Sign of the Lion
Chapter 4 - Sign of the Lion
Harry woke to see high beams on the ceiling, cobwebs hiding in the corners of the chipped tarnished wood. For a moment, he wondered if he was in the cupboard again, then he remembered the happenings of the day before. He'd sent letters off to Ron and Hermione and had finally managed to start the homework he had neglected, with the help of Remus Lupin.
He sat up and rubbed his eyes, looking over at the analogue clock hung on the wall. It was coming towards eight o'clock, definitely time for some breakfast. Harry swung his legs over the edge of the bed and evaluated the room he was in. He hadn't had much time the night before, having been slightly run down from numerous things.
It was as large as a master bedroom and had an ensuite opposite the walk in wardrobe. At the moment, moths fluttered among the collapsed clothes racks and all of his clothes lay crumpled up in his trunk. Harry found a decent outfit and threw it into the bathroom. Yawning, he stepped in after his clothes and selected the safest looking towel, laying it over the basin.
He unbuttoned his pyjama top, throwing it aside next to his clothes and looked in the dusty mirror at himself. He instinctively reached up to flatten his fringe, then paused. Harry felt his stomach plummet and wrenched around his left arm, heart pounding. At first he thought for one wild moment that the Dark Mark was on his arm, then he realised it was a different style.
It was faint, the outline having the appearance of a faded wash-off tattoo. It was an array of oranges and yellow, making the shape of a lion on the prowl, a snarl on the lion's jaw. Relief flooded Harry but was soon replaced by puzzlement. First his glasses, weird happenings and now this! He sighed and rested on his elbows against the basin.
Everything was so confusing! Rubbing his forehead, he turned the hot water handle and stood back away from the shower. Stepping under the hot stream, Harry immediately reached for the soap and started scrubbing at the mark on his arm furiously.
Hair dripping, Harry made his way down the stairs with the towel over his arm. He wasn't sure if Kreacher was around, but it was obvious the house- elf hadn't done any tasks for a decade or more. He stepped into the kitchen and covered a yawn. He didn't notice the others in the room until Mrs Weasley gave a shriek and dashed straight at him.
"It's so nice to see you, Harry dear." Mrs Weasley's eyes were moistening.
Harry smiled wanly and managed to push her off, looking past to Ron who wore a pained expression. Ron rolled his eyes. "Mum's been doing that to everyone here."
Harry laughed and sat down at the table next to Ron. "Sorry I haven't sent you any owls lately, mate. I've been a bit...busy."
"Speaking of OWLs..." Ron lowered his voice, "What did you get?"
Harry reached for the toast stack in the middle of the table and selected a piece, deliberately taking a long time to butter it. He set it down then looked up at his friend. "Seven OWLs and guess what? I got an Outstanding in Potions."
Ron shot him a disbelieving look, trying to read Harry's expression. Harry smirked and crunched into his toast. Mrs Weasley took the damp towel off him. "Bovid will handle this."
"Bovid?" Harry turned to Ron, questioning. "What happened to Kreacher?"
Ron casually took a piece of toast for himself. "You know how Kreacher always wanted to be on a plaque like the rest of them? Mad-Eye Moody arranged that quite nicely..."
Harry gave him a sideways glance. "Better not let Hermione hear you talking like that."
Ron's ears went red even though there was nothing insulting in what Harry had said. He stabbed the piece of toast a little too vigorously than needed. Harry smiled to himself. For a moment, there was silence, then Ron put his knife down hard. Catching the confused frown he was given, Ron shrugged and reached across for another piece of toast. The first piece was dripping butter into his lap.
Harry raised an eyebrow. "Ron, you know that hot butter and clothes just don't go."
"Oh for..." Ron angrily wiped at his jeans with a cloth as dirty as Kreacher's loin cloth. He turned to Harry. "She didn't tell you?"
"Uh...who tell me what?"
Ron didn't answer, even at the perplexed expression on his friend's face. Harry sighed and pushed his plate away. As he did so, he noticed Ron tearing at his toast with black enthusiasm. Slowly, Harry twitched a finger in the direction of the knife. It shot out of Ron's hand and landed on the floor with a loud clatter. Ron made sure his plate followed it, speaking slowly as if it hurt, "Viktor...Krum. She's going out with...Krum."
"No problem with that," Harry began evasively, then stopped at the expression on Ron's face. "Oh."
Harry hadn't seen Ron this defeated since the Yule Ball and managed to conceal his smile. Ron hammered a fist on the table. "The nerve of him! Hermione has no sense, brains, but no sense."
Harry had had enough. He stood up suddenly, knocking his empty goblet to the ground and spitted Ron with a hard glare. "Ron, she can do what she wants. It's not like you're her Secret Keeper or something."
"Well I should be!" Ron said fiercely. "How can you let her do this? You're not even upset about Sirius' death!"
Then Ron knew he'd gone too far. Harry's eyes narrowed and he felt the anger which had been dormant rise up inside him. He felt himself shaking with barely suppressed rage and let loose on Ron. "Just because I don't look it doesn't mean I'm not upset! Do you know how hard it is for me? I lost my parents first and then the last person, the only person who was dear to me! You wouldn't understand - you've still got your family, you've got everything! You have to realise Ron that not everyone revolves around you!"
He spun on his heel and stormed out of the kitchen. Harry didn't trust himself enough to stay in the room; he might have even gone for Ron. Clenching his fist, he tried not to visualise it slamming into Ron's face. He climbed the stairs without seeing them and threw open the door to his room, the one Sirius had once stayed in.
Harry furiously picked up a book and threw it, hearing the satisfying thump it made. Before long, he was flicking his hand at whatever else he could find and hurling it in the book's wake. He stopped finally, breathing hard. Wearily, he sank into the mattress, groaning.
Hedwig hooted at him concernedly from the top of the wardrobe but made no attempts to swoop down.
The knock at the door was inevitable, as was Mrs Weasley peering in. "Harry, dear, are you alright?"
"Yes, Mrs Weasley," he answered automatically.
"Can I get you anything?"
"No, Mrs Weasley."
"Do you want to talk about it?"
"NO!" Harry yelled at her, frustrated. Immediately, he felt a surge of guilt at the hurt look on her face then added quickly, "I'm sorry. I'm just not...you know."
Mrs Weasley smiled and nodded understandingly. Her eyes scanned over the pile of items that lined the wall, but she dismissed this in the next moment. She opened the door fully. "Don't worry about the mess, dear, Bovid will clean it up. Can you get your book list? I thought you could do with coming to Diagon Alley with Ron and me."
Harry walked over to his up-ended trunk and pulled out his crumpled Hogwarts letter. He turned back to Mrs Weasley, walking out the door to her. She gave his shoulder a squeeze briefly before half-leading him down the stairs. Ron was waiting at the bottom, his ears still flaming and his eyes lowered on the floor. Harry opened his mouth to apologise, but Mrs Weasley shook her head at him.
She stepped towards the open fireplace in a room just off the entrance and held out a small pot of Floo powder. "We want to end up at Diagon Alley and make sure you say it clearly - we don't want a repeat of last time."
Harry grinned, despite how he was feeling. He took a handful, stepped into the dark fireplace and threw it down. He cried, "Diagon Alley!"
And was soon spinning dizzily through the Floo network.
Coughing and spluttering, Harry sat up on the floor of the Leaky Cauldron and rolled away from the fireplace, being almost flattened by Ron who followed. Jumping to his feet, Harry offered a hand to Ron who reluctantly took it and straightened up. Mrs Weasley stumbled a little on her landing, but remained upright. She dusted herself off and waved her wand at the boys. She pocketed it once she was sure not soot remained.
They made a quick stop at Gringotts where Harry noticed that, if possible, the amount of coins in his vault had increased greatly. He bit his lip when he saw how little was left in the Weasleys' vault, but refrained from comment, offer or statement. After leaving the bank, Harry blinked rapidly in the sunlight but managed to follow Mrs Weasley down to Flourish and Blotts.
He pulled out his list of books and managed to get Advanced and basic books for his classes. He noted with dismay that the advanced Potions text was several times thicker than the previous one and wondered how he was supposed to carry it around with his other Potions books. Harry set his books heavily on the counter and started pulling out various coins.
His eyes slid over the rack behind the counter and caught on a book which face was pointing towards him. Drawn artistically on it was a lion on the prowl...Harry's mouth went dry. A wizard stepped in its way and began adding up quickly on an abacus the amount required. Harry asked suddenly, "That book with the lion on it - how much?"
"You don't want that." The wizard chortled. "It's too expensive for what it is - worthless junk."
Without saying anything, Harry handed over some more money. The wizard sighed and added the book to the pile between them. "Don't say I didn't warn you, Mr Potter."
Harry picked up the stack of books and waited by the door for Ron who looked extremely forlorn. Looking quickly around, Harry turned to Ron and was about to mention the lion and the strange things that had been happening when, a moment or so later, Mrs Weasley came over swinging a bag which was filled with second hand books. Harry shifted his feet uncomfortably.
"Is that all?" she asked briskly. "I want to drop in on Fred and George."
They made their way through the packed alley to find a crowd outside the Weasley Wizard Wheezes. The people surround the front window were chatting animatedly and pointing at various items on display. Mrs Weasley cut through them and pushed open the door, a bell sounding overhead. It was just as chaotic inside, with only Fred behind the counter and no sign on George.
Seeing his mother, Fred waved and turned back to a customer with a Hogwarts robe above the knees. Mrs Weasley pushed through the cluttered shop and demanded, "Where's George?"
"He'll be back," Fred replied dismissively. "Mum do you mind handing over that abacus? Thanks."
Harry looked around the shop curiously, seeing a large stand for Canary Creams being swamped by a large croup of chattering teenagers. Fred caught a look of Harry and grinned mischievously. He shouted over the milling crowd, "Special, one-time-only chance to meet Harry Potter! Free autographs with every purchase..."
Harry glared him, uselessly flattening his fringe. Fred grabbed a quill and a stack of blank parchment, sliding it over with a wink. Already dogged lines were forming near the counter, customers hands loaded with pranks. Ron was standing off to the side, inspecting a tray of what looked like slices of innocent fudge and didn't look like any help against the onslaught of eager shoppers.
On the fourth signature, Harry saw out of the corner of his eye Mrs Weasley berating Fred who merely shrugged. Busy noticing this, he didn't realise who the next person in line was. He began signing the parchment and looked up. "Hey, you didn't buy anything..."
He stopped. Hermione Granger grinned down at him. Her usual bushy hair was sleeked back behind her ears and pulled into a bun. Ron was gaping over at her, choking on the fudge he had taken off the shelf. Harry looked over at Ron. "You'd better swallow that."
"Are you alright?" Hermione asked Ron concernedly.
Ron's eyes were watering and he ducked behind a table displaying Extendable Ears. Harry smirked and slid the signed autograph across to Hermione. "So. You and Krum."
"Yes, about that..." Hermione paused as she looked over at Ron who was bright red in the face. "It's just that - "
Whatever it was, Harry didn't get to hear because at that moment, the screaming started.