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Chapter 28 : The Working Hypothesis
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The Working Hypothesis
On one point, they were all in agreement - the matter could not wait until Saturday. On Friday afternoon, Liam, Sadie and Philip met at the door of the library, determined to get to the bottom of Liam's mysterious dream.
Liam had not been troubled by the dreams since Monday night, but on the other hand, he had not tangled with Cyrus again, either. Morwena had taken it upon herself and her Coven to keep the two boys separated. Whether in the classroom or in the hallway, waiting for Charms to start, there were always at least two Slytherin witches between Liam and Cyrus.
Liam now had his bag over his shoulder, containing pen, ink and some parchment. Sadie was waiting at the threshold, a light in her brown eyes and a wide grin on her face. Michael had not come, choosing instead to watch the Hufflepuff Quidditch practice with Fortney, but Liam had asked Philip to come along. "You know about dragons," Liam told him in the dormitory as he was stashing his Astronomy text. "It may help to have you there." Liam was also eager to lessen the idea that this was a date.
Despite Philip's presence, however, Sadie was beaming and shivering with excitement. "Let's get started, shall we?" she said as the boys approached.
"After you," said Liam. He and Philip followed Sadie into the library, past the tables of studying students (mostly Fifth Years, cramming for O.W.L.s), to the shelf of books on Dragons. Sadie quickly began scanning the titles.
Liam pointed out Dragons of Northern Europe. "I borrowed this one from Philip. My dragon wasn't in there, though."
"Liam, your dragon isn't going to be in a book like that," said Sadie, exasperatedly. "Madagascar is in Africa! It's a large island off the coast of the main continent. Not in Northern Europe!" She continued scanning titles, running her fingers quickly over each spine. "Here!"
She plucked a book off the shelf. "Dragons of the Southern Hemisphere. And, it's by Helene Scamander, so you know it's authoritative. Let's find a quiet table, shall we?"
As she walked, Sadie caressed the cover with her fingers. "The Scamander family are experts on magical creatures," she told Liam. "Whole generations of them have dedicated their lives to studying different species. Most of them were home schooled, out in the field, I think. Helene was one of the few that were educated at Hogwarts."
"Let me guess," said Liam. "She was a Ravenclaw."
"I think she was, actually."
They found an empty table in a corner, away from other students. Sadie let the book fall open to a page about a quarter of the way from the end. There on the facing page was a full color illustration of a red dragon. "Look at that," mused Sadie. "I opened right to it."
"Let me see," said Liam. He turned the book so he could see the dragon better. The dragon had a high crest on its head. Its scales were smooth and red. In the picture, its wings were furled, and the spines shot up into the air like spears. The eyes were bright and blue.
"This is it," said Liam, "except for the blue eyes, it's exactly right."
Philip pointed to a phrase in the caption. "Eyes can be blue, yellow, or black."
Sadie was twirling a strip of green ribbon around her finger. "Have you ever seen this picture before?"
"You're sure? You've never seen a picture or a movie or anything else that had this dragon in it?"
"No. Just in my dream."
"May I see the book a minute?" she asked. Liam pushed the book over to Sadie, and she began to read aloud in a stage whisper, trying not to disturb the other students.
"'For centuries thought to be two breeds, Pygmy Greens and Petite Reds, the Scamander family' - I told you they were authoritative - 'has determined that this is just one. The Madagascan dragon, in its juvenile form, has bright green scales. Out of the egg, it is barely half a foot in length. It can fly within minutes of breaking through the shell. It lives on jungle fruit, and, as it grows, it begins to add small animals to its diet. When it reaches a length of about a meter, it sheds its green scales and takes on a bright red coat, and relocates to higher elevations where it keeps nests and feeds on dolphin and other sea creatures.
'The Madagascans are hording dragons. The juvenile greens are known to steal coins, jewelry and other trinkets from nearby villages. The adult reds often sit on huge hoards that are centuries old. The dragons live only 50 years, typically, in the wild, though there is one known case of a female living over 80 years. The hordes pass from dragon to dragon, through the millennia.
'They are an endangered breed, and thus are protected by the Endangered Magical Creatures Act as well as the Treaty for the Mutual Respect of Sentient Creatures. Their eggs are defined as Class A Non-Tradeable Goods.'
'Intelligent, sentient, magical, Madagascans can speak to humans in whatever language their guest happens to speak. They can be quite conversational, with a sly sense of humour (though also with a short fuse and a terrible temper).
'They are poisonous, rather than fire breathing. Their fangs and tail are capable of dispensing heavy doses of potent venom. Anti-venom does exist, however, it often goes for naught - the bites are usually so vicious that the victim dies of blood-loss before anti-venom can be administered. They will also, in tight spaces, such as caves, spew clouds of toxic fumes from their mouths at their prey.
'Of their treasure, they are obsessive and vindictive. Madagascans are known to travel hundreds of miles in pursuit of thieves of even the smallest trinket.'
"They stole her eggs," said Liam, "and she's mad as hell."
"I would be, too," said Sadie. "The last bit is about the eyes, which Philip read already."
"Pretty amazing that we opened the book right to it," said Philip. "I thought we'd be looking all day for this thing."
"It wasn't luck," said Sadie. She stretched out the length of green ribbon she had been twirling on her finger. "Somebody left this bookmark behind. It has an enchantment on it, so it would open right to this page when we set it down."
"Handy, that," mused Liam.
"Too handy," said Sadie. "It makes me suspicious. For one thing, this ribbon is Slytherin Green." She set the ribbon into the book in a spot some hundred pages from where it had been. She closed the book, then passed it to Philip. "You try it."
Philip pulled the book into his lap, and it opened right to the page with the red dragon. "Let me try it," said Liam.
"I know it will work for you," said Sadie, impatiently. "I want to find someone it won't work for." She took the book from Philip. Standing up, she scanned the room for a familiar face. "Follow me," she said.
She crossed the room to where some Sixth Year Ravenclaw girls sat. Their table was full of books and scattered rolls of parchment. "Excuse me," said Sadie. They looked suspiciously up at Liam and Philip. "I think this book is enchanted. Can you open it?"
One of the girls, with heavy eyebrows and glossy black hair, took the book from Sadie. The girl opened the book more near the middle of the volume to a picture of a tiny dragon flying around a person's hand. "There's nothing wrong with this book, Sadie," said the girl.
"Maybe not," said Sadie, taking the book back. "One more try," she said to the boys as she walked away from the other table.
At another part of the library, Ronald Reuel and Niles Dawes were looking up the prices of Wizard cards in a Collector's book. Sadie set the Dragon book on the table and said, "Will you take a look at this book? There's some interesting pictures in it."
Ronald was reluctant to touch anything that came from Sadie's hand, but Dawes opened the book to a picture of a silvery white dragon with bright blue eyes. The two boys peered at the picture. "That's a nice one," said Dawes.
Sadie closed the book again. "You try it, Liam." As he reached out for it, she said, "Close your eyes."
Liam did as he was told. He had barely touched the book when it popped open to the page of the red dragon.
"A Madagascan," said Dawes. "A rare breed, that."
Sadie closed the book again. "Thank you boys. That's what I wanted to know."
She walked back to the table from which they had started. "What did we do all that for, exactly?" asked Liam.
"The bookmark works for the three of us, but especially for you, Liam," said Sadie. "It didn't work for Margot and it didn't work for Dawes. Don't you think that's interesting?"
Liam was still mystified, but Philip said, "It's almost as if someone put the bookmark there so that Liam would come to the right page."
"Yes. I wonder who was kind enough to do us the favour," said Sadie. "Let's see if we can find out."
She brought the book up to the desk, where a haughty, sallow looking Slytherin boy waited. "I'd like to check out this book," Sadie told him.
As he filled out the slip, she continued amiably, " Can you tell me who else this term has checked out this book?" The boy looked up at her suspiciously. "My friends and I are thinking of forming a dragon club. It would be helpful if we knew who else had, you know, similar interests."
"We're not supposed to release information like that," said the boy, coldly.
"It's for a club," urged Sadie. "Can you at least tell me if there was another First Year who checked it out recently?"
The boy relented. "No one's checked this book out recently," he said. "The last one to have it was a First Year, however. Calais. He had it for a few weeks back in September." He handed the book back to Sadie. "Do you know who that is?"
"Yes, I do. Thank you." She took the book from the boy, then strode out of the library. Liam and Philip followed her.
As soon as she cleared the threshold, she let out a heavy, angry sigh. "I hate chasing after him!"
"Who?" asked Philip.
"Umberto had the book last," said Liam.
"What did I tell you about him, Liam?" said Sadie. "He was four months ahead of us!"
"How would he know anything about this?" asked Philip.
"I don't know," said Liam, "but he does. Vanessa asked me if I was studying dragons, still. When we were on the way to my detention, she asked me."
Sadie nodded. "It came from her mouth, but you can bet it came from Umberto's head." Students were passing them as they stood in the hallway. They were still very near the library. They ran the risk of Madam Pince coming out and scolding them for talking too loudly. "Let's find someplace where we can talk about this in private."
They made their way to the empty classroom on the second floor, where Liam had hid the hat during the Capture the Hat game, and where Sadie had conducted the study session right before exams. There were no desks or chairs, but Philip sat down anyway, on the floor. He took out the quill, ink and parchment from Liam's bag and began jotting down some notes. Liam stood and leaned against the wall while Sadie nervously paced the floor.
"How does Umberto know about the Dragon Dreams?" she asked.
"He must have heard about it from Kane."
"How does Cyrus know about them?" asked Sadie, exasperated.
"I asked him once."
"That's right!" piped in Philip. "That day after the first Astronomy lab. He tried to have a go at you, but you turned around in time. And after class, you grabbed his bag and started asking him about dragons. Mike thought you'd lost your rocker."
"What did you ask Cyrus?"
"I asked him if he dreamed of dragons. He started saying crazy stuff, so I knew he wasn't."
"Did you mention the Madagascan Reds, specifically?"
"I don't think so." He thought for a moment. "I mentioned red dragons."
"Afterwards, Cyrus told Umberto," said Sadie, "and Umberto must have put it together. That was back in September. Right after that, Umberto checked the book out."
"They were real keen to find out if I was still studying dragons. I told them to mind their own business."
"I wonder if Cyrus is dreaming of these dragons now," said Sadie. "But, let's try to stay focused!
"This is our Working Hypothesis: that Cyrus' wand is causing you to have these dreams. The fact that the dragon in your dream is a Madagascan dragon is a strong piece of evidence, but we need more to be sure. And, we need to know what kind of dream this is: is it a prophesy, or something else."
"What do we do next?" asked Philip.
"I would like to hear this dream," said Sadie. "Will you tell it to me?"
So Liam relayed the dream once more. He put in as many details as he could remember. Philip listened, wide-eyed, but Sadie stared off at the wall with a distant, focused look. At the end, he asked, "Dou you think I'm mad?"
"No," said Sadie. She turned and gazed at him, her face still and serious. "It's not madness, Liam. It's Magic.
"Madagascans are protected by treaties," she continued. "Those men are, were, or will be in violation of those treaties for stealing her eggs. That's bad trouble."
"Though not as bad as her giving them vicious bites with her poisonous fangs," said Liam, "starting with me."
"We don't know what this is yet," said Sadie. "We don't know if that's you speaking to the dragon. We need to do more research." Turning to Philip, she asked, "Dream Interpretation. What Magical Discipline does that fall under?"
"Divination," answered Philip, promptly.
"That's the next place to start - with a Divination Textbook."
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