Umoja – Unity; to strive for and maintain unity in the family, community, nation, and race.
[Book Year Three]
Blaise Zabini sat in the back of History of Magic and looked at his parchment. He’d been writing furiously for the last ten minutes, but it wasn’t about whatever Professor Binns was droning on about. It was a list.
A list of every Black student at Hogwarts he could name, or even identify, by house.
-Lavender Brown. G.
-Dean Thomas. G.
-Hermione Granger. G.
-The fine Hufflepuff.
-The annoying Quidditch announcer. G.
The list went on and on. He’d written it small in the margins of his parchment, so that the Slytherins nearest him wouldn’t see, but he thought he had a complete list now. He would send the notes tomorrow evening.
The past couple of years of Blaise’s magical education at Hogwarts had been… interesting to say the least. Blaise knew that if he was sorted into Slytherin house, it would be tense, but he hadn’t been ready for the immediate pressure to conform to their views and the swift rejection that came when he’d hesitated. He was cool with Malfoy and his cronies, but when Blaise stared at Malfoy’s hand after his offer of being “the right kind of friends,” Malfoy had walked away in disgust. Blaise didn’t really think about it again, but Malfoy had a way of running his smug little mouth in ways Blaise knew was about him.
So Blaise stayed away from Malfoy’s crew and the Slytherin sycophants. Even older students, probably due to Malfoy’s dad’s influence, genuflected to the pointy nosed first year. It was so stupid.
Blaise, then, kept to himself. And while it felt like a better choice than choosing Malfoy, who just last week was nursing a fake broken arm with whiny aplomb, it was still a lonely place to be.
Second year was only slightly better. Blaise and Dean Thomas had been paired together more than twice in Snape’s double Potions class, probably because Snape was racist, and loved to separate Dean and the kid who somehow made all his potions explode. Dean and Blaise would constantly give each other the look whenever something ridiculous would happen with Potter and his friends, but it was near the end of the year that really sparked the idea for Blaise.
Hermione and Penelope were petrified. While none of the Slytherins cared — Malfoy reenacted their petrified faces with glee to anyone who would listen — Blaise felt a sickness in his chest. They weren’t his house, but they were two of his people. He’d never spoken to either one of them, but there was an ache in his chest whenever someone talked about them in the corridors.
One night, he slipped into the hospital wing and just stared at the girls’ petrified forms. He wasn’t in there for more than a minute, but something about that ache eased seeing that they were really ok. He didn’t even like these girls! They were both Mudbloods, but listening to Malfoy’s trash talk made Blaise want to reject even that notion that he’d grown up being taught. Who cared about blood when even what was on the outside, their skin color, was hit upon first?
He saw the way his mother’s white suitors treated her sometimes. She chose terrible people (he suspected on purpose… as they all met their ends and few people were sorry about it), so it was part of their nature and not reflective of most wizards, but… But Blaise, despite loving Slytherin house and it’s ambitious nature, did not feel at home with the whiteness around him. He still felt uncomfortable in his dormitory. He was still overlooked by the teachers, despite having better grades than Malfoy. (He could probably stand to speak up more in class, but who would with Malfoy and Granger yapping away?)
So Blaise began thinking of a group. He couldn’t be the only Black Hogwarts student who felt this way. Before the school year ended in his second year, when instead of exams, the Hogwarts students were lying about on the lawn or poking the giant squid, Blaise was in the library looking at old school club records.
Had previous Black students felt this way? Had they done something about it? There definitely wasn’t a current club for Black students (there was for the Asian and Indian students. But part of that was to share their cultural magic they’d learned from immigrant parents and relatives. Many Black British wizards were far removed from their ancestors who had magical cultural differences.)
Records showed three different incidents of Black Hogwarts student groups, but they each phased out with varying degrees of Black students walking the halls of the school. But now, with his year being so heavily diverse, and the smattering in other years, maybe now was the time?
Blaise almost told Dean about it, but he didn’t know what the other boy would say. That it was dumb? That it would be impossible to get the Black Slytherins and Black Gryffindors to cooperate? That Blaise was the wrong person to lead the group? Blaise rarely felt this much doubt. He was confident in everything he did, from school, to girls, to his impeccable wardrobe. He didn’t need the validation or support.
Okay, so maybe he did. And that’s why he needed something more. He didn’t need the esteem from his white peers, but he needed something. He needed a project and this could be it. And he wasn’t a Slytherin for nothing. Founding a club, running it, and excelling at it were obviously in Blaise’s interests. He had eyes to run a department in the Ministry, so it would look excellent on his school records.
Blaise spent an early October day magically duplicating invitations.
This here note invites you to the first meeting of the Hogwarts Black Student Union on the seventh floor corridor next to the old Astronomy classroom.
As he waved his wand to send them forth to their recipients, Blaise felt a rare feeling of both nervousness and accomplishment. Today could be the beginning of a community he’d realized was missing from Hogwarts.
It was time to feel whole.
“You?” Lee Jordan spat. He’d been shocked to see Blaise at the front of the room, and had sat down anyway, but that didn’t mean he was going to play nice about it.
“Yeah, me,” Blaise responded, starring Jordan down defiantly. Blaise exhaled heavily, however, at the already tense and exasperated faces in the room. He’d expected this. He wasn’t exactly a person who played well with others, and the spirit of school-wide unity wasn’t a Slytherin strong suit. He now wished that he had consulted Dean, who was looking at him with a mixture of suspicion and intrigue.
“Yes, me,” Blaise said with more confidence and less hostility. “I called you all here because I wanted to gauge some interest.”
“In?” Asked Bradley, one of the Slytherins who’d shown up.
“In us. Forming a community,” Blaise replied.
“Us as in…”
“Us. Black folks.”
“Folks?” Jordan said incredulously.
“I can code switch like the rest of you. Maybe even better.” He left it at that, not wanting to get into how he was beginning to think his politics were different than that of his mother and fellow housemates.
Jordan kept it shut, as did everyone else. No one had stormed out at the sight of him and a majority of the Black students had shown up. Already more than he had expected. Notably missing were Granger and Brown but Blaise felt, from their classes together, that maybe Brown a lot of identity work to do. And Granger kept having to save that Potter kid and take, somehow, every single class the school offered, so he hadn’t expected her.
“Ok. So. You’re here. I’m here. Let’s talk about it. Do we think we need a group for us, just us, inter-house and all, to make it… Somewhat more bearable here?”
“You’re in Slytherin,” Angelina Johnson said, speaking for the first time, “and you think it’s unbearable? Your housemates have called Granger a Mudblood (“Me too,” Dean interjected) numerous times and Pansy Parkinson has called me and Lee the Medusa twins no less than five times since term started. She said I should wear makeup more often because she keeps getting us confused. But you find it hard? No one’s ever said anything about you.”
“You’re right. They don’t say anything to me in public, and rarely in private either. But just because I’m a Slytherin doesn’t mean I’m with them — as they more than make it known.”
The other two Slytherins nodded.
“My dad was a Slytherin and a pureblood and he was still killed by The Dark Lord’s supporters back in the day because they didn’t trust him. That pureblood nonsense doesn’t always apply to us either,” said Bradley.
Everyone looked at Bradley somberly, some remembering their own losses from the Dark Lord’s reign.
“You still call him the Dark Lord though,” Johnson said back.
“Code switching right?”
Blaise felt a tension in his shoulders. He’d have to sneak into the prefects’ bathroom for a hot bath. Worst kept secret password in the whole castle.
“Alright, that’s enough. We’re here to come together and forget some of that—”
“I can’t forget what I am, Blaise. I can’t forget what your housemates call me,” said Dean. “The terrible things they called Hermione and Clearwater when they were petrified last year. If we’re here to forget the everyday injustices, you don’t want a Black Student Union, you want a fan club.”
Blaise stared back at Dean for a long time. Dean didn’t flinch. He never had. From that first awkward moment on the platform ‘til now, Dean Thomas never took Blaise’s shit. And he was usually right.
Blaise looked to the other Slytherins, who were looking like he felt, cowed.
“Ok. Then we don’t forget. You’re right, if we’re determining to do this, we should probably do it for real. And that includes challenging the crap the members of our house perpetuate.”
Several of the others relaxed, looking around at each other with lighter expressions.
Lee Jordan didn’t look too pleased, and he said, crossing his arms, “I still don’t much like the idea of it being you in charge. You might need someone to check your behavior.”
Blaise rolled his eyes, but an idea hit him. He would hate this, but…
“Fine. I nominate Dean for Vice President. All in favor, say ‘Aye.’”
The entire room burst out in “ayes” faster than Dean could give him the finger.