When we returned to school after Christmas, Michael Corner tried to ask me to go out with him; at least, I think that’s what he was doing. He told me that I have good bones, which I think was his way of telling me that he finds me attractive.
I wonder if he really does like me? After all, every one of his previous girlfriends has been short and curvy, and I am neither. When I was fourteen, Aunt Amelia told me that all boys lie, and that any girl who thinks that love can change a man is a fool. We are in the middle of a war and Michael, it seemed, was only interested in finding a girl to kiss. Well, it was not me, and it won’t be.
‘Seventeen years old and never been kissed,’ he suggested, when I told him that I wasn’t interested. He’s wrong about that, but I was not going to admit that to him, and I certainly wasn’t going to tell him who. I don’t suppose I’ll ever tell anyone who it was: after all, even the boy who kissed me doesn’t know who it was he kissed.
Michael was also making a joke about my name – Bones. Some people think that it sounds creepy, or even evil. When I was a little girl, I did not like my name, but then Aunt Amelia explained it to me.
Bones are necessary, Aunt Amelia used to say, everyone has bones. Besides, she told me, like many names, it may not mean what you think it does. It may simply mean bones, or bony, but it may be Anglo-Saxon, from “bain,” or Norman-French, from “bon”; the former means tall and lean, the latter means good.
So, I am bony Susan, the tall, lean, and good. There are worse names, and there are worse things to be. Some of those “worse things” are now gathering outside the castle. The man who killed my great-aunt, Amelia Bones, Head of Magical Law Enforcement, is coming here tonight to try to kill Harry Potter. He has brought his followers with him, and they will try to kill us all. Aunt Amelia died for what she believed in, and now I must be prepared to do the same.
The house tables in the Great Hall are filling rapidly. Most of the younger students are still in their night clothes. Many of the older ones are, like me, dressed. I look along the table at my fellow Hufflepuff students. The younger children look frightened; so do a lot of the older ones. But we’ve been frightened all year: obey the new rules, do not argue, and always be deferential to the pure-bloods. That is the way things are. If you cause trouble, or argue, or even look at someone ‘the wrong way,’ you will be hurt. For months, there has been a surly resentment running through the school, and now it will probably explode.
At the other end of the Hufflepuff table, the end nearest to the teachers, Ernie Macmillan is also watching the students enter. Ernie has his chest puffed out, and he is wearing his Prefect’s badge. As always, he wants to be important. Not necessarily in charge, because that means making decisions, but certainly important.
“You wouldn’t understand, being a half-blood,” he told me patronisingly at the beginning of this year. “But we right-minded pure-bloods have a duty to look after half-bloods and Muggle-borns, to help them through these difficult times.”
Ernie is a nice boy – he is honest, hardworking, and he means well. He would be horrified if I told him that he was prejudiced. But he is. His is the complicated prejudice of a pure-blood who is proud to have a half-blood and a Muggle-born as best friends, because it proves that he’s not prejudiced.
I have discussed the future with Ernie many times this year. He wants ‘equality’ and he honestly and truly hates the injustices being heaped upon those, like me, whose ‘blood is not pure.’ But he does not fully understand, because, deep down, he believes that pure-bloods are better than the rest of us. He really does believe it is his duty to look after and care for half-bloods, like me, and Muggle-borns. He does not realise how condescending and prejudiced his view is.
Despite his flaws, Ernie is a good young man, and he tries his best to do what he knows is right. Aunt Amelia said, “Try not to argue with people who are on your side,” so I don’t argue with Ernie.
Ernie, I constantly remind myself, is a much better person than the Muggle-haters like Malfoy and his cronies. Malfoy believes that half-bloods are scum and that Muggle-borns are sub-human. At the beginning of the year, during his Head Boy speech, he said that the school smells much better without the Mudbloods, but that there is still a lingering stench to be removed. We half-bloods all knew what that meant. Many more people than I’d suspected share those beliefs; there are even a number of them in my House. But Malfoy and his friends are the worst.
Malfoy has been nastier than ever this term. Things must be really bad at home for him. According to Potterwatch his family are out of favour, because Harry was captured, but managed to escape from Malfoy Manor. Potterwatch claims that Harry rescued some prisoners from the manor, from right under the nose of the Malfoys. You-Know-Who was not happy with the Malfoys. They are lucky to be alive.
Malfoy has lost his wand, too. The day he came back to school after Easter, I noticed that he was using a different wand. The rumour going around school is that, during his escape, Harry disarmed him. It must be true, because Malfoy is really touchy about it the fact that everyone knows he’s lost his wand. Of course, because Malfoy is angry and unhappy, he’s been doing what he’s always done; he’s been taking out his anger and frustration on those who are younger and smaller and weaker than he is.
I have so far resisted the temptation to hex him and his arrogant and bigoted friends. That is why I am one of the few DA members who did not join Neville in hiding. They need people like me on the outside.
There is a sudden commotion as other people arrive in the Great Hall: former pupils, other members of the DA, Aurors, and members of The Order of the Phoenix. There are a lot of people I do not recognise, but I know who the tall black man is. He was in one of Aunt Amelia’s photographs. He is Kingsley Shacklebolt, and Aunt Amelia said that he is a fine and honest man. She suggested that, one day, he’d make a good Head of Magical Law Enforcement.
Soon, we will be fighting. I concentrate on remembering the lessons Harry gave us two years ago, and on my studies with Neville and the others this year. I have been reading and rereading Practical Defence against the Dark Arts, it’s the book Harry used when he was teaching us. The Carrows have banned that book from the school, which is an excellent indication of how useful it is. I try to remember the chapter dealing with attack spells and jinxes and the section on the benefits of an indirect attack.
Then Voldemort’s voice rings out across the school. Lord Voldemort, or “Lord flees-from-death,” as Aunt Amelia used to call him, because that is the name he chose for himself. Aunt Amelia was always interested in the magic of names. Amelia means industrious. Susan, apparently, means ‘lily,’ so I share my name with Harry’s mum. I haven’t told him.
I trust Harry, because Professor Dumbledore trusted Harry, and Aunt Amelia trusted Professor Dumbledore. There is, however, no sign of him and I begin to wonder where he is.
Voldemort’s threat is still ringing in our ears when, as if on cue, Harry Potter arrives. He looks tired and rather unkempt, but he’s also grim-faced, determined, and a little worried. He’s alone. I realise that Ron and Hermione are not by his side and I’m suddenly anxious. Seeing Harry alone like this is unusual; I hope that his two best friends are not hurt, or worse. Silence falls and heads turn as Harry Potter, “Undesirable Number One,” walks through the Great Hall as though he’s never been away. Voldemort has been trying to kill him for months, but he has not succeeded, so perhaps there really is some hope.
‘But he’s there! Potter’s there! Somebody grab him!’* Pansy Parkinson stands and squeals in terrified desperation. Miss ‘I’m superior to everyone’ Parkinson, the Head Girl, another snooty Slytherin bully, reveals her true self, and it is not pretty. She’s hidden from me by a mass of fellow Slytherins, but I remember Practical Defence against the Dark Arts, and realise that I could easily hurt her by blasting the wall behind her. I don’t. She isn’t worth it.
Most of the school stand and draw their wands. They point not at Harry, but at Pansy.
That is when I realise that we will win.
*Author’s Note: dialogue from page 490 of Deathly Hallows (UK Edition).