Sign of the Lion
Chapter 15 - The Guardian
Harry spent much of his time training the Gryffindor Quidditch team, avoiding Duelling Club and teaching the DA members. He was surprised to find that both Siobhan McPherson and Alexandra Chambers very good at their spells, though had no skill whatsoever in aiming. This sent many of the DA to the hospital wing as regularly as the girls sent the Quidditch team. The only notable relief was the absence of experimenting on other first years in between classes.
Harry was sick of being watched by Ron and Hermione. It seemed that every sneeze, every cough warranted a problem for his wandless magic. Though he’d never admit that using his wand had taken away his headaches, Harry was relieved to not have to put up with the pounding behind his eyes. It made concentrating on the hassles of life a lot easier.
The approach of the traditional first Quidditch match of the season with Gryffindor vs. Slytherin stirred everyone into frenzy. Although Fred and George were notably absent from the school, their pranks were not and constantly laid their mark on several students who got in the way. Many a Slytherin was found throwing up slugs and many a Gryffindor was sporting black eyes by the Monday before the game.
Harry had other things to worry about. While he endeavoured to use his wand to placate his friends, his wandless magic had a way of getting out of his control. The first incident went thusly...
Harry Potter quickly chose the best route to the Gryffindor tower, through a few tapestries. The dark, musty passages that lay beyond were becoming something of a bother to the nose. He opted to leave the secret way, then paused at hearing an odd shuffling just behind the nearest exit.
Cautiously, Harry pulled out his wand and aimed it for the drape. The shuffling suddenly stopped. Harry halted. He was not at all ready for the box of chalk that Siobhan lobbed at him from the side. Alex then burst through the drape and went crashing into him, throwing more chalk about. It began with the itching of the nose and the wrinkled expression Harry adopted to sniff out the dust.
“ACHOO!” Harry exclaimed suddenly.
Siobhan and Alex simultaneously shrieked, waving frantic fingers at him. Harry suspected they liked to make fun of him in this way, ever since they’d somehow landed their hands on the suspicion flying around in his second year. But for once, the expressions on their faces were truly terrified.
“You didn’t hit me that hard,” Harry assured them. “Just don’t do that again.”
Alex managed, “You not there!”
“Gone,” whispered Siobhan.
Harry was confused. It was before curfew, therefore needing no use of the Invisibility Cloak. And he doubted it would have jumped out of his pocket and covered him. He looked down at his torso, to find his chest completely invisible.
“Ah,” Harry said intelligently. “Nothing to worry about.”
“Where’s your wand?” demanded Alex slyly.
Harry stuck his hands in his pockets, ready to draw the magical stick in defiance. It wasn’t there. He coughed nervously, sending dust scurrying away from him. Heeding his friends’ warnings, he didn’t want to dredge up the strength to conjure a wand. He shrugged nonchalantly. Siobhan sniffed gleefully. “Just as we assumed! O fearless leader, let us use your gifts to promote the fun this school needs!”
Harry was getting really worried now. He didn’t know whether to laugh or curse. Alex winked at him and bowed apologetically. “We’ve been watching you. What’s the use of a wand when you don’t need one? Surely you must help us with our noble work.”
Harry was instantly reminded of the Weasley twins. He closed his eyes and willed the invisibility to wear off. Upon inspection, it looked to have worked. He really didn’t trust the pair of them enough to explain the entire story.
“You can’t tell anyone,” he warned. “Wandless magic is my own little secret.”
“What’s our silence worth to you?” Siobhan had a nasty little glint in her eyes.
Harry did not want to admit to Ron later that he’d been blackmailed by two first years, so simply said they’d asked for his help with pranks and such, putting the request down to his intelligence. Ron had laughed himself silly. Hermione obviously didn’t believe him, but he’d deceived her enough.
Harry didn’t feel particularly like owning up to playing a part in the latest prank at Hogwarts – it was too shameful to think about. He sincerely hoped who ever used the prefect bathroom did notice the malfunctioning taps...they wouldn’t take kindly to a mud bath.
“Allow me to introduce you to your new commentator!” announced Dean Thomas, sporting West Ham united colours and a magical microphone. “ME!”
There was a collective groan from more than three quarters of the school. Seated in the Gryffindor stands, Seamus Finnigan, if possible, went even paler. Neville hurried to fan the ever blowing breeze onto his face. Hermione looked over her scarlet and gold scarf with concern. “I thought you’d be pleased to see your cousin play, Seamus.”
“You don’t know her like I do,” Seamus whispered in a deathly quiet voice.
“Dean didn’t say anything about commentating!” Neville piped up. “I knew he’d done some stints for his local football club, though.”
“Quidditch isn’t football,” Hermione thought to remind everyone tartly.
“I’m sure Dean knows that. He’s smarter than he looks,” defended Seamus.
Hermione looked doubtful. She made a distinct noise in her throat. Seamus looked up at where Dean was commentating from and the sight of his friend toting football regalia made agreement scrawl across his face. He excused himself anxiously. “I’m just going to give him moral support, yeah?”
Seamus hurried away.
Katie Bell spent her time assuring Harry that the planned attack manoeuvres were brilliant and worthy of Oliver Wood. Siobhan and Alex had cornered Ron and were jubilantly telling him that chances were they’d be hitting him with the clubs and not the Bludgers. Rorianna was quietly consulting with Ginny, both shooting reproving looks at Ron’s assailants.
“It’s time,” Harry said hoarsely, glancing at his watch.
Ginny tried to be positive. “Come on, Harry! It’s only Slytherin. Our Beaters are more than a match for Crabbe and Goyle.”
Harry doubtfully considered this. Alex and Siobhan had very slight frames in comparison to the gorilla cronies of Malfoy’s. But the devious smirks on the two girls’ faces somewhat heartened him. McGonagall was right – they really did have brains.
“And here comes the Gryffindor team! Let’s hope today’s game will prove to be generous on the new additions! We’ve got Captain Potter, Bell, Sigal, McPherson, Chambers, Weasley aaaaaaaaaaaaand another Weasley! Do they grow on trees or what?”
Dean Thomas managed to look thoughtful, though Seamus had adopted a murderous, mirthless grin. Siobhan’s cousin had reached the would-be commentator and presented himself as a reminder of the sensibility that should be maintained.
“Ahem. And now the Slytherins, who’ve been on a running losing streak since the arrival of Gryffindor Seeker Harry Potter! The serpentine mob includes Captain Warrington, Malfoy, Crabbe, Goyle, Bletchley, Pucey and, um, who is that again – Zabini! Looks like a Russian, that one...No, I didn’t mean that Professor, don’t be silly.”
Harry listened to this verbal tirade smilingly as he swooped around the pitch and coming to a rest on the ground opposite the Warrington. They shook hands, and Harry imagined it was just as hard as when Angelina had shook hands with the previous captain. He hardly listened to Madam Hooch telling them to play nicely, just stared hard at the Slytherin captain and squeezed as hard as humanly possible – which, for the Gryffindor heir, is quite hard.
“I’m gonna crush you,” muttered Warrington dangerously.
Harry released the other boy’s hand and mounted his broom. Beside him, he heard Alex and Siobhan squabbling over what to do with Alex’s glasses. Ron snapped at them, but refrained from harming them as he hurtled up to the hoops as the balls were unleashed.
The Snitch vanished immediately. Siobhan was seen tearing off after a Bludger, screaming blue murder while Alex seemed to have trouble distinguishing bat from broom while losing grip on her glasses. Ron was mouthing wordlessly from his position. Harry shot off to Alex and set the club into her right hand firmly. He applied a quick, wandless sticking charm to the glasses and shoved them up her nose.
“Thanks!” Alex shouted and sped off to find a Bludger.
“I say!” exclaimed Dean in amazement, “What’s McPherson doing?”
Harry dreaded looking, but he did so anyway. He stared in disbelief as Siobhan rammed into Alex, stole her friend’s club, and swooped off to the Bludgers. Beaming happily, she swung the clubs around and began using them on the balls like a musician to his drums.
“That’s me cousin!” hollered Seamus proudly, family differences aside.
Harry blinked slowly to make sure he wasn’t seeing things. He glanced at Ron, who barely managed to stop the Quaffle whizzing past him. Ron looked extremely impressed as he hurled the Quaffle at Rorianna. Draco Malfoy swooped in between and “accidentally” batted the ball with the tail of his broom. It went spiralling off into the crowd.
Dean sounded angry. “Get out of the way, you stinking ferret! No, Professor, I didn’t use any profanity! Pucey catches it and ducks it up to Bletchley who takes a shot – and misses! Nice save, Ron. Pucey intercepts Weasley’s pass to, uh, Weasley, and...no, no. That’s not right. The score now stands at 10-0 in favour of Slytherin.”
The Slytherin end erupted in cheers as a Bludger escaped Siobhan and smacked into Ron, sending the Keeper careering backwards, unable to save the goal. If not for Alex who was skirting behind the hoops, hitting the Bludger off to Siobhan, Ron would have fallen off his broom. Harry heard her say to Ron, “Now you owe me one!”
A golden glint caught Harry’s eye and he shot towards it. A moment later, Malfoy slammed into him and tried to grab onto the scarlet Quidditch robes.
“Don’t try it, Malfoy!” Harry hissed and swerved into the blonde boy so hard that both brooms rattled under the strain.
Malfoy leered at him, leant over and caught Harry around the throat. He let go extremely quickly, zooming off while Harry choked for breath. Dean Thomas was shouting, “Oi! That’s a foul, Madam Hooch! Give him a red card, SEND HIM OFF!”
Down in the stands, Seamus poked and reminded him, “This isn’t football, Dean!”
“So sorry Potter,” Malfoy sneered while Madam Hooch gave a short blast on her whistle. “You must have gotten in my way.”
“Penalty to Gryffindor!” crowed Dean triumphantly. “Cheating to win, eh? You’d get your hands lopped off in some countries!! Ginny Weasley takes it – and – Zabini misses! Ten points to the Lions! I mean, Gryffindor!”
Rorianna whizzed past Harry, half colliding with Katie and Ginny, cheering happily. Harry scanned the sky carefully, choosing to hover more above the game. He saw Malfoy watching his movements carefully, but staying a good distance away. Within minutes, Katie had scored Gryffindor’s second goal and had to duck a savage club swing by Crabbe.
“A human head is not a Bludger!!!!” roared Dean heatedly.
But Madam Hooch was looking the other direction at Siobhan McPherson who’d swung her club backwards into Malfoy’s face while attempting to hit the Bludger in front of her. She sobbed, “I didn’t see him, honest! I always swing it back before I smash it forwards! I’m so sorry Malfoy, I didn’t mean to hurt you!”
Madam Hooch looked swayed.
“Toss up! Toss up!” chanted Dean. “Come on, just toss up the Quaffle!”
A toss up was called, extracting boos from the Slytherins. Dean sounded amazed. “And we’re making Hogwarts history today! A toss up hasn’t been called in a Quidditch match on this pitch since 1745!”
Siobhan made sure to clip Malfoy as she zoomed past.
“Bell hits the ball to Rorianna Sigal who – misses?! Warrington snatches the footy ball – I mean, Quaffle – and CATCH IT RON!”
Ron caught the ball expertly and shouted at Harry, “Just hurry up and catch the bloody thing!”
Harry sighted the Snitch flitting near Alex, who was about to whack a Bludger. She winked up at Harry and, as she hit the jet black projectile, the bat connected with the Snitch as well, sending it spiralling upwards.
“How did that get there?!” demanded Dean. “Uh, Malfoy and Potter chase after the Snitch. OUCH! Sigal gets thundered by Goyle’s Bludger!”
Harry once again had to brace himself against Malfoy slamming into him. Harry found himself saying tauntingly, “Is that the best you’ve got, Malfoy?”
He focused hard on Malfoy’s broom. He remembered Hagrid saying that it was mighty hard to tamper with someone’s broom, but obviously all who had tried were not heirs of the founders. Draco Malfoy’s broom pelted backwards, leaving Harry free to reach out his arm and catch the Snitch.
“Malfoy experiences steering difficulties!” Dean said cheerfully. “And Harry Potter catches the Snitch, winning 150 points for Gryffindor! An impressive win!!”
Harry rolled his broom past Malfoy and smiled innocently. The Slytherin Seeker glared at him and growled, “I don’t know how you did it, Potter, but I know you fouled my broom.”
“You can’t prove that, ferret boy,” Harry told him lightly and sped away into the victorious huddle that was his team.
“Congratulations!” Hermione caught up with the team as it trudged into the change rooms, victory laps complete.
She threw her arms around Ron, turned vaguely pink and muttered something about a Charms assignment. Ron’s ears had burnt red and he busied himself with getting out of his Quidditch robes. He avoided catching anyone’s eyes. Siobhan nearly bowled him over while she danced around the room.
“It’s a pity they can fix Malfoy’s nose so easy,” Alex said sadly. “That’s why she’s upset.”
Ron muttered darkly from his corner, “I’d hate to see her really happy.”
Suddenly, Katie Bell looked rather downcast. When questioned, she replied morosely, “We don’t have Fred or George to start a party.”
“Leave that to me,” Harry told her in a low voice so that Ron and Hermione wouldn’t hear.
Harry froze guiltily in the act of conjuring food for the growing party. He knew he should have used his wand, but using wandless magic was so much quicker. Besides, he couldn’t find his wand. He turned around to see Dobby watching him nervously.
“Um, hi Dobby.” Harry smiled at the house-elf. “Did you hear? Gryffindor won the Quidditch today.”
Dobby peeked at him with alarm. “Harry Potter, sir, Professor Flitwick thought Harry Potter might be needing this.”
Out from Dobby’s tea cosy came Harry’s wand, which the house-elf handed over tremblingly. Harry felt his mouth go dry. He cleared his throat, fibbing quickly, “Thanks, Dobby. Don’t tell anyone but I’ve just got back from Hogsmeade.”
“Dobby saws not that, sir.”
“Alright,” Harry said, stalling for time. “You’re not going to tell anyone you saw me doing magic without a wand are you? It’s a secret.”
Dobby’s tennis ball sized eyes, if possible, widened. He asked in a squeak, “Albus Dumbledore knows Harry Potter’s secret?”
“Not exactly and you can’t tell Professor Dumbledore,” Harry pressed.
He could almost hear Hermione scolding him. Harry knew he should trust the Headmaster and had had enough of insistence from Hermione as well as Professor Flitwick. Dobby looked confused and was clearly not going to keep to himself. Harry knew that house-elves had their own brand of magic that wizards couldn’t tamper with easily, but he had to try. Rather than say the telltale “Obliviate”, Harry focused his power mentally on Dobby. Casting aside memories of Gilderoy Lockhart’s mishaps, the heir of Gryffindor performed a simple memory charm and sent the dazed house-elf on his way.
“That was easy,” Harry muttered.
Suddenly, a flash of heat ran up his skull and blinded him. Promptly, every candle and roaring hearth in the castle winked out. Harry felt the lion mark on his arm burn until he felt the whole limb was going to fall off. The world swam away from his vision...
“Spare no one.”
“Yes, my lord.”
The screams from inside the expansive buildings began, driving wave after wave of pain into Harry’s head. He stood, unseen and unable to help, at the backs of cloaked wizards and witches – Death Eaters. Harry had never seen this place before, but he knew if he wasn’t filled with dread, it would have been a peaceful place.
Chiselled into the stone entrance of the main building were the words “Salem Witches’ Institute”. Harry turned on his opposite, the wizard so feared not many said his name. Voldemort was laughing to the point of sounding mad. Harry clenched his fists and wished more than anything he could wrap his hands around the dark wizard’s neck. He threw all his wandless magic and hate at the killer of his parents.
So used to having no resistance to his powers, Harry was startled to see them batted away almost effortlessly. Unexpectedly, narrow red eyes locked with his. Harry felt his heart clench for a second and staggered backwards. But it didn’t seem that Voldemort could see him.
“So at last you come,” hissed You-Know-Who, “Godric.”
“Harry, mate, wake up!” came Ron’s voice from somewhere above the darkness.
Harry opened his eyes to see Ron and Hermione crouched over him. He sat up with a groan, surprised to find himself flattened on the floor. Harry looked straight at them shamelessly, making a point of the wand that rested barely a metre from him.
“You should go to Dumbledore!” Hermione told him, close to tears. “The teachers are all worried that there’s someone in the castle that wants to create a panic. If you just told Dumbledore you wouldn’t have these problems.”
Harry rubbed his stinging tattoo. “I’ll tell him now, if you’re so worried. I just saw an attack that Voldemort was leading. He’s expecting me.”
“Who, Dumbledore?” Ron chanced.
Harry stared distantly out the window. “Voldemort knows the heir of Gryffindor exists.”
“I hope you didn’t tell him who you were!” Hermione snapped.
“No, I’m don’t daft.” Harry sighed wearily. “I doubt Voldemort will link me to Gryffindor’s heir.”
Hermione scowled at him. “You shouldn’t take Voldemort for a fool, Harry.” She turned to Ron who was in the midst of a flinching fit. “For goodness sakes, Ron, it’s just a name.”
Harry got up, foreseeing an argument. “If it will make you feel better, I’ll go to Dumbledore. Take the food down, though. We can’t have a party without it.”
He pretended to be looking for his jumper while Ron managed to cajole Hermione into taking the food down into the Common Room. Their bickering over using Voldemort’s bounced up the staircase in whispers. Harry waited a moment, then grabbed his broom.
He kicked a window open and shot out into the darkening sky. He had no wish to go to Dumbledore – all he needed was to clear his head. The Headmaster would know about the attack anyway. Harry could already feel his headache subsiding. Fresh air, that’s all it was.
The winter season brought a chill to the early dusk, but Harry ignored it. He found himself circling the Quidditch pitch so set his Firebolt down into the middle of it, empty stands leering at him.
He really needed to talk to someone who wasn’t insisting on getting help. The only person living would be Remus Lupin, but Harry had his doubts. He’d seen Hermione sending a letter by one of the school owls to their old professor, but hadn’t bothered to stop her. If Moony had any advice, he hadn’t replied for five whole days. With each new day Hermione grew more uneasy and even Ron was beginning to become anxious.
“Why won’t they leave me alone?” Harry demanded out loud to the silent pitch.
Long shadows had spread across the ground, making every noise seem deafening. That was why, when Harry heard the footsteps, he looked up at the hauntingly cheerless stands. He called, “Who’s there?”
The footsteps paused. Harry walked steadily towards where he’d last heard them on the wooden spectator seats, summoning a light globe in one hand. The light barely created more than a two metre circle once Harry entered the dark woodwork. A dull thud came from Harry’s left and he spun that direction.
The lion mark on his arm began to throb dully. Harry gritted his teeth, awaiting the usual accompanying headache, but it didn’t come. He forced his voice to remain steady, “Show yourself.”
“No,” said a gruff voice from just beyond the light. “I’ve got a wand trained on you, so no funny business. Turn around and walk the other way.”
Harry felt calm as he responded, “A dismal threat. Now, who are you?”
There was silence for a moment, then the voice sounded almost apologetically, “I ought to have recognised you earlier, Harry.”
Harry didn’t know whether to call for help or stay put. It could be likely this stranger was a threat to him, but his instincts told him otherwise. He tried tentatively, “Why are you here?”
“Because." The man stepped from the shadows. “I got your letter.”
It was Sirius Black.