A Tale of The Other Trio - Stealing a Sword
I don't know, maybe I was the only one; but when I read that short account in DH of "The Other Trio's" attempt to steal the Sword of Gryffindor from Snape's office, I felt like there was so much that was left untold; just imagine all the planning agonizing that must have gone into that failed attempt. Here's my take on the story from Neville's point of view. This is only the first part; please owl me and tell me what you think!
Stealing a Sword
Stealing a Sword
Neville stood, sweating slightly, in the middle of a deserted classroom, watching the door close behind the two girls. He slowly hefted his bookbag from the desk beside him. Gazing in distaste at the new insignia which had been added to every student's belongings at the start of term, a wand emitting a coiling serpent surmounted by the words "Iunctus in Sanctimonia", he swung the strap over his shoulder. He walked slowly towards the door, trying to calm himself.
He had known since the beginning of this year that he had, more or less, had the mantle of leadership thrust upon him. Once it had become apparent that Harry, Ron, and Hermione were not coming back (although everyone, for months, had nourished small kernels of hope that Harry would triumphantly appear at the head of some Wizarding army to overthrow the new regime, everyone's common sense told them that this was lunacy. Harry was on the run, or worse), Neville had somehow assumed the role of leader of the resistance. Slowly but surely, he, Ginny, and Luna had taken the place that Harry and his friends had filled during Umbridge's infamous reign. Instigators, organizers, in effect, the brains and power behind the student's quiet but persistent rebellion.
Neville had known and accepted this fact for months. However, in quiet, unguarded moments, the thought that he had effectively taken Harry Potter's place still made him squirm and blush. He was not famous from almost the moment of his birth. No one did a double-take when they heard his name. You-Know-Who hadn't thought Neville so important that he had been trying to kill him from infancy! And then, Harry looked so much more the champion than he did; with his thin, expressive face and vibrant eyes and lightning scar; Neville looked deprecatingly at his own plump, unassuming body. Neville was the last person anyone would expect to fill such a role.
And now, this thing Ginny and Luna wanted to do. He glanced nervously around the deserted corridor, as if the Carrows would hear his thoughts and jump out at him, drag him off for some horrific punishment. It was all very well, spattering permanent graffiti on the Carrow's doors, refusing to torture fellow students even if it meant a few blows, setting off self-timing dumgbombs under Snape's chair at the staff table, enchanting portraits and suits of armor to yell phrases like "Support Harry Potter!" and "The Ministry Stinks!", carrying on Dumbledore's Army in some form or another all year. But this!
To steal the sword of Godric Gryffindor!
To steal the sword of Godric Gryffindor!
Neville pushed the crazy idea into the back of his mind as he stood outside the classroom. He always needed a moment to prepare himself before facing Amycus Carrow for a solid hour.
The fat Death Eater taught what had, for six years of Neville's school days, been known as Defense Against the Dark Arts. Now the official name of the class was "The Noble Arts", though the title fooled no one. Methods of the basest and cruelest of dark magic were now taught behind that door.
Neville thought wistfully of the days when shabby, kind Professor Lupin had taught the class. He was, by popular consensus, the best teacher they had ever had; never failing to fill his one hour with interesting, instructive subjects. The other teachers had all had their ups and downs; but really, Neville thought, today it would even be a relief to walk into the class to find sinister, toadlike Umbridge behind the desk. Although her classes had been nothing but tedious rounds of ministry propaganda she seemed positively kind now, in comparison to the Carrows. But -- Neville glanced at his watch -- he was already two minutes late. Being on time to classes had never been more important; or rather, being late had never had such dire consequences. He pushed the door open quietly.
Carrow stood, lopsided and leering behind his desk. Most of the students were still taking out their books and wands. The class was double the size it had been the old days; there were now almost no classes where Gryffindor and Slytherin students were not paired together. "So" Neville thought bitterly, "the Carrows will always have someone to come running back to them, telling tales about us if the other teachers won't do it." To do them justice, however, many of the Slytherins were less than enthusiastic in their support of the Carrows. Most agreed with the new order in theory but they kept their heads down otherwise. Only a few, such as Crabbe and Goyle, bulky, sadistic sons of Death Eaters, were ardently involved.
And there was something that really puzzled Neville: Malfoy. Draco Malfoy would have been the leader of the Slytherin pack a few years before, the first to go to the Carrows with tales of disrespect and sedition. However, now he kept out of things; pale and wan and frightened looking, he allowed his old cronies to suck up to the Carrows while he stayed off to the side. Rumors said that his family had fallen out of favor with Voldemort; probably he expected daily to hear word that his parents had been murdered on a whim.
Neville was abruptly jerked out of his pondering by a wheezy voice.
"So, Longbottom!" Carrow was crowing, lurching between the desks towards him. "You thought you'd drop in, did you? Thought you'd honor us with your company? I suppose the school schedules are beneath your Highness' notice, eh?" Students shrank back in their seats as Carrow passed to stand, wheezing and breathless, in front of Neville.
"Eh?" he asked again.
"No sir." Neville said. He kept his head high. His jaw was tight and his voice was defiant. Gone were the days where a teacher could cow him with a look, a word of sarcasm.
"Oh, really." Carrow leered, his narrowed eyes inches from Neville's. "Well, then, perhaps you'd like to explain why you kept the class waiting."
"I didn't, sir." Said Neville quietly. "You hadn't even started yet, you see."
"So!'' Carrow proclaimed triumphantly, "Now Longbottom thinks he can tell me when my class should start! Insolent!" He roared suddenly into Neville's face.
He grabbed Neville by the back of his robes (and a good handful of hair) and begin forcing him back up towards the desk. Neville struggled all the way, but halfheartedly; he was in for it already, and there was no point in making things worse. Carrow threw him roughly towards the ground.
Neville sprang back up as soon as the man released him. He let his bag drop to the floor. There was no way he was going to show pain or fear, no matter what they did to him. The entire classroom was watching with a sick fascination as Carrow's small eyes roamed over the students.
"You! Malfoy!" He wheezed. "Get up here! Got a treat for you!"
Neville snapped around to stare at Draco Malfoy, frozen and still at a desk in the very back of the classroom. Every eye turned in the same direction, as Malfoy, his face stark and white, got slowly to his feet.
"Up here!" roared Carrow again.
Malfoy walked stiffly forward. Neville stood still and straight, waiting for him. As Malfoy stepped into the light at the very front of the class, Neville registered again how dreadful he looked; gray tinged and dark-circled, he appeared more frightened than Neville was.
"Here!" said Carrow, almost jovially. 'Longbottom, Draco Malfoy, I believe you've met."
Neville noticed in surprise that he was as tall as Malfoy now; he had not been face to face with him at this range for some years. Looking defiantly into the other boy's eyes, he saw raw terror staring out at him.
"Well, Draco." Said Carrow with a wheezy giggle. "It's up to you! Something to teach Longbottom a lesson! Any of the curses we've been working on should be ...er... effective."
He stood back. Malfoy slowly raised his wand; it looked as though he had a heavy weight tied to his hand as well. He and Neville stared at each other. For a long moment the class seemed not to breath.
Then "Vell--Vellocorpus!" stammered Malfoy. Neville recognized the incantation; a curse to make the victim feel as if his limbs were being stretched beyond endurance, it had been taught in class several weeks beforehand, to the delight of Crabbe and Goyle and the faint sickness of everyone else. However, Neville felt nothing but a vague discomfort in his arm joints; clearly Malfoy was not saying the spell with any kind of willpower.
Malfoy lowered his wand, glancing at Carrow in a hopeful way as if to ask if that was enough. However, the Death Eater regarded Draco with something very like disgust.
"No guts, eh Malfoy? Just like your spineless father!" He snarled. "Again! Go on, make Longbottom scream!"
Malfoy turned to Neville again with desperation clearly written on his face. "Vellocorpus!" he said again, his voice faintly hysterical. This time a wracking pain surged through Neville for the briefest instant; causing him to double over and almost retch. However, he straightened up at once, all his nerves quivering.
"Go on, Draco, more!" Carrow shrieked. Malfoy seemed on the verge of tears, and Neville had the strangest impression that this was becoming a punishment for both of them; that it was hanging in the balance which of them Carrow would start on with his own considerable range of curses.
"I-- it--" Malfoy squeaked, his breath sporadic and terrified. He shook his head as if to rid himself of a fly. Carrow glanced between the two of them, his tiny eyes narrowed to slits. Then Malfoy faced Neville again, seeming to muster all his willpower, whipping his wand up to eye level.
"CRUCIO!" He yelled.
Neville, all his previous resolutions of stoicism forgotten, hit the floor. He writhed and screamed and twitched; he had had this curse used on him before, but somehow one always forgot how much it hurt. The pain seemed to drag every second into hours, into days.
Then it stopped. He heard sobbing from somewhere above him, but all he could realize at the moment was that, however temporarily, the agony had ceased. He breathed deeply, pressing himself into the cool floor. After a moment, he was able to open his eyes and look up. Malfoy was standing over him, tears streaming down his face, his wand still extended but shaking so badly that it was a wonder he hadn't dropped it. Carrow was standing beside him, gesturing viciously from Malfoy to Neville. His meaning was clear. More.
Malfoy trembled even more uncontrollably. Carrow's gestures became more violent as Malfoy became more agitated. Finally Carrow raised his own wand.
"More, Draco, or you get the same." He hissed.
Malfoy's hand, still trembling erratically, directed his wand once again at Neville.
"Crucio!" His voice broke halfway through the spell; the word came out as more of a groan. However, another spasm of pain shot through Neville's body; his already over-wracked nerves reacted more strongly than they would have otherwise. His limbs twitched violently, his body shook, and as he began to lose consciousness he heard another voice scream "Crucio!". However, no more pain came and he blacked out.
Neville came to almost at once. He had been kicked aside while he lay inert, as if he were a thing less than human, beneath notice. He opened his eyes a fraction; he was crumpled on the floor to right of the teacher's desk; the class had already started.
Neville examined the room from his vantage point on the floor. The entire class kept stealing furtive glances at him, as if to assure themselves he was still alive. Apart from that, no one moved. All of the students seemed slightly smaller than usual, shrunk back into their seats. Carrow was expostulating on some curse, the name and purpose of which Neville had missed. However, from what he heard, it sounded quite as gruesome as the others. Malfoy was nowhere in sight.
He had no intention of announcing himself to be awake. He was perfectly content to lie here through the rest of the lesson; it suited him better than having to sit at his desk and listen quietly to Carrow praise the Dark Lord and the Dark Arts, bash Muggles and Muggle-borns, and generally take pleasure in making them squirm with his detailed descriptions of the curses they were being forced to learn and use.
As he lay there, Neville's thoughts returned to Ginny and Luna and their preposterous plan.
They had no real reason to steal the sword; no prospect of doing anything useful with it. However, everyone was getting desperate, needing to do something drastic.
"It's Harry's really." Ginny had argued fiercely. "Dumbledore left it to him! Letting that overgrown bat keep it up in his office is as good as condoning theft!"
'But- but--" Neville had stammered.
"I think Ginny's right." Luna said calmly.
"But what would we do with it?" Neville asked.
"Oh, nothing for now." Said Ginny. "But imagine how it will boost everyone's morale if we get it! taking something important like that from right under Snape's nose!"
"We couldn't go yelling about that we had it!" Said Neville. 'It would take about two seconds to reach the Carrows, and then we'd get a life sentence in Azkaban; and that's if we're let off easy!"
'We wouldn't go yelling it about." Said Ginny in exasperation. "Just, you know, let people know quietly. Word of mouth. Like Harry did with the D.A. meetings fourth year!"
"I don't know." Said Neville, still very reluctant to follow through with this crazy scheme. "Umbridge was different. You know, she was evil and all, but she was just working for Fudge and she didn't have power to do all that much if you look at the big picture. We could have been expelled, big deal. But the Carrows! Think who they're working for! Do something like this under their noses and we'd probably wind up in front of You-Know-Who himself!"
"Oh, well." Said Ginny, her eyes narrowed fiercely. "If you're chickening out, me and Luna will do it alone; won't we, Luna?"
Luna looked over Neville's head.
"You know, I think we'd better," she said serenely. 'If it really is Harry's, and we're supposed to be helping him, it's a good idea to get the sword to give him when he comes."
"I don't think he's coming, Luna." Neville said quietly. 'Or at least, not for a long time. Look what he's up against! I know it's nice to think that he'll just turn up at the gates one day, but he won't. The best we can do for him is to keep things going here, keep as many students from being hurt as we can."
"Well, that's what you think, is it?" Ginny spat. "Just sit around and do nothing while people like the Carrows take over everywhere?"
'I didn't say do nothing!" Neville said in exasperation. 'It might not be the most exciting thing in the world, but we're doing a lot more good here just standing up to them, giving people hope, than we would be doing locked up in Azkaban!"
Ginny was about to retort when Luna interrupted.
"We're going to be late for Professor Slughorn, you know."
Ginny glanced at her watch. "Darn it! Listen, Neville, we've got to run. But I'm not giving up, okay? I still want to do this."
She and Luna turned and hurried off through the deserted rows of desks in the empty charms classroom. And Neville was left standing, sweating slightly, watching the door close behind the two girls.
To steal the Sword.....
Neville was jerked from replaying the conversation in his head as the bell for end of Carrow's class rang. All of the students seemed to jump to their feet as one; there was moment of scuffling as books were shoved hastily into bags and everyone hurried to get to the door. There seemed to be even more of a rush to get out of the classroom than usual; but almost every one of the students shot a quick glance at Neville before exiting. As the last student hurried out and the door banged shut, Carrow turned slowly to where Neville still lay on the floor.
Neville tensed up as Carrow's lumpy feet and ankles came closer to him; stopped within a foot of his face. For a moment they were both still. Then Carrow spat down at him.
"I know you can hear me, boy. You got off easy today, you hear? But you've been giving my sister and me a lot of trouble. Too much trouble. I've got my eye one you, you and those two brats you run round with. You cause any more troble, and it just might be the last thing any of you do." He aimed a kick in the general area of Neville's abdomen and then turned to shuffle off towards the teacher's door at the back of the classroom.
Neville slowly released his breath as the door closed. he looked around to make sure Carrow was really gone, then eased himself slowly upright. He winced as all his muscles protested. The Cruciaus Curse followed by an hour of hard floor did not help one to relax.
He found his bag, tossed off into another corner, and walked slowly towards the door. He had not missed the threat to Ginny and Luna. It was almost as if Carrow knew they were planning something.... or talking about planning something. However, his experience today had made him suddenly defiant. He was willing to do anything to cause the Carrows trouble, the more dangerous the better.
He stepped outside the door to find Seamus waiting for him.
Seamus was lurking a few doors down, and hurried out as Neville limped past.
"You were great in there!" Seamus exclaimed, falling in step beside him.
"I didn't do anything, just screamed a lot. And passed out." Neville said bitterly, rubbing his sore back.
"Are you kidding?" Seamus said incredulously. "The way you faced down Malfoy when he came up there.... it was inspiring, mate, I can tell you!"
"Speaking of that," Neville said, "What did happen in there? I mean after Malfoy cursed me?"
"Well, that was the funny thing." Said Seamus thoughtfully. "He wouldn't do it anymore. Or couldn't. He just sort of broke down. Then Carrow Crucioed him."
"Yes, I heard that part." Said Neville. "Surprising, isn't it? A favorite like Malfoy . . ."
"He's not a favorite any more, in case you haven't noticed. I've heard that now he and his family are just more servants to You-Know-Who. Before they were right in the inner circle."
"Still, it's weird Carrow would do that to him."
'Oh, it was only for a few seconds." Seamus said contemptuously. "Not nearly as long as he would have used it on one of us. Not nearly as long as Malfoy used it on you, for that matter. He was on his feet right away. But he still screamed a lot more than you did." He added as a kind of satisfied afterthought.
Suddenly Ginny came dashing from the corridor up ahead.
'Neville! Neville! Are you all right?" She cried, as Luna came drifting around the corner, looking vaguely concerned. They both hurried towards him.
"I'm fine--" he tried to tell them, as Ginny began looking him up and down, as if to check that he still had all his limbs.
"Parvati told us what happened! Oh, Neville, that evil, cruel, vicious-"
"You shouldn't say things like that in the corridor." Luna commented. "Hannah Abbott was whipped by the other Professor Carrow yesterday, I don't want it to happen to you."
"She's right." Seamus commented. "It's better to keep that kind of comment to yourself. Not that I don't agree with you!" he added hastily to Ginny. "Listen, Neville, I've got to run. But keep it up!" He waved a hand and disappeared around a corner.
"So what really happened?" Ginny asked Neville. "All Parvati said was that they used the Cruciatus Curse on you, and you were on the floor all the way through the lesson."
"I was all right, really!" He said quickly. "I only passed out for a few minutes. He had Malfoy use it on me--"
"That ferret!" Ginny spat.
"He actually wasn't too happy about it. You know, I actually feel a bit sorry for him. I never thought I'd say it. Crabbe and Goyle are a lot worse than he is now."
"But still!" Ginny cried. "If he had the slightest bit of spine he'd stand up to them!"
"True." Neville agreed. "Carrow actually used the curse on him after I passed out, but Seamus said it was only for a few seconds."
"It's too bad there isn't an infestation of Squeaking Sqips anywhere in the castle." Luna commented suddenly. "If you carry one around with you, it wards off the Unforgivable Curses. But unfortunately they bite." She ended airily.
"Oh--yes, of course." Said Ginny. "But Neville, why did they want to punish you in the first place?"
"Oh, I walked into class about a second late." Said Neville wearily. "And then I was mouthy with Carrow; or at least that's what he decided. But listen-" He told them about what Carrow had said just before he left the room. "He thinks we're up to something. We're going to have to be extra careful."
"All right." said Ginny. "But Neville, I still haven't given up on the sword idea. I think we should do it, now more than ever."
"I'll think about it." Neville said cautiously. "But if we do it, it'll take an awful lot of planning...."
"Well" said Luna calmly "What else are friends for?"
They spent the next week doing almost nothing but observation. When the three of them were not in class, Neville was tailing Amycus Carrow, Ginny was following his sister, and Luna was sticking to Snape like glue. On the fourth day of these activities, during one of the rare moments when they were all free, Luna calmly informed the others that Snape had realized she was following him.
"What?" Ginny gasped. "If he knows - Luna, you should have been a lot more careful! All our plans will be wasted if they find anything out! What did he say?"
"He was quite nice, actually." said Luna serenely. "I just told him I was studying the habits of people who show signs of having the Ysaerg Yllems, and that it was for an article daddy's writing. He looked at me rather oddly, but as not many people have heard of the Yllems, I'm not very surprised."
"Oh." Said Ginny rather lamely. "Well, if you're sure he didn't suspect what you're really doing..."
"He didn't," said Luna. However, the bell had rung at that moment, the three of them had gone their different ways and they were unable to question Luna further.
What they were really doing was attempting to pick out a reliable pattern in the habits of Snape and the Carrows. They had to know to the very second when the Headmaster's office could be relied upon to be empty every night, and how much time they could allow themselves to carry out their mission. Then, they had no idea what enchantments surrounding the sword they might have to undo, or even where it was kept.
"I've only been up there once." Ginny said. "That was two years ago, and it was only for a few minutes when dad got attacked in the Ministry. I don't really remember where anything was."
However, they clung gratefully to any small details she could recall.
"There's a spiral staircase that goes up by itself . . . all the way to the top of one of the towers, I think." She said, her eyes closed. "And then a door; maybe two doors. I don't remember all that well. The room itself is really cluttered; or at least it was. Dumbedore had loads of stuff...."
Neville took sketchy notes while she talked. "And was there anything else that needed a password, apart from the gargoyle at the bottom?" He asked.
"There wasn't then. I wouldn't put it past Snape to have added some more security, though."
Neville jotted that down. "And Luna knows the password.... what was it again, Luna? 'Blood Purity'?"
"Yes, said Luna. They were in an empty, dusty room near the Ravenclaw common room. It was nearly dark and Ginny and Luna had their wands lit.
"Figures." Neville muttered, as he scrawled the words with obvious distaste. Luna had heard Snape speak the password two days before. "Of course, it could change by then. Try to be near him when he goes up there as often as you can, so we can find out if it changes." He looked up and sighed. "We'd all better get to bed. Curfew is in ten minutes."
The three of them parted outside the door of the classroom, Luna turning up the narrow staircase that led to the Ravenclaw's tower-top common room, Ginny and Neville heading for the wide corridor containing the portrait of the Fat Lady and the safety of their own dormitories.
Three days later, they decided that they had learned as much as they were going to. Neville and Ginny were standing nervously in a deserted and nearly unused corridor, waiting for Luna. It was late in the afternoon, and if all went well, they were going to make their attempt that night. This last-minute meeting was to kill time and boost their morale more than anything else. Luna, however, didn't show. They waited five minutes, then ten. Just when they were really getting nervous, she came around the corner.
"The password's changed!" She said. "Professor Snape came a few minutes later than he usually does, and I was about to leave, but then he turned up. And it was good that I stayed, because the password was different this time. Now it's 'magic is might'."
Ginny snorted. 'Yes, that's the Ministry's new slogan. What was the point of changing it at all?"
"No idea," said Neville, "but we're lucky to have it. Imagine if we had gone only to find we had the wrong password!"
"Well, at least we can be sure they won't change it between now and tonight," said Ginny "I think that settles it: today should be the day."
Neville took a deep breath. "All right, then." he said.
Ginny strolled nonchalantly along the corridor a respectful distance from the gargoyle that guarded the headmaster's office. She and Neville and Luna had taken advantage of the fact that the History of Magic classroom was not far from there, and agreed to come up separately shortly after dinner began, intending to answer to any quires that they had run up to ask Professor Binns a question. This was perfect, seeing that Binns was a ghost with no social life, meaning that he rarely attended dinner, thus making their story plausible.
Ginny checked her watch every few seconds. She had been up here for five minutes; Luna was due at any moment and so far no one had asked her any questions. She glanced up and down the corridor, attempting not to look anxious, or as if a great deal depended on the next half-hour. That was how long they had decided they could give themselves to have the sword and be on the journey downstairs. Snape usually stayed in the Great Hall for close to a full hour, but they did not want to take any chances.
Luna walked around the corner ahead. There was no change in her usual demeanor; sometimes Ginny envied Luna's gift of complete detachment. Though she was positive no one was watching, Ginny took her time in "noticing" Luna and strolling over to her.
They made forced small talk for another two minutes, when Neville was scheduled to appear. In just a little over four minutes, he did, panting slightly.
"Snape kept staring at me. Or at least I felt like he did." Neville shook his head irritably. "I'm so tense I'm starting to imagine things. Let's go."
They meandered over to the bust of a young wizard in a niche beside that door to the Headmaster's office. While Ginny and Neville pretended to examine the statue, Luna strolled a few feet past the gargoyle, muttering the password as she did so. The silent stone carving jumped to the side. With a few hasty last-minute glances around the corridor, they filed through the newly-appeared door and onto the moving stairs. The gargoyle shifted to block up the entrance again, leaving them in dense silence.
The staircase, in it's tight and narrow spirals, should have been dark. However, it was gently and consistently lit, though there were no visible sources of of the illumination. Luna gazed around, looking only mildly interested, but Neville was stiff with tension, craning his neck to see around every curve before they rounded it, his wand at the ready. Up and up and up they were lifted, until it seemed that only the surrounding mountains could be higher than they were. Then, the stair finally ended.
At the top, the steps melted, one by one as they came, into the solid stone floor. Neville stepped off the stairs, feeling slightly disoriented by the dizzying journey they had just made. However, he did not lower his wand.
"Well, Ginny," he said nervously. "This is it, right?"
"Yes, this is it." Ginny said in a whisper. "Now we have to go through that door there. I remember now." She glanced around and shuddered slightly. 'This isn't how I remember it. Last time I was here it was so . . . light, you know? Even though it was the middle of the night."
'Light' could certainly not describe the current state of the Headmaster's outer room. Dark, heavy curtains, which looked as though they might have been infested with doxies, hung on the single window. There were many lamps hanging from brackets on the walls, but only one or two were lit. It was a depressing place.
After assuring themselves that there was no one else in the room, they walked slowly towards the opposite door. As cautiously as if it might spring to life and attack her, Ginny reached out her hand and touched the doorknob. Nothing dramatic happened. They all quite still stood for a moment, then she tightened her grip and turned the knob.
The door eased open by infinitesimal degrees. Neville mustered all his courage and stepped through. The two girls followed him, all three wands at the ready.
The office was deserted. Though there were no visible signs of dark magic, no curses waiting to be activated upon intrusion, there was a sense that the somber man who now inhabited the room had left some of his own grim personality there. Neville, gazing around, could not imagine Dumbledore ever staying here. Ginny, vague and distorted though her memories of the room were, felt the same. There were no twinkly silver instruments, no bowls of sweets, no bright golden bird. But there - they all drew breath - protected by a glass case, on a bed of red velvet, rested the sword of Gryffindor. Neville took a slow step toward it. They hardly breathed. Everything was still; the portraits of the previous Headmasters and Headmistresses were almost all snoozing. Except...
"HA!" shouted an angry voice. The three of them whipped around. "How dare you enter here without permission, ungrateful children?!"
It was Phineas Nigellus Black. He looked quite as outraged as he sounded.
"Now, Professor Black." said Ginny in a placating voice. She had experience dealing with him, having encountered his portrait at Grimmauld Place too often. "We have perfectly good reasons for being here. Please just be quiet and please," a new danger suddenly struck her "please don't tell Professor Snape we were here!"
"How dare you, impudent girl? You expect me to help you hide your crimes? I most certainly shall not! In fact," he huffed "I am off to tell Professor Snape where you are at this very moment!"
"No, please!" Neville begged. "We're not going to do any harm, honestly! It's all for the best!"
"You expect me to believe that, idiot? What's your name?"
"Vincent Crabbe." Said Neville, seeing a tiny ray of hope. If Phineas did not know their names, they might at least stand a chance of getting out safely. "And this is Pansy Parkinson," he nodded toward Luna, "and Daphne Greengrass."
"Very well, expect a call from the Headmaster shortly." He s******ed, turned sideways, exited his frame, and stalked in front of a tiny, slumbering witch who had been painted in front of the Ravenclaw banner. Only one more painting and he would pass from the room. Ginny turned towards the door, mentally calculating how much chance they would have of getting down the staircase again before Phineas reached Snape in the Great Hall. When-
"Stop, Phineas!" said a commanding voice. Once again the three of them jumped around, wands at the ready.
It was Dumbledore's portrait, directly behind the desk. He looked wide-awake and alert, his blue eyes gazing directly at the Slytherin headmaster. "Do not leave the room."
"Well!" Phineas smirked, "I might remind you, Dumbledore, that you are no longer the current Headmaster, and I am at liberty to do whatever I please without reference to you. So, if you'll excuse me." He turned once again to exit the room.
"I suggest we give these students a chance to explain themselves before we do anything rash. If you alerted the Headmaster now, I'm afraid you might damage the reputation of your own house beyond repair."
"What do you mean?" Phineas asked, his eyes narrowed. Slytherin house and everything pertaining to it was his passion.
"If my memory serves me correctly, Mr. Crabbe, Miss Parkinson, and Miss Greengrass are all in Slytherin. Slytherin house, at this time, is the most favored in the school. How would it look if the three students from that house were caught in the Headmaster's office without permission?"
"Well..." Phineas hesitated, clearly torn between his tattling instincts and his house's reputation. "I suppose..." He looked sharply at Neville, Ginny, and Luna. "The three of you are in my house?"
Luna nodded before either of the others could reply. "Oh yes. It's quite the best house. You must remember when the three of us got all "Outstandings" on our O.W.L.'s two years ago? I was quite sure I saw you in one of the portraits during the celebration in the common room."
Neville looked at Luna, quite impressed with her wild inventing. Although he doubted that the three students whose names they were using would have received anything past "Acceptable" in any of their exams, Phineas would be quite willing to remember something that showed Slytherin students in so favorable a light.
'Oh . . . yes. Yes, I do remember that well!" Said Phineas, brightening up. "Quite the party!"
"Oh, yes." Said Ginny complacently. "Professor Snape in particular was very pleased."
"I would think so!" Said Phineas with dignity. "I daresay he wouldn't mind that you've run up to his office. Carry on with whatever it was you were going to do. I'll just . . ." he mumbled something incoherent and hurried past the sleeping witch and out of the room, looking rather embarrassed.
"Has he gone to tell Snape after all?" Neville asked warily.
"I would wager against it, Mr. Longbottom." said Dumbledore quietly. "But you were very foolish to come up here. You too, Miss Weasley and Miss Lovegood."
Ginny looked abashed, but spoke firmly. "There's something we've got to do up here, Professor. Surely you wouldn't tell Snape! He was the one who . . . who killed you! He's working for You-Know-Who! You wouldn't tell him, would you? You must know what the Carrows are like, they'd kill us if they learned we were in this room."
"I certainly would not turn any student over to the mercy of the Carrows," said Dumbledore, fixing her with his sharp blue eyes. "but I must insist on knowing what you hope to accomplish here."
'It's....It's to help Harry." Said Neville. "He's out there on his own, he needs all the help we can give him! Please Professor, just let us do what we came to do!"
"Admirable as your aims to aid Harry are, Mr. Longbottom, I must ask once again what, precisely, it is that you came here to do?"
"I --" Neville stammered "well, we--"
"We've come to take the sword. Gryffindor's sword." Ginny spoke bluntly.
Dumbledore did not look angry, or even surprised.
"Ah." he said. That was all.
Ginny's voice became passionate. "You left it to Harry, Professor! And the Ministry refused to let him have it! You can't be happy to see it up here! He's out there alone, we have to do all we can for him!"
Dumbledore spoke gently. "I understand your concern for Harry, Miss Weasley. Please believe that mine is just as great. But take it from me that you cannot aid him in this way. You will do him no good by attempting to remove the sword, and are putting yourselves in a very dangerous position."
"I'm sorry, professor. I know you're trying to help," said Ginny "But we've been planning this for weeks. We've already been up here for too long. We're not giving up now." she finished stubbornly. Neville and Luna nodded in the background.
Dumbledore looked at them with an odd expression; it might gave been sadness; but then, it might have been pride. For a long moment no one spoke. Then Luna piped up:
"I understand if you don't want to help us, Professor," she said "but it would be quite nice if you could let us know if there are any enchantments guarding the sword? Because if there are, we'll have to figure out how to get past them."
The three of them looked expectantly up at Dumbledore's portrait. He seemed to consider for a long moment.
"There are certainly no dangerous enchantments guarding the sword," he said finally. "but please do not let that encourage you. My advice of a few moments ago still stands. You can do no good this way."
"Thank you, Professor," said Neville, "but we've got to try." He turned to the two girls. "Shall we?"
They both nodded. There was the briefest moment of silence, and then the trio advanced slowly on the glass case.
'You will excuse me, I'm sure." said Dumbledore. They halted warily. He rose from his chair, and moved without hurry towards the door of the room, walking in front of various other past potentates of Hogwarts as he did so.
The three of them followed his progress through the paintings with their eyes. He walked though the portrait closest to the door, that of a slumbering middle-aged man with shoulder-length black hair, and vanished from the room. They were still.
"What do you reckon he's doing?" Neville asked slowly. "He can't be going to Snape, can he?"
"I think he's nice." said Luna matter-of-factly. 'He wouldn't tell on us."
"Of course he's nice." said Neville exasperatedly. 'He was the best headmaster Hogwarts ever had. But maybe . . . who knows how those portrait's minds work?"
"You heard Phineas," said Ginny "they're supposed to obey the current Head. But I just can't see Dumbledore handing us over to Snape . . ."
"We need to decide, though!" Neville said urgently. "Do we get out now, or try to get the sword? We've been up here for twenty-five minutes already."
"I think we should try to get it." Luna said calmly. "We're trying to help Harry, aren't we?"
"You're right, Luna;" Ginny said "we definitely have to try. If it seems like it'll take too long, we can leave. But I'm trying to get that sword." she finished firmly.
Neville took a deep breath. "Here goes, then." he said, stepping determinedly up to the case. He stood there for a moment, then prodded the glass carefully with his wand. Nothing happened. He did it again. Then, slowly, he laid a hand on it. The glass was cool and still.
Handing his wand to Luna, he placed a hand on either side of the case and hesitantly tugged upwards. It did not move.
He tried harder. When nothing happened, he attempted to lift it from one end, then the other. Still nothing.
"Here." Ginny said. She stepped up and directed her wand at the glass. "Wingardium leviosa!" The case did not react. "Alohomora!" - she tried tugging at the base, but it would not move.
Luna tried a vanishing charm, and then an odd series of words that Neville was sure wasn't even a real spell.
"I think we're going to have to break it." Ginny said finally. Neville looked nervous, but stood back for her. Ginny took a steadying breath, and said "Deprimo!" Neville winced, but the result was anticlimactic: again, nothing.
"We might have to do it manually," said Luna, "Daddy's told me about objects being made impervious to spells. Maybe this is one of them."
"All right." said Neville. He looked around. There was nothing that presented itself as a good object to smash a thick sheet of glass. He did not fancy getting into one of Snape's cupboards; they had no assurance that there were no dangerous protective spells there. He had just turned to look among the things on the desk, when Luna bent down and pulled off her shoe. It was lime green, with a hard yellow sole.
"Use this." She handed it to Neville.
He hesitated. "This is going to be loud...."
Ginny directed her wand at the sleeping portraits. "Muffliato!"
"Learned that one from Harry. It works." she said to Neville. "Go ahead."
Neville raised the shoe and gritted his teeth. "Here we go..."
He gave an experimental tap, then brought the sole down hard. The glass did not shatter, but there was a reassuring vibration. He struck again. On the third time, with a loud crashing sound, a fist-full of broken glass crumpled inward onto the sword.
Neville quickly enlarged the hole, until the entire top of the case was demolished. He handed Luna back her shoe, and she absently set it on Snape's desk, her eyes fixed on Neville. Slowly, carefully, still alert for any signs of protective magic, he lowered his hand into the mess of broken glass and lifted out the sword by its hilt. For a long moment they all looked at it reverently, shining in his hands.
Then Ginny recalled them to the urgency of their situation. "Okay, we have it! Now we need something to wrap it in, and we need to go."
With the hand that was not holding an ancient, legendary, goblin-made sword, Neville grabbed a handkerchief from his pocket. "I'm no good at enlarging charms. Ginny?"
She took the small square of fabric. Biting her lip in concentration, she wordlessly enlarged it until it was big enough for Neville to conceal the entire sword. Making sure that the bundle he was cradling in one arm looked perfectly unremarkable, he raised his wand.
"Okay, let's get out of here!"
The three of them slipped through the door of the office, which was still ajar. The outer room was just as deserted and depressing as it had been when they had passed through it before. And for the first time, Neville seriously entertained the thought that they might, just might, get away with this; and all the brilliant implications of possessing the legendary sword of his house's founder flashed through his mind.
But he would have time to think about that later. For now, they still had to get down the staircase and conceal the sword somewhere without being detected. His wand arm tense and every nerve quivering, he stepped onto the stairs with Ginny and Luna behind him.
The stairs moved upward slowly enough that descending them was no real challenge; however, it took more concentration than he wanted to spare at the moment. He stumbled several times, and only Luna's hand at his elbow kept him from falling down. It was rather hard to judge time or distance on the unchanging, gently movie staircase, but he reckoned that they were more than halfway down. Soon this would all be over . . .
And then, rising smoothly from around a curve just below them, came Severus Snape.
Neville, Ginny, and Luna stopped dead in their tracks. For a moment, no one in the odd tableau stirred a finger. As Snape stared up at them, his eyes cold and glittering as ice, they rose upward in perfect spirals back the way they had come. Then Snape spoke.
"Longbottom." His voice was soft, hardly above a whisper. "Explain yourself."
Neville stared down at him without speaking. Then Ginny, without warning, shot a wordless stunning spell over his shoulder. So fast that Neville would not have believed it possible, Snape deflected the spell and almost in the same instant, disarmed Ginny.
Now holding two wands, he turned his eyes back to Neville. A sneer played around his lips.
"Now, Longbottom, you and Miss Lovegood will hand me your wands, along with that very mysterious object you're holding. Then the three of you are going to explain to me why you were in my office without my permission while the rest of the school was at dinner."
"Are we?" Neville asked defiantly. "Well, if you think me and Luna are just going to hand you our wands, you've got another thing coming."
"You make this difficult, Longbottom." Snape's voice had a delicate edge of mockery now. "But then, you have always made everything difficult. I doubt if I ever taught another idiot quite like yourself."
"Leave him alone!" Ginny hissed. "You evil, cruel, greasy--"
"Quiet, you stupid girl!" Snape spat back. With another motion of his wrist, Neville and Luna's wands flew to his hand to join Ginny's. Now defenseless, the three of them drew together, Neville cradling the sword in its wrapping. The gesture was not lost on Snape.
"Ah, yes." He reached out one hand. "If you please, Longbottom."
"And what if I don't want to give it to you?" Neville shot at him.
"Do you really want to try that?" Snape sneered at him, brandishing his fistful of wands. Neville was reminded absurdly of a child challenging his playmates to draw straws. There was no doubt in his mind that he, Ginny, and Luna had the shortest one of the bunch.
Slowly, he handed the sword to Snape, keeping his face as contemptuous as he could. That done, there was dead silence between the four of them.
"Ah, here we are." said Snape after a moment, his voice smooth. Neville glanced over his shoulder to see the top of the stairs. Slowly, without taking his eyes from the man below him, he stepped out onto the solid floor, Ginny and Luna following his example. Ginny had tears in her eyes, whether from rage, fear, or frustration he could not tell. Luna looked as calm as always. Neville had time to wonder, for one split second, whether the girls would have a chance of getting away if he tackled Snape. Then there was nothing.
Severus Snape looked down for a long moment at the bodies of the three students. Longbottom and Weasley lay in the center of the room, crumpled exactly where they had been standing when his Stunning spell had hit them. The Lovegood girl, with more presence of mind than he would have given her credit for, had dodged his original spell when she saw her friends fall, but he had hit her with another an instant later. She lay sprawled on her face, her blond hair fanned out over the dark floor, her robes flown up to reveal her pale legs up to the knee. As he looked at her still figure, he knew a moment of self-loathing; this was what he had become. Slowly, awkwardly, unsure why he did it, he stooped over to tug her robes back down. An odd, detached part of his mind noticed that she was only wearing one shoe, and wondered why. Then he turned away and opened the office door.
Dumbledore was back in his portrait, alert and wary. The moment the door opened, he sprang from his seat.
"Did you get it, Severus?"
Snape held up the bundle he had taken from Longbottom. For a moment neither of them spoke. Then Dumbledore looked him sharply.
"What did you do with them?"
Snape jerked his head towards the next room. "Stunned. They'll be fine."
"And the Carrows know nothing?"
"Did you suppose I would tell them?"
Dumbledore sighed. "No, of course not. But you never know . . ." he shook his head and sat back down. Snape looked at his office; at the shattered glass of the case; at the cheery green and yellow shoe, the brightest thing in the room, sitting on the edge of his desk. His mouth twisted bitterly. He walked over and set the sword down.
"The fools." Resisting the urge to swear, he seized the shoe from his desk and dashed it to the floor. "The . . . fools! What did they hope to gain?" He strode up and down the room. He was full of rage at their stupidity, and yet . . . the Longbottom boy's last thought, before thought had been snatched from him, had been so pure . . . so courageous. Snape's sense of self-hatred increased with every step. Why was he as he was? Was Dumbledore right, had he been Sorted too soon? If he had not been placed in Slytherin would his life have been different? Would he be more like those foolish, brave, honest children there outside the door? He turned to Dumbledore, who was watching him sadly, as if he knew the thoughts passing though Snape's head.
"Tell me, Dumbledore!" he said, his voice torn between contempt and pleading. "What were they trying to accomplish?"
Dumbledore sighed and shook his head again. "Severus . . . you know as well as I the pain of doing nothing while our world falls to pieces around us. I am only surprised that the students did not attempt something like this sooner. And there is more reason in it than you might think; look at it from their perspective, Severus. They know nothing of the false sword; all they know is whatever Ginny Weasley heard at her home over the summer - that I left Harry the sword of Gryffindor in my will and the ministry refused it to him. They are desperate to do something to help him; this was irrational, as you say, but surely understandable."
Snape sat down on a chair against the wall and covered his face with one hand. "Before I Stunned him, the last thing Longbottom thought was whether the two girls would be able to escape if he attacked me. Me, with four wands, while he had none! I was seeing his emotions the entire time; he is an idiot, he always has been . . . but there was not one moment of concern for himself, only for his friends. Why are others allowed to make a stand? Why have I been forced to sneak and spy my whole life?" his voice broke. He could feel Dumbledore's eyes upon him.
"What you do, Severus, takes a different kind of bravery." Dumbledore said finally. "Some would say a greater kind. We can only hope that an opportunity will come for you to make a stand, in the open, without concealment. But now, you still have a long task ahead of you."
Snape sat there for a long time, while the night wore on. Dumbledore was silent. At last Snape got up. His face was quite impassive.
"I will go wake them." He said. His voice had it's usual sardonic edge. "What punishment should I hand out, Dumbledore? I must seem realistic."
'I'm sure you'll think of something." said Dumbledore gently. "Oh, and Severus -" Snape turned. "If they have not realized it already, please do not reveal to them that it was I who warned you what they were about. Of course, I could not have done anything else, but," he sighed wearily "I should not like them to feel betrayed."
Neville came to gradually. He opened his eyes to find the last face he would have hoped to see staring down at him: that of Severus Snape.
"Up, Longbottom." the man's voice was soft and scornful. "Just let me wake up your little friends, and we'll see exactly what's going to happen to you three for tonight's escapade."
Neville sat up slowly. He was still groggy, but he had enough emotion in him to hate Snape more than anything else in the world. He watched as the man stooped over Ginny and Luna in turn, muttering "Ennervate" over each of their prone bodies. Soon the three of them were getting unsteadily to their feet.
Snape opened the door to his office and stood, staring at them all with a supreme expression of contempt on his face. Neville threw him the dirtiest look he could muster as he filed behind Ginny into the office. What other choice did they have? Well, he thought bitterly, if his last act was defending Ginny and Luna from Snape, at least that was a death worthy of a Gryffindor. Their daring, nerve and chivalry....
As soon as they entered, Neville saw their three wands sitting on a chair against the opposite wall. He wondered how fast he would be able to reach them, and whether Snape would be able to hex him from behind before he got there, when Snape interrupted Neville's thoughts as though he had spoken them aloud: "Don't even think about it, Longbottom - or you, Lovegood." Luna gazed at Snape for a moment with her misty, protuberant eyes, and then turned away. Ginny was staring bitterly at the sword on Snape's desk, and had apparently missed the whole exchange.
But how had Snape found out? Neville glanced at the portrait behind Snape's desk; it was still empty. A sudden, horrible suspicion that Dumbledore might have betrayed them ebbed away from his mind. They must have left it too late, wasted too much time talking. If only . . . if only . . . but it was too late now. He supposed he would be lucky if he was still alive to see the sun rise tomorrow. At least Snape hadn't killed them - yet. But who knew how long . . .
"Well, Longbottom." Snape was settling himself behind his desk, sneering unpleasantly. "I think I know well enough what you three were doing. You decided to come up here while your classmates were eating dinner - I suppose Miss Lovegood must have found out the password during one of her shifts at following me. I did wonder what you were really about." He shifted in his seat. "And I, very fortunately, left dinner a bit early. Three students . . . breaking into the Headmaster's office . . . destroying his possessions . . . attempting to steal an honored part of the School's history . . ." he shook his head in mock sorrow. "How very sad. I think the Dark Lord would be interested in hearing about this, don't you?"
"Tell him then." Neville held his head high. "Tell him, and we'll face him down, him and his filthy Death Eaters too. It wouldn't be anything new for us."
"Without your wands, Longbottom? Tut tut, I see that the recklessness peculiar to your House has not skipped you. That is a pity, I have yet to meet one Gryffindor with any common sense."
"I'm a Ravenclaw" Luna piped up suddenly. "And if you call You-Know-Who, I'll die fighting him. I'm not afraid," she said, giving Snape one of her odd stares, "if I die, then I'll see mum again. It's what I've always wanted."
Snape was silent for a moment. There was a strange look in his eyes. Then he spoke quietly.
"I did not say I had decided to call him." Neville looked at Snape suspiciously. A quick death at the hands of Voldemort seemed almost welcome; especially if the alternative was a stint in Azkaban. "After all, he might not appreciate being troubled with something I could, very easily, have dealt with alone. And so I can."
This was the moment.
Neville stepped firmly in front of Ginny and Luna. Ginny tried to trust him aside, but he flung her hands off. He looked Snape full in the face.
"If you want to get to them, you have to kill me first." he said quietly.
"Please do not waste your breath on noble ultimatums, Longbottom." Snape sneered. "I have no intention of killing any of you; personally, at least, What would you say to, perhaps, ten years in Azkaban?" His voice was soft and silky.
"I'm not going to Azkaban either." Neville said. 'I'll die fighting before I let myself be tossed in there to rot." He could feel Ginny nodding emphatically behind him.
There was a long moment of silence. Then Snape sighed. "As I said, you do tend to make things difficult, Longbottom. Perhaps I will let you off easy this time. The Dark Lord would not be pleased to see three young Pure-blooded Wizards with so much potential rotting in Azkaban."
The three of them looked at Snape without a word. Could it be possible they were actually going to get out of this?
"And after all," Snape went on, "after your long association with Undesirable Number One-"
"Don't call Harry that!" Ginnt spat.
"Silence!" Snape flicked his wand at Ginny. She opened and shut her moth indignantly, unable to make a sound. Neville glared at Snape
"As I was saying" Snape continued silkily, "after your long association with that boy, I should hardly be surprised that you have not yet given your undying loyalty to the Dark Lord. It will come in time . . ." Neville opened his mouth to retort, but Snape silenced him as well. "It will come in time for everyone. Soon there will be no witch or wizard in our world who does not revere the Dark Lord as he deserves. He has foreseen it." Slowly, Snape resumed his seat.
The three of them stood in silence. Luna, the only only with the power of speech still left to her, did not put it to use. Finally, Snape spoke.
"I have decided what is to be done with you." He said softly. "Consider yourselves lucky, the Carrows know nothing of what has happened tonight. Although they are my colleagues, I can not pretend I always agree wholeheartedly with their methods. You would probably, at this moment, be dead or insane if they had been the ones to find you down there." He jerked his head towards the stairs. "As it is, I am aware that the gamekeeper, Hagrid, has some dangerous work that needs doing in the Forbidden Forest. He requested students to aid him. You three will be given that task." Neville stared. Could it be possible that they were being let off that easily? The Forbidden Forest was certainly no picnic, but it was not Azkaban either.
Snape flicked his wand. Neville felt the silencing charm lift from him.
"You will wait for Hagrid in the Entrance Hall at seven o' clock tomorrow evening. The task he has for you ought to take all night."
Neville nodded without speaking. There was a rather awkward moment of silence.
"Since you aren't calling You-Know-Who, or putting us in Azkaban." Luna spoke suddenly. "Is it all right if we take our wands back?"
Snape looked at her for a moment. Then he nodded curtly.
"Take them. But if you try anything, I might change my mind about Azkaban . . ." his voice was as cold and sardonic as usual.
With giving the man a glance, Neville stepped forward, seized his wand from the chair where it had been tossed, and walked out of the room. He was too confused about all that had happened in the last hour to fancy waiting around under Snape's eye. He stood for a moment outside the door, where he was joined by Ginny, also holding her wand.
"He told Luna to stay." She murmered, her eyes narrowed. "I wonder what...."
They stood together, not speaking, watching the door of the office. After a moment, Luna stepped out. She was tucking her wand behind her ear, and holding her shoe in one hand. She closed the door behind her.
"It was all split down the sole," she said, holding up the shoe. "but he told me to wait a moment, and he mended it for me. I wouldn't have been able to do it so well." Ginny raised her eyebrows and shrugged as Luna bent down to tug the shoe onto her foot.
"I'm ready." she said, straitening up. She smiled serenely and stepped onto the stairs. "That really didn't go so badly, did it?"
Inside the office, Snape sat at his desk with his head in his hands. He heard the faintest 'pop' behind him as Dumbeldore's disillusionment charm lifted and he appeared back in the portrait.
'You did well, Severus." he said. "You did all you could do."
Snape nodded, but did not look up. The false sword, still wrapped in its white cloth, lay on the desk. Snape had no energy to get up and repair the case. He sat there, unmoving, for a long time.
And behind the portrait of Albus Dumbledore, the true sword of Gryffindor waited for its hour.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil:
for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me...
I cordially dislike Severus Snape.
Last edited by LoonyForMoony; December 30th, 2009 at 11:12 pm.
Re: A Tale of The Other Trio - Stealing a Sword
*edit* I went ahead and made a feedback thread, hopefully that will be easier for everyone. Thanks for your time!
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil:
for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me...
I cordially dislike Severus Snape.
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