Sign of the Lion
Chapter 12 - The Lion and The Badger
"W-What are you talking about?" stammered Harry.
Maybe he had misheard Flitwick. But no, the Professor was staring right at him, squeaking with more dignity than Harry had thought possible. "Don't be coy, Mr Potter, I've seen you at it. I believe you turned sixteen in the holidays, am I right? That was when the changes would have occurred."
Harry stared at him. How could he have been so careless? Hermione had been right - again, he thought petulantly - and someone had seen him. But it wasn't just that. How had Flitwick known about the mark on his arm? Unconsciously rubbing the spot, he blurted, "But - how do you know?"
"Not too long ago," Flitwick began breathlessly, "one of my students began showing prowess in an ability to read minds and communicate mentally after his sixteenth birthday. I wouldn't have noticed it, but he came to me."
Harry wondered where this was going. It sounded fairly ordinary to him and not having the slightest relation to wandless magic. Flitwick enquired curiously, "Do you know what Helga Hufflepuff was famous for, Mr Potter?"
Harry mutely shook his head, but he had an idea.
"Empathy with the human mind," Flitwick informed him. "No doubt you heard the Sorting Hat's song at the feast - it was one I researched in regards to that student. It mentioned the houses as the animals that led them. Now be honest with me - do you have the mark of a lion on your arm?"
There was silence. Harry had focused on the grounds outside, trying to get his mind around what the Charms teacher was telling him. Part of him wanted to back away slowly, something Ron would have done. But the other part of him was intrigued. He cleared his throat impatiently. "Yes, but I don't see why it's important."
Flitwick looked very seriously at him. "Mr Potter, Godric Gryffindor was known for his abilities in the field of wandless magic. Do you not understand that the lion mark on your arm represents his powers?"
"No," Harry replied stubbornly, turning towards the door as his stomach reminded him that he was missing dinner.
Flitwick made an exasperated noise and demanded, "Did you not listen to what the Sorting Hat said? It was a prophecy predicted by Cassandra Trelawney. Do I have to explain it line by line, Mr Potter? 'Once again the four will rise' - the most famous foursome were the Hogwarts founders meaning it could only be them. It refers to four animals, each representing the houses."
Needless to say, this was stirring some memories in Harry's brain. He muttered, "Voldemort is the heir of Slytherin."
"Precisely, Mr Potter!" the short Professor affirmed, though winced at the mention of the Dark Lord's name. "'The serpent will choose to stem or create' - He Who Must Not Be Named has great power and used it for evil. It is unfortunate that 'The badger will crawl only little' came to pass."
Harry had forgotten completely about his complaining stomach now. It was all starting to make sense. He frowned. "Professor, does that mean that the Hufflepuff person died?"
Flitwick nodded sombrely. "Mr Cedric Diggory passed, as you yourself know. He was still learning about his powers and there's no wondering why he was the school champion."
"Why did he go to you?" Harry asked, confused. "Surely Dumbledore would have been better to approach about something like that?"
The Charms professor smiled at him genially. "Have you gone to the Headmaster about your wandless magic?"
He had a point, Harry conceded. Flitwick climbed onto his stack of books and made himself comfortable. "Perhaps Mr Diggory sensed something different in me. I wondered about it. There is another part of the prophecy - 'Yet needed are the guardians, those that are the wise'. I know little about these guardians, but they must aid the heirs in some way. When I attended Hogwarts, I was in Ravenclaw, but only by choice. The Sorting Hat had originally chosen me for Hufflepuff. Perhaps I was assigned to Mr Diggory. You may end up finding your guardian."
Harry rubbed his forehead, some of his headache coming back. He felt like a saturated sponge, incapable of consuming any more of the information. This time when he moved towards the door, Flitwick didn't try to stop him.
"Heirs, you say," Harry said tiredly, feeling his headache increase. "I'm Godric Gryffindor's heir and there is someone out there who I can go to for help called a guardian. This year couldn't get any better."
He arrived very late to dinner and some students were already leaving. Seeing him, Hermione waved him over insistently. She asked him in a concerned voice what Flitwick had wanted to talk about. Ron was too busy trying to chew down his chicken to add any input to the conversation.
"He knows about the wandless magic and the lion mark," Harry said in a low voice. "Flitwick has this idea that I'm the heir of Gryffindor."
Ron started choking on his food and had to drink a whole goblet of Pumpkin Juice. Hermione asked keenly, eyes lighting up, "How did he know? Oh, I thought it might have been to do with the Transaxle Transformation."
Harry swallowed a mouthful of food, hoping to avoid the way in which Ron chose to speak at the table. "Apparently Cedric Diggory, who was the Hufflepuff heir, confided in him. Flitwick looked into it and found a prophecy. I think the Sorting Hat sang it and probably why it's in the book I bought."
"Yes, that makes sense," Hermione said absently.
Ron snorted with laughter and immediately started coughing. Hermione scowled at him, but he waved a hand dismissively at her. He followed Harry's lead and managed to swallow the chicken before sniggering, "Can you imagine Diggory with a badger tattoo on him? Of all the animals it could have been..."
Harry started laughing also, but it sounded hollow even to him. Hermione dropped her cutlery, looking cross, but she didn't say anything.
Harry woke suddenly and was blinded by the moonlight streaming in the window. He could hear an odd rattling sound, unevenly echoing through the room. Ron was sitting up in bed, curtains open and listening with a frown on his face. Harry mumbled, "Wherezat coming from?"
"Don't know," Ron said quietly. "But I think it's coming from your trunk."
Harry scrambled out of bed. "It's probably the Sneakoscope. Hang on - I'll stuff into something."
He pulled open his trunk and started rifling through it. He gently pushed aside the mirror Sirius had given him and his father's Invisibility Cloak, groping down further until he found the Sneakoscope, wrapped carefully in a disgusting pair of Uncle Vernon's socks. Harry listened for a moment, realising everything had gone quiet.
"Go back to sleep, Ron." He yawned. "It was the Sneakoscope." He threw himself back against his pillow and resolved to take some of his own advice.
The next morning at breakfast, a barn owl came swooping low towards the Gryffindor table. It was carrying a brilliantly coloured letter and soon attracted the attention of everyone in the Great Hall. To everyone's surprise, it landed in front of Hermione who opened it without a second thought. She blushed when she'd read it and Ron snatched it up.
"Ooh, a love letter from Vicky." He waved it in front of her. "He wrote 'love, Viktor'."
Hermione reached for the letter, saying coolly, "That's purely a platonic 'love'."
Even though he was sneering, Ron's face was quickly catching up to his hair. Harry watched them, amused, even if a little frustrated that it might turn out into another rift. Hedwig landed in front of him, knocking cereal all over the table. Bemused, Harry ripped open the letter she was holding and found a piece of blank parchment.
"That was worth delivering," he muttered sarcastically.
Ron noticed him staring non-plussed at the parchment and said, "What's eating you?"
Slowly, long green calligraphy lettering appeared on the letter, the first thing clear enough to discern was the Dark Mark signing it. Harry dropped it onto his plate as if it burnt him and managed in a constricted voice, "Would you stop bickering and come outside?"
Hermione was affronted at first, but when she saw the look on Harry's face she grabbed Ron's arm and pulled him brusquely towards the doors of the Great Hall. Once out of ear shot of any stragglers, Harry showed them the note which had one single line:
Happy Early Halloween, Harry Potter.
A large swooping inside the hall signalled the arrival of a great number of owls. Hermione went pale and quickly unfolded her unread Daily Prophet. On the front page was the headline, announcing that there had been an attack.
"I should have known!" Harry said furiously as he stabbed his quill so vigorously that it broke. "My scar should have hurt, I should have had a dream - something!"
Classes had been cancelled for the day and there was too much racket in the Common Room to suit Harry's temper. It was fortunate that his headache had subsided completely. He looked down at what he was writing in disgust and lobbed it out the window, as the fireplace was crowded around to get a clear shot. Hermione reasoned gently, "It's not your fault. It's..."
She trailed off helplessly. Harry looked straight at her. "It's not my fault that Ernie Macmillan is now an orphan when I could have seen it and stopped it? It's not my fault that Ron lost an uncle?"
"Hey, I never liked him anyway," Ron shrugged indifferently.
Hermione shot him a you're-not-helping look. The attack on a busy wizarding town (which included some Muggles) had been something of a shock to the students at Hogwarts. Harry glared without seeing out the window, going through what would have happened had he known about it. He could have stopped it, even if people had seen the wandless magic.
The prophecy about him being the only one to kill Voldemort made sense in a bizarre way suddenly. Of course, Harry thought sarcastically, the heir of Slytherin against the heir of Gryffindor. He still doubted the sanity of Professor Flitwick and seriously thought of pitting him with Professor Trelawney on the "weird" list.
Harry got to his feet and wound his way through unusually quiet students, disappearing up the staircase. Gratefully, he heard Hermione mutter to Ron, "Leave him."
Harry paced the empty dormitory, angrily kneading his forehead with his knuckles. He wanted to do something! The inactiveness was driving him mad. If he'd gone there and tried to save them...his vision swam as he remembered his "love of playing the hero". So what if his friends thought he'd make a mess of things? It wasn't his fault Sirius had gone out of hiding...but it was Harry he'd gone after.
Frustrated, Harry pulled out some parchment and his quill. Furiously, he wrote in almost desperation:
I hate doing nothing while people die. I could have stopped it! To hell with school - I'm going to go straight to Voldemort and kill him. But death's too good for him. He should suffer every curse at my hands before I finally kill him. I want him to hear his own screams.
He scrunched the letter into a wad and threw it onto his bed. He was going to carry out his words, make Voldemort suffer. Harry dug through his trunk and pulled out his Invisibility Cloak. He dove under his bed to get his recently returned Firebolt but came across something smaller. Startled, he summoned light and looked at it.
It was a headless, armless and legless figurine torso, dusty and coloured in the Bulgaria Quidditch team colours. Ron had obviously moved on from just one arm. Harry's throat tightened. How would Ron and Hermione react?
Harry strode past his friends in the Common Room and tacked up a notice. With a flourish, he gave it a Sticking Charm and dusted his hands off. Receiving odd looks from the quiet Gryffindors in the room, he announced, "Quidditch practice on Saturday morning."
Ron gave whoop. Harry looked across and caught Hermione's eyes. She smiled, relieved. Maybe she had guessed what he'd wanted to do. Maybe she'd hoped that he wouldn't leave. She didn't need to worry. Harry was fairly certain he needed to learn a few more spells before he took on any Death Eaters, let alone Voldemort.
And the DA shouldn't be taught for nothing.