Sign of the Lion
Chapter 7 - No DADA Professor?
"Did you see what happened? That was so weird!"
"It was like the carriages just started rolling down hill for no reason..."
The students pushing their way into the Entrance Hall could speak of nothing but the carriages. Harry kept silent, catching the look that Hermione passed over to Ron on his other side. There was no real movement, due to the fact that Peeves had taken to Dive-bombing everyone with what looked like the latest invention of the Weasley Wizard Wheezes.
"Mr Potter!" a voice called out of the din.
Harry, blinded by a violet cloud billowing out in front of him, almost toppled over. He squinted around and instinctively reached for his glasses, which were tucked away at number twelve, Grimmauld Place. He sighed in exasperation and waved a hand. The thick smoke blew off towards a more crowded section of the floor. Professor McGonagall was fighting her way over to him, a hand steadying her hat.
Waving to show he'd heard, Harry made his way over, able to see over most of the heads that blocked his way. He stopped beside McGonagall and pressed up against the wall, hardly missing a beat. "Yes, Professor?"
He followed her just out of reach of the mass of black robes down a corridor off to the side. The Head of Gryffindor took a moment to catch her breath and, looking distinctly up at Harry, she held out a gold-rimmed badge to him. For one wild moment, Harry wondered if it was a Prefect badge, but the shining inscription said otherwise. Wordlessly, he pinned it to his robes and just stared at her.
"Your Quidditch ban has been revoked." McGonagall smiled faintly, an achievement for her. "You'll have quite a team to collect."
With that, she was gone. Harry followed out after a brief moment of looking proudly down at the Quidditch Captain badge. The crowd had thinned when he reached the Great Hall, allowing him through the doors. The moment he entered, several people made to rise, but he hurried down to where Ron and Hermione were sitting.
Hermione was watching the staff table, frowning. "There's Hagrid's seat...but I don't see anyone new this year."
Ron wasn't paying any attention to her - he was gawking at Harry. He began pulling on Hermione's sleeve and pointing. Hermione finally looked and she said matter of factly, "Well, I assumed that was what Professor McGonagall wanted to talk to you about. I don't see how you're going to revise properly if you're too busy with Quidditch."
"Dumbledore's probably feeling bad about not making you a prefect," Ron said happily.
Harry scanned the teachers at the staff table carefully. "Snape doesn't look too happy, so I'm guessing it's someone we'll like."
An excited murmur became louder as the first years followed Hagrid into the hall and past the house tables eagerly. Seamus Finnigan, who'd sat across from them, seemed to be avoiding the eyes of the new students. A short girl with dark brown hair in pigtails giggled and waved from the first years at him. Seamus caught the pointed look Harry was giving him.
"Me cousin," Seamus explained, with a forced smile.
Harry turned to look at the Sorting Hat, which was resting on its usual stool. There was silence, in which the hat seemed to be struggling with itself. Harry briefly wondered if it was having a coronary but soon enough it began its song:
Once again the four will rise
inside those of flesh and blood.
To work together, to maintain the peace,
or fight their raging battles
on this mortal playground.
The eagle will fly in great peril,
the badger will crawl only little,
the serpent will choose to stem or create,
but these against the lion are petty under rulers.
At the sixteenth turn of life
Receive all that which is due
yet needed are the guardians
those who are the wise
Attempt to sew together
the four that again shall rise.
No one was quite sure what to make up of this one, mainly because it had scant to do with warnings or what the characteristics of each house were. Not for the first time, whispers threaded through the somewhat stagnant applause. Even some of the teachers looked at each other with blank expressions. Ron said thoughtfully, "I always wondered when that hat would flip. That made no sense whatsoever."
"When has it ever made sense?" Harry countered, grinning.
But Hermione had rested her shin in her hand, barely watching the first years walking nervously towards the Sorting Hat. She said softly, "No, that makes sense. What I don't understand - Ron stop giving me that look - is why it would choose to tell us that the four houses are competing when last year it advised us to join together."
"Oh, give the hat a rest," Ron told her as "Breen, Summer" became a Ravenclaw.
Harry's eyes wandered to Dumbledore for a moment, then he looked determinedly at the first years.
A short girl with her face scrunched up in concentration so that her glasses crammed against her eyes jammed the hat onto her head with anticipation. The next moment the hat declared, "Gryffindor!"
Beaming, the Alexandra Chambers threw the hat off onto the floor and skidded up to the table that was applauding her. She sat down so vigorously that the bench rocked and several people sitting near her tried to shift away.
The hat made slow progress of the first years, all the while Ron staying at the culinary in front of him with longing. Hermione still looked pensive by the time Seamus' cousin had reached the front of the line. Professor McGonagall read out, "McPherson, Siobhan."
The girl went cautiously over to the stool and poked the hat. When it made no moves to bite her finger, she gingerly lowered it onto her head. It seemed like the Sorting Hat took ages to decide, with Siobhan McPherson wriggling underneath it as if she'd sat on something. The hat opened its brim and got as far as "Rav -!" when the girl ripped it off her head.
"Don't you dare!" she squeaked, glaring at the hat in her hands.
She began shaking it vigorously, Seamus sinking lower and lower into his seat at the Gryffindor table. Siobhan held it at arms length. "You can't make me go in Ravenclaw you big bully."
She was about to punch it when the hat gave up and croaked, "Gryffindor."
Ron clapped, grinning. "She could have been best friends with Loony. They could have played 'hit the Sorting Hat' together."
"She could have at least been a bit quieter." Hermione looked down the table at the girl. "I managed it."
Ron had to duck under the table to muffle his laughter. Harry managed to keep a straight face and waited expectantly while "Vier, Saxon" shuffled off to the Slytherin table and "Zuckuss, Janine" sat with the Hufflepuffs. Professor Dumbledore got to his feet and beamed around at the sea of students before him.
To Harry it looked strained, but the Headmaster sounded his usual self. "Welcome back to another year of filling your heads! But before I content you with the feast, there are a few minor details. Students are to be inside their House areas after dinner and will be punished for any late night wanderings." (Harry sighed dramatically at this). "Students are reminded that the Forbidden Forest is out of bounds and Hogsmeade visits are restricted to third years and upwards. The Prefects and new Head Boy and Girl will ensure that no such rule bending will occur. Magic is not permitted between classes in the corridors. Anyone who disagrees with this can tell Mr Filch themselves.
"And now that I have kept you far too long, let the feast begin!"
Ron immediately grabbed the nearest thing he could reach and scoffed it down. Hermione didn't touch her food, only looking down at it in distaste. Harry peered over his goblet at her. "SPEW business again?"
"No," Hermione replied, looking more concerned that annoyed. "He didn't mention the new Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher."
Ron coughed loudly for a moment then shrugged. "Who says we even need one this year? We could always just use Harry."
At this, Harry set his goblet down heavier than he intended to. A searing pain had shot across his scar and had continued to do so. Biting his lip, he tapped Ron on the shoulder and discreetly motioned to his forehead. Hermione's eyes widened and it looked like she itched to go to Dumbledore. The thing that bothered Harry was that nothing like this had happened before his birthday.
He shot a significant look at his friends and busied himself with the pumpkin juice. He was saved anymore when Seamus' cousin came running up to their part of the table and thumping Seamus energetically. "Did you see, did you see? I got into Gryffindor."
"I noticed," Seamus said dryly.
"And guess what? The Hat thought I was smart enough to go into Ravenclaw!"
Siobhan then beamed at her next targets. She looked once at Harry, then did a double take. She leant over Seamus and the feast, shaking Harry's hand excitedly. "You're Harry Potter! And you're in Gryffindor! We're going to be the best of friends."
"Er." He raised an eyebrow at Seamus who chooed his cousin away.
Seamus seized a napkin and wiped up the steadily dripping jug of juice, smiling apologetically at Harry. "Cousin on me mam's side. She's been living in Ireland."
Harry sat back and looked up at the ceiling. The Gryffindor banner hanging overhead depicted a lion and for a moment, he felt content. Then his mind began registering something and he couldn't quite pick it out. Suddenly, it clicked. The pictured lion above him was exactly like the one on his arm. He sat up properly and whirled to face Hermione.
She was still frowning at the staff table, lips pursed. Deciding to leave her to it, Harry stared down at his plate. He wondered if the tattoo had been some kind of Weasley Wizard Wheezes joke, but a very poor one at that. No, it had started appearing before he met up with the twins. He remembered the book tucked into his trunk, still not taken from its package when purchased at Diagon Alley. What was he afraid of?
By the time Dumbledore stood up again, Harry realised he must have eaten because he was full. The Headmaster dismissed them off to bed and just stood there, watching the students file out. Ron cut into Harry's thoughts by stretching into his peripheral vision. "I'm so glad I don't have to shepherd that lot this year."
"Poor Ginny," Harry added, watching the two Gryffindor fifth year prefects try to round up a small chattering group of the newest house members.
Hermione cleared her through and gestured towards the staff table with her head. "If you don't, I will, Harry."
Harry looked back to the table and shook his head. "I'll wait 'till tomorrow. If I'm too tired to think straight, he probably is as well."
One of the last groups to leave, they made their way up the marble staircase and towards the Gryffindor tower. Ron began counting on his fingers how many servings of pudding he'd hand, but soon ran out of digits to count off. When they reached her, the Fat Lady squinted her eyes at them until Hermione said clearly, "Nymphit Toddle."
The portrait swung open, admitting them to a relatively quiet common room. Everyone had made their way up to the right dormitories already. Hermione bade them goodnight and disappeared up the girl's staircase. Ron watched the steps she went up suspiciously and needed reminding that the whole idea of stairs was to put a foot up first.
Harry pulled on his pajamas and muttered a goodnight to the others before drawing his curtains closed. He wasn't ready to go to bed - not yet anyway. He waited until the noises that his mates made when they were asleep to penetrate the hangings and reached out to his trunk and brought out the book with the lion on it.
He opened it slowly, expecting something - anything - to happen. Nothing did. It was a blank bound book with no sign of ink anywhere in it. Reminded of Riddle's diary, Harry tried writing messages but they smudged and ran down the pages. Sighing, he tucked it under his bed and closed his eyes. For a long time, he just lay there, wondering why the book had been so expensive if nothing was in it.