And then, as his feeling of frustration peaked, his certainty leaked away.
Perhaps it hadn't been a magical sound after all. Perhaps he was so desperate for the tiniest sign of contact from the world to which he belonged that he was simply overreacting to perfectly ordinary noises. Could he be sure it hadn't been the sound of something breaking inside a neighbor's house?
"I know, Harry. But you see what they're doing? They want to turn you into someone nobody will believe. Fudge is behind it, I'll bet anything. They want wizards on the street to think you're just some stupid boy who's a bit of a joke, who tells ridiculous tall stories because he loves being famous and wants to keep it going."
"So, got there yet?" said George eagerly.
"The weapon Sirius mentioned?" said Harry.
"Let slip, more like," said Fred with relish, now sitting next to Ron. "We didn't hear about that on the old Extendables, did we?"
"What d'you reckon it is?" said Harry.
"Could be anything," said Fred.
"But there can't be anything worse than the Avada Kedavra curse, can there?" said Ron. "What's worse than death?"
"Does it matter if she's my cousin?" snapped Sirius. "As far as I'm concerned, they're not my family. She's certainly not my family. I haven't seen her since I was your age, unless you count a glimpse of her coming into Azkaban. Do you think I'm proud of having relatives like her?"
The fact was that living at the headquarters of the anti-Voldemort movement was not nearly as interesting or exciting as Harry would have expected before he experienced it. Though members of the Order of the Phoenix came and went regularly, sometimes staying for meals, sometimes only for a few minutes' whispered conversation, Mrs. Weasley made sure that Harry and the others were kept well out of earshot (whether Extendable or normal) and nobody, not even Sirius, seemed to feel that Harry needed to know anything more than he had heard on the night of his arrival.
Ron had not asked Dumbledore to give him the prefect badge. This was not Ron's fault. Was he, Harry, Ron's best friend in the world, going to sulk because he didn't have a badge, laugh with the twins behind Ron's back, ruin this for Ron when, for the first time, he had beaten Harry at something?
I sort you into Houses
Because that is what I'm for,
But this year I'll go further,
Listen closely to my song:
Though condemned I am to split you
Still I worry that it's wrong
Though I must fulfill my duty
And must quarter every year
Still I wonder whether Sorting
May not bring the end I fear.
"I do not wish to criticize the way things have been run at this school," she said, an unconvincing smile stretching her wide mouth, "but you have been exposed to some very irresponsible wizards in this class, very irresponsible indeed—not to mention," she gave a nasty little laugh, "extremely dangerous half-breeds."
"Is it true that you shouted at Professor Umbridge?"
"Yes," said Harry.
"You called her a liar?"
"You told her He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named is back?"
Professor McGonagall sat down behind her desk, frowning at Harry. Then she said, "Have a biscuit, Potter."
"I know her by reputation and I'm sure she's no Death Eater—"
"She's foul enough to be one," said Harry darkly and Ron and Hermione nodded vigorously in agreement.
"Yes, but the world isn't split into good people and Death Eaters," said Sirius with a wry smile. "I know she's a nasty piece of work, though—you should hear Remus talk about her."
"Does Lupin know her?" asked Harry quickly, remembering Umbridge's comments about dangerous half-breeds during her first lesson.
"No," said Sirius, "but she drafted a bit of anti-werewolf legislation two years ago that makes it almost impossible for him to get a job."
"'Hogwarts is a school, not an outpost of Cornelius Fudge's office,' said Madam Marchbanks. 'This is a further disgusting attempt to discredit Albus Dumbledore.' (For a full account of Madam Marchbanks' alleged links to subversive goblin groups, turn to page 17)."
"You know, I don't get why Fred and George only got three O.W.L.s each," said Harry, watching as Fred, George, and Lee collected gold from the eager crowd. "They really know their stuff..."
He and the D.A. were resisting under her very nose, doing the very thing that she and the Ministry most feared, and whenever he was supposed to be reading Wilbert Slinkhard's book during her lessons he dwelled instead on satisfying memories of their most recent meetings, remembering how Neville had successfully disarmed Hermione, how Colin Creevy had mastered the Impediment Jinx after three meetings' hard effort, how Parvati Patil had produced such a good Reductor Curse that she had reduced the table carrying all the Sneakoscopes to dust.
A great wave of relief broke over Harry. Here at last was proof that he had not imagined these creatures, that they were real: Hagrid knew about them too. He looked eagerly at Ron, but Ron was still staring around into the trees and after a few seconds he whispered, "Why doesn't Hagrid call again?"
Don't be stupid, you haven't got fangs, he told himself, trying to keep calm, though the hand on his butterbeer was shaking. You were lying in bed, you weren't attacking anyone...
But then, what happened in Dumbledore's office? he asked himself. I felt like I wanted to attack Dumbledore too...
"But that's not all, said Harry in a voice only a little above a whisper. "Sirius, I...I think I'm going mad...Back in Dumbledore's office, just before we took the Portkey...for a couple of seconds there I thought I was a snake, I felt like one—my scar really hurt when I was looking at Dumbledore—Sirius, I wanted to attack him—"
He could only see a sliver of Sirius's face; the rest was in darkness.
"It must have been the aftermath of the vision, that's all," said Sirius. "You were still thinking of the dream or whatever it was and—"
"It wasn't like that," said Harry, shaking his head. "It was like something rose up inside me, like there's a snake inside me—"
"You need to sleep," said Sirius firmly.
"Bitten by a werewolf, poor chap. No cure at all."
"A werewolf?" whispered Mrs. Weasley, looking alarmed. "Is he safe in a public ward? Shouldn't he be in a private room?"
"It's two weeks till full moon," Mr. Weasley reminded her quietly.
"So that's it, is it?" he said loudly. "Stay there? That's all anyone could tell me after I got attacked by those dementors too! Just stay put while the grown-ups sort it out, Harry! We won't bother telling you anything, though, because your tiny little brain might not be able to cope with it!"
"Herd?" said Lavender in a confused voice, and Harry knew she was thinking of cows. "What—oh!" Comprehension dawned on her face. "There are more of you?" she said, stunned.
"Did Hagrid breed you, like the thestrals?" asked Dean eagerly.
Firenze turned his head very slowly to face Dean, who seemed to realize at once that he had said something very offensive.
"I didn't—I meant—sorry," he finished in a hushed voice.
"Centaurs are not the servants or playthings of humans," said Firenze quietly.
He could abandon the plan and simply learn to live with the memory of what his father had done on a summer's day more than twenty years ago...
And then he remembered Sirius in the fire upstairs in the Gryffindor common room... "You're less like your father than I thought...The risk would've been what made it fun for James..."
But did he want to be like his father anymore?
"I'm trying to say—Voldemort knows you, Harry! He took Ginny down into the Chamber of Secrets to lure you there, it's the kind of thing he does, he knows you're the—the sort of person who'd go to Sirius's aid! What if he's just trying to get you into the Department of Myst—"
Still pointing her shaking wand at Magorian, she continued, "Law Fifteen B states clearly that ‘Any attack by a magical creature who is deemed to have near-human intelligence, and therefore considered responsible for its actions—'"
"'Near-human intelligence'?" repeated Magorian, as Bane and several others roared with rage and pawed the ground.
"Like the fact that the person Sirius cared most about in the world was you," said Dumbledore quietly. "Like the fact that you were coming to regard Sirius as a mixture of father and brother. Voldemort knew already, of course, that Sirius was in the Order, that you knew where he was—but Kreacher's information made him realize that the one person whom you would go to any lengths to rescue was Sirius Black."
"Sirius did not hate Kreacher," said Dumbledore. "He regarded him as a servant unworthy of much interest or notice. Indifference and neglect often do much more damage than outright dislike...the fountain we destroyed tonight told a lie. We wizards have mistreated and abused our fellows for too long, and we are now reaping our reward."
"I cared about you too much," said Dumbledore simply. "I cared more for your happiness than your knowing the truth, more for your peace of mind than my plan, more for your life than the lives that might be lost if the plan failed. In other words, I acted exactly as Voldemort expects we fools who love to act."