Nia – Purpose; To make our collective vocation the building and developing of our community in order to restore our people to their traditional greatness.
[Book Year 5]
“All Student Organizations, Societies, Teams, Groups, and Clubs are henceforth disbanded. An Organization, Society, Team, Group, or Club is hereby defined as a regular meeting of three or more students. Permission to re-form may be sought from the High Inquisitor (Professor Umbridge). No Student Organization, Society, Team, Group, or Club may exist without the knowledge and approval of the High Inquisitor. Any student found to have formed, or to belong to, an Organization, Society, Team, Group, or Club that has not been approved by the High Inquisitor will be expelled.“
Dean Thomas read the notice board in the Gryffindor common room with a frown on his face. Astonished chatter echoed around him as his fellow housemates let Professor Umbridge’s latest Educational Decree sink in.
“She must have found out,” Neville Longbottom whispered next to Dean, his eyes wide. He looked disappointed, “I was looking forward to actually learning Defense.”
“I wouldn’t worry about it,” Dean told him, his eyes skimming the words once more to make sure he was understanding them correctly. Given the swiftness with which the decree had come, only two days after Hermione Granger had called a semi-secret meeting at Hogsmeade to discuss really learning Defense Against the Dark Arts rather than whatever it was Umbridge was teaching them, he was pretty sure he knew the intended target. Still, he knew Harry and his friends. “I’m sure they’ll find a way around this.”
Neville looked slightly mollified and went off to breakfast marginally more cheerful, but Dean felt a creeping dread in his stomach. Sure, Harry probably wouldn’t let something like an Educational Decree stop him from training his fellow classmates to defend themselves against You Know Who, but it’s creation had resulted in a lot of collateral damage.
The Great Hall was full of frantic energy. Professor Umbridge sat smugly in her seat at the teacher’s table as students were hurrying back and forth to their friends across houses, and Dean caught glimpses of more than a few members of the BSU looking worried. He scanned the hall for Blaise Zabini, but couldn’t find him in the sea of Slytherins at their table, and resigned himself to speaking with him when they saw each other in class later.
In History of Magic, even Professor Binns’s droning voice couldn’t calm him. He doodled along the margins of his paper until the class ended, his foot tapping incessantly under his desk and his teeth biting down on the inside of his cheek. When Harry Potter asked Binns to leave the classroom, hiding his injured owl behind his back as he told the professor he wasn’t feeling well, Dean wished he could find a way out of the lesson too.
On his way to Potions, Dean ran into Angelina Johnson and Lee Jordan.
“You’ve seen the news?” Lee said, jumping right past the greetings into what they were all clearly thinking about.
“Of course,” Dean said, “I suppose it’s not all that surprising, is it?”
As unsettled as Dean felt, Angelina was clearly the most stressed of the three of them. “But you realize this means I have to go ask about Quidditch? I desperately need Harry to keep his cool around her.”
Dean sighed, “I suppose the woman has to do something to make herself feel like she has a bit of power around here.”
“We’re going to do it anyway,” Lee said, lowering his voice, “The twins already asked Harry. They just have to regroup and figure out a secret location.”
“Well let me know what happens,” Dean said, though the Defense group was the least of his worries, “I’d like to participate still, if possible.”
“In the BSU?” asked an approaching voice. Dean turned to see Blaise, scowling in his Slytherin robes, “I’d think so, you being Vice President and all. I need you to come talk to Professor Umbridge with me after Defense.”
“Oh, yeah of course,” Dean agreed quickly, glad Blaise hadn’t shown up a few moments earlier. He didn’t feel bad about not telling his friend about the Defense group; as much in common as they had, Dean rather thought the line would be drawn somewhere around joining a secret group led by Harry Potter. Blaise didn’t think very much of him, and Gryffindor-Slytherin friendships seemed unlikely outside of those in the school’s cultural groups.
“It should be easy,” Lee said, “Especially since Blaise is the President. Umbridge loves you Slytherins.”
Angelina nodded in agreement and Blaise rolled his eyes, but Dean still felt uneasy. Sure, Umbridge’s new law had been a part of her crusade against Harry Potter, but he could see how she could flex her newly acquired power in other ways. Instead of voicing his concerns, he said goodbye to Angelina and Lee as they left for Charms, heading down to the dungeons with Blaise.
They didn’t have to wait until Defense Against the Dark Arts to see Umbridge. After a rowdy altercation between Neville and Malfoy and an unfair deduction of points from Gryffindor, they entered Snape’s classroom to see the woman sitting in the corner, a clipboard on her knee. Dean glanced sideways at Blaise, his stomach fluttering as he wondered if they would be able to get a word in with her during her inspection of the class, but the Strengthening Solution Snape had set them to work on was difficult, and Umbridge left just before the bell rang.
Divination did nothing to ease Dean’s anxiety. Umbridge’s presence seemed to permeate the castle, as was witnessed when a tearful Professor Trelawney threw a copy of The Dream Oracle at Dean and Seamus, nearly hitting Seamus in the head. As he tried his best to focus on interpreting his dreams, Dean found he couldn’t sit still.
“I’m sure it’ll be fine,” Seamus whispered as Trelawney swept away from them, “She can’t possibly find fault in your club.”
Dean grunted in response. While he appreciated his best friend trying to give him some encouragement, he knew Seamus didn’t truly understand why someone like Umbridge could be potentially dangerous to someone like Dean.
In Defense Against the Dark Arts, Dean could barely focus on the chapter they were supposed to be reading. Umbridge sat at her desk, her beady eyes flitting around the room, as if waiting to catch someone in the wrong. Her eyes, of course, fell on Harry and his friends a number of times, but was it just Dean or was she looking at him more than usual too?
When the bell rang, the other students quickly filed out of the classroom, Seamus whispering a brief “good luck” as he filed out after Lavender Brown and Parvati Patil. Blaise met Dean’s eye and motioned for him to join him at the front of the class, where Umbridge was clearing off the board with her wand. Dean took a deep breath.
“Excuse me, Professor Umbridge?” Blaise spoke. They had agreed he should do most of the talking, Dean having more of a disadvantage.
Umbridge turned from the board, a sickeningly sweet smile on her face. “Mr. Zabini! Do you and Mr. Thomas have a request for me?”
“We do, Professor,” Blaise said, “We saw the notice about the new rule—”
“Educational Decree,” Umbridge corrected, her smile still spread wide. Dean felt a twinge of irritation. What did it matter how Blaise said it?
“Yes, of course,” Blaise said, returning her smile. Dean side-eyed him at the sudden change in his usual surly demeanor. “Personally, I agree that there needs to be more regulation of student activity at this school.”
“I’m glad you think so, Mr. Zabini,” Professor Umbridge said, and Dean had to admit that Blaise was good at being charming when he needed to be. For one tiny glimmer of a moment, he wondered if this might work after all.
“Dean and I run the Black Student Union at Hogwarts,” Blaise said, “So naturally we thought it necessary to come to you at once to reinstate the club when we heard the news.”
Dean didn’t think it was possible for Umbridge’s smile to widen any further, but it did, the pink blush on her cheeks spreading across her face. She clasped her stubby fingers together in front of her, her tiny eyes darting between the two of them.
“Unfortunately boys, I won’t be able to help you.”
Dean felt a plunging feeling in his stomach. Blaise blinked, startled. “I’m sorry?”
“I think groups created along racial lines are quite divisive, don’t you?” Umbridge said, “No, I think it best you integrate with the rest of the student body.”
“But, Professor, we don’t—”
“Thank you Mr. Zabini, Mr. Thomas.” Her tone was clearly dismissive. There was the hint of a threat in her voice.
Dean grabbed Blaise’s arm and pulled him towards the exit. Blaise looked bewildered and upset. Dean didn’t really think he would have said anything further — he was too calculating for that — but he didn’t put it past Umbridge to find a small reason to take away points or throw them in detention.
“I can’t believe it,” Blaise said, once they were far enough away. His hands were balled into fists, his jaw clenched. Dean didn’t think he had ever seen him so emotional. Somehow, now that they had a definitive answer, Dean felt calm.
“I can,” Dean sighed. Blaise glared at him. “Oh come on, you didn’t honestly think after all of her speeches about ‘preservation’ and ‘tradition’ that she would be progressive when it came to racial politics?”
“I don’t know,” Blaise deflated, “I guess I just didn’t think it would be a big deal. It’s not like we’re plotting to overthrow the Ministry or anything.”
Dean wondered if this was Blaise’s first time having something like this happen to him. He hadn’t been in the wizarding world long enough to fully understand the racial dynamics, and he knew Blaise came from wealth, so it was possible he had never had a white person tell him his identity was divisive before. He sighed.
“I think we should find a way to keep having meetings,” he said, “We may need to lay low for a few weeks, but this shouldn’t stop us.”
Blaise nodded, “I agree. Can you gather leadership for us to talk later this week? I’m supposed to meet Des in the music conservatory in a few minutes, so I can talk to her.”
“Sounds good,” Dean said, “We’ll come up with a plan.”
Dean did his best to spread the word. Angelina was too worried about getting the Gryffindor Quidditch team back up and running that she merely told him to let her know when they figured it out, and Lee had a few choice words for the Hogwarts High Inquisitor, which he let fly from the safety of the Gryffindor common room.
The next day, Dean found himself in a packed and noisy classroom on the first floor with Blaise, Lee, Desiree Warbeck, and Alex Johnson. Rain pounded hard on the windows as they huddled together in a corner, Lee and Alex perched atop the large window sill just behind them. Other students chattered away or else tried to study, which was proven futile given Peeves’s sudden urge to blow ink pellets in their faces as they tried to read.
“Maybe we could meet during Hogsmeade weekends?” Desiree suggested quietly. She had been in the BSU since its inception, but had only become a member of leadership this year after their original Treasurer Ava Simmons graduated.
“There are only a couple more in the school year,” Dean frowned, “Is that enough?”
“I think the old toad would find out if we did it that way,” said Lee, “It may be too obvious.”
“And it would exclude the first and second years,” Blaise pointed out.
“We could ask one of the professors to back us up,” Alex piped up. He was a third year Ravenclaw and Angelina’s younger brother. He had been extremely eager to join the group when it was created, and was the Scribe of the club. “My sister appealed to McGonagall about the Gryffindor Quidditch team, maybe we can ask her or Sinistra to talk to Umbridge —”
“I don’t think that will work twice,” Blaise said, quietly. He looked frustrated, his jaw clenched.
Dean sighed, “Looks like we’ll just have to play the world’s longest game of telephone.”
They all stared at him, and Dean suddenly remembered that he was in a group full of half- and pureblood wizards, who most likely had not grown up playing that game, or even knowing what a telephone was. He pushed forward, slightly embarrassed at his failed attempt to lighten the mood. “Or, I don’t know, we’ll just send each other owls with updates and plans.”
Desiree grinned and Alex chuckled, but Blaise wouldn’t relax. “I’m pretty sure she’s checking the mail too.”
“I know!” Lee exclaimed, “We’ll kill her!”
“Lee!” Desiree looked shocked.
“No, listen,” he dropped his voice low, leaning in closer, “We go down to the dungeons right? And we steal one of Snape’s poisons and slip it into her tea. Umbridge is gone, Snape goes down for her murder, and the BSU reigns!”
Blaise rolled his eyes as Desiree and Alex stifled giggles. Dean appreciated Lee’s success at easing the tension better than he had, but still he tried to think of every option. His gaze wandered around the classroom, and he saw a second year duck as Peeves swooped over her, her books spilling onto the floor. The thought ran into Dean like a Bludger. How hadn’t any of them thought of it already?
“Maybe we should ask Hermione for help.”
Blaise frowned slightly, and Desiree looked unsure.
“I don’t know,” she said slowly, “Remember last year when she tried to turn the BSU into an activist organization for house elves? She might try to take over if we give her too much power.”
“I only mean we ask her for ideas,” Dean said, “Besides, she calmed down after Angelina talked to her, and I don’t think she even has enough time to do all that right now.” He couldn’t imagine Hermione taking over the running of the BSU while also trying to put together the Defense group.
“It can’t hurt to ask,” Lee put in as the bell rang.
Harry had finally figured out a way for the Defense group — soon christened Dumbledore’s Army — to meet the next evening. Dean had arrived in the Room of Requirement, astonished that such a room existed in Hogwarts. His mind began to run wild with ideas for the BSU, and he resisted the urge to leave now and go talk to Blaise, resolving instead to go through with his plan of asking Hermione for help first.
Once the meeting was over, Dean approached Hermione, who was busy shelving the many books she had taken down before people had started to arrive.
She turned to face him, one last book in her hand. “Oh, hey Dean. Did you need something?”
Dean scratched his nose, feeling a little self-conscious. “Yeah, uh, do you have a minute?”
“Sure,” she said readily, turning back around to push the last book into the case, “Want to walk back to Gryffindor Tower? I have a ton of translations to do for Ancient Runes.”
Dean nodded and followed after her, her bushy hair bouncing as she waved goodbye to Harry and Ron, who were stacking cushions along the other wall.
“So what’s going on?” Hermione asked.
“Well, as you know, Blaise and I have been trying to come up with a way to continue BSU meetings without Umbridge finding out, and I know you basically put together the D.A.—”
“You need help figuring out a secret way to continue the BSU,” Hermione said, nodding.
“Sorry for putting this on you,” Dean said quickly, “I know you have a lot on your plate.”
“It’s nothing,” Hermione said. She was frowning to herself, already in deep thought, “I’ve been sorting through some ideas for discreet communication among the D.A., but I don’t think the method should be the same. Some of the overlapping members might get them mixed up. And of course, we’ll need to think about a meeting place…”
She continued to ramble on, thinking through different possibilities on their way up to Gryffindor Tower. Dean kept quiet for the most part, impressed and little intimidated as he often was around Hermione. By the time they got to the Fat Lady, she still hadn’t come up with a solution, but somehow Dean felt far more optimistic than he had since his and Blaise’s conversation with Umbridge.
“I’ll think about it some more,” Hermione promised as they climbed through the portrait hole, “And I’m planning to continue coming to meetings.”
“Thanks, Hermione,” Dean said, “I really appreciate it.”
Hermione shrugged, “The BSU is important. You all were there for me when I was seriously struggling, so of course I’ll help.”
It only took until Friday after dinner for Hermione to find a solution. Dean had just left Seamus at the Gryffindor table to continue an impassioned debate of the latest Kenmare Kestrels vs. Chudley Cannons match with Cormac McLaggen, and was making his way up the staircase when Hermione called out to him.
He waited for her at the top of the stairs as the girl hurried up, a stack of parchment in her arms. When she got to him, she shoved the papers at him.
“What’s this?” Dean asked, startled. He looked down at the pages, which all seemed to be blank.
“I had a stroke of inspiration the other night,” Hermione said quietly, “I’ve enchanted these so that members of the BSU can send secret messages to each other. You write something on it, and it’ll show up on the other pages, but only after the reader gives a password, which should probably change monthly to be safe. I’ve made it so that anyone can use it, though if you want I can charm the parchment to limit the editors to just you and Blaise.”
Dean blinked. This was quite a complex bit of magic, and while he wasn’t surprised that Hermione had come up with it, he couldn’t help but be impressed.
“Thanks a lot, Hermione.”
“I was also thinking, it may not be smart to meet in the same place every time — there aren’t two Unknowable Rooms — but also I found a loophole in the decree.”
“Did you?” Dean was a little taken aback by the speed of Hermione’s words, but he was amused by and grateful for her enthusiasm.
“An Organization, Society, Team, Group, or Club is hereby defined as a regular meeting of three or more students,” Hermione quoted, “It doesn’t really define what “regular” is, so I think if you switched the meeting time enough we can maybe get away with it.”
“True,” said Dean, surprised Hermione had bothered to memorize the decree, “But I don’t know if we’ll be able to use that if we get caught.”
“No, you’re probably right,” Hermione said, “So it’s best we try our hardest to keep it quiet.”
“You’re amazing, Hermione, seriously,” Dean said emphatically, “Honestly, I don’t know why I didn’t ask you for help sooner.”
“Oh, it’s nothing,” she said, though he could see that she was flattered. “I’ve already got my parchment, so I’ll be waiting to hear when the next meeting is. See you around.”
Dean watched Hermione hurry off again, a ball of energy and drive, and found himself a little disappointed that she had taken off so quickly. He looked down at the stack of parchment in his hands, feeling grateful. He resolved to pass these out to the members of the BSU the next morning, happy that together they were standing strong in their purpose.