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Impose by MarauderLover7
Chapter 35 : Theories And Timetables
 
Rating: MatureChapter Reviews: 2


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“Here,” Draco growled, shoving his wand into a baffled Ron’s hands. “I don’t trust myself with it, right now.” He looked furiously at Hydrus, who was talking loudly and proudly with Crabbe and Goyle about Buckbeak the hipporiff’s hearing with the Committee for the Disposal of Dangerous Creatures; Hagrid had shown Harry, Ron, Hermione and Draco the letter at the beginning of the lesson.

It was clearly retaliation for Draco’s behaviour over the holidays, and Draco was not taking it well. Nor was Hagrid, who was shuffling around, looking at everyone’s flobberworms, with puffy eyes and a uncharacteristic lack of enthusiasm for his subject.

Harry, for his part, was sorely tempted to throw his head of lettuce at Hydrus, to see if it might wipe the smirk off his stupid, pointy face.

“He’s not going to get away with this,” Hermione said. Her expression was similar to the one she’d worn the day she punched Hydrus, and Harry secretly hoped for a repeat performance. “Neither of them are. Hagrid’s going to present a strong defence at his hearing, and Buckbeak will be fine-”

“Hagrid’s defence’ll be that the hippogriff’s a good creature and didn’t mean to hurt anyone,” Ron sighed. “Which is nice and all, but it won’t hold up against the Ministry.” He offered a leaf of lettuce to their flobberworm. It made an odd squelching sound, and Ron yanked his hand back.

“Then we’ll help him,” Hermione said.

“We’ll write his defence,” Draco said. “Father will have the entire Committee in his pocket, so it’ll have to be good...”

“I think I’ve read about a case of hippogriff baiting,” Hermione said slowly, but her scent was calmer now, and determined.

“We can go to the library after Charms,” Draco said, nodding. “And the hearing’s not until the end of April, so there’s time-”

“We can use our free lessons,” Ron said, gesturing between himself and Harry. “Ease up on Patronuses a bit, maybe…? At least until we’ve found something to help him.” He gave Harry an uncertain look, and Harry nodded.

“And-”

“Harry Potter!” Padfoot hissed, from Harry’s pocket, and the other three paused and stared at him. “Harry?!”

Harry pulled out his mirror, and glanced around, but no one else seemed to be paying attention. The nearest other group was Neville, Dean, Seamus and Michael Corner, and they were all busy laughing at Neville, who’d somehow managed to get flobberworm mucous in his hair.

“Padfoot?” he asked in a low voice, setting the mirror down on the edge of the crate. Ron, Hermione and Draco huddled closer, peering into the surface of the mirror. Within it, Padfoot looked equal parts riled and exhausted. “I’m in a lesson-”

Padfoot ignored him, but kept his voice quiet: “Have you had any dreams?”

“Dreams?” Harry asked blankly. “With- do you mean with Voldemort?” Ron dropped their lettuce, Hermione twitched, and Draco’s expression spasmed. Harry gave them all exasperated looks. “Padfoot, what’s-”

“We had Crouch,” Padfoot said agitatedly. Harry felt his eyebrows shoot up, Hermione made a noise of surprise, and Ron sucked in a breath. “He escaped. Took a portkey to Marlin knows where, and we can’t track it, but I thought maybe you might have… seen something?”

“Nothing,” Harry said, and Padfoot was obviously disappointed. “I’m sorry, I-”

“Never mind. It was a long shot,” Padfoot said, shaking his head. Harry heard raised voices in the background, and Padfoot closed his eyes briefly. “I’ve got to go - I’ll explain the rest later. Let me know if you do hear anything.”

*                       *                        *

Ginny wrote her last line (I should go for help before I go for my wand), packed up her things, and then carried her roll of parchment to where Sprout sat at the front of the room. Sprout read over it and nodded.

“Thank you, Weasley,” she said briskly, but not unkindly. Ginny supposed she should consider herself lucky, both that it was Sprout she’d been caught by, and that, Luna was prepared to speak up in Ginny’s defence, even if she rarely did so for herself; Ginny had still been in trouble, but at least Edgecombe had gone down with her. “Off you run.”

Edgecombe glowered at Ginny as she passed, and Ginny ignored her.

It was late enough that the castle was more or less empty; on the lower levels, Ginny saw a few students laden with books and homework that must have been in the library, and Hufflepuff’s Quidditch team returning from a late practice, but on the upper floors, it was just the occasional Prefect or teacher that told her to hurry along back to her common room.

“Camelot,” Ginny said with a yawn, when she reached the Fat Lady’s portrait.

“Indeed,” the Fat Lady replied, and swung open so that Ginny could clamber through.

She was descended upon almost immediately by Fred and George, and that earned her the attention of everyone in the common room. Ginny felt her cheeks heating up.

“Look at her, Fred,” George said, slinging one arm over her shoulders and pretending to wipe away tears with the other. “Our baby sister, all grown up and getting detentions.”

“How did you know?” Ginny asked.

“A little birdie told us,” Fred said, and then pressed a hand to his heart. “We always knew you were destined for greatness.”

“This isn’t a laughing matter!” Percy said angrily, shooing the twins back.

“Disciplinary records aren’t any sort of joke, Perce,” Fred said, aghast, “they’re a very serious matter!”

“A matter of pride,” George said.

“And honour!”

“And-”

‘Oh, shut up!” Percy snapped, and then turned to Ginny, lips pursed, and she did her best to wipe her grin off her face. “Is it true?”

“It was just lines, with Sprout,” Ginny said defiantly. Percy looked so disappointed, either at Ginny’s confirmation, or maybe her tone, though. Dad, Bill and Percy were the only ones who’d ever been able to make her feel guilty with just a look. She found herself trying to explain: “I hexed a girl that stole Luna’s necklace.”

“Not nearly as exciting as we’d hoped,” Fred said, frowning. “We were picturing  dungbombs, and glitter-”

“-maybe fireworks… I suppose you’ve got to start somewhere, though-”

“Start- no, this isn’t the start,” Percy said warningly, “this is the end. Ginny acted up, got punished for it, and now she’s learnt her lesson-” He gave her a stern look, hands on his hips. “haven’t you? Ginny?”

“I should go for help before I go for my wand,” Ginny recited. Percy nodded approvingly.

“Now look, Perce,” George complained, “you’ve broken her spirit-”

“No,” Percy said, rounding on the twins, “I’m making sure she doesn’t end up like you two, with no respect for the rules-”

“We’ll get to her next year, when you’re not around,” Fred said. He winked at Ginny, who was torn between wanting to laugh, and wanting to tell him off for winding Percy up; Percy’s ears were Gryffindor-red.

“Ten points from Gryffindor - each! - for setting a bad example to younger students,” Percy snapped. Fred and George made noises of protest, as did several of the students looking on. “And I’m writing to Mother.” Fred and George scowled. “I imagine she’ll be incredibly displeased to hear about all of this. And Ginny, if you don’t want her to hear it first from me, I suggest you write to tell her about your detention.”

“You’re telling her!?” Ginny’s mouth fell open.

Percy ignored her, whirled around and stomped up the boy’s staircase.

“Git,” Fred muttered, glowering at their brother’s back. George nodded.

“I’m going to bed,” Ginny said grumpily, and headed toward the girl’s staircase, flushing a bit under the stares from her housemates. The only people not looking at her, or at Fred and George, were Ron, Harry, Hermione and Draco, who were on the far side of the common room, and huddled together the way they did when something big had happened.

Ginny frowned and changed direction.

“-can’t force it, Harry,” Hermione was saying exasperatedly, when Ginny perched on the arm of the couch they were sharing, and Ginny was rather touched they didn’t go quiet, or change topic when she joined them; it was nice to be included, trusted. “And if you did, I don’t know that it would be a good thing.” Her eyes flicked up. “Hello Ginny.”

“What’s happened?” Ginny asked. She eyed the books on the table. Some were obviously Hermione’s and had been abandoned along with an essay on Electricity when Hermione had been drawn completely into the conversation. The others were stranger; Magical Creatures and the Law, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, Monstrous Trials, Curious Cases from the Continent, Beastly Legal Battles, Caught Out in the Courts, and several other heavy tomes on Wizarding Law. She wondered what in Merlin’s name they were up to this time.

“Padfoot almost caught Crouch today,” Harry said, running a hand through his hair. “They set a trap, only Crouch had a portkey… and then-”

“-he escaped,” Hermione said, rather firmly.

“Yeah,” Harry said. “But-”

“Potter,” Draco said, in a rather long-suffering tone, that made Ginny think they’d had this conversation several times already. “Things can be straightforward every now and then, you know.”

“It doesn’t make sense,” Harry muttered.

“Sirius seemed to think it did,” Ron said, nodding at Harry’s mirror, which was sitting atop the nearest stack of books.

“Exactly. Thank you, Ron,” Hermione said. “And so did you, Harry, when he told you, so I don’t understand what’s changed. Sirius said the man fled. An innocent man wouldn’t do that.”

“Padfoot did,” Harry mumbled, and Draco groaned.

“Not when he was caught by the Ministry,” Hermione replied smartly. Harry gave her a stubborn look.

“It might not be Crouch,” Ron said fairly. “It could just be someone that’s involved-”

“Then he probably wouldn’t have been under Polyjuice, and had nothing to lose by staying in the room,” Draco said. “The time would have passed, nothing would have changed, and the Aurors would have let him go. Why are you making this difficult, Potter?”

“I don’t know!” Harry said, rubbing his eyes under his glasses. “But it feels wrong-” He looked at Ron, who shrugged, at Hermione and Draco who both sighed, and then at Ginny, who wasn’t sure what to think. “-and I’m going to figure out why.”

“Not by forcing a dream,” Hermione said. “I know they’re useful,” she added, when Harry scowled at her, “but what if, somehow, instead of finding your way into his head, he ends up in yours?”

“You’re trying to force one of your dreams?” Ginny asked, troubled. Harry gave her a cagey look, as if expecting to be told off, but when she said nothing, he nodded.

“He slept all through History of Magic,” Hermione said disapprovingly. “And then napped after Quidditch practice, and he’ll be going to bed soon-”

“He’s got to sleep eventually,” Ron pointed out.

“Yes, but not-”

“So you saw nothing?” Ginny asked, over the top of Ron and Hermione. Harry shook his head.

“I probably wasn’t doing it right,” Harry said. “Usually I don’t try to have them, usually they just… happen when he’s excited or- or angry…” He trailed off, frowning.

“Potter?” Draco asked, and Ron and Hermione both looked over.

“Harry?” Hermione asked.

“The man that vanished isn’t Crouch,” Harry said, with far, far more certainty than he had before. “He can’t be.”

“Yes, but why, Harry?” Hermione sighed, exchanging a look with Draco.

“Because he wasn’t angry,” Harry said slowly. “Don’t you see?”

“No,” Draco said, with what was clearly forced patience. “We don’t. Care to explain?”

“He wasn’t angry,” Harry said. “If he was, I’d have had a dream, or at least felt it...” His hand hovered over his scar.

“Oh,” Ginny said, catching on. Harry gave her a faint, strained smile.

“I’m lost,” Ron announced.

“It didn’t feel right because I didn’t feel anything from him; why wouldn’t he be angry that his servant’s been found?” Harry asked. Ron nodded slowly, expression thoughtful.

“Because he wasn’t caught,” Draco said at once. “He’d be a bit annoyed, certainly, but maybe not angry enough to trigger-”

“Just a bit annoyed,” Harry said, almost excitedly, “that Crouch, who’s been planted in the Ministry for months setting up some plan or other, has been identified and forced to flee? That they’d have lost months and months of planning and work... there’d be no way Crouch can use that disguise again.”

“He’d be furious,” Ginny said quietly, remembering how angry Tom had been when she’d escaped his influence for long enough to tell Percy about the diary the year before; Tom didn’t like it when people tried to ruin his plans.

“Maybe he’d done what he needed to,” Hermione said uncertainly, but Ginny thought Harry had convinced her.

“Maybe,” Harry said, “but I reckon Voldemort’d feel pretty happy if he had a body and I haven’t felt that. And I’ve still got a heartbeat, so they haven’t ticked that off the list either.” Ginny wasn’t the only one that winced at that.

“Point made, Potter,” Draco said, a little uncomfortably. “There’s no need to be so morbid.”

“It’s true, though,” Harry said, grimacing.

“Speaking of morbid,” Ron said, looking rather ill, “if Harry’s right, and Crouch didn’t take the portkey-”

“Then he’s still somewhere in the Ministry,” Hermione said. “He must have been in that room, too, and used the portkey as a distraction… he probably was using Polyjuice Potion-”

“Yeah,” Ron said, “but- the distraction. The bloke that got sent out with the portkey…”

“He’d be dead,” Ginny said. Ron still looked unwell, Hermione’s eyes were sad, and Draco’s mouth was set in a thin line. Harry met Ginny’s eye and they shared a look of grim understanding.

“Crouch was using him to set up a false lead for the Aurors,” Harry said, wearily. “He wouldn’t have sent him anywhere he’d be able to come back from.”

Silence hung over their little group for several long, sad minutes.

“Not that they’re not trying their hardest,” Ron said, voice a bit shaky, “but it’d be good if the Aurors or Dumbledore or someone could catch You Know Who and stop all this, eh?”

He’d clearly said it in an attempt to lighten the mood, so Ginny forced a smile and nodded, and Hermione was nodding too, and Draco snorted in a vaguely amused way.

“It’s not that simple,” Harry said stiffly. Before any of them could say anything at all, Harry had snatched up the mirror, and fled up to his dormitory.

*                       *                        *

Always one bloody step ahead, Sirius thought, tossing his quill down onto the desk in frustration. Give me idiots any day.

Unfortunately, Voldemort was not an idiot, and nor - as a general rule - were his followers.

Sirius rubbed his eyes and leaned back, thinking. Why had Crouch had the portkey on his person today? Did he always carry it, or had he somehow known he’d need it today; had someone tipped him off? The only people who’d known about today’s meeting in advance were Robards, Scrimgeour, Dumbledore, Snape, Marlene, Harry - and therefore Harry’s friends - and Sirius himself. He couldn’t imagine any of them helping Crouch willingly, but what if it had been an accident, something as innocent as being overheard? What if they’d been coerced?

And then, even pushing that all aside, how had Crouch got the Portkey inside? Confunding Dawlish and Brown was out, since wands had been the first thing confiscated. So were they in on it, or had they missed it? Where had it been? Had it been time-activated - but if that was the case, how had he known when he’d need it? Surely touch-activation could be ruled out - there’d be too much chance of it accidentally being set off - and a passphrase was out too - Sirius hadn’t heard anything before Crouch vanished, and he had the best hearing of the lot of them.

And, where had the portkey taken him?

Crouch had a bit of a talent with portkeys, as it turned out; he’d written a particularly complex essay on potential improvements to the Portus spell - improvements he’d since managed, apparently, since they hadn’t been able to track him - and it would have secured him a position in the Department of Magical Transportation straight out of Hogwarts, except he’d gone and got caught up with the Death Eaters instead. And why had Sirius only learned that today? Had no one thought it was important enough to share that the man they were after had a gift for portkeys? Or had someone tried to hide it?

“Sirius Black,” Harry said, through the mirror on the table. “Padfoot?”

“Harry?” Sirius snatched up the mirror. “Everything all right?”

“Crouch isn’t the wand checker,” Harry said. Sirius stared at him.

“Did you have a dream?” That was the only thing that could explain how sure Harry sounded.

“No,” Harry said. “But listen…”

What he said made a good deal of sense, Sirius had to admit. Voldemort certainly would be angry if Crouch had been outed, if their plans had been halted or ruined entirely; after all, Harry had seen it when Polkov failed to get Petunia, so it stood to reason that he would have seen Crouch’s punishment too.

And yet he hadn’t.

“Well?” Harry asked, eyes bright, when he’d finished explaining.

“You really think that’s right?” Sirius asked.

“Well, yeah,” Harry said, seeming a bit put off by Sirius’ lack of enthusiasm. “The others all agree, too.” Sirius wasn’t at all surprised to hear that this had been a topic of discussion amongst Harry’s friends. One of these days, though, he was going to need to teach them all a decent anti-eavesdropping charm. “You don’t.” Harry was frowning.

“No,” Sirius said. “It makes sense,” he added, “but it’s a bit of a reach-”

“It’s not him, Padfoot,” Harry said, “I know it isn’t.”

“We’re fairly sure it is,” Sirius said carefully. “There was all sorts of potential leads in his apartment-”

“Then he’s been set up,” Harry said. “Or maybe he was a bit off anyway, but he’s not Crouch. If he was, why wouldn’t Voldemort be angry?”

“Maybe he doesn’t know yet,” Sirius said. “Crouch knows he’s messed everything up, and that he’ll be punished, so I doubt he’s in a hurry to share the bad news.”

“Punished, yeah,” Harry said. “But Voldemort doesn’t have many followers at the moment. He can’t afford to scare the ones he has got away. He’d be… reasonable.” An odd look crossed Harry’s face as he said it. “Crouch would know that.”

“There’s another reason you wouldn’t have felt it, then,” Sirius said.

“He’d still be angry,” Harry said, clearly frustrated; he ran a hand through his hair and scowled at Sirius through the mirror. “He just wouldn’t act on it as much. It’s not him.”

“Look, kiddo,” Sirius said. “I’ll keep it in mind, but-”

“But you still don’t believe me,” Harry said. “I have dreams where I am Voldemort, I know how he thinks.” Sirius shivered a bit at that, and hoped Harry couldn’t see it.

“This isn’t Voldemort, though,” Sirius said. “This is Crouch.”

“I was right last year, about it being Voldemort behind the Chamber,” Harry said. “And you didn’t believe me then either.”

“If you’re right this time,” Sirius said, “then you can say ‘I told you so’ as many times as you like. I won’t stop you.” Harry still didn’t look particularly happy.

“What did you find?”

“What?”

“At the apartment,” Harry said. “Eric’s apartment.”

Bugger.

“Kiddo…”

There was a loud crash behind Harry, and Sirius’ view of him vanished; Sirius guessed he’d dropped the mirror.

“McGonagall wants everyone downstairs,” one of the twins said, before Sirius could ask what had happened.

“Why?” Harry asked.

“Dunno, she’s in a mood though.”

“Padoot-”

“Yeah, go, kiddo,” Sirius said, relieved, and then felt a bit guilty for being relieved, and then worried, because anything that could put McGonagall in enough of a mood to summon the whole House couldn’t be a good thing. “Let me know if it’s anything important.”

“Bye, Padfoot.”

The mirror went dark, and Sirius flopped back in his chair with a groan, feeling both exhausted and extremely alert all at once.

Sorry, kiddo, Sirius thought toward the mirror. He didn’t think he’d convinced Harry that he was wrong, but hopefully, he’d at least managed to convince him Sirius didn’t believe him. That way, if Peter somehow managed to get close enough to listen in, he wouldn’t hear anything that made him feel like he needed to warn Voldemort and the others… Maybe we can be one step ahead this time. Harry would understand why he’d done it, eventually, but Sirius still felt a bit guilty.

There was a soft knock on the door and Marlene stepped into the room with a tea tray floating in front of her. He closed the file in front of him, and if Marlene noticed, she didn’t say anything.

“Thanks,” he said, accepting a cup from her.

“I thought you might need it,” she said. She glanced at the fat file in front of him and a wry smile tugged at her mouth. “Are you planning to sleep tonight?”

“Haven’t decided yet.” She put a hand on his knee and squeezed.

“Do you want company? Someone to bounce theories off?”

“No,” Sirius said, a little too quickly. Marlene gave him an odd look. “I mean yes, I do want that, but I can’t.”

“Why not?” Marlene gave him another funny look.

“Because until I know what I’m dealing with, I’ll be playing this one pretty close to my chest.”

“Oh, yes,” Marlene said with a laugh. “Can’t have you discussing your case with a suspect.” Sirius felt his smile wither, and Marlene’s vanished at once. “Sirius?”

“You are,” he said uncomfortably. “I don’t actually think you’d- but technically-”

“You’ve got to be joking.” Sirius said nothing, and Marlene set her teacup down. “Well,” she said awkwardly. “I’ll- see you later.” She nodded, almost to herself, and stood. “By the way…” She pulled up her sleeves to show him her bare forearms, and then stalked out of the room. Sirius winced.

“Marls, wait,” he sighed, pushing back his chair. He caught her on the landing, looking cross. She glanced down at his hand on her arm, but didn’t move. “I don’t think you’d ever be involved in something like this, but I just- accidents happen. Things are overheard. Do you put up anti-eavesdropping charms every time we talk? I know I don’t.” Her expression was still hard, but some of the irritation left her scent, and Sirius thought that was a good sign.

“I’m still leaving,” she said, shaking her arm loose of his grip.

“Marl-”

“Relax, Sirius,” she said, more gently. “If you want me to keep my distance from this, then I will, and I’d prefer to sleep than spend my night watching you stare a file I’m not allowed to know the contents of.”

“Fair point,” Sirius said. Merlin, but bed sounded good. She offered him a half-smile.

“I’ll see you at work.”

“Come over for breakfast,” Sirius said, pressing a kiss to her cheek. Her eyes flicked over his face and after a moment, she nodded. “I’m sorry,” he added.

“Don’t be,” she sighed. “I do understand, even if I don’t like it.” She cleared her throat. “I’m sorry for before.” She tugged at her sleeves to let him know what she meant. “I haven’t told you much about my current assignment, and you haven’t given me grief over it. I owe you the same.”

“It’s not the same, though,” Sirius said, rubbing her arms. “I’m not a suspect in your assignment.”

“That’s a big assumption,” Marlene said, arching an eyebrow.

“Please: if I didn’t get an international team formed in my honour for escaping Azkaban and taking Harry, I can’t imagine why I’d have one now,” Sirius said, amused.

“Sirius Black?” Harry’s voice called from the library. “Padfoot?”

Marlene kissed him and stepped back.

“I’ll see you for breakfast.”

*                       *                        *

“Do you really think she wouldn’t have recognised him though, mate?” Ron asked, as the four of them headed down to McGonagall’s office before breakfast.

“She’d have had thousands of students since then,” Draco pointed out. “If you can forget a name, you can forget a smell, right, Potter?”

“Right,” Harry said, nodding. “She might not have even forgotten it, just not realised who it is. Merlin knows Wormtail’s been around enough this year that she’s probably come across it before, and just not known.” Thankfully, they all agreed with him. In fact, once the twins had been ruled as responsible for breaking in to McGonagall’s office, Hermione had suggested Wormtail before Harry could.

“Why does it have to be me?” Hermione mumbled, as they neared the office door.

“Because you’re you,” Ron said, patting her on the shoulder. “‘Professor,’” he said, putting on a high voice, “‘I just had a question about that essay’- Oof!” Harry and Draco sniggered. “Merlin,” Ron said, rubbing the side she’d elbowed, “do you sharpen those?”

Hermione poked her tongue out at him, and strode forward to knock on McGonagall’s door.

Harry heard footsteps on the other side and then it was pulled open. Harry sniffed the air as casually as he could manage - McGonagall was an animagus herself, and sure to notice otherwise - but couldn’t smell Wormtail. McGonagall gave the four of them a beady stare, and then pinched the bridge of her nose.

“I’d wondered if I’d be seeing you four,” McGonagall sighed. “Tell me; do you have suspicions about who broke into my office, or have you come to investigate for mere curiosity’s sake?” She looked at Harry as she said it, and he grimaced and ran a hand through his hair.

“Actually, Professor,” Hermione said, biting her lip, “I- erm had a question about that essay-”

“Spare me, Miss Granger,” McGonagall said, and Hermione blushed. “Well?”

“We were curious,” Harry muttered.

“I see.” McGonagall gave him a hard stare. “Well, I’ve already had one break in, so I’ll save us all the trouble; you four of orchestrating a second one to investigate, and me of dealing with it all.” And she stepped back to allow them inside. Draco gave Harry a surprised look as they went. “Though I assure you,” she said, almost crossly, “that the office has been gone over quite thoroughly by myself, and, when no one in Gryffindor came forward, by Professor Moody and the Headmaster.” Harry nodded absently; he could smell them, as soon as he came in the door, and McGonagall of course.

He had never imagined that she would just let them inside; he had had a much subtler search in mind, one where he sort of stood in the background while Hermione and the others distracted McGonagall. He had never intended for her to just watch him - there was too much of a chance of her figuring him out.

“Do get on with it, Potter.” Feeling a bit silly, Harry did.

McGonagall watched with folded arms as he made a slow lap of the room; around the desk and its comfortable looking chair, to the window, with its view of the grounds and Quidditch pitch, and finally, to the other side of the room, where a well-stocked bookcase stood. It was there that Harry caught Wormtail’s scent, buried under the other professors’ scents, but still definitely there. He gave his friends a tiny nod.

He turned more fully toward the bookcase, trying his best to pinpoint the scent. Frowning, he pulled a large folder labelled Timetables off a shelf, and looked askance at McGonagall.

“Yes,” she said after a moment, smelling stunned. “It was copied by whoever broke in.” Suddenly she looked stern. “It took us a significant amount of spellwork to find out that that was the case, however, so exactly how, Potter-”

Harry put the folder back and went to stand with his friends, hoping their scents would cover his so that McGonagall wouldn’t smell the lie:

“A dream,” Harry said. Hermione gave him a sharp look. “Last night, I saw Wormtail showing it to Voldemort.”

“Wormtail,” McGonagall repeated.

“Pet-”

“I remember the nickname, Potter,” she said softly. “We had wondered, but there was no proof, and-” McGonagall let out an unsteady breath. “Do you know why, Potter?” Harry shook his head, honest now. “Well.” McGonagall cleared her throat. “Was there anything else?” Harry shook his head, and when McGonagall looked at the other three, they did too. “Very well. I shall bring Wormtail’s involvement to the Headmaster’s attention at breakfast, and he, I, and the rest of the staff, shall handle it. There is no need for you - any of you - to vanish either unwillingly, or in pursuit of heroics - as you have done in past years, and I will be extremely displeased if such a thing occurs again this year.” Harry felt his face heat up. Beside him, Ron had red ears, though neither Draco or Hermione looked quite as guilty; they’d been Petrified when Harry went after Riddle the year before, though they’d both come along to save the stone in first year, so they weren’t completely innocent.

“Bit rough, wasn’t she?” Ron said, as they walked into the Great Hall for breakfast a few minutes later. “Telling us not to get kidnapped or she’ll be displeased. Like any of us’d be thrilled at the prospect!” Harry laughed.

“Please,” Draco said, “Potter lives for opportunities like that.”

“That isn’t funny, Draco” Hermione said, and he pouted at her. “If Wormtail’s stealing timetables, kidnapping could be exactly what he has in mind.”

“How?” Harry asked. “He won’t be taking anyone as a rat, I don’t reckon, and as a human, he’d stand out.” They sat, and Harry filled a bowl with cereal while Ron poured them all juice. “Not to mention he’d have to be thick to try something in the corridors, where anyone could see.”

“Maybe,” Hermione said, but she still looked worried. “Oh, this is so awful, and he took the whole folder, so who knows who he’s after.”

“Yeah, I wonder,” Harry muttered, and Ron gave him a sideways look.

“I hope it’s yours he wants, Granger,” Draco said, carefully slicing his apple.

“What?” Hermione gasped.

“Oi!” Ron said.

“No, really,” Draco said, a slow smile creeping over his face. “Have you seen Granger’s timetable? He’d be occupied trying to work out how to read it until exams, and then we can have a nice, peaceful rest of the school year.”

“You’re awful,” she muttered, but Harry caught her smiling into her breakfast.


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