Sign of the Lion
Chapter 17 - Mysteries of Yuletide
Written 2003-2007, this being the first and last chapter to be penned in 2007
Yet another night sulking by a fireplace and nursing a Butterbeer, stone cold from neglect, and Harry wasn’t too pleased, naturally. He supposed he should have been thankful that this Christmas at Grimmauld place was pottering along at its own gentle pace, without any dangerous interruptions from snakes or people skulking about where they shouldn’t be. Absently prodding a chess piece from the game that Sirius had abandoned in favour of an Order meeting, he wondered if there were more whispers about his sudden abilities. Nobody seemed to bat much of an eye at a certain resurrection, but the buzz seemed to be focused on which prophecy could be trusted.
A growl of frustration escaped him. They could spend days talking without doing anything while it felt like he was sinking in the mud, with no one bothering to throw him a rope. He was so bored and each minute that his scar failed to burn was another minute that Voldemort could be making steps to discover the heir of Ravenclaw.
“Quick! Move me before he gets back!” suggested Harry’s remaining bishop.
Harry ignored the chess board and set aside his drink, rolling back his sleeve to examine the mark. By now, everyone had to know it wasn’t just his imagination. If Snape so much as mentioned attention seeking, the slimy git would end up hanging upside down for a few hours to mellow him out. He had it coming, especially now that the Potions master probably knew about his wandless magic.
Inwardly cursing at the thought of how easy it would be for Snape to mention something to Voldemort, Harry threw aside the chess board, much to the high pitched protests that were hurled at him from beside the fireplace. Remembering that this could pass for some sort of animal cruelty, owing to the chess pieces’ sentient behaviour, he knelt to scoop up the pieces. His stomach jumped into his throat momentarily as he realised someone was regarding him from the fireplace.
“Don’t do that, Hermione!” he snapped. “I could have hurt you.”
“Don’t be silly. You could only hurt me with a spell if you used Floo powder.”
Harry thought about this for a moment, then shrugged noncommittally. After searching his face for any more resistance, Hermione spoke quickly, “Can you come to the Burrow? I’ve discovered something.”
“I can’t use the Floo network to transport from here without the protection spells going nuts,” he pointed out.
“Apparate, Harry! Are you the heir of Gyffindor or not?”
“That remains to be seen.”
Harry shook his head. “Nothing…”
It was a niggling thought that had latched onto his already mounting doubts. What if he wasn’t the heir of Gryffindor, and really didn’t have any power to stop Voldemort? Shouldn’t he just leave that to whoever Ravenclaw’s heir was and their guardian? When he looked back at the fireplace, Hermione’s face had disappeared. Rolling his eyes, Harry followed with the slightest of hesitations to set the chess board to right.
“What was so bloody important…” he began, but pitched forward on his knees as a flash of hot pain rode up the back of his skull.
Harry blinked his blurry vision away as he came to. For one wild moment, he thought he’d lost his eyesight and was now seeing everything in a film of orange. The muddle came into focus, allowing him to make out the Chudley Cannon banners strewn all over the walls. Forgetting himself for a moment, he patted the air beside Ron’s bed for his glasses. Hermione was peering at him from a chair she had drawn up, anxiously nibbling the fleshy pad of her thumb. Balanced on her knees was the lion marked book, opened to a ratty spread of pages smeared with what look suspiciously like fire whisky.
“We didn’t have anything else available to us,” Hermione explained at his amused expression. “Ron’s parents went off to an Order meeting so we thought this the best time to bring it up.”
Ron appeared beside her. “Yeah, we figured they weren’t letting you put in your two Sickles.”
Smoothing out the wrinkled paper, Hermione passed over the book for Harry’s inspection, watching earnestly. It took a loud garbled clearing of Ron’s throat for her to slip back into the chair. Harry nodded gratefully – he didn’t need that sort of distraction right now. He skimmed his eyes over the calligraphy scrawled across the pages, but he didn’t get what was so important.
Hermione sniffed in impatience. “Well, isn’t it obvious?”
“I told her it wasn’t, mate,” Ron offered sympathetically.
Two desperately delivered glances at the resident bookworm softened any offence she had taken. Hermione explained gleefully, “Don’t you see? It says here that Gryffindor and Slytherin were unable to defeat each other, yet on one occasion Salazaar murdered his rival’s ‘learned mentor’, but a few months later the mentor came back to life. Sirius is Harry’s Guardian!”
“Sirius, 'learned'?” snorted Ron.
“It’s just an adjective, Ron!” Hermione snapped. “The contexts of then and now are very different. For all you know, a learned mentor today could be anyone with an affinity for sharing necessary experience and knowledge to someone junior.”
Harry’s headache returned with a vengeance, greedily slamming against his temples and refusing to budge even when he rubbed his forehead. He found himself wishing that it was his scar hurting instead. Much as he still doubted the book, it made sense. Snatching the book back, he perused the text with a little more attention. Squinting his eyes against the pain scrambling around behind his forehead, he slowly recited, “The Guardian shall provideth power at thine heir’s demand…”
Hermione frowned. “Yes, I did think about that. There seems to be the general gist that Gryffindor and Slytherin could never defeat each other by themselves because they were both too powerful. But they never challenged each other with their Guardians – and Guardians can supply a greater power!”
“So if I take Sirius when I go to Voldemort…” Harry trailed off.
“Brilliant,” was Ron’s assessment. “Wouldn’t hurt to give it a go, right?”
But Hermione didn’t seem at all swayed by this idea. Snapping the book shut and pressing her fingers along the sides, she spitted Ron with a disapproving glare. Both boys recoiled and exchanged the exasperated looks they always did when their friend scared them. Hermione said sternly, “It’s too risky. We only know that the Guardians were never at the battles, but that might mean nothing.”
Harry jumped off the bed. “I’ve got to try it. I don’t see how I’m going to find the Ravenclaw heir to do the dirty work for me. And I’ll bet Sirius will want to do it.”
“Harry!” she exclaimed, scandalised, “You’re not thinking rationally. You can’t just rush out and expect to wing everything – this is what got Sirius killed in the first place!”
Hands curling into fists, Harry decided he really didn’t want to hang around. He waved sarcastically in farewell and disappeared just as she shouted a warning not to be careless. Careless? Wasn’t all this waiting around careless enough!? He fumed all the way to his darkened room at headquarters and didn’t even bother imagining what was going on downstairs.
“The gnomes are coming!”
Harry bolted up in bed and immediately cast a wandless light spell, noting with pleasure that his head didn’t even twinge in protest. His face broke into a grin upon seeing his godfather, still alive and well, and repeated dubiously, “Gnomes?”
Sirius shrugged. “I had to think of something. It was that or start banging saucepans. Besides, I kind of felt you wanted to talk to me.”
This caused Harry to survey his godfather more closely. There were times Sirius understood him better than anyone else – but that could just be the fact that they were both given the short end of the wand when it came to Dumbledore and the old man’s plans. After a minutes of considering this, Harry said in a rush, “I think you’re the Gryffindor Guardian, because you came back to life. And I need your help, because Hermione thinks you can increase my power…”
Half-expecting Sirius to scoff, he was immensely relived when his godfather agreed, “I can’t explain how I came back; I hope I never remember the realms of the dead. The Order have been coming up with a few things but it’s a load of balderdash. We need to do something now.”
“Exactly,” Harry assented, “and right now, they’re just sitting around and throwing half-baked bull over cups of tea. I want to at least try, they can’t keep us locked up.”
Perhaps he was treading on dangerous ground, considering how Sirius could react when backed into a corner. But right now, Harry had no love of being pushed around, by members of the Order or his friends. He said firmly, “I can do this, Sirius, I know I can. Voldemort’s planning something big and it’s going to happen soon. I just wish I knew what!”
“Well first off I’d say we should get out of this place. We need to get on the trail of the monster. Harry, I know I should tell you to go back to school after the Christmas holidays…”
“Save it. I’m sure you’d agree that taking out Voldemort is a little more important than banishing cushions across a room.”
“Especially as said banishing never works,” Sirius paused and added thoughtfully. “It never worked for me, anyway.”
Harry grinned, but mirthlessly.
Not even boyish recklessness could dissuade Sirius from insisting that Harry refrain from using his wandless magic as much as possible.
“You’ll need your strength,” the older man had reasoned. “You can use it to practice.”
“Alright, I’ll just use my wand.”
“No, the Ministry has tracing spells to find out if any underage wizardry is going on. We’re better off not drawing attention to ourselves.”
Now shifting a rucksack across his shoulder, Harry wished he could light up the hallway as he snuck past the other bedrooms on the landing. One really couldn’t be sure of who was staying in the house, so he was playing it safe. His school books lay neatly across the end of his bed, probably already gathering dust. He hadn’t bothered with a note of explanation, as Dumbledore would figure it out if he hadn’t already. Biting back a curse as he stubbed his toe on the railing of the stairs, Harry patted the pockets of his jeans to make sure his wand was still there. Even though it was useless, it could still repel blasts from Voldemort’s wand and, if it came to that, he wouldn’t mind being expelled from Hogwarts anyway.
He had made it down to the kitchen when he collided with someone and forced himself not to gasp in shock. Sirius’ outline in the gloom was hard to distinguish, but somehow Harry could sense that it was him, similarly adorned in dark Muggle clothing. Keeping his voice to a hiss, Harry asked if they were going to be using Buckbeak.
“Too slow,” Sirius whispered back. “We’ll take the Flymot.”
Harry blinked. “I forgot about asking Remus to teach me how to ride it, but now you’re back so it’s not mine.”
“Shh, you can keep it but I’ll drive for now.”
A few short minutes later, the few occupants of 12 Grimmauld Place (comprised of those who had crashed for the night and Remus, who seemed to be acting on orders to keep an eye on things) woke in their beds to a loud bang that reverberated through the walls as Sirius and Harry disappeared into the night, leaving only a plume of smoke to indicate any sort of direction they had left in.