“The castle is under siege,” she cried to the Fat Lady. “Wake the other portraits, we are convening in the Great Hall.”
“Right away,” said the Fat Lady, allowing the portrait hole to open. Minerva scrambled inside and found her entire house, pajama-clad and carrying wands, standing at attention. For a moment, they all just stared at her.
“Is it a fight?” asked Geoffrey Hooper. “Are they coming?”
“All of you, fetch your cloaks. You are leaving the school.” Frightened looks and whispers circulated around the room, but there was a dash to get up the stairs and back down as quickly as possible. Minerva made a quick count. “All right, line up at once and follow me to the Great Hall. First years at the front, with any prefects I’ve still got,” she ordered, and Josephine O’Brien seized Evelyn Alistair and Carmichael Wallace by the hands, standing firmly in front of Minerva. “Come on, quickly.” She led the line of Gryffindors to the staircases, where they ran into Filius and the Ravenclaws. The students immediately began chattering excitedly. “The charms are up?” Minerva asked.
“As well as they can be,” he answered. “But Minerva, I’m worried—”
“Numbers,” Minerva agreed. “I don’t know what we’ll do if they outnumber us, either, but we’ve got to try.”
“Agreed,” Filius said, furrowing his brow. “Perhaps—”
“What?” Minerva gasped. They had just entered the Great Hall, where the Hufflepuffs were already waiting.
“Didn’t think we’d miss this, did you, Professor?” called Oliver Wood. He stood before the staff table with Katie Bell, Alicia Spinnet, Angelina Johnson, and Kingsley Shacklebolt. Neville Longbottom, Seamus Finnigan, Parvati and Padma Patil, Lavender Brown, stood beside them with Terry Boot, Michael Corner, and Anthony Goldstein, their wands drawn. Longbottom gave her a grin from beneath his wounds that had still not healed. Hannah Abbott, Ernie Macmillan, and Susan Bones stood beside him.
“How did you get here?” Minerva cried. Filius was shepherding her students and his own to their House tables.
“It doesn’t matter now, Minerva,” said Kingsley, with a reassuring grasp on her arm, “We are here. Remus, Molly, and Arthur are here, too.”
“We have a chance,” Minerva said, patting his hand.
He nodded once. “More than a chance.”
At that moment, Horace appeared, leading the Slytherins in. Many of them were looking sulky and annoyed, and Horace still looked incredibly unsure of himself. As they settled down, Minerva turned to Kingsley and the overage students. “All right. We’re going to break into groups, that will be easiest,” she said. “Kingsley, you’ll lead one and—you said Remus is here? With the two of you…and Pomona, Filius and I…”
Kingsley seemed to be following her train of thought. “Arthur, as well. We can all take groups to the grounds—and the towers.”
“Let us teachers handle the four towers, we can get in most easily,” she said.
“Fine,” said Kingsley. “Arthur, Remus and I will lead the groups on the grounds. That leaves Molly and any other staff who stay to be ready for fighting in the castle.”
“That does sound like fun.”
Minerva spun and saw Fred and George Weasley—for the first time with his missing ear—grinning at her, and with them was a tearstained and red-faced—
“Percy!” she gasped.
“Hello, Professor,” he said in a watery voice. “Would you like some help?”
“We are ‘ere,” said an accented voice, and Minerva saw Fleur Delacour and Bill Weasley arriving, followed by their parents.
“Of course we are,” said Molly, approaching Minerva and squeezing her hand.
Remus stepped forward, looking very strained. Minerva touched his arm, feeling suddenly terrified. “Are you sure?” she asked. “The baby—”
“Is safe with Dora. My place is here,” he said seriously. “This is where I belong.”
Minerva nodded. “With your colleagues.”
He gave half a grin. “Absolutely.”
“Harry’s here,” said Molly, pointing to the Gryffindor table, where Potter seemed to be searching for someone—it occurred to Minerva suddenly that she had not seen Hermione Granger or Ron Weasley, and she felt a little prickle of fear. “We should get started, we don’t have much time.” She took Arthur’s hand and gestured for her sons to follow, and they all hurried down to the Gryffindor table. Dumbledore’s Army and the other overage students scattered to their respective Houses as well, and after a moment, Minerva stood with just the Heads of House and Kingsley on her either side. The rest of the staff stood behind her.
Minerva nodded once and raised her wand. She fired a few sparks in the air, and chatter ceased immediately. All eyes were on her. “Hogwarts is under attack,” she said bluntly. She gestured to Pomona, Filius, and Horace. “And we, as your teachers, have a duty to your safety. You are to be evacuated at once—”
A hand touched her shoulder, and she saw Poppy standing with a contingent of the rest of the staff, grim-faced and ready.
“If you are under seventeen, you are leaving this castle tonight, with no exceptions,” Minerva shouted. “We have use of a secret passage of which no one else is aware. It leads directly to Hogsmeade, where you will stay until you can be moved to a safer location, with the help of your teachers. The evacuation will be overseen by Mr. Filch and Madam Pomfrey.” She caught Poppy’s eye—she nodded in agreement. “Prefects, when I give the word, you will organize your House and take your charges, in an orderly fashion, to the evacuation point.”
“And what if we want to stay and fight?” shouted Ernie Macmillan from the Hufflepuff table.
“If you are of age, you may stay,” Minerva said, and she could see a few mutinous looks among the Gryffindors.
“What about our things? Our trunks, our owls?” called Lisa Turpin.
“Where’s Professor Snape?” demanded Astoria Greengrass.
Minerva lifted her chin slightly. “He has, to use the common phrase, done a bunk.” A cheer rose up from every table, every corner of the room, except where the Slytherins were glaring sourly at their classmates. Minerva raised both hands, trying to quiet them. “We have already placed protection around the castle, but it is unlikely to hold for very long unless we reinforce it,” she said. Out of the corner of her eye, she spotted Potter, creeping up and down the Gryffindor table as though he were hunting for someone. She frowned. “I must ask you, therefore, to move quickly and calmly, and do as your prefects—”
A sudden, horrible chill overtook her, and she knew what was happening a split second before it happened. A terrible, freezing voice drove through the castle walls, shaking the stones and rattling the windows with its force. It was deafening, and the entire room lost ten degrees in less than a second. Students began to scream; Minerva saw several young girls at the Ravenclaw table burst into tears.
“I know that you are preparing to fight. Your efforts are futile. You cannot fight me. I do not want to kill you. I have great respect for the teachers of Hogwarts. I do not want to spill magical blood.” Voldemort’s voice seemed to echo in Minerva’s very skull, like a throbbing headache, but beneath it, she felt only anger and defiance. There was a long stretch of silence, but Minerva knew he had not finished.
“Give me Harry Potter, and none shall be harmed.”
She closed her eyes, and felt a hand seize her own; it was Poppy’s, ice-cold and shaking.
“Give me Harry Potter, and I shall leave the school untouched. Give me Harry Potter, and you will be rewarded.”
There was a second, ringing silence, and Minerva opened her eyes to see more students weeping, their heads buried in their arms or embracing each other tightly. At the Gryffindor table, Molly was clinging to Arthur, her face white under the twinkling stars of the enchanted ceiling.
“You have until midnight.”
And the voice vanished again. The temperature seemed to rise again, but the Great Hall was completely silent. Minerva felt a sick sort of pressure building, and like everyone else, she looked at Potter. He stood, a skinny (he looked thoroughly underfed, and the effect of the burns on his face did not help) seventeen-year-old wearing clothes he had outgrown ages since, staring back at his former classmates.
“Merlin’s beard,” Pomona whispered.
“But he’s there!” Pansy Parkinson was standing on a chair at the Slytherin table. Draco Malfoy and his cronies sat around her, but did not seem to want to look up. “Potter’s there!” she screeched, pointing dramatically across the hall at Harry. “Someone grab him!”
“No,” Minerva gasped, when there was a sudden movement—and then she saw it. Gryffindor first, all the way down to Josephine O’Brien, who stood on a chair because she was so small, and then the Hufflepuffs, and then the Ravenclaws had all risen and formed a protective wall between Pansy and Harry. A few older students drew their wands menacingly. Minerva’s heart swelled with pride, and she shared a joyous look with those who stood nearest to her. Poppy’s eyes were full of tears. Minerva stepped forward and said tartly, with no small amount of satisfaction, “Thank you, Miss Parkinson. You will leave the Hall first with Mr. Filch. If the rest of your House could follow.”
Horace, looking very ashamed of himself, stepped forward and faced Minerva, who regarded him calmly. “I’ll—I’ll just…see them out,” he rumbled.
“Farewell, Horace,” she answered. He made no argument, though he seemed to struggle with words for a moment before deciding to just hurry after his House.
“We’ve got a plan,” Kingsley murmured in Minerva’s ear. He, Remus, and Arthur had just ended a conference, and his face was grim and set. She nodded once.
“As soon as they’re out,” she whispered back. “Ravenclaws, follow on!” she shouted. She saw nine overage students keep their seats at the table, but when Hufflepuff departed, more than twenty stayed behind. She caught Pomona’s eye and gave a faint, grateful smile.
Then she saw the Gryffindor table. “Get started,” she said sharply to Kingsley, and descended from the head table. She spotted three fourth years straight away. “Abercombie, get along! All of you—Vane, Hooper, Frobisher, Robins! Go!” Then, with a shock, she saw a face that she had never expected to see again. “Colin,” she stammered, and the boy beamed at her. Then she hardened her expression. “Absolutely not, Creevey, go! And you, Peakes! Coote, get on!”
Reluctantly, Colin Creevey left with Jimmy Peakes and the second wave of Gryffindor evacuees, and Minerva watched them go. Kingsley was talking, and she turned around; Pomona and Filius were already counting heads, trying to find out who would go to which teams.
“We’ll need somebody to organize defense of the passageways into the school,” Kingsley said, and Fred and George Weasley stood up at the same moment.
“Sounds like a job for us!” Fred called, and Kingsley nodded.
“All right,” he shouted, “leaders up here and we’ll divide up the troops.”
Minerva hurried forward, but was stunned to see Harry Potter still lingering by the Gryffindor table, looking annoyed, as though he were terribly lost. “Potter,” she said, seizing his shoulder. “Aren’t you supposed to be looking for something?”
He didn’t seem to understand her at first, but then his face lit up suddenly. “What? Oh—oh, yeah!” Minerva bit back a cry of exasperation.
“Then go, Potter, go!” she insisted, giving him a small push towards the door of the Great Hall.
She hurried up to the staff table, where her team had assembled themselves: Lavender Brown, Luna Lovegood, Cho Chang, and Parvati Patil. All four looked fierce and determined—though for Luna, perhaps it was just the absence of her dreamy smile. Minerva nodded. “Come on, you four. We’re going to Gryffindor Tower.”
Dean grinned at Seamus as they followed Professor Flitwick and their team to Ravenclaw Tower. The castle was eerily quiet, a bizarre calm before the storm.
“You're looking good, mate,” Dean joked, and Seamus elbowed him.
“Well, we couldn't all take a couple months' vacation, could we?”
Dean smirked. They arrived at a winding staircase where Professor Flitwick, followed by Terry Boot and Anthony Goldstein, hurried up out of sight. “After you,” he said, with a slight bow, and Seamus aimed another elbow at him. “Oi, not before the Death Eaters get a chance!” Seamus snorted and clambered up the stairs. Dean followed him all the way up, where the door to the Ravenclaw common room stood open.
“Come on, Finnigan, Thomas,” squeaked Professor Flitwick from within. “Take a window and prepare yourselves—we've got about five minutes until midnight.” They picked up their pace and entered the room in time to see Flitwick directing the obviously confused and befuddled Carrows to leave the tower.
“Shouldn't we keep them tied up, Professor?” Seamus asked bitterly, but Flitwick shook his head.
“If the Tower falls under siege, we would be leaving them to die,” he said firmly. “I won't do that.”
Dean glanced at Seamus, who looked for a moment as though this sounded perfectly all right to him; considering what remained of his best friend's face, Dean could hardly blame him. “Where will they go?” he asked.
“I'm taking them to a broom cupboard and locking them in,” Flitwick answered calmly. “Professor McGonagall still has their wands. They're quite harmless now. Take a position at the window, Mr. Thomas.” Dean gave a little snort and shared a glance with Seamus. As Flitwick followed the meekly shuffling Carrows down the spiral staircase, they both hurried forward to the enormous windows of Ravenclaw Tower, which overlooked the edge of the grounds and the Quidditch pitch.
“All right, you two?” Seamus asked Terry and Anthony, and Dean grinned at them, handling his wand nervously.
“Just as long as you two don't start showing off and stealing all the glory,” Anthony answered with a smirk. He looked at Terry and shook his head. “How we got paired with a couple of Gryffindors, mate, I ask you…”
“Good luck, then,” Seamus said with a nod.
“You too,” Anthony answered. There was a very quiet moment, when all four of them simply stared at each other. Dean felt a prickle of unease.
“Two minutes to go, gentlemen!” Flitwick had come hurrying back into the room, and was flicking his wand wildly; a stack of books assembled themselves on the floor—Seamus and Dean on one side, Terry and Anthony on the other. “I want Stunning Spells and Shield Charms,” Flitwick was saying as he climbed up to stand on the books. “Be as certain as you can when choosing a target—our fighters are down there too, but if you do hit anyone, it won't be lethal.” He consulted his watch and flicked his wand once; the windows creaked open, scattering centuries of dust and rust into the night air.
“I think a good rule is to aim for the ones who are aiming at us,” Anthony muttered, and Seamus and Dean snickered.
“Just be ready,” Flitwick said warningly. He pointed with his wand. “They've begun.”
He was right. Down on the grounds, Dean could hear screams and yells echo through the night. Dashes of bright lights and colors flickered here and there, but he couldn't spot anyone who looked as though they were trying to get into the castle, nor anyone who seemed to be clearly defending it. He clutched the wand he had taken, a spare obtained from Justin Finch-Fletchley, who had had a run-in with some Snatchers. It did not feel right in his hand; would it work at all? He glanced at Seamus, who was looking unusually grim beneath the bruises and gashes on his face. Terry Boot raised his wand suddenly, leaning forward.
“Wait,” warned Flitwick, “wait a moment longer…there! Coming out on the side of the Quidditch stands, you see? Go!”
Dean shouted, “Stupefy!” and three other voices echoed around him. The jets of red light rocketed down from the tower, but no one waited to see if they hit their marks; taking their lead from Flitwick, Dean and the others shouted jinxes without stopping; if any Death Eaters looked up and saw where the spells came from, they would be sitting targets, and so they could not delay. It took nearly ten minutes for anyone below to discover the source of the phantom spells, and so in a great burst, they received their first return fire. With a yell, Professor Flitwick toppled backward off of his stack of books, diving out of the way just in time as a jet of green light soared through the window collided with a bookcase. There was a small explosion that rocked the whole room, and a piece of the ceiling caved in. The collapsed bookshelf burst into flames.
Dean and the others were thrown off their feet, but he was first up and scrambled over to the fire. “Aguamenti!” he screamed, but nothing happened. He stared down at his wand. “Aguamenti!”
“Thomas, get that under control!” Flitwick shouted, as he pulled Anthony, who had been hit by a flying piece of broken ceiling and knocked unconscious, out of the way of the windows.
“Aguamenti!” Seamus bounded over a broken chair and doused the fire at once. “What's going on?” he demanded of Dean.
“I don't know!” Dean cried, smacking the wand against his hand. His fear was overwhelming him. “It's this bloody—stupid wand—it's not working!”
“Never mind that, we're abandoning this post,” said Professor Flitwick urgently. “Thomas, find yourself a working wand—that one's no good, you'll have to win one from somebody else—Boot, help Goldstein—” Dean started forward to help support Anthony, who was coming around, propped up on Terry's shoulder, but Flitwick grabbed his arm.
“Go ahead of us!” he squeaked. “It's important you have a wand, go!” Seamus caught Dean's eye and nodded.
“Okay.” He bolted off down the staircase, and felt the castle rock with another explosion somewhere out on the grounds. He steadied himself against the wall and kept running, when he rounded a corner and collided with an old woman who caught him by the shoulders.
“Have you seen my grandson?” she barked, and Dean gaped at her for a moment. He had seen clothes like this before…
“Who—N-Neville?” he asked, and she nodded. “He went with Sprout to the Astronomy Tower, but they'll be long gone by now,” he told her. “That way!” Mrs. Longbottom thanked him and ran on. Dean looked around desperately; where could he find a wand?
“Hey, come with me!”
“Go with Thomas and help him find a wand!” Professor Flitwick squeaked as they all struggled down the stairs. “Go, Finnigan!” He aimed a Sealing Jinx at the door of the Ravenclaw common room and it squelched shut.
“Go, I've got him,” said Terry Boot, hefting his best friend onto his shoulder. Anthony was awakening again, but looked groggy and unaware of his surroundings. Seamus didn't need telling again, and he leapt down the rest of the stairs, looking wildly around for Dean; a flash of green caught his eye—a woman in a long chartreuse dress had just disappeared around a corner, and a few feet away from her was Dean.
A rush of relief filled Seamus, and he seized Dean's shoulder. “Hey, come with me!” he shouted, and Dean looked around, at first in shock, and then with a grateful smile.
“Thanks, mate!” he shouted, and Seamus grinned.
“It's going to be all right—we just need to get you a wand,” he panted, as they ran along a corridor. “I've got an idea—” He choked on his last words as Dean seized him by the neck and yanked him to the floor. A jinx sailed directly through a broken window and collided with the two stone gargoyles that guarded the staffroom; they exploded instantly, and the staffroom door was scorched and smoking.
Seamus sat up, massaging his throat. “Thanks,” he gasped. He offered Dean a hand to get up. “Come on, follow me.” He led the way down the corridor. The castle quaked every few seconds, and Seamus was on high alert.
“Do you hear that?” Dean said suddenly, throwing an arm out to stop him. “Listen…”
Seamus nodded, listening over the din of shouts and explosions, “Sounds like…”
“Mandrakes! Look out, you lot!” roared a new voice. Seamus looked around just in time to leap out of the way; Neville Longbottom, Professor Sprout, Justin Finch-Fletchley, Alicia Spinnet, and Angelina Johnson, who had a bleeding wound on one cheek, were tearing down the corridor together, potted plants in hand. The Mandrakes did not seem to like being carried in such a manner, and their screaming was faintly audible, even through the soil. Seamus and Dean ran quickly out of the way, rounded a corner, and found—
“Bloody hell!” Seamus roared, deflecting a stray jinx from one of about thirty duels happening in the entrance hall, which had fallen into total chaos. Death Eaters had penetrated the castle, and now fought students and teachers up and down the stairs, ducking behind open doors and blasting holes into portraits. Owls were circling overhead, swooping down and attacking the masked fighters with cruel beaks and claws. The Death Eater whose duel Seamus had just interrupted had found his new mark; Seamus kept one eye on him as he ran up the staircase, but he was also watching Dean, who was shocked and unarmed, pressed against a wall. He seemed to have frozen.
“Let's get you a wand, mate,” Seamus shouted over the roar of shouts and screams. “Protego!” The approaching Death Eater's curse had come worryingly close this time, and Seamus turned to face him. “Come on, Dean!” he shouted, willing him to recover his independent movement; he did not think he could bear it if Dean died tonight—not after they had both survived this long. “DEAN! NOW!” Seamus bellowed, ducking the Death Eater's next curse, which hit the banister and blasted part of it away. “Tarantallegra!” he screamed, but the Death Eater blocked the curse. His hood fell off, revealing a thickly bearded face and brutal, cold eyes…
He raised his wand. “Avada—”
But he did not finish the curse, as he was rugby-tackled sideways. Dean wrestled with him, snatching his wand away from him.
“STUPEFY!” Seamus bellowed, and the jet of red light knocked the Death Eater out immediately. He slid down a few steps on the marble staircase. Seamus looked at his best friend, who seemed to have become re-energized. He was looking at the wand in his hand as though it had given him new life.
“Let's go!” Dean shouted, and he and Seamus plunged into the madness of the duels below.
“Bring him here!” Poppy cried, as Filius stumbled in the door, supporting a student who was barely conscious. “Who—?”
“Anthony Goldstein,” Filius said, “He's had a blow to the head.”
Explosions from the entrance hall rocked the Great Hall, and Poppy grabbed hold of the boy, supporting him to sit at the nearest table. “Goldstein,” she said, lifting his eyelids and peering into his face. “Goldstein, can you hear me?” He blinked heavily and nodded, his head rolling back and forth. Poppy nodded at Filius. “Go do what you can, he'll be all right.” He looked relieved and grasped her arm gratefully for a moment before hurrying away.
“Anthony!” Padma Patil came running over from the table where she had been working and knelt before him. “Anthony, are you all right?”
“Miss Patil, I'll need some of those bandages you've been making,” said Poppy matter-of-factly, examining a deep gash at the back of Goldstein's head. “And a Blood-Replenishing Potion.”
Padma was not listening—she was holding tightly to Anthony's hands, her eyes full of tears. “Anthony, please—can you say something? Are you—?”
“Miss Patil,” Poppy snapped. “Mr. Goldstein will make a full recovery, but you must do as I say!”
Padma was startled, but she wiped away her tears and hurried over to the table full of supplies, where Michael Corner was feverishly stirring a cauldron of numbing potion. Poppy put an arm behind Goldstein's shoulders and helped him sit up properly. “You mustn't fall asleep, do you understand me?” she asked, and his head lolled forward once, to indicate he understood. “Talk to me, tell me about something—talk to Miss Patil,” she said, for Padma had returned, and knelt before Anthony again, taking his hands.
“M'head hurts,” he mumbled, reaching up one hand to the gash on his scalp.
“Don't,” Poppy said, pushing it away. “Miss Patil, keep him awake and focused.”
Padma nodded. “Anthony? Anthony, it's me…”
Poppy pushed back her sleeves and set to work, trying to ignore the echoing cries of pain, the sounds of explosions, the quaking of the entire castle under siege…she could repair this injury—she would, even if she would have to admit defeat in the face of far graver circumstances…
She looked at Padma Patil's fingers linked with Anthony Goldstein’s, and the sight seemed to calm her nerves for a moment. She set to work mending the wound. He would be all right.