Chapter Fifty- Nine
Liar, Liar, Pants On Fire
That night, the school gathered in the Great Hall. There was, for once, total silence, not even murmurings, as the students took their seats for a meal no one really felt like eating. It felt like someone had cast a charm across the entire hall, all movements muffled, all intakes of breath hushed, not a soul able to disturb the silence. Harry took his seat between Ginny and Ron, taking careful notice of all the absences in the table. Alicia and Lee had returned, the two of them sitting down the table with the rest of the Gryffindor Quidditch team. Anna Williams was a few seats down from Harry, sitting with a few other fourth years and picking at her food. She'd brought her young brother with her; he was sitting on her lap, sleeping as she pretended to eat. Ginny had spotted Colin before Harry, and had motioned to him and Denis to come sit with them; they both had puffy eyes and pale lips. Hermione tried to get them to eat, but Denis wouldn't touch a thing and Colin barely picked at his plate of chicken and corn. The two Patil twins were still absent, Harry guessed, as Lavender Brown had sat down across from them and next to Seamus, immediately burying her face in his shirt. Seamus had hugged her silently as she started to cry quietly again.
There were other absences. As Harry surveyed the hall, there were a couple of faces he failed to find; his gut clenched in fear, wondering if they were mourning or being mourned. At the Hufflepuff table, no one sat alone, the table scattered with people quietly crying and barely anyone eating. He didn't spot Susan Bones or Ernie MacMillan, Justin Finch-Fletchley and Hannah Abbot were gone too. At the Ravenclaw table, students sat in stoic silence. Terry Boot, he saw, was gone. When he surveyed the Slytherin table, he noticed instantly that Malfoy was gone. He was the only Slytherin absent, Harry realized. As none of Malfoy's family had been killed or even hurt, Harry guessed, with clenching fists, that enough of the Slytherin students had families who'd been warned or left alone.
The meal vanished from the table, and Dumbledore rose from his chair. There was no need to call for silence, as no one was speaking. All looked expectantly at the Headmaster, but for a moment, Dumbledore didn't even speak. He spread his hands, his face turned downward, and he sighed.
"I need to make no announcement to inform you of what happened," Dumbledore said. "You know. Many of you know all too well. It is with the deepest regret that I ask you to observe a moment of silence in remembrance of those we lost. There were students at Kings' Cross, and while some only lost family, there were some that lost their lives."
Dumbledore fell silent, his hands coming together to grip each other, and yet the Headmaster still did not look at them.
"I would ask you to, therefore, listen as we remember the students we lost."
Harry clenched his jaw.
"Sally-Anne Perks," Dumbledore said gravely. "A fifth-year, who was killed rescuing a child. The child lived, making her a hero. Isabella Lynch, who succumbed to her injuries before Aurors could arrive on scene. Justin Finch-Fletchley, who died in the arms of his mother. Roger Davies, killed only a few months before his graduation. Eddie Carmichael, who was struck down in the first few moments of the attack. Susan Bones, who died from a curse to the back. Terry Boot, who passed away from his injuries at St. Mungo's. A moment, please, of silence."
They obliged, and this time the silence was permeated by a universal aura of grief.
"Many more students saw family members perish as well," Dumbledore said after a moment. "Priscilla Abbot and her young son Richard died in St. Mungo's earlier this morning, they are survived by Gregory and Hannah Abbot. Terresa and Marcus Brown were killed as they tried to flee, they are survived by their daughter, Lavender. Li Chang died attempting to protect others at the station, he is survived by his wife and daughter. Colin Creevey senior was struck down by the first wave of curses. He is survived by his two sons, his wife, and infant daughter. Rachel Hollins died protecting her daughter, Catherine, who unfortunately passed away in St. Mungo's. Rachel's older daughter, Sarah, survived the attack. Simon Jordan died en route to St. Mungo's; he is survived by his wife and son. Edward MacMillan died saving his wife; he is survived by his wife, who is expected to make a full recovery, and by his son. Vernon Dursley was killed by a curse to the face."
Harry didn't react for a full five seconds. Dumbledore continued to speak: "He is survived by his wife, his son, and his nephew." Harry blinked, looking at Dumbledore with a blank face. His uncle was dead. His uncle had been murdered by Death Eaters.
"Regina Spinnet died due to her injuries, but saved a group of school children. She is survived by…"
Harry? Harry, are you okay?
I… I had no clue…
Why… Why was he even at the station? Why was he there?
I — I don't know.
Uncle Vernon… God…
I don't know if I should be sorry… he was horrible to you.
He was horrible to all of us. Dumbledore said his wife, not his ex-wife?
I think you should talk to your aunt.
"Timothy and Elizabeth Williams were killed as they tried to flee. They are survived by their daughter and son."
I don't know if I should be sorry.
It's okay if you don't feel bad, love. The man was a beast.
Ginny gripped Harry's hand tightly. Harry pulled his gaze away from Dumbledore, who was still talking, and realized that his friends were all staring at him.
"Dursley?" Ron whispered. "As in Petunia Dursley? Your aunt?"
Harry nodded stiffly. "I didn't… I wasn't told."
"This is fucked up," Seamus murmured.
"These brave souls were taken long before their time," Dumbledore announced. "Many of them left behind children, some were children. Their families deserve to know what truly happened."
Harry lifted his gaze again. Dumbledore was looking out at them all with a guarded expression.
"I am sure," the Headmaster began, "that you will hear different versions from other… other sources. But this is the truth, and though many will and have already denied it, that changes nothing."
Harry heard a faint whispering behind him, confusion and curiosity prompting tongues to wag. Why shouldn't they, of course. They were about to hear a truth no one else admitted.
"In June of this year, in the final task of the Tri-Wizard Tournament, something unplanned happened. Ludo Bagman, Aurora Sinestra, and a man posing as Barty Crouch senior enchanted the trophy into a Portkey. The first to touch it would be transported to a graveyard in the country. Aurora Sinestra volunteered to patrol the maze, but instead of rescuing champions, she made sure that no one reached the trophy but one specific person. In this process, she murdered Cedric Diggory."
Then came full blown talking; there were gasps, hisses of denial, whispers, "what?"
"She dueled with Viktor Krum and cursed off his arm. She then dueled with Harry Potter."
Harry realized that his gaze had slipped, fallen down to the floor at Dumbledore's feet rather than his face. He couldn't bring himself to lift it again.
"You see, Bagman, Sinestra, the imposter, they all had one goal that they had been working towards since the very start of the Tournament. There are only meant to be three champions, but this time, there were four."
Dumbledore paused, giving the Hall a long look as he seemed to think, pondering his next words.
"It was no coincidence that Harry Potter was chosen as a fourth champion," said Dumbledore in a carrying voice, a voice that made the whisperings fade away. "Sinestra, Bagman, and the imposter were working for a man the Wizarding World had considered dead for the past decade. Sinestra had found a way to create a new body for him, but to do that, they needed blood from his greatest enemy."
Harry felt eyes on him. The entire Hall was looking at him, Dumbledore included.
"In June of this past year, Lord Voldemort was resurrected," Dumbledore declared. "Weak, yes, but alive, with a body of his own. I told all this to the Minister, and he chose to ignore it; he refused to believe that it could be true. The attack yesterday was no new group, it was not the work of a fresh set of terrorists. It was the doing of Voldemort."
Harry expected the Hall to burst into noise again, but at this, they were still silent.
"Yesterday, the Wizengamot passed a new bill, forbidding the use of magic by any wizard for any reason in front of a Muggle or in a Muggle area by the placing of a modified Trace on all wands. This bill was written by a former Death Eater, and it, like Harry Potter's presence as the fourth champion, is no coincidence. Minister Fudge continues to refuse to accept the truth, preferring to call this the work of radicals, not that of Death Eaters, but the truth must be told."
Dumbledore felt quiet again, his face dropping and his hands unfolding, falling to his side.
"Even now, I am sure that the Minister is preparing excuses as to how I am lying to you," Dumbledore said, his voice soft but somehow still carrying. "There will be many who refuse to believe as Fudge is doing. But know this: Voldemort is alive, and he will not stop at attacking train stations."
There were still eyes on Harry as Dumbledore finished speaking. Ginny's hand still gripped his tightly.
"For now, we shall mourn. There will be free transportation to the Ministry of Magic and to St. Mungo's for those who need it. We shall mourn, but we shall not be complacent. There will be no classes until the 15th, but starting then, all students will be taught the Patronus Charm. Fifth years and above will be learning additional healing magic from Professors Flitwick and Snape. All students will be required to take extra lessons in dueling and non-magical methods of protection. With this new law in place, it is imperative that you know how to defend yourself without using your wand."
Dumbledore stopped speaking. His face was turned towards the Ravenclaw table, his brow furrowed. Harry turned around and saw a student's hand in the air. The student rose to their feet, and Harry recognized Cho Chang.
"Professor," Cho said, her voice trembling but loud. "With all due respect, how can you expect us to believe a word of what you are saying now? Why did you say nothing in June?"
Dumbledore seemed to hesitate. The whisperings took up again, Harry caught snippets, "she's right, why didn't he say anything before?"
"Why are you only revealing this so-called truth now, now that dozens of people are dead or injured? Why did you not tell us in June when Cedric first died?"
"Miss Chang, you must understand that this is the start of a new war. In June, Voldemort was weak and without followers. Sinestra and her brother, two of his only devout followers, were captured and sent to Azkaban in September. At the time, his weakness meant he was able to do nothing but lie low, and I made the choice to say nothing to the public because of that. While I disagree with the Minister on many things, I agreed with him in that starting hysteria would do no one good."
"So, you admit then that this will start hysteria?" Cho asked, her voice rising. "Hysteria that will be opposed to the changes being made in the Wizengamot now?"
"The changes being made are in no one's interest but Voldemort's," Dumbledore said. "Lucius Malfoy was acquitted by the skin of his teeth after Voldemort's disappearance in 1981, but he is still a former Death Eater — a current Death Eater, in fact."
"Professor, I think the real question we should be asking is not why Mr. Malfoy pushed this law through," Cho continued. "It's why you are declaring it to be for the benefit of a dead man."
"Voldemort is not dead," Dumbledore repeated. "You may believe that he is, but he is alive."
"VOLDEMORT IS DEAD!" Cho screamed suddenly. "And so is my father! You are trying to stir up hysteria because you didn't want the law to be passed, but that law is going to save lives! You cannot force your fear-mongering on us!"
"I am forcing nothing on anyone," Dumbledore said.
"Does anyone else find it hard to accept this truth?" Cho spat, encasing the word truth in air quotes. "Does anyone else find it strange that he says this only now, after the Wembley Act has been passed?"
Cho looked around, her face pale as she darted her gaze around the silent hall. Harry's fists were shaking.
"This is nothing but the rambling of an old man!" Cho declared. "He wants to fill our heads with nonsense so we'll think the way he wants us to! Voldemort is dead."
"He's alive," Harry said.
Cho fell silent, her lips parted slightly. Harry did not rise from his seat. He did not look around. He stared at the stone floor, his hands clenched in fists in efforts to keep them still.
"I swore in front of the Wizengamot that I was telling the truth," he called out. "Voldemort used evil, evil magic; he used my blood to resurrect himself. I watched him come back. I saw him. He summoned followers that weren't in Azkaban, he used the Cruciatus on me in front of them, he tried to kill me. I escaped only because of Dumbledore."
He inhaled, a shaky breath that made his lungs rattle. Cho didn't say anything in reply. He slowly pushed himself to his feet, still staring at the ground. He licked at his lips, then looked up at her.
"I swear," he said. "I swear on my own parent's graves that Voldemort is alive, that he did this. I am not lying to you."
Cho said nothing.
No one said anything. They all just stared at him, each face blank. Cho slowly slipped back into her seat, her face hardening. Harry looked around and saw the faces around him turning away, quiet people pressing their lips into thin lines, they said nothing but he could practically hear the thoughts turning over in their heads. He turned on the spot, looking for someone that believed him. Anna Williams's little brother was staring at him with his thumb in his mouth. The little boy was crying noiselessly.
Ginny gripped his hand. Harry looked down at the table, then up at those around him. Seamus was staring at the table. Ron, Hermione, and Neville were looking at each other, but not him. Ginny was staring at her plate.
Sit down, love.
Harry did not sit. He lifted his head, his jaw clenching, and gave the room a long look.
"Lucius Malfoy was there that night," he said. "He gave Voldemort his defense as to why he wasn't in Azkaban. Bagman, you all remember Bagman. He tried to trick Dumbledore, Professor Moody, Remus and Sirius, and Ginny too; he tried to trick them so they wouldn't find me, but it backfired on him, so instead, he took Ginny and brought her to the graveyard. Told Voldemort it was because I, being weak and in love with her, would do anything to keep her safe; not even Voldemort believed him on that, he took her because he was a creep. Professor Sinestra laughed when she killed Diggory, laughed when she cut off Krum's arm. She and her brother, you see, they'd been trying to bring Voldemort back for years, but they'd found this book a couple of years ago, they forced someone to translate it and fulfill the ritual to bring back Voldemort. And Barty Crouch was killed by his son, who he broke out of Azkaban fourteen years ago."
Harry gave the Hall another long look, then dropped his gaze on Malfoy's head, downturned to stare at the table. "I'll bet that the Wembley Act was drafted for the first time at least a month ago, when Voldemort told Malfoy that he was going to attack the station."
There was a loud scraping of wood on stone; Malfoy pushed back his bench and rose to his feet. Harry waited, ready for him to spit back an insult in response to Harry's claims, but Malfoy didn't look at him. Malfoy said nothing. He stepped away from the bench, and started to walk down the hall, his chin held up, his back straight. Harry watched him, his teeth gritting, as Malfoy walked towards the doors, saying nothing all the while.
Then, at the doors, Malfoy paused. He turned back and met Harry's irate gaze.
"These lies are a new low for you, Potter," he said coldly, and left.
"SIT DOWN, POTTER!" "STOP TRYING TO INSERT YOURSELF!" "YOU'RE A FILTHY LIAR, AND YOU SHOULD BE ASHAMED OF YOURSELF!" "YOU DON'T UNDERSTAND WHAT YOU'RE SAYING!" "YOU-KNOW-WHO IS NOT BACK!"
Harry dropped back into his seat as the shouting escalated. Anna Williams's little brother was wailing, there were students from other houses jumping up to scream at him, Dumbledore was shouting for order. Abruptly, Harry felt something rap the top of his head; a cold sensation trickled down his back. He looked up, confused.
"Disillusionment charm!" Hermione said just loudly enough to be heard. "Get out of here!"
Harry jumped off the bench, pulling Ginny up with him.
"ATTENTION SEEKER!" "YOU NEEDY LITTLE FUCKER!" "YOU'RE BEING SHITTER THAN DUMBLEDORE RIGHT NOW, POTTER!" "HOW DARE YOU!" "DUMBLEDORE IS A FUCKING LIAR!" "LIAR!" "LIAR!" "LIAR!"
Harry skidded to a halt outside the doors of the Great Hall; Ginny ran into him.
"Harry, what are you doing?" Ginny looked around wildly, 'til Harry grabbed her chin and angled her face towards him. "This is weird."
"I can't just run away," Harry said.
Ginny immediately glared; her eyes drifted to a point slightly to the left of him. He cupped her face in both hands so she would look at him straight on. "Stop that; look, you can just run away. They're probably conjuring pitchforks and torches by now!"
"This is on Dumbledore!" Ginny insisted. "He stood up and told everyone everything of his own accord, without asking you; it is a bit unbelievable that he kept it from them for six months, Harry! He's gone and dumped his mess on your head!"
"He hasn't —"
"Ginny, what are you doing?" came Ron's demanding voice. Ron skidded to a halt next to them, almost knocking into Harry. "Where's —"
"There, ish," Ginny answered, pointing in front of her; she jabbed forward and caught Harry in the chest. "There."
Ron looked at a spot just over Harry's shoulder. "Why are you just standing there?"
"Because he's being heroic and an idiot again," Ginny snapped. "He's thinking about trying to brave the mob."
"Alright, where are you?" Ron asked, reaching out. He accidentally cuffed Harry in the shoulder; "Sorry," he said when Harry gave a small yelp. "You've got to get out of here, Dumbledore's having a right time trying to get them to quiet down himself. They're all shouting about Dumbledore pushing politics into the school."
"I heard them!" Harry snapped. "Look, if I just —"
"You already swore to them!" Ginny said. "If they don't believe you, that's their fault!"
Ron grabbed Harry's arm; Harry dropped Ginny's face in reflex, but then Ron grabbed him by the other arm. "Ah, got you!"
"What?" Harry said, then Ron bent and grabbed Harry round the waist. "Hey!"
Ron pulled Harry onto his shoulders like he was a child and Ron was a fireman, rescuing him from a burning building. Ron let out a grunt and gave Harry's arm a yank, pulling him over his shoulders evenly. "Merlin, Harry, you're heavier than you look!"
"Careful!" Ginny warned, then said something else, but it was drowned by a sudden burst of noise from the Great Hall as the doors banged open, a flood of irate students spilling out. Ginny gave Ron a push to the back, shouting: "Let's go!"
Ron gave another grunt and started shuffling quickly for the stairs. Harry, very glad that he was invisible at that moment, wriggled on his friend's shoulders: "Put me down, I can walk!"
"Don't put him down, he'll do something stupid!"
"I'm not an idiot, Ginny!"
"Hey! No having a domestic while I'm carrying you up stairs!" Ron shouted. At the first landing, however, he bent and dropped Harry onto his feet. "You're too heavy," his friend panted, pointing an accusing finger off to Harry's left. "Do not do something stupid."
Harry yanked his shirt down indignantly, glaring at Ron, however, he was invisible, so Ron couldn't see that. Instead, he smacked his arm.
"Ow!" Ron yelped, jumping away. "Bloody hell, Harry!"
"Don't do that again," he grumbled. Ginny let out an exasperated growl and groped in the air for him.
"POTTER! WHERE ARE YOU!" "I'LL SHOW YOU YOU-KNOW-WHO, ASSHOLE!" "YOU THINK THIS A JOKE?" "IS ALL THIS SHIT WORTH IT?" "YOU'RE A LIAR!" "LIARS!" "YOU'RE LYING!" "LIAR!"
Ginny snatched Harry's arm and gave it a pleading tug. "Please, they're not going to listen to you, they're just going to keep screaming; let Dumbledore handle this!"
Ginny's eyes were on his forehead, but her gaze was convincing. He nodded, silently and telepathically acquiescing. Ginny grabbed his hand and started up the stairs. Ron followed behind them, still huffing from having carried Harry halfway up the marble staircase.
At the first floor landing, there was a sudden, echoing boom; the three of them froze.
"ALL STUDENTS WILL CEASE AND DESIST THEIR ACTIONS AND RETURN TO THEIR COMMON ROOMS!"
It was Dumbledore's voice, amplified to echo throughout the castle.
"YOU HAVE TWENTY MINUTES TO RETURN TO YOUR COMMON ROOMS. ANY STUDENT FOUND OUTSIDE THEIR RESPECTIVE COMMON ROOMS PAST THIS TIME WILL BE GIVEN DETENTION. ANY STUDENT FOUND HARASSING OTHER STUDENTS WILL BE GIVEN DETENTION AND STRIPPED OF PRIVILEGES."
Ron looked at Ginny. "Well, at least we don't have to worry as much now."
Ginny started back up the stairs. "Come on," she said.
"Can I stop being invisible?" Harry asked. The Gryffindor and Ravenclaw students had started up the stairs, and despite the fact that they were nearing the second floor, he didn't like being hidden from view.
"I don't know the reverse of a Disillusionment charm," Ginny told him.
"Neither do I," Ron said. "I think it's a sixth-year spell. You'll have to wait for Hermione to cast the counter-charm."
"Doesn't Finite Incantatem work?"
Ginny pulled out her wand and jabbed Harry in the arm; "Finite Incantatem!"
Nothing happened. Harry gave a huff.
"See, you'll have to wait for Hermione," Ginny said, grabbing his arm again. "Come on."
At the third floor landing, part of the pack of Gryffindors and Ravenclaws heading up to their dorms overtook them. Though Harry was invisible to their passing glances, many of the students looked over at Ron and Ginny with looks of anger and distrust.
Why are they looking at you like that? Harry grumbled in his head, wishing he could jump down each and every one of their throats and wring their necks until they got it through their thick skulls that he wasn't lying.
Probably because we're friends with you, Ginny answered. I imagine we're going to get a lot of that in the next few weeks until this blows over.
That's optimistic of you to think.
What, that it's going to be over in a few weeks?
No, that you lot are going to become pariahs by association.
At that moment, Hermione came running up behind them; she grabbed Ron's arm to steady herself as she heaved a deep breath, apparently having run all the way up the stairs.
"Where's — Harry?" she muttered between breaths.
"Here," Ron said in a hushed tone. "Y'know, I feel like one of those bodyguards that get paid to escort people like the Weird Sisters around all the time, so they don't get swamped by paparazzi."
The utter absurdity of the situation hit Harry with Ron's comment. He scowled, hating being compared to media darlings.
"Let's just get up to their room and then we can discuss this," Hermione said, inhaling deeply as she finished the sentence. "We need a bloody elevator in this place."
"It'd be nice," Harry mumbled. Hermione jumped slightly, looking around.
"Oh, you're here here," she said, then reached out and groped through the air until her hand landed on Harry's hair. "Oh, sorry."
Harry grumpily mussed his hair, scowling at air and wishing they did, in fact, have an elevator so Hermione could take the Disillusionment charm off him and he could scowl at them.
Don't scowl at us, we didn't ask Dumbledore to stand up and tell everyone he'd been withholding information.
Ginny, can you stop hating on Dumbledore for two seconds?
Why, so you can ram your head further up his ass?
Harry stopped in the middle of the corridor and gaped at her. However, she'd dropped his arm earlier and therefore didn't notice when he stopped moving; none of them did.
"Hey!" he shouted.
Everyone paused in their walking; Ron, Ginny, and Hermione froze, looking around guiltily. Ginny briefly shut her eyes, then stepped forward and casually bumped into Harry to find him. Harry grabbed her arm and pulled her into a classroom on their right; Ginny let out a tiny yelp of surprise.
"What?" Ginny hissed; Harry shut the door and locked it with a wave of his hand. Ginny's eyes widened at the wandless magic, but Harry barely noticed. He crossed his arms over his chest and fixed his eyes on his wife's, whose gaze was still fixed on the door.
"I'm over here!" he snapped, and Ginny flicked her eyes to a point over to his right. Harry let out a growl of frustration, now hating Hermione for making him invisible, and strode forward, placing both hands on her shoulder. "I am directly in front of you."
"I noticed," Ginny said, her eyebrows raised.
"Wait, what?" Harry looked down. The Disillusionment charm had faded. "Never mind, listen!"
"To what?" Ginny challenged. "More I'm supposed to be the hero and listen to my elders and do what I'm told bullshit?"
"No!" Harry let out a sound that was both sigh and sob. "To I have no clue what the hell I'm doing but Dumbledore does so I want to let him be in charge!"
"Does he, though?" Ginny asked. "Why did he announce in the middle of dinner that he'd been holding back vital information and then point the finger of the only witness at you?"
"Because I am the only witness!" Harry reminded her.
"I was there too!" she shouted.
In the silence, as she glared and he breathed, there was a comically loud creaking of door hinges behind them. Harry turned around, to see Ron and Hermione peering through the doorway with wide eyes.
"I told you, they're having a domestic," Ron said to Hermione.
"Shush, Ron!" Hermione snapped.
"Do you two mind?" Harry asked angrily.
"Yes," Hermione said, ducking under Ron's arm and striding in. "We very much mind."
"Don't you drag me into this," Ron insisted.
"The both of you are behaving irrationally," Hermione said, ignoring Ron. "You're snapping at each other and getting angry for no reason. You need to be calm."
"I am fucking calm!" Harry shouted.
Hermione barely blinked. "Exhibit A," she said.
Harry gaped at her now, half panting from stress and half unable to breathe from a lack of understanding of what was even going on. Hermione stared back at him, her face impassive.
"What would you suggest?" Harry asked her through gritted teeth.
"We go see Dumbledore," she said coolly.
Ginny raised her eyebrows again. "That actually sounds like a good plan."
"He's told us to go to our dorms," Harry said coldly; not calmly, as Hermione was, but coldly, in rejection of her words and an unwillingness to get off his soap box.
An observation interjected by Ginny, Harry noticed, and he looked at her with equally cold eyes. Her lips thinned into a firm line, and he was reminded vividly of Professor McGonagall.
"I'm sure that Dumbledore will make an exception for you, Harry," Hermione said. "Or, that he'll make the exception because he's calling an emergency Order meeting and I'm pretty certain that you and Ginny are members."
Harry inhaled, then exhaled, then let his shoulders drop. "Fine," he said. "Fine."
Hermione gave a firm nod, then drew her wand again. "Now, would you like me to put the Disillusionment charm back on you?"
Harry wished she wouldn't have to, but, after a glance to the fogged glass window where hordes of students were still trudging up the stairs, nodded. Hermione once again rapped her wand over the top of his head and he felt the distinctively uncomfortable sensation of an egg being cracked on the top of his skull. He gave a slight shudder.
"Come on, then," Ginny said, reaching forward with her hand. Harry took it.
In the walk up to Dumbledore's office, they were quiet. Harry listened with increasingly bristling anger as the students passing them made comments on the evening's events.
"I mean, honestly, what the fuck?" "Why would anyone do this, especially right after people've been killed!" "I'm transferring to Beauxbatons after this year, I swear I am, I can't handle Dumbledore's lunacy anymore!" "The Prophet was right, Dumbledore's gone round the bend."
What did the Prophet say? Harry mentally groaned. He'd have to obtain a copy of the paper as soon as possible.
They left the flood of students at the fourth floor, where the Gryffindors and Ravenclaws diverged to the East and West towers and the group of four started down the long corridor to the Headmaster's office. At the two gargoyles, Harry gave the password, and they leapt aside.
"Wicked," Ron said, smiling at the gargoyles.
As the wall behind them sealed, Hermione turned back to Harry and tapped his head with her wand again. "There," she said. "Visible."
"Thanks," Harry muttered. Ginny loosened her grip on his hand and, after a second, Harry dropped it. She let her gaze flick to the ground.
They climbed the spiral staircase, Harry in front and Ron bringing up the rear, until they reached the heavy oak doors and the eagle knockers. Harry took one and rapped it sharply.
"Enter," came a voice, but it wasn't the Headmaster's.
Harry pulled open the door and entered, finding the room empty. He frowned, wondering who had answered them.
"They're upstairs," said an abrupt voice. Harry jumped, looking around. "I'm over here." Harry looked up, to see a painting looking down at him crossly over a pair of spectacles. It was one of the previous Headmasters, Armando Dippet.
"They're waiting for you," Dippet said, jerking his head towards the upper levels of the office. "Go on."
Harry gave a nod, a little confused, but willing to follow the directions. He glanced behind him at the others, then started up the short staircase to the bookshelves and the open doorway.