, quickly regaining some composure and a sense of authority. "Besides," she tossed her head back dismissively, "we didn't think you would want to attend."
"What gives you the right " the redhead began.
Weasley stopped in his tracks, and reached for his wand, in a reflex action, as the door to the Room of Requirement opened once again.
Fortunately he had not been granted permission to carry his wand out of class yet, so he came up empty handed. That was definitely a good thing, because through the door strode Salazar Snape, Draco Malfoy, Vincent Crabbe, Gregory Goyle, Tracey Davis and Millicent Bulstrode.
There was a chorus of reactions to their arrival, and it was mixed to say the least, even though Hermione had virtually forewarned the assembly of their arrival. However, Weasley had not been privy to that information, and even if he had it was doubtful that it would have tempered his reaction.
"WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU LOT DOING HERE!" he exploded, but remained rooted to the floor.
"I asked them to come," declared Hermione vehemently, then turning towards Ginny and Neville she rephrased, "we all did."
"You're all blind and mad!" Weasley shouted, "he's got you under some dark spell," he pointed accusingly towards Sals, "and you're all too fuckin' stupid to realise it!"
"In fact," Hermione pressed on undaunted, "we've asked Sals to lead the group. After all there's no one more capable of doing the job."
"Over my dead body!" came the redhead's rejoinder.
"As tempting as that is, Weasley..." Draco chimed in...
"That's not funny, Draco!" Hermione reined the blond in, with a scathing glare.
"Sorry," he recanted seriously, much to the assembly's collective surprise.
"Well, Ron," Ginny berated her brother, "unless you think you could do a better job? Maybe, you should challenge Sals to a contest to see who is more qualified," Ginny added the snide dare with a bitter twist.
"Get real!" he retorted, "I don't even have my wand!"
"Exactly!" Hermione pounced on the opportunity, in the same way that the redhead loved to declare, "Checkmate!"
"And we all know why that is the case, don't we, Ronald?" she chided him. "You have repeatedly demonstrated your unsuitability to lead in this school, with crystal clarity, since Sunday. So I suggest you keep quiet, and let us get on with business."
Hermione now turned to face the rest of the assembly, which had been mesmerised by the clash of Gryffindors, more particularly the sibling feud.
"So then... does anyone besides Ronald Weasley have any problems with Sals leading Dumbledore's Army?" She paused, momentarily, before adding, "if Harry could tell us, I'm sure he would approve."
"The hell he would!" grumbled Weasley, who was clearly determined not to be cowed by Hermione, whose latest pronouncement was obviously a bridge too far for him.
"We knew Harry pretty well, Ron," Neville announced, "and we reckon he'd be happy with our decision."
"HE WAS MY BEST FRIEND!" roared Weasley, noticeably offended by the suggestion that anyone knew The-Boy-Who-Lived better than him.
"There you go again! This isn't about you, Ronald!" shot Ginny. "Why does everything always have to be about you?"
"I knew Harry better than anyone, and I'm telling you... all of you..." he cast his angry glare over the entire assembly, finally sneering at Sals and Draco... "he'd have knocked the snot out of these two, the minute they entered this room!"
"Considering that I came in here with them..." an all too familiar voice sent a shiver down everyone's spine, as the air immediately adjacent to Sals's left arm shimmered, and Harry Potter, sans his familiar, tortoise-shell glasses, emerged from beneath his invisibility cloak.
"HARRY!" chorused Hermione, Ginny, Luna and Neville; their combination of shock, confusion and unbridled euphoria was patent. But the reaction from Ronald Weasley was bitter silence that was simmering beneath a hot, angry scowl.
Ron Weasley was apoplectic.
This was the ultimate betrayal. Potter had left him in the dark for over two months. Not so much as a how-de-do, then he has the audacity, not to simply turn up, unannounced, like some hilarious birthday surprise party, but in the company of Snape and his faggot, Slytherin boyfriend!
The next minute or so seemed to pass in a blur for Ron, as the room was in turmoil, while the traitorous Gryffindor trio pawed Potter like he was some long-lost treasure, crying and laughing and fawning over him.
The angry redhead still had not spoken, when Potter called for quiet.
"Sorry for the dramatic entrance, everyone," he addressed the group, "but it's really important that nobody else knows that I am here. In fact, it's in your own best interests that nobody else knows that I was ever here."
Potter paused, seeming to let that sink in, "just think back to last year, and what the Ministry did to Hogwarts, to Dumbledore, and to us! Fudge may be gone, but Umbridge, and plenty more like her, are still in positions of power and influence at the Ministry.
"If word gets out that I was here, there are more than a few who would use that as an excuse to try to take over Hogwarts again, and even send Dumbledore to Azkaban for harbouring a wanted murderer."
The-Boy-Who-Lived paused dramatically...
"Just so you know... no, it was not murder. It was an accident, Wild Magic, and I didn't use any of the Unforgivables. But none of that matters now.
"I'd love to stay and talk to you all, but I can't. But I just wanted to give my support to Sals, and let you guys get on with it. I won't see any of you again, not for quite some time, so take care. Sals or Hermione will call the next meeting, thanks. So, if you can all leave quietly, and remember not a word about me being here! I need to talk to Hermione, Ron and Ginny."
With that said, the assembly quickly disbanded.
A few shook Potter's hand or gripped his shoulder, as they left the Room of Requirement, probably just to reassure themselves that he was not an allusion, some almighty hoax.
The last to leave were the Slytherins; in Ron's mind that included Snape. Potter gripped Snape's hand firmly, which made Ron's blood boil, but he remained bitterly silent.
"Thanks Sals," Potter smiled warmly at the greasy git's son, then he almost whispered, "thank your old man for all his help too."
Potter winked playfully at Snape, who gave a rather strange grin, in reply.
"Good luck," Potter added, then nodded towards Malfoy, of all people, and gave a friendly grin, and simply said his name, "Draco."
Ron could not believe his senses. He had seen and heard it all, but he couldn't believe his eyes or his ears. He had the feeling that the others had found it equally strange.
When only the Gryffindors, remained, Neville embraced Harry in a full body hug, again, then left quietly.
"You don't seem very pleased to see me Ron," Potter stated flatly, as he turned to face the redhead, "you haven't said a word."
"What do you want me to say?" Ron exploded rhetorically. "You leave me in the dark for two months, not a word, not a single reassurance that you're not dead, that you're not a murderer. NOT ONE FUCKING WORD!
"Then you swan in here, with Snape and Malfoy of all people, as smug as you like, and you expect me to fall all over you. I was supposed to be your best friend!... YOUR BEST FRIEND... for fuck's sake!"
"Look, Ron, I'm sorry... OK!" Potter replied a little impatiently, "if I could have contacted you, I would have... OK!... even now I'm putting you all in danger, just by being here."
"Oh, yeah, right!" Ron spat back, "but you could manage to make contact with Snape and his greasy git of an old man AND MALFOY!"
"I hate to admit it, Harry," Hermione chimed in, "but Ron's right, that all seems rather strange. I'm thrilled that you support Sals to lead the Army, but Professor Snape?... you hate him."
Potter smiled at her, and that only annoyed Ron even more.
"I found out a lot about Snape, while I was on the run, Hermione, just before I nearly died.
"It's a long story, and maybe one day we can discuss it, but I needed to see Dumbledore urgently, and every minute I'm here puts everyone, including you and Dumbledore in great danger.
"Just so you know, Severus Snape helped me get into the castle, OK. So when I learned about this meeting it was too good an opportunity to try to put some things right."
Then Potter turned back towards Ron.
"I'm really sorry you feel the way you do, Ron. But Ginny's right, this is not all about you. It's sad to see that little has changed since the Tri-Wizard Tournament. You really do need to grow up, Ron. Until you do, I'm afraid you're always going to be out of step with everyone else."
"Yeah, well fuck you too, Potter!" Ron snapped, "why don't you just piss off then?" With that said, the volatile redhead turned and stormed out of the Room of Requirement, leaving Harry and the girls in shock.
Hermione was stunned by Ron's reaction, as much as Harry and Ginny, she figured.
Ron had certainly been acting crazy these last few months, but at least she thought Harry's reappearance would have been the one thing that might have turned him around, not have the exact opposite effect!
"Wow!" was all Hermione could utter.
"Yeah," nodded Ginny in agreement, "Who'd have thought. I'm afraid my psycho brother has really lost the plot. He is just so full of himself!"
"God, I wish we had time to talk," lamented Harry, "but I've got to see the old man, and like I've already said, every minute here..."
"We know," Hermione smiled compassionately, "but, Harry, Dumbledore is not here, he had to go to the Ministry."
"He's back, Herm," Harry announced, "got back just before we came up here. He wants to talk to me urgently, something about Voldemort and the Prophecy. I really have to go!"
He embraced them both desperately.
"I'll miss you both... terribly," he sighed.
Harry hugged Hermione again. Then he turned to Ginny, and hugged her to him in a tight embrace.
"Glad to hear you and Dean are an item," he almost whispered.
Ginny pulled back from the embrace, to look into Harry's eyes. She was clearly shocked and disappointed by his revelation. He merely smiled apologetically.
"Dean told Sals," then he shrugged, "it's for the best, Gin, it was never really going to happen with us. Sorry. Dean's a good guy, I'm really happy for you."
He kissed her on the forehead, pecked Hermione on the cheek, swung his cape up over his head, and disappeared out the door, leaving the two Gryffindor witches wondering what the hell had just happened.
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This is a two-chapter Potterverse short story [complete].
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