Disclaimer: Yeah, I wish!

Author's Note: Sorry for taking so long again. Spring classes were a bitch and it was hard to come up with any inspiration over Summer break. Hopefully I'll be so board in Art History 211 that I'll be able to let my mind wander and keep working on these Chapters. I promise I won't give up on them. Sorry again for taking so damn long.

Just in case no one knows how to play "I Spy" the Midnight's Gone/ Elementary School way, one person starts off by saying, "I spy, with my little eye, something… (name the color of the object you see)." The person who guesses the correct object gets a turn of picking an object for others to guess. This slightly monotonous game is really only used to pass the time but is great at amusing the simple minded. Warning: Should only be used in extreme cases of boredom

Thank you to everyone who has reviewed and shown his or her support.


The Wizards of Hogwarts

Chapter 7: The Cowardly Lion

They made their way over the vines and tree roots that marred the Yellow Brick Road while straining their eyes slightly due to the small amount of sun light that made it through the thick wood that surrounded them. Minerva and Harry both had their wands out, gripped tightly at their sides, but Ron and Hermione had put theirs away long ago. The Scarecrow and Tin Man, who were walking side by side in the back, were in the middle of a quiet game of "I Spy." So far the game had lasted well over an hour and (do to the lack of brain cells) the same colors and objects had been used and reused several times.

"Oh Bloody Hell!" Ron exclaimed as he stopped and threw his hands into the air. He turned to the Scarecrow and Tin Man with such a crazed look in his eye that they both took a sizable step back.

"The sky is blue!" he proclaimed. "The trees are green! Her cloak," he pointed to Minerva, "is green! Our cloaks are black! The tree trunks are brown! You," he pointed to the Tin Man, "are silver! And for the last Bloody time, the YELLOW BRICK ROAD IS YELLOW!"

He breathed in and out harshly as everyone looked at him with wide eyes and mouths agape.

"Now that we have that covered," Harry said carefully, "is there anything else you two need established before we move on?" Both the Tin Man and the Scarecrow looked as though they were considering this very carefully

"Well," the Scarecrow spoke up timidly, "now his face is red." The Tin Man nodded fervently while everyone else looked at him flabbergasted.

"Kinda like his hair," the Tin Man added to the Scarecrow, never taking his eyes off of Ron. The Scarecrow only nodded along with him.

"Screw the Bloody witch," Ron stated calmly pulling out his wand. "I'll turn you into a mattress myself."

Hermione took hold of his wand hand, "Ronald, don't. You can't-."

Minerva made a step towards him as well, "Mr. Weasley," she said in a soft, slightly warning tone, "you need to stay calm. Put you wand down and let's keep moving. This isn't helping."

But Ron wasn't listening to his Professor's words of reason. The Tin Man was currently giggling (yes, giggling) at the look of horror that had engulfed the Scarecrow's face.

"Laugh it up, Squeaky, 'cause when I'm done with him I'm going to turn you into a tea pot." He instantly silenced and his face fell with a soft squeak as metal rubbed against metal.

Hermione stepped in front of Ron and gave him a searching look. "Ron, you're tired and you're on edge. Please just calm down" She grasped his shoulders and he finally looked down into her eyes.

"I don't like this 'Mione. I want to go home," he said sounding defeated.

"I know Ron, I know." She turned him around and began walking on with her arm wrapped around his waist. "Everything will be fine. We'll be home soon. I'm sure of it."

Minerva watched them walk on, Ron's head bobbing up and down in response to Hermione's calming and reassuring words.

"Stay out of the way," Minerva turned at the sound of Harry's harsh tones as he addressed the Scarecrow and the Tin Man. "Don't speak. Don't hum. Don't sing. Don't skip. Just keep walking and keep quiet. I don't want to hear anything out of the two of you, unless it's an emergency, 'til we get to the Emerald City. Got it?"

They both started to protest but a wand pointed in their direction silenced them, "Shut. Up."

After a moment of silence, so he could be sure he got his point across he continued, "Good. Lets get moving."

He turned sharply and began walking next to Minerva. "After we see this Wizard we are going home and you two are on your own. If you start acting up before that time then we aren't going to stop Ron from turning the two of you in to anything he likes. Are we Professor?" Harry looked to Minerva who only nodded once very decisively. She was actually a bit surprised to see her charge handle the situation so well.

Harry nodded as well. She had to remind herself, 'He's not a child. He's sixteen years old- all three of them are sixteen. They're all grown up. They aren't children. They don't need me,' she thought sadly.

It wasn't that she was sad that they could take care of themselves, she was happy that they could. She was proud of her cubs. She was happy that, as their professor, she had had a hand in their education. But she still couldn't help the feeling of being useless.

A scream in the distance roused her form her thoughts and after she and Harry shared a worried look they both set off running towards the call.

… … …

"Ronald, don't hurt him!" they both heard Hermione yell as Minerva and Harry rounded a bend in the Yellow Brick Road with their wands drawn. The scene before them was one that neither would expect to have found.

"Ronald, you are scaring the poor creature!" Hermione scolded as Ron stood over a full grown lion with his wand out before him. The most alarming thing, however, was the fact that the lion was cowering at the red head's feet and sobbing into his paws.

"There, there." Hermione soothed as she came to kneel beside the distraught lion. "I won't let that mean boy hurt you."

"Me, hurt him! Hermione that lion jumped out of nowhere and scared you half to death! Get away from it before it eats you alive!" Ron countered.

"Ronald, stop acting so crazy and put your wand down! Look at him, he's scared!

"Scared? You're scared?" Ron asked flabbergasted as the lion nodded. "You're a lion! You're King of the whole Bloody jungle. You could rip each of us apart with one paw tied behind your back! Why on Earth are you crying like a terrified child?"

"Because I'm afraaaaaaaid!" He sobbed, "And why are you yellllllling at me? I didn't do nothin'!"

"What in Merlin's name is going on here?" Minerva asked after taking in the scene. "Who are you?"

The lion snuffled a few times before speaking up in a timid voice. "I'm a lion. You can call me Lion. I didn't so anything wrong and that boy started yelling at me and waving that stick thing around-."

"Professor, he jumped out of the bushes at Hermione and me when our backs were turned," Ron explained. "I was just trying to keep him from attacking us and then he just started crying like a little baby-."

"I am not a baby," the Lion sobbed, "don't make fun of me. I'm not making fun of you and your… and your… your red hair!" The Lion pointed out triumphantly. "Just 'cause I get afraid doesn't mean that I'm a baby."

"Yes it does," Ron snickered.

"No it doesn't!" he countered.

"Yes, it does."

"NO! It-."

"SHUT UP!" Minerva exclaimed. Her students jumped and looked at her a bit fearfully, having never heard her use that command previously. A hand came up to pinch the bridge of her nose once more. "You have got to be kidding me," she breathed dumbfoundedly as she looked down at the quivering, sniffling, sobbing sack of teeth and fur that barely resembled a lion.

"Wha'd ya go an' do tha' for?" the Lion continued to sob.

"Do what?" she asked looking between the Lion and her students, who were just as confused as she was.

"You ye… ye… yelled at me!" he balled.

"You're crying because I yelled at you?" Minerva asked. "Are you serious?" The Lion only nodded fervently as everyone stared at him questionably.

"Professor," Hermione offered, "he's not an ordinary lion, he's the Cowardly Lion." Minerva supposed that, to Hermione, this explained everything… but not to her.

"Lions are not cowardly!" Minerva exclaimed. "They are strong and brave and true! Nowhere in a lion's character are the descriptions of cowardly or trembling or weeping. You are a Gryffindor Miss Granger; you should know how a lion acts. Godric Gryffindor did not have that in mind when he chose the symbol for his noble house. I don't know what that is, but it is surely not a lion," she said at last.

"No-… no-… nobody ever likes me!" The Lion wept louder. Everyone stared as he wailed and cried into the tuff of hair on the end of his tail that he seemed to be holding like a child would hold a much needed security blanket. Everyone sent questioning glances throughout the group as though they were all deciding the best way to handle the situation.

Finally, when no solution had been offered, Minerva simply waved her wand over the Lion with a frustrated look on her face. The Lion's cries were immediately silenced and he suddenly looked very confused at the lack of sound coming from his mouth. Looking at him, one might think they were watching a mime, or even a silent movie, as he sat there continuing to scream and sob but no sound penetrated a single ear of the small group that stood around him.

"What are we supposed to do with him?" Harry asked looking at the sight before him that would have been quite funny if it were not for the fact that it was simply so pitiful.

"We should take him with us to the Emerald City so he can ask the Wizard of Oz for some courage."

Everyone went so silent that one could have heard a pin drop a mile away. In unison, the entire group turned to look at Hermione with such a look of disgust that she thought for a moment that something gross had grown on her face within the past second. She looked at each of them in turn.

"What?" she asked self-consciously.

"Have you Bloody well lost your mind!" Ron exclaimed.

"Mr. Weasley-."

"No! It's bad enough that we ended up here, in the middle of nowhere-!"

"We're in Oz, Ron-."

"No Hermione, we are in the middle of NOWHERE! We don't know how to get home except to follow the advice of some tutu wearing nut-ball witch and a bunch of singing and dancing midgets!"

"They are called Munchkins, Ronald!"

"I don't care what they're called Hermione! I don't trust the little buggers!" Ron took a deep breath but continued on without missing a beat. "Then you wanted us to let those two tag along! There is no way a Wizard can help that thing," he said pointing to the Scarecrow. "And I don't care if he says he's just missing a heart; there is no way that walking tin can has a brain either! He's just as bad as that walking pile of hay! And I'll be damned if I'm going to listen that thing whine and sob the entire way to this Wizard, who may or may not even be able to help us get home!"

"Are you quite finished, Mr. Weasley?" Minerva asked calmly after silence had descended once more and his breathing began to return to normal. He continued to take in deep breaths and nodded reluctantly.

"Now," Minerva continued addressing all three of her students, "while I feel that you made some very valid points, Mr. Weasley, I also think that the only thing we have to go on is Glenda's advice and go to the Emerald City. If the Wizard of Oz is able to help us, then that is wonderful. If it turns out that he can't then we'll just have to figure something out when we get to that point. As for those three," she eyed the Scarecrow, Tin Man, and the Lion (who looked as though he was still trying to form some type of sound with his vocal chords), "I suppose that they can continue on with us."

Ron began to protest but Minerva held up her hand to silence him. "If the Wizard is able to help us then maybe he can help them too. Either way, in the end, we will hopefully be home and we won't have to deal with them anymore." Again, Ron nodded reluctantly.

"That is all I have to say on the matter. Do you two want to add anything?" Minerva asked looking at Harry and Hermione.

"I don't have a problem with them as long as they stay out of the way and they keep quiet." Harry shrugged. "I just want to get back to Hogwarts."

They all nodded. "Well let's keep moving then," Minerva said. They all turned to address their new companions and found the Scarecrow and Tin Man laughing quietly as they teased and prodded the Lion while he continued to sob openly and silently. They at least had the decency to look ashamed while Minerva scolded them and they made no objections when she told them the new quiet rule that they had to follow. Reluctantly they helped the Lion to its feet and all seven travelers continued on.

… … … … …

"What are the updates?" the Albus Dumbledore asked impatiently as his staff began to file into his office one by one.

"They weren't in the dungeons or on the ground level, Headmaster," Severus Snape spoke up first.

"They're nowhere on the Grounds, Headmaster. Or in the Forest," Hagrid said timidly.

"Albus, they aren't in the Hospital Wing," piped in Madam Pomfry.

"Or the Astronomy Tower-."

"Or the second floor-."

"Or the third-."

"Or th-."

"Enough!" Albus exclaimed. "Has anyone seen any sign at all of Minerva, Harry, Hermione, or Ron?"

There were collective murmurs in the negative that ran throughout the group of nervous Professors.

"Is anyone else missing?" Albus asked, "Are any more students missing?"

"No," all three Heads of House and Xiomara Hooch assured him.

"But Headmaster," Professor Sprout continued, "What do we tell the students."

"They are getting very concerned, Professor," Madam Hooch added. "Especially the Gryffindors."

"Shouldn't we tell the Ministry?" Professor Flitwicksqueaked.

"And what about their families?" Hagrid asked.

"I've contacted the Ministry." He answered wearily. "Representatives are being sent to help with the search. I've also contacted the Weasley and the Granger residences."

"What about Harry's family and Minerva's relatives?" asked the newest addition to the teaching staff. The Defense Against the Dark Arts instructor, Professor Harrison Buford, was fresh out of a University, was only slightly eccentric, and was teased by most of the student body (secretly, of course) because of his lazy eye and tendency to stare off into space.

"Harry's family would show no concern and Minerva's family…" Albus paused sadly. "We're all either of them have. And I want them found sooner rather than-."

The large oak doors that stood closed at the back of the Headmaster's office were throw open and in ran Argus Filch completely out of breath.

"Headmaster!" he gasped. "The Trans… the Transfig…"

"Oh for Merlin's sake, spit it out man!" Severus yelled half discussed and half anxious.

Filch took a deep breath, not even bothering to give the Potions Master his usual loathing glare. "The Transfiguration Wing!" he huffed. Albus rounded his desk and headed for the door. "One of the paintings said that they all went into a broom cupboard," he took in another deep breath. "I tried to open it but it wouldn't budge, Headmaster."

Albus was already descending the stone steps towards the corridor as his staff followed closely behind him and Argus Filch brought up the rear.

… … … … …

"Umm, Professor," Hermione spoke up after they had been walking for a while. "I think he wants to say something."

Looking around to her student and then to the Lion walking beside her, she found the creature pointing to its muted mouth as though he did wish to communicate something to the group. Minerva looked to Harry, who was standing beside her, to Ron, who was walking alone directly behind them, and then to the Lion suspiciously.

"Are you going to start sobbing and carrying on again?" The Lion shook his head looking hopefully at the Head of Gryffindor. Minerva reluctantly flicked her right hand which held her wand. He breathed out a large sigh of relief as though he were testing to see if his voice had really been returned to him.

"Thank you for letting me come along. I promise I'll behave," the Lion told Minerva.

"Wonderful," she responded sarcastically. "Can we keep moving now?" The Lion nodded fervently and they all continued after the small interruption.

"You know," the Lion whispered to Hermione, "I'm not as brave as other lions are." Ron, the Scarecrow, and the Tin Man all snorted at this little divulge of confidence. Hermione turned to give the two behind her an angry look and she gave Ron the same glare when he looked over his shoulder. "Do you really think that the Wizard of Oz will give me some courage, like you said?"

"I know he will." Hermione responded with a smile.

"I hope he will," he said looking worried. "I… well, I just hope that that I'm brave enough to ask him." This time it was Harry and Minerva snorted softly in the irony of the situation while Ron simply shook his head in disappointment.

"I'm so happy!" the Lion announced after a moment of silence. "I don't remember ever being this happy before. You know," he said to Hermione once more, "I've never seen a Wizard before."

"We're wizards," Ron said almost absentmindedly to the Lion without turning to face him.

"Really!" the Lion exclaimed. "Then couldn't you just give me some courage?"

"No, we couldn't just give it to you," Minerva responded rather harshly. "Courage is a trait that must be earned over time through blood, sweat, and tears," she glanced over to Harry quickly but was relieved to see that he didn't seem to notice her eyes on him.

"But…" the Lion's voice trembled slightly, "but you said that the Wizard of Oz could give me courage. You… you said he would help me."

"And he will," Hermione reassured the Lion. He's just a different kind of Wizard. He'll be able to help you."

"Is he like, the greatest Wizard in the World or something?" the Lion asked wide eyed. Both Minerva and Harry stopped dead in there tracks and everyone nearly ran into each other at the abruptness of the stop.

"Albus Dumbledore is the greatest Wizard in the World," Harry stated scathingly. The Lion nodded slowly with his eyes wide open and his mouth forming a perfect 'O' in response. Minerva placed a gentle hand on Harry's shoulder and they all continued on.

"You know," the Lion whispered even more quietly to Hermione, who was trying very hard not to look annoyed at his constant need to talk. "I've never been to the Emerald City before. In fact, I've never been out of these woods before. In fact, this is my very first adventure. I've spent most of my life in these woods all alone. I've never really had any friends before."

"I can't imagine why," Ron huffed sarcastically just loud enough that Harry and Minerva had heard it. Harry looked over his shoulder to grin at his friend to let him know silently that his comment had been heard and agreed upon. Turning his head back around Harry even caught Minerva smirking at her charge's comment.

"I really am happy," the Lion announced to the group again. "In fact, I'm so happy that I think I may sing!" Everyone's movements halted for a brief second before Minerva turned with her wand straight out in front of her and the spell already cast as Ron and Harry were only a second behind her doing the same tasks. Hermione, the Scarecrow, and the Tin Man had all taken steps back from the Lion, knowing that any mention of singing would result in a Silencing Spell. The Lion stood there bewildered for a moment until he figured out what had just been done to him.

"There will be NO singing," Minerva stated quite clearly. She turned without another word and continued walking. Harry did the same, walking beside his Professor. Ron shook his head looking disappointedly at the Lion before turning and walking on. Hermione gave him a sad look before catching up to Ron so she could walk beside him.

"She did the same thing to us when we started to sing," the Tin Man told the Lion as the Scarecrow only nodded before patting him on the back.

"Tough luck, Scaredy-cat!" the Scarecrow exclaimed. Both laughed heartily as the Lion tried to respond but as no sound came out they simply laughed harder and followed after the Wizards of Hogwarts. The Lion looked down to him feet sadly before hurrying to catch up with the others as they followed the Yellow Brick Road on their way to the Emerald City.

… … … … …

Albus had just rounded the corner of the Transfiguration Corridor when he sent a silent but powerful spell to the door of the broom cupboard that stood at the end of the Corridor. As Headmaster, he knew that the Castle would obey any request or demand that he asked of it, but he wasn't in the mood to waste time on the niceties.

Coming to stand before the small room, with its door hanging off of its hinges, he found nothing but an empty, unused storage space. He looked over the area thoroughly before turning back to his staff.

"Argus!" he shouted as the group parted to where the winded Caretaker stood grasping, what must have been, a painful stitch in his side. "I thought you said that they entered here! Who told you that they entered this broom cupboard?"

Filch, unable to breath properly as of yet, simply pointed to a rather nervous looking old man painted in, what looked to be, a large library.

"Pomeroy!" Albus exclaimed causing the old man to jump. "Did you see Professor McGonagall and three students, two young men and a young lady, enter that broom cupboard this evening?"

The old man, dubbed Pomeroy, straightened his tie and adjusted his spectacles. "Yes," he squeaked before clearing his throat. "Yes, Headmaster, I did. It was shortly after nine o'clock this evening. They all entered the cupboard and I don't believe that they came out again. Now that I think about it Headmaster, it was rather strange," he laughed nervously.

"And you didn't tell anyone this had happened when they didn't exit the cupboard?" Albus asked angrily.

"Well," Pomeroy continued after adjusting his spectacles once more, "I had been asleep, Headmaster. I only woke up when the good Professor began to reprimand the students about being out past curfew. The young lady, I believe mentioned a toad and then all four of them began to look around. One of the young men and the young lady entered the cupboard first, then Professor McGonagall, and last to enter was the second young man, a red head I believe. I… I thought it was all a dream, Headmaster. I had been sleeping, after all."

Albus turned away from the portrait to study the empty broom cupboard one more.

"What are you thinking, Headmaster?" Severus asked quietly as he came to look for himself.

Albus merely shook his head sadly. "I don't even know where to begin, Severus."