Sign of the Lion
Chapter 9 - Without Reason
Harry, needing no insistence from Ron, stuck his feet into his slippers. He reached for his trunk and paused. "Do you think I'll need the cloak?"
"Should," Ron responded, uneasily looking sideways at Neville.
Harry threw on his dressing gown to conceal the cloak and hurried down the stairs into the common room. The fireplace was still alight, cheerfully illuminating the empty room. As the portrait hole swung open, footsteps came fast up behind him. Ron swung a leg over and into the corridor. He shrugged at Harry's pointed look. "Hermione would should come, but she needs some shut eye after spending all her time...uh." Ron's ears went red. "...reading that book."
Harry raised his eyebrows but said nothing. He instead kept an eye out for Mrs Norris, deciding that whatever the reason he was out of bed, Filch would still skin him alive. Throwing the cloak over him and Ron, he silently made the way towards Dumbledore's office. There was a draft pillaging the air and causing the torches to flicker rapidly. A resounding boom shot down the corridor, making Ron jump.
Harry shook his head and rounded the corner. Remaining torches threw the gargoyle into sharp relief, but the shadow stretched ominously behind. Harry sighed and said sideways to Ron. "We'll have to guess the password."
"You do that." Ron leant up against the wall, smothering a yawn.
Turning back to the gargoyle, Harry ran quickly through the lists of wizarding sweets he knew (including some of the Weasley Wizard Wheezes') then through some Muggle ones. Having no luck, he settled for kicking the statue, but only received a painful jolt up his leg.
Ron coughed into his hand. "Mate, instead of wasting your time thinking up all of Fred and George's latest catalogue, you could just get it to move."
Harry shot him a frustrated look, but nevertheless waved his hand at the statue in a polite gesture. The gargoyle was wrenched aside by an invisble force. Ignoring Ron's smirk, he stepped onto the moving staircase (leaving less than enough space for Ron) and stepped off at the top. Opening the door, he saw Dumbledore already seated behind the ornate desk.
"Ah, Harry, I was wondering when you would come." The eyes behind the half moon spectacles twinkled.
Harry felt a sudden sick feeling in his stomach. He sat on the edge of the seat closest to him and asked quietly, "It was Moody wasn't it?"
Waiting a moment, he launched into a quick description of his dream. After he had finished, Dumbledore was quiet for a moment then looked levelly across the desk at Harry. "Alastor Moody was reported missing several hours ago. You only just had the dream then?"
Harry nodded mutely; Ron shifted. Fawkes the phoenix, perched near Dumbledore, chattered restlessly.
"And your scar didn't hurt." It was not a question. "It appears you have taken to Occlumency well, Harry. I suggest that you attempt to get some more sleep before class tomorrow."
Inwardly, Harry snorted. He stood up and had his hand on the doorknob when Dumbledore said suddenly, "Is there anything you wish to talk about?"
"No, sir, nothing," Harry lied, though Ron stepped on his foot.
Stealing one backward glance at the headmaster before stepping on to the staircase, Harry pushed any repercussions from his mind.
"You could have at least woken me," Hermione said irritably as she buttered her toast the next morning.
"Hermione, we can't even get up into your dorm without the whole tower knowing," Ron pointed out. "How were we supposed to?"
Hermione laid aside her knife and instead asked of Harry, "Did Professor Dumbledore tell you what Moody was doing?"
Ron chortled. "As if he would, Hermione. Poor Mad-Eye though - all his paranoia couldn't save him. Shame about last night."
"Shame about what?" repeated Hermione shortly, clearly unhappy that Ron had answered her instead.
"Not that!" Ron corrected hurriedly, throwing a quick look at Harry who pretended to be very busy with his bacon. "I meant Moody."
Harry smirked and pushed his plate away, changing the subject lightly, "Have you found anything out about the book yet?"
Hermione immediately brightened and pulled the blank book out. She flipped through it indiscriminately. "I thought at first it might be invisible ink, so tried a few simple revealing spells but came up with nothing. I even tried a spell which..."
"Simply..." Hermione gave him a withering look. "None of the spells I attempted worked. Finally, I realised the writer had used a wax stylus."
She paused, waiting for the effect it would have on them. Giving up, she thrust the book in front of Harry's nose. "See? Any light liquid spread over it would reveal the wax!"
Harry took the book and opened it to the first page. The white scrawl in an upper corner spelt "Jarvis Trelawney", surrounded by a smudge of what looked like Pumpkin Juice. He was about to turn to the next page when the doors of the Great Hall burst open, admitting a giggling Alex and Siobhan. The Creevey brothers, sitting nearest to the doors, immediately moved down several metres along the bench.
"If they're worried..." Ron waved a free hand at the Creeveys. "Then I'm worried."
Harry privately agreed, but managed a painful smile as the two girls sat heavily on the bench next to him. Alex pushed her round and almost opaque glasses up her nose. "We are officially very cool people."
Siobhan giggled. Ron scowled at her.
"We," Alex continued, oblivious to the looks she was getting from all four house tables, "have made all the toilet paper in the castle disappear."
At this, Siobhan fell off the bench, howling with laughter. Her friend grinned devilishly and drank deeply from a nearby goblet. Hermione's eyebrows rose but she chose not to comment; only flashing Ron a warning look. Harry helped Siobhan back onto the bench, but she fell back off again.
At that moment, Professor McGonagall walked briskly through the doors. There was no question as to who she was looking for. Alex and Siobhan were suddenly nowhere to be seen. Hermione set down her half eaten toast and stood up, annoyed. "Come on - I've had enough of them."
Harry watched Siobhan streak under the Hufflepuff table and shook his head. He followed Ron and Hermione out into the Entrance Hall. Andrew Kirke and Jack Sloper, the Gryffindor Beaters stopped him.
"Congratulations on becoming Captain," Andrew said stiffly, looking extremely uncomfortable.
Jack bobbed his head in agreement, but there was a sombre expression on his face. Andrew cleared his throat. "My mum doesn't want me playing Quidditch anymore."
"I thought you were Muggle born, though," Harry said slowly, already knowing where this was going.
Andrew shifted a little, not meeting his eyes. "I told her about it and...I don't want to be that humiliated anymore."
Harry turned to Jack, who was flushed up the neck. "You too?"
"Er, sorry, Harry," Jack said nervously. "Same reason."
Harry watched them go, shaking his head. He'd have to get some new Beaters then and probably shuffle Ginny into the position of Chaser. She had been good at it, apparently. He hurried to catch up with Ron and Hermione.
Harry and Hermione, after being laughed at by Ron, made their way down to the dungeons for N.E.W.T Potions. Their breath rose as steam and most of the class seemed comprised of Slytherins, including Draco Malfoy. Harry was relieved to notice that Crabbe and Goyle had obviously not made it into the class.
"Oh, this will be horrible," Hermione, muttered, also noticing the Slytherins.
Ernie Macmillan waved them over to where he was sitting at the back. They set their things next to his and blew on their hands while they waited for Snape to arrive. Sure enough, the Potions Master swept into the room and up to his desk, surveying the class with distaste.
"Some of you," he said softly, "might be under the impression that because they are in this class, they are exceptionally gifted. Do not disillusion yourself. It is not uncommon for students to leave this class by Halloween."
Harry fought the urge to roll his eyes. He had a desperate feeling to do something to really upset Snape, but not draw attention to himself. Deliberately, he set his wand on the desk in front of him so that the Potions Master could not possibly lay the blame on him. Hermione seemed to know what he was about to do and kicked him.
Snape continued his speech, but Harry didn't seem to be able to hear it. A glass container fell off the teacher's desk onto the floor with a resounding crash, sending a foul smelling liquid towards the glass. Struggling to keep a straight face, he turned to Hermione in an attempt to look innocent. "What?"
Transfiguration began in much the same way - Professor McGonagall (still looking cross from Siobhan and Alex's antics that morning) gave them a quiet but meaningful speech about the seriousness of the next year's N.E.. Hermione listened to every word intently in a bid to find any advice on the exams. Harry attempted to listen, but found his eyes wandering to Hermione's bag on the floor where the lion book was just peeking out. Forcing himself to look up, he again tried to concentrate.
"Today we will be starting the Transaxle Transformation." McGonagall peered through her glasses at all of them. "Which requires a witch or wizard's full attention. Can anyone describe it for the class?"
Unsurprisingly, Hermione's hand shot up immediately and as soon as she was picked, gushed, "The Transaxle Transformation, also known as the Hereditary Conversion, is the changing of an organism into a form specified by any effects taken to either parent by certain spells. In rare cases it has been related to certain abilities passed onto the child."
Harry, deciding that he'd better give Transfiguration at least some attention, took notes. He paused as Hermione let out a soft "oh" and bit her lip. She quickly scribbled on her parchment until the quill ran dry. She crumpled it up and stuck in her bag, catching Harry's eye. In response to his quizzical expression, Hermione only shook her head. Harry then rushed to copy down what McGonagall was writing on the board.
"It's torture," groaned Ron. "There's only eight in the class."
After N.E.W.T. History of Magic, Ron was rather spent and didn't appear to be improving at all. It didn't help that Hermione had brought up Moody again. She was saying absently, "Why him though? There must have been a motive in Voldemort's actions."
Ron flinched, looked aggrieved. "Don't say that so loud! Anyway, You-Know-Who doesn't need a reason to kill people. It's his nature."
"Voldemort hardly does things without reason," Hermione countered boldly.
Harry sighed and wanted to avoid any squabbles that he might be caught in the middle of. He quickly cut into whatever Hermione would say, "Are you going to tell me what got you so excited in Transfiguration?"
Hermione pulled out the parchment from her bag and smoothed it out, and said without looking at it, "I was thinking how you came to have wandless magic and thought that it might have something to do with any spells that may have been performed on your parents."
"Uh..." Harry didn't really know what to say to that.
"Or," continued Hermione, clearly not noticing the looks Ron and Harry were exchanging, "it may have been the Avada Kedavra curse Voldemort inflicted on you."
This was all too much for Ron who snorted (once he'd finished flinching). "As if - and stop saying that name!"
Within moments, Ron and Hermione were bickering about Voldemort killing people without reason. Harry listlessly played with his food. The shadow that Tom Riddle had become certainly didn't need a reason to kill someone on the Order of the Phoenix. Or did he?