Harry clasped his winter cloak and straightened it in the mirror. His Gryffindor scarf peeked out red and gold, the only color in his outfit. He toyed with his hair a bit, but there was no effect. It lay messily on Harry's head, partially obscuring his scar. Harry surveyed himself. He didn't look like the sort that anyone would trust to teach them.
With a resigned sigh, Harry grabbed his pack and headed out of the dorm to meet Ron and Draco downstairs. Hermione was to meet them at the Hog's Head, she had something to finish, apparently.
"Can we not do this anymore?" Harry muttered as they walked out of the common room.
"Why? Having second thoughts?" Draco asked conversationally. "It'll be fine," he said dismissively, patting Harry on the back before walking ahead, apparently in a hurry. Harry sighed again.
"What's wrong?" Ron asked from his side.
"I don't think I'm fit to be teaching everyone how to defend themselves when I can't even do it myself," Harry admitted. "Why do they think I'm so great at this anyway?"
"Because you're always so confident," Ron said. "You always seem so in control."
Harry let a silent moment pass. If only Ron knew the extent of his control problems. "Come on, let's get this over with."
In the courtyard, McGonagall was there checking permission slips. Harry spotted Snape lurking in the corner and shot him a confused look. He generally didn't go to Hogsmeade. Severus simply replied with a raised brow. McGonagall nodded him through the line and Harry headed over to Severus.
"What are you doing here?" Harry asked. "You never go to Hogsmeade."
"I thought that it might be a good idea to go today," Severus said. "There is a chance that Umbridge has caught wind of the formation of your little group. I plan to keep an eye on her."
"And if she tries to catch us?" Harry asked.
"I will keep her so busy that she will not spare it a thought," Severus said. "Though I would thank you to keep the meeting as quick as possible and let me know when you have finished."
Harry smiled. "Of course. Thanks, Severus, you're the best." Over Severus's shoulder, he caught Umbridge staring at them critically. "Ha, she can't say anything because we're not technically alone here. She looks so frustrated."
Harry suspected that if they weren't in public Severus would have smiled. "And the day has only begun. Go, catch up with your friends. I will keep her occupied."
Harry nodded and trotted over to his friends. "Let's go."
By the time they reached the Hog's Head, they were quite ready for a warm butterbeer. There was a lingering chill in Harry's bones that wouldn't seem to go away, even with the warm drink. They chose a table and took a seat to wait for the rest of the group to show up. Draco had insisted they be the first to arrive.
"What are you nervous about, Harry?" Draco asked, studying him. "Everyone knows you already. It's nothing new."
"I don't know," Harry said. In truth, he had a lot to be nervous about. What if he lost control? What if Umbridge found out and took him away from Snape? What if they all decided that he was a raving lunatic?
"Oh look, here comes Dean and Seamus."
Sure enough, they walked over to the table, brushing the snow off of their cloaks.
"Dean. Seamus," Harry acknowledged stiffly. "What are you doing here? I thought you believed the Prophet."
Seamus shrugged. "I don't know what I believe anymore. But I do know that Umbridge isn't teaching us a thing and I want to learn. So I'm sorry for what I said, Harry."
Harry nodded. At this point, he couldn't afford to get angry. It was easier to just forgive. Slowly more people trickled in, even ones whom Harry was a little surprised to see, such as Luna, Neville, Cho, Parvati and Padma. The twins and Lee were there, naturally, as was Ginny. There were a few people whom Harry didn't recognize, but he figured he'd get to know soon enough.
Hermione came shuffling in, breathless, her cheeks red from the cold. "Is everyone here?" she asked.
"I think so," Draco replied. "Do you have the sign up sheet?"
"Yes," she said, offering it to him.
"Come on, let's get this over with," Harry said. "Snape's keeping Umbridge away from here, but I'd rather not push it."
Hermione nodded and surveyed the knot of people. She cleared her throat and addressed them. "Well. Er, I guess you all know why you're here-"
"Hang on," Harry said. "Muffliato," he cast around the group. "Continue."
Hermione nodded. "So we need a real Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher. You-Know-Who's back and we need to know how to defend ourselves. It doesn't look like Umbridge is about to do that, so we'll have to do it on our own. Agreed?"
Almost everyone nodded around the group.
"Right, so we thought that Harry could teach us," Hermione continued.
"How's Harry know any more than the rest of us?" someone demanded.
Harry opened his mouth to say that he didn't when Draco answered for him. "Snape's taught him some things. Who are you, again?"
"Zacharias Smith," the Hufflepuff said with a scowl. "Snape's taught him Dark Magic, hasn't he? How's tha-"
"Snape hasn't taught him anything Dark," Ron said, stepping up. "This is just stuff that we should know that Umbridge is refusing to teach us. Like a patronus."
"You can do a patronus?" Parvati asked, obviously impressed.
"Corporeal," Hermione added.
"Is it true that you defeated Voldemort?" Luna asked in her signature dreamy voice.
"Yes, it's true," Draco said. "More than once."
"And you killed the basilisk, didn't you?" Neville spoke up. "With the sword in Dumbledore's office."
A murmur spread through the crowd.
"He did, I was there," Ron said. "He-"
"Stop!" Harry broke in finally. "I can speak for myself," he muttered. "I didn't defeat Voldemort, I just delayed him. And yes, I did kill the snake, but I wouldn't have been able to without help. I wouldn't have been able to do any of it without help and luck. Really, it's not all as impressive as you make it sound."
"But you've faced him more than anyone alive, mate," Fred said. "If anyone knows how to come out alive, it's you."
"But it's horribly different actually being out there than it is in the classroom," Harry protested. "It's not as easy as the textbooks make it look."
"Then help us learn what it's really like, Harry," Hermione said gently. "You're the only one who can teach us."
Harry nodded. "I said I would and I will. If you don't like that, then leave. All I know is that Voldemort's back and we have to be prepared. I'd hate to see any of you get hurt."
Harry sat down.
"What are we going to be called?" Ginny asked.
Hermione glanced at Draco. "I thought we could decide that today. Any suggestions?"
"Harry's Defense Society," Colin Creevey suggested.
"Nothing with my name in it, please," Harry said, reddening.
"How about Defense Organization?" Cho said.
"Too boring," George condemned. "It needs to be something rebellious."
"Dumbledore's Army," Lee said. "If Umbridge ever finds out, that'll get her going."
Half the group seemed to take it as a joke, but Hermione nodded slowly. "I actually like that. We could call it the D.A. for short."
Harry almost protested that Dumbledore hadn't done anything for them this year and thus didn't deserve this, but he held back. If he came across as bitter, he'd have to explain and would undoubtably become angry. Harry had been working so hard to control his anger; it would not do to destroy his efforts now.
Hermione looked at Harry and he nodded. She smiled and Draco wrote it in large letters across the sign up sheet that she had brought.
"Okay, I'll pass around the sheet," Draco said. "By signing your name, you agree not to tell anyone who would turn us in about this, or to turn us in yourselves."
"Wait, when would we meet?" Cho asked. "Because I have quidditch..."
"We'll find a time that works for everyone," Hermione said. "We'll let you know where later."
Cho nodded and took the paper.
"Will this also be kept secret from those not in the army?" a quiet voice asked from the back.
"Yes, unless you trust someone enough to ask them to join," Hermione replied.
"I bet there's a whole host of Slytherins who'd die to catch us," Ron added.
"What's your name?" Hermione asked the girl who had spoken up.
After signing her name, she straightened. "Daphne Greengrass."
"Slytherin," Draco breathed.
Daphne nodded. The entire group had gone silent, looking at her.
"You're one of Pansy's friends," Draco remembered. "What are you doing here?"
"Just because I'm Slytherin means I shouldn't learn defense?" she asked. "We need it as much as anyone. Maybe more."
"Fair enough," Draco said.
Ernie Macmillan shifted uncomfortably. He walked over to Harry and his friends at the front of the group and asked quietly, "Are you sure we should let a Slytherin in? She could be a spy, waiting to turn us in."
"We have no right to discriminate," Draco said coldly. "Besides, she signed the sheet. She's in the group now."
"But she didn't tell us beforehand!"
"Who says she needs to?" Draco challenged defensively. Hermione touched him on the arm and he backed off. Daphne was watching them. Ernie scowled, but signed his name. Harry hoped this wouldn't be a problem. They didn't need another issue.
It seemed like Hermione had everything under control, so Draco broke away and headed over to Daphne. He began bluntly, no formalities. "How'd you know about this?"She raised a brow. "You'd ask a Slytherin where she got information?"
Draco grunted. "You took a lot of people by surprise."
Daphne didn't look bothered.
Draco lowered his voice. "I'll have you know that these are my friends. If you hurt them or betray them, you'll answer for it."
Daphne met his gaze evenly. "You think that you're the only Slytherin who can have sympathies and friends elsewhere? It won't be I who betrays you," she promised, "but it would be foolish to trust me."
"I suppose I'll have to keep an eye on you, then," Draco replied. He found her to be very intriguing.
"Yes, I suppose you will," she said flatly. "You ought to get back to your girlfriend. She's giving us quite a look," Daphne commented, looking over Draco's shoulder.
"She's not my girlfriend."
Regardless, Draco nodded his goodbye and returned to his friends. Hermione didn't look at him or ask. It was fine that way. As the crowd began to disperse, Hermione rolled up the sign up sheet and stuck it in her bag.
"Can we go now?" Ron asked. "This place gives me the creeps."
"Sure," Harry replied. "I have to go find Snape and tell him we're done."
They headed out into the cold looking for Harry's guardian. Thoughts elsewhere, Draco didn't notice Blaise Zabini hiding in the bushes right outside the Hog's Head.
It didn't take long before they ran into a livid looking Umbridge with Snape trailing not too far behind. They carried on casually past her, and there was nothing she could reprimand them for. Snape stopped and they joined him, out of earshot of Umbridge.
"How did it go?" he asked.
"Good," Harry replied. "There are more people than I expected. Did she give you any trouble?"
"No more than usual. I simply fabricated a fight between students on the other side of Hogsmeade. By the time she realized there was none, she missed your meeting."
"Thanks," Harry said with a smile. "Be careful, though. She has to suspect."
Snape nodded. "Remember not to speak of anything in the open. I would advise you return to the castle now. There is no sense in pushing her."
Harry nodded. "Thanks again. Your spell worked great, I think."
Snape nodded again. As they walked back up towards the castle, Draco glanced back to find Snape watching them go. He looked more tired and haggard than he had a minute ago. Perhaps he was more worried than he let on to Harry. Draco gulped and turned back around. If Snape was stressed, that certainly didn't bode well for the rest of them. He supposed they'd just have to do the best they could to prepare.