New Scotland Yard
Eating didn't help.
It just made Harry feel like apologizing. Hermione tried her best to distract him. Shoving a platter of sandwiches before him, she provided a spirited play-by-play of the Quidditch World Cup, even venturing into the details of collisions and injuries. Harry offered her a weak smile, and ate.
Her story carried him through the meal, fine enough, but now that they were walking through the empty halls of the castle, Harry felt like sneaking off to the tower and speaking to his sister.
Professor Trelawney was half mad. She wouldn't notice if he turned up. Right?
Hermione, for her part, was still trying to cheer him up, but fell short. It was the first day of term, and she was leading him to the library. There was work to be done, she said. Hermione had taken it upon herself to crusade for the emancipation of House-elves from the rusty iron collar that was wizarding rule. Her words, not his.
Harry scratched his head and glanced sideways at her. She didn't take notice of the look. Hermione had her books pressed tight against her chest, eyes set forward. Her head bobbed as she chattered and strands of her curly hair puffed about in the cool draft of the hall. Anyone that didn't have a passing familiarity with the girl might have mistaken her passion for a fit or Tourette's. House-elves. House-elves under the cruel yoke of slavery.
Harry didn't have the heart to tell her that her plans were for nothing—especially because she was trying to help him. Besides, if she was absorbed in... er...
"You know, Britain hasn't tolerated slavery ever since the time of Hogwarts' founders. Not to mention the legislation of modern times!"
"But it isn't just that, Harry! The house-elves have feelings! They can talk, and think. You should have seen how heartbroken Winky was! How can they be treated like common draft beasts? Like animals! For wizards to be so callous, so cruel, so..." she trailed off with a growl and squeezed her books against her bust. Hermione looked up at him, her eyes flashing.
"But you agree with me, don't you?"
Harry bit his lip to keep silent. He liked house-elves, he truly did, but freeing the lot of them was not going to help anybody. And granted that Hermione could free them, where would they all go? They couldn't live in the forest like centaurs, or in the lake like mermen. They had to live in houses. Their culture was based around it. It was in the name. House. Elf.
If freed, would they get jobs at the Ministry and purchase their own houses to live in?
Hermione repeated her question.
"Erm… sure," answered Harry.
"That's not very convincing." She sniffed. "Please tell me that you don't agree with Ron."
"He's got a point, though. They do like their work—"
"Hold on, I mean… I don't think that they should be mistreated, or whipped, or anything." He set the strap of his rucksack on his shoulder. "But you can't just free them."
"That's not good enough!" said Hermione. "It's not enough to just stop the mistreatment. They have a right to live free of slavery."
"Er, but what about, you know, 'one step at a time?'" said Harry. "No one is just going to give their elves up right away."
"Well," said Hermione, seeming to struggle with the thought. "Perhaps we can start small, but... but we'll fight for their complete freedom no matter what." She squared her shoulders and pattered forward again.
"And what's all this 'we' business?" Harry called after her. She faced him.
"We, the Committee to Stop the Outrageous Abuse of our Fellow Magical Creatures and Campaign for a Change in their Legal Status.'" Hermione was breathless by the end of the title.
"Oh." Harry tried to keep his smile under wraps by scrunching up his face.
"It's a mouthful, I know," she said. "I'm still working on it. And that means… research."
They reached the great dark doors of Hogwarts' library. The revised rules and prohibitions for use and conduct were already pasted over the copies from last term. Hermione ran her eyes over the flyers, nodding to herself, and shoved the doors forward. They barely whispered over the carpeting.
She strolled forth, as if she were entering her powder room rather than the public library, and claimed the first work table in their path. Harry offered the librarian, Madam Pince, a wave of greeting, and followed after.
"Good afternoon, Mr. Potter, Miss Granger," the librarian called. Madam Pince had a curious way of speaking. Her voice rarely rose above a whisper, but always seemed to carry the appropriate distance across the library.
"You as well," said Harry, unslinging his rucksack.
"Shh!" hushed the librarian.
"But we're the only ones in here!"
Madam Pince looked at him over her glasses, nonplussed, and turned back to whatever it was that she busied herself with. Harry scowled at her back, and sank into the chair beside Hermione's bag. The girl, herself, had disappeared into the stacks. Harry set his chin on the cool wood and closed his eyes. He exhaled a bit of quiet laughter. The Committee to Stop the Outrageous Abuse of our Fellow Magical Creatures. Well. She had distracted him from Daisy.
But there were other things that he had to do.
Hermione had Arithmancy in a little bit, so Harry would be left to his own devices. He could go find the Headmaster, and Nick, too. He lifted his head and stood up. Until then, he would see what he could find out about the Triwizard Tournament in the library.
Harry made his way across to Madam Pince's desk, asked her for material on the subject, and accepted her scrawled note on the location of a book.
He rolled his eyes when he found it.
Hogwarts, A History.
Brilliant. If Hermione caught him here, after years of declining to read her favorite book—
"Aha!" came her breathless whisper. "Look at this, Harry!"
He jumped, a foul word on his lips.
"Harry! This is a library!" Hermione hissed. She shifted her gaze about, as though he had cursed in church rather than a school for wizards and was waiting for indignant clergymen to descend on them.
"You startled me," Harry said to her, positioning himself in front of the bookshelf. "What's the matter?"
Hermione showed him her teeth and thrust forth a grubby old book. Dust swirled up from the cover as she did, and Harry had to fight to keep from sneezing.
"Wizarding law tome," Hermione provided at his blinking stare. "This has to have some sort of precedent about house-elf welfare." She pulled the book back and flipped it open, sending more dust into the air. Harry have her a half-hearted glare, but she ignored him.
"I glanced at one passage already," she said. "Did you know that the centaurs once petitioned to have their status changed as it pertained to wizards and their ministries? And it worked! They're beasts now! Something useful has to be in here."
"Er, great," Harry muttered. "I'll meet you at the table, yeah?"
"Oh! What have you got?" asked Hermione. He tried to obscure her view, but it was useless. She stood on tip-toes, and edged him aside. Even though his hand still covered the title, Hermione knew the book on sight.
"I told you," she said smugly. "I told you that it's a good read, Harry."
"I just need to read about the Tournament," he said, stifling his exasperation. "Not about the construction every ruddy arcade in the castle."
"Sure you do," chirped Hermione. Her buck teeth gleamed in the pale light of the library. She turned and hurried back through the aisle, robes swishing. Harry snatched the book up, and followed. He dropped himself next to her and began to flip through the pages.
"This is useless," muttered Harry at last. "There's nothing in here but a list of victims."
"I told you all at dinner last night." Hermione pulled her nose from the pages of her law book and blinked at him. "It doesn't say much about the tournament itself, except the casualties. There are loads of casualties," she paused. "It's barbaric, really."
Harry chewed his lip and thumbed through the death tally. Many of the people killed weren't even participants of the tournament. If Wormtail or someone else wanted to murder Daisy, this tournament was a boon.
Once a cockatrice had eviscerated the judges, leaving all three schools of magic without headmasters. Needless to say, Hogwarts didn't host the tournament for a few decades after.
Harry squinted at the page. There was something about a ball that was held during Christmas holiday. Skimming the passage, he sighed. It was nothing specific. Just that a maddened yeti had stormed into the party and squashed a pair of children in their seats.
The Durmstrang judge had figured a surprise task was necessary to test the students' awareness.
"Bagshot's stomach must be lined with steel," Harry whispered to Hermione. "Yours, too, by the way. This is graphic."
"She is rather morbid," said Hermione. Then she frowned. "And I don't think she's ever mentioned house-elves. Let me see it?"
Trying to force the image of a yeti with a child's head lodged between it's toes from his mind, Harry passed her the book. He cast a glance at Madam Pince, and then at the clock that hung on the wall behind her desk.
"Don't you have class, soon?" he asked.
"Oh, aren't you coming, too?" Hermione lifted her gaze from the book. "I figured you had taken up Arithmancy instead of Divination."
Harry shook his head. "No."
"Oh." Hermione looked put out. "Runes is all right, too," she said. "Not as technical, mind you. You really have to do the work in Arithmancy, but reading runes is good fun."
"Erm, I'm not taking either of them," said Harry.
"What?" she cried.
"Shhh!" said Madam Pince.
"Sorry." Hermione flushed. Madam Pince's glare didn't let up. Harry snorted.
"Don't you laugh," Hermione said in a hushed outrage. "What do you mean you aren't taking either of them?"
"Just that," said Harry. "I didn't want any of them."
"So you're just going to laze about instead?" asked Hermione; she crossed her arms. "That's not like you. What about your records?"
"They're just electives, Hermione."
"Yes, but you need them to get into certain occupations! Bill says he reads runes all the time, and curse-breaking is an incredibly interesting field." She gave him a steady look. "And much safer than being an Auror."
Harry arched an eyebrow. Was Hermione concerned for his safety?
They wouldn't graduate for years yet. And Harry didn't even know if he wanted to be an Auror, only that it sounded a lot better than working with Mr. Weasley or Percy Weasley. He might have considered going to Romania, where the dragon reservations were, but Daisy would never follow him there.
Hermione went on, explaining the use of Arithmancy in alchemy and government, and Harry started to tell her off, but her wristwatch let out a little beep. Abruptly she stood, panic writ across her face.
"Oh, no." Hermione slid her all of her things into her school bag with a single motion. "I'm going to be late!"
Grabbing up the law tome, she rushed into the stacks and came back empty handed. Hermione pulled him from his seat, and hurried for the doors. Madam Pince waved an absent hand as they passed.
"Bye!" said Hermione.
"Shh!" said the librarian.
Grinning, Harry walked Hermione down the hall, taking her pestering about picking up Arithmancy or Runes in place of 'vagrancy and indolence' in stride. Finally, after he convinced her that he would see the Headmaster about it, he placed his hand on the small of her back, and shoved her onto the moving staircase.
"Harry!" Hermione said. Twin splotches of pink appeared high on her cheeks. "Don't do that!"
Harry just waved her off and hurried back down the passage in pursuit of answers.
He had nearly reached the gargoyle that concealed the Headmaster's spiral staircase when he heard it.
It resounded in the emptiness of the hall. Harry's eyes darted about in vain. There was nowhere to hide in this part of the castle. It was done on purpose, just so that no one could spring out at the Headmasters as they walked to and from their office.
Harry had never been bothered by it before now. It meant that Professor Dumbledore could never avoid him. It didn't always get him answers, but his success rate was far better than his sister's. Daisy never got clear answers from the Headmaster.
Now, though, the empty corridor meant that Harry could not avoid Professor Moody. There wasn't so much as a billowy tapestry or a suit of armor to hide behind. Just blank stone on all sides.
He stood very still. Harry had wanted to approach the new professor, of course, but on his own terms, and in his own time—preferably after he spoke to Professor Dumbledore about the Tournament and Daisy's safety. The story about the yeti was still firmly in his mind, but the dead child's head was now his sister's, and Peter was cackling at him from beneath a dolled up Slytherin table as the yeti stamped on her corpse.
"Potter, eh?" Moody's voice swung around the corner before he did. It was gruff and rolling, like a the rumbled greeting of an alleyway cur. Harry was familiar with the sound.
Moody stumped forward. His grey cloak hardly concealed his wooden leg. He leaned on his staff; his normal eye, black and glinting, peered out at Harry from a nest of dark wrinkles.
"Erm, yes," said Harry. Moody's upper lip twisted. His magical eye, electric blue, whirled from inside his skull to focus on him. Harry fought the urge to look away. Moody's face was just so unsettling.
Once, when he was young, the boys had all gone fishing on the Blackwater in Essex. Harry had enjoyed being outside with trees and water and fish. And although the scenery there was nothing in comparison to Hogwarts, the river and its estuary had something that the Black Lake did not.
Great piles of driftwood.
It was dry, and twisted, and oddly colored, with great sunken knots and thready bits that looked like hair. Harry had made a small stick man from a piece of it. When they returned to London, he allowed an alleyway dog to play with it. Mad-Eye Moody looked like what the dog had left behind.
His body was thin and crooked, like a branch. The rare streaks of black in a mane of stringy grey and white did nothing but reinforce the image of dry wood.
Even Moody's face hardly looked like a face. It was stiff, and it seemed like the man had trouble making the simplest of expressions. The way he had twisted his mouth, Harry realized after a moment, was meant to be a smile of greeting. Harry had mistaken it for excruciating pain.
"Yeah, Potter, all right," said Moody. "What are you after, lad?"
"I was going to see Professor Dumbledore, sir." Harry pulled his gaze from Moody's wooden leg, and tried to ignore the man's ambling gait.
Moody grunted, "Can't."
"Er, why not?" asked Harry, who still had not moved so much as a step.
"He's busy," answered Moody. "Ministry business." The way Moody mentioned the government made Harry feel as though Angelina had been correct in assuming the new professor's retirement had been forced.
"You don't like Fudge, then?" he said, probing. Usually when the Headmaster was dealing with the Ministry, he was actually dealing with the Minister for Magic. Moody, for his part, didn't even blink. He just kept stumping forward, both eyes fixed on Harry.
"Nope," he said. "Not Fudge, not Scrimgeour, not Bones, not Thicknesse, not Bagman, and especially not Crouch. To save your asking, Potter."
Harry frowned. The girls had mentioned Mr. Bagman. He had been in charge of the World Cup, and Mr. Crouch—he was Percy's boss that fired the house-elf, Winky. They (in tandem with foreign wizards) had arranged for the Triwizard Tournament to come to Hogwarts. Professor Dumbledore had said as much last night.
Mr. Bones might have been related to Susan Bones—a Hufflepuff in his year—but Harry had not the faintest idea who the other people were.
"They made you retire?" he asked.
"Some," said Moody, stopping a few paces short of Harry. The older man squinted with his real eye.
"Er, and the others," said Harry. "You just didn't like them?"
Moody laughed, a single barking note, that reminded Harry again of an angry dog. "They're scum."
"Sorry?" said Harry quickly.
"Scum," repeated Moody, his mouth twisted in the opposite direction. Harry assumed it was a frown. Moody thumped his staff once, peering closely at Harry's face and said, very clearly, "Filth, Potter. Dirt. Earthworms."
"Oh." It was all that Harry could say. Moody laughed again, in the same way, and walked closer to him.
"Fudge doesn't impress you, either." Moody pressed his thin lips tight. "Good. He's very nearly the worst."
"Er, I didn't say—"
"Bollocks," Moody cut him off, and started past, clunking down the hall in that same measured way.
Harry stood facing the path to Professor Dumbledore's office. Then, scowling, he turned about. What was he going to ask the Headmaster, now? Moody had gone and raised more questions in the span of twelve bloody seconds.
Mr. Crouch and Mr. Bagman had helped to arrange the tournament, and Fudge was… Harry ran his fingers through his hair. Moody was right. Harry didn't like Fudge. The Minister was as thick as his namesake.
And Mad-Eye Moody, the man that had caught the most criminals ever, had called them scum.
Harry watched the man near the end of the corridor.
For someone that was supremely paranoid, Moody had given Harry more than enough information with only a few choice words.
"Professor!" he called.
"Potter," said Moody without looking back. Harry had the distinct feeling that the man's magical eye was fixed upon him again. He attempted to suppress his unease, adjusting his glasses nervously.
"Er," began Harry. "Do you think I cou—"
"Hurry up then, lad," Moody said gruffly. "It'll take me the rest of the afternoon to get down those damned stairs. Might as well have company." Harry nodded, again very sure that Moody was watching him, and hurried forth.
The professor was not lying about the Grand Staircase.
Their progress was slow, agonizingly so, and several times, just as they reached the point where one flight joined another, the staircase moved.
Moody revealed nothing more about the Ministry or the Tournament, but grumbled all the way down, short, sharp sentences, about inane things.
Why did the portraits stare?
The students seemed weaker in constitution nowadays.
What type of magic did Harry favor?
He would burn the next portrait to point at them.
The cold of the dungeons made his leg ache.
Whenever Harry answered, in a similar brief manner, Mad-Eye Moody laughed his barking laugh and thumped his staff against the stone.
"Why the knife, Potter?" asked Moody. Harry paused, two steps above the professor, taken by surprise.
"You can see through robes?"
Moody waved a hand. "Robes. Walls, doors, flesh. All the same."
"That must be strange," said Harry.
"No stranger than a wizard with a blade," Moody said doggedly, clunking down the stairs.
"It's, it's," said Harry, trying not to stutter further as he found a way to explain himself. He had a knack for breaking curfew, no matter if it was at school, or in London, and for some reason, he was having a tough time saying that the blade had saved his life more than a handful of times. Harry shrugged a shoulder at the professor. "It's habit, I suppose."
"Seems a fairly dangerous habit." Moody's blue eye dipped low, fixing on the pocket of Harry's robes. "Keen edge."
"What use is a dull one?"
Moody grinned his disconcerting grin, but left it at that. They walked down the last flight.
"They say old age makes you weary," Moody began anew; his leg clacked on the marble steps. "Never had a problem until these stairs." He set his lips in a grim line, and glanced back up the way they had come. "At least it's only a year."
Harry started, almost missing the last step. "You're not staying?"
"No." His magical eye whizzed around, glaring at the portraits that cheered at this. "Favor for Dumbledore. Just the one year, he asked."
Harry's curiosity was at a new high. He looked away from the professor, and tried to keep his desperate interest from burning through to his face. Harry patted the banister instead, and waited until they started down the hall to ask his question.
"You didn't want the post, permanently?"
"Don't be cute, Potter."
Moody let out a quiet chuckle. "You know the question, ask it." The softness of the sound seemed to be at extreme odds with his gnarled face. Harry had been too obvious. He felt the heat rise in his neck and ears.
"Er, why did Professor… erm, is Voldemort trying something?" he said slowly.
Mad-Eye Moody didn't frown, or laugh, or clunk his staff, but both of his eyes settled on Harry again, putting him under intense scrutiny. The corridor seemed to grow quiet, until the only sound was the scraping rise and thunking fall of Moody's wooden leg. Harry became acutely aware of his own shallow breathing. What else could Moody's eye see?
"Albus and I agree on a few things," said Mad-Eye Moody at last. "The Dark Lord is not dead, and his true supporters are not passive."
"What's going on?" Harry blurted into the broken silence. "Is Daisy in danger? The school's going to be open because of the Tournament. The people from the World Cup, are they trying to help him back?"
"Heard about that, did you?" asked Moody.
"It was in the Prophet," said Harry.
"I wouldn't worry about them," said Moody. His expression grew dark and rage wrinkled his real eye. His lip curled. "They're fair-weather wizards. Ready to bow and scrape when You-Know-Who is handing out morsels, but!" Moody snapped his fingers. "Just like that, they're all under the enchantments, and coercion, 'Please, Mr. Crouch, please, Minister! It was Lestrange! It was Dolohov!" Moody spat onto the stone, and Harry stepped back. Moody made an angry sound in his throat, but catching sight of Harry's agitation, calmed himself.
"Sorry," he grunted.
Harry nodded, and kept quiet for only a few steps before asking, "I guess they got away?"
Moody grunted the affirmative. "Hatred comes easily, Potter. It can twist you. But if anyone deserves my undying hatred, it's a Death Eater that walked free."
"Why?" said Harry then. "Why are you telling me all of this, Professor?"
Moody's face returned to it's tamer scowl. "Dumbledore told me all about you, Potter."
"Aye," said Moody. "Your sister, as well, but just that she has a penchant for getting tangled up in trouble."
"Oh," said Harry. "Sorry."
"Sorry?" barked Moody. "As he tells it, you're the reason this school is still running. The Chamber of Secrets, eh? And a Basilisk. And of course all of that business last term."
"Last term," said Moody, his blue eye started to whirl in his skull, and his tone quieted. "It takes quite a few favors to cover the death of a teacher up without detailed inquiry. Even if he was a werewolf."
"He told you." Harry's voice was hollow. Moody bent forward, his iron-shod staff scraping.
"Not just that." He settled one bony hand on Harry's shoulder. "You're tough, he said—in more words, of course. Dumbledore says you've got something special in you."
Harry bit his tongue. He knew exactly what the Headmaster saw in him, but it wasn't something that he would want shared with Mad-Eye Moody, even if the man knew things that should have been secret. Sometimes he wondered if the Headmaster was comfortable with even Harry knowing about Ariana and Gellert Grindelwald.
"Relax, Potter. His secrets are no business of mine," said Moody. "But I think, if anyone in this bloody school has the stones for action, you do."
"I only did it for Daisy," said Harry quickly. "I didn't mean for—"
"Save it, Potter," said Moody. "You acted. Someone died. Your side's alive. That's war."
"I'm not an Auror," said Harry heatedly. "And Professor Lupin wasn't an enemy! There's no war. It's all just Voldemort stabbing at us from the shadows. I… just want it to stop."
"Stabbing from the shadows, eh?" said Moody with a snort of dark laughter. "I think you have a perfect grasp on how wizards do war, Potter."
"I," Harry ground out, "don't want to be involved in war."
"So then," said Moody. "The Dark Lord will return. And your sister will die."
The was no malice in the old man's voice. To Harry, it sounded like Moody had read the line from a textbook. Plain. Dry. He felt a shiver run through him, and met the Auror's black eye.
Lord Voldemort had tried to come back twice, now, and had just barely failed in both attempts. Now Peter Pettigrew, the man that had sold Harry's parents to the Dark Lord was free, and Professor Trelawney had predicted Voldemort's return. Mad-Eye Moody was here, at Hogwarts, because things were dangerous now.
"Ah," said Moody. "There we are."
"He's trying to come back again this year." Harry tried to calm the swirl of rage and despair that churned his insides. "How?"
"If we knew," said Moody, "then why would Dumbledore need an Auror to help?"
"It's the tournament, isn't it?" asked Harry. "All these people will be coming, the school will be wide open. I read something about a yeti—"
"Not if I have anything to say in the matter," Moody cut him off, thumping his staff, and fell silent. They approached the Great Hall. The buzz of happy chatter, the pale warmth of fire, and the smell of dinner grew in the corridor.
"Do you know what an Auror does, Potter?" Moody asked.
"You catch criminals."
"In a sense," said Moody. "I suppose to you they are criminals. To me they're just dark wizards and we are the bright ones. But its more than just catching them, lad. You track them, and put right what they did wrong."
"But unless Death Eaters appear here, Professor," said Harry "I don't see what that has to do with Hogwarts." Harry bit his lip. He wasn't sure if Moody would answer outright, but he had to give it a go.
"What do you mean?"
"I mean," said Moody, "that something is not right, here, Potter. You say the school will be wide open. I say that I'm here to prevent that. But a clever adversary could slip through the meanest of cracks." He paused, and looked at Harry dead on.
"Things will take a turn, sooner or later. In my experience, sooner. Dumbledore says you're a clever lad. And you seem to be. Half of these academic sods aren't smart enough to read the signs—even the few that you have seen. The ones that do, don't have the sense or drive to do anything about it. The Dark Lord has waited a long time for this victory, Potter. Some of his lot are growing restless, even the gutless ones—that fiasco at the World Cup is a stirring."
Harry was fixated on only a few words. 'Even the few that you have seen.'
"What else has happened?" he said, forehead wrinkling.
Moody shook his head.
"Don't worry yourself with those things, just yet," he said. "Enough is happening right here."
"I meant what I said, Potter," said Moody. "Dumbledore wants help in keeping this school safe, and I can do that. To an extent. But there is always the potential for things to go wrong, a single misstep and—" Crack! Moody slammed the iron end of his staff onto the flags. "The Dark Lord's agents slip in, and the school crumbles around says you're a perceptive lad. I can appreciate that. Perhaps you can help."
"What can I do?" asked Harry, although he already knew the answer.
Moody smiled, lips too thin, and Mad-Eye spinning.
"Keep your eyes open."
The words were heavier than they seemed, and Harry would have laughed if Moody's smile didn't look so much like a grimace. Professor Dumbledore had always asked them to stay out of trouble. Mad-Eye Moody wanted him dive into it. But did it really change anything? Harry would look out for Daisy regardless.
He broke the gaze first, and the two of them continued in silence. Harry's mind screamed in circles, going over all that the Auror had said. The stone grew from dim grey to warm orange as they neared the entrance hall. The drone of conversation sharpened into—
"You're dead!" shouted Daisy.
Harry rounded the corner with Moody thunking in his wake. The sconces were ablaze; what little light slunk in through the high bay was purple. The chandelier's glass prisms bounced light around the vault, and made the polished stone floor shine.
Daisy was squared off against Lyra Malfoy. Both of their wands were drawn. Crabbe and Goyle, looming behind their leader, were digging in their pockets as well. Beside his sister, Ron was red in the face, spluttering curses. Hermione had her hand on Daisy's wand-arm, but it was little use.
Daisy snarled something unintelligible, jerking her arm away from Hermione, and Malfoy's face contorted, scrunching from caustic to murderous.
Harry flashed his arm forward, pulling his wand from inside his robes, and disarmed the both of them.
Their wands slipped from their hands and click-clacked onto the marble. Daisy let out a angry growl at her sudden lack of arms, and made to charge at her blonde adversary. Malfoy glanced at the tile, the wands, and then shifted her gaze across the hall to him. She smirked.
Harry ignored her, rushing forward to yank his sister from Hermione's failing grip.
"Let go!" Daisy snarled. Her expression only grew darker when she noticed Malfoy's widening smirk. The blonde had recovered her wand, and was idly sliding it through her fingers. Harry squeezed Daisy's shoulder as tightly as he could without hurting her, and spun her to face him.
"Professor Moody is right—"
"I don't care," said Daisy. Harry had to fight to keep his hold on her.
"We don't even have any points to lose," whispered Harry. "You'll get detention."
"She insulted Mum," said Daisy. Harry stiffened, and looked back at Malfoy, but the girl's smirk had disappeared.
Moody had finally crossed the hall and, blue eye spinning, stood over the prone forms of Crabbe and Goyle. His staff was angled at Lyra, who had gone whiter than her blouse. She had pressed herself against the wall, as far from the new professor as she could manage. Tracey stood wide-eyed next to her; the girl's customary detachment was gone. Harry couldn't blame her. He hadn't even heard Crabbe or Goyle hit the ground. Moody grinned at him. Suddenly, the old man's wand flitted from Malfoy and settled on Ron.
"Don't," growled Moody. Ron flushed a deeper red, and pulled his hand from inside his robes.
Moody ignored him. "Potter," he said instead. "Rouse these two." He gestured at crumpled boys. Harry let Daisy go, leaving her to Hermione's whispered reproach. His sister just frowned down at the unconscious Slytherins.
"I don't know—"
"Ok," said Harry. He shot Malfoy a glare, and crouched over her friends. Prodding Crabbe, and then Goyle with the tip of his wand and Harry muttered, "Rennervate."
There were two dull flashes of red light, and Goyle rolled onto his side. Crabbe stirred a moment later, and sat up, confused. Then, seeing Moody, the burly boy swallowed and looked up to Malfoy for assistance.
"Davis," barked Moody, "Malfoy. Gather these lumps. I need to have words with Professor Snape."
Tracey seemed to collect herself at last.
"Professor," she said. "We're not at fault, Potter pulled her wa—"
"Don't care," grunted Moody, thumping his staff. His magic eye swept across the four Slytherins. "Get them up."
Tracey's arguments fell on deaf ears. Moody just fixed her with a dangerous look, and watched as the girls led Crabbe and Goyle into the Great Hall. He faced Harry when they had gone.
"What can you do indeed," Moody muttered; he winked, his Mad-Eye still roving, and ambled forward. "Five points to Gryffindor." He clunked through the doors and disappeared. Harry stowed his wand, and motioned for Ron and Hermione to go inside. Hermione bit her lip, but pulled Ron along with her.
"She deserved it." Daisy had regained her own wand, appearing at his elbow. Her skin was drawn tight over her knuckles. "You would have done the same thing."
"You would have," said Daisy, her brow wrinkled. "Don't lie."
"She doesn't pick fights with me," said Harry.
"Oh," said Daisy. She reached up and prodded his cheek, still bruised from where Malfoy had cursed him. "You took a tumble down the stairs, then? On the train?" Harry winced, and pushed her hand away.
"What good would detention be?"
"I don't care about bloody detention!" snarled Daisy, setting her hands on her hips. "It's the first day back. What's Filch going to make me do? Clean the lavatory?"
"You wouldn't be able to come along, tonight."
"No one's used them yet, I'd be done in fifteen min—" Daisy paused, her expression brightened. "Wait. Tonight? Where? What are we doing?"
"How do you feel about Horseback Head Juggling?"
Thank you for reading. All sorts of comments welcome.