132 The Black during the Feas
"There you go," said Ron. "We got as much as we could carry."
"Which was about the size of my room," said Arth with a grin. "It'll last us about a month."
A wave of brilliantly colored sweets fell into Harry's lap. It was dusk, and Arth, Ron, and Hermione had just turned up in the common room, pink-faced from the cold wind and after having the time of their lives.
"Thanks," said Harry, picking up a packet of tiny black Pepper Imps. "What's Hogsmeade like? Where did you go?"
"Everywhere. Dervish and Banges, the wiz- arding equipment shop, Zonko's Joke Shop, into the Three Broomsticks. Honey dukes-"
"The post office, Harry! About two hundred owls, all sitting on shelves, all color-coded depending on how fast you want your letter to get there!" Interrupted Ron.
"Honeydukes has got a new kind of fudge; they were giving out free samples, there's a bit, look —" Started Hermione.
"We think we saw an ogre, honestly, they get all sorts at the Three Broomsticks —"
"I got you some butter-beer, have some —"
"What did you do?" said Hermione, looking anxious. "Did you get any work done?"
"No," said Harry. "Lupin made me a cup of tea in his office. And then Snape came in. . . ."
Harry told them about a goblet that Professor Lupin was given. Ron's mouth fell open.
"Lupin drank it?" he gasped. "Is he mad?"
Hermione checked her watch.
"We'd better go down, you know, the feast'll be starting in five minutes. . . ." They hurried through the portrait hole and into the crowd, still discussing Snape.
"But if he — you know" — Hermione dropped her voice, glancing nervously around — "if he was trying to — to poison Lupin — he wouldn't have done it in front of Harry."
"He wouldn't have done it while he was in Hogwarts." Said Arth wryly.
"Yeah, maybe," said Harry as they reached the entrance hall and crossed into the Great Hall. It had been decorated with hundreds and hundreds of candle-filled pumpkins, a cloud of fluttering live bats, and many flaming orange streamers, which were swimming lazily across the stormy ceiling like brilliant watersnakes.
The food was delicious; even though most of them were full with Honeydukes sweets, managed second helpings of everything.
The feast finished with an entertainment provided by the Hogwarts ghosts.
They popped out of the walls and tables to do a bit of formation gliding; Headless Nick, the Gryffindor ghost, had a great success with a reenactment of his own botched beheading except his head kept on falling off every time he bent over to present his neck.
After the feast, they followed the rest of the Gryffindors along the usual path to Gryffindor Tower, but when they reached the corridor that ended with the portrait of the Fat Lady, they found it jammed with students.
"Why isn't anyone going in?" said Ron curiously.
Arth peered over the heads in front of him. The portrait seemed to be closed.
"Err... Let me see, can the people up front make way?" said Arth before pushing his way through the crowd.
He was effectively ignored.
"Let me through, please," came Percy's voice, and he came bustling importantly through the crowd. "What's the holdup here? You can't all have forgotten the password — excuse me, I'm Head Boy —"
And then a silence fell over the crowd, from the front first, so that a chill seemed to spread down the corridor. They heard Percy say, in a suddenly sharp voice, "Somebody get Professor Dumbledore. Quick."
People's heads turned; those at the back were standing on tip-toe.
"What's going on?" said Ginny, who had just arrived.
A moment later, Professor Dumbledore was there, sweeping toward the portrait; the Gryffindors squeezed together to let him through, and Arthur, Harry, Ron, and Hermione moved closer to see what the trouble was.
"Oh, my —" Hermione grabbed Arth's arm.
The Fat Lady had vanished from her portrait, which had been slashed so viciously that strips of canvas littered the floor; great chunks of it had been torn away completely.
Dumbledore took one quick look at the ruined painting and turned, his eyes somber, to see Professors McGonagall, Lupin, and Snape hurrying toward him.
"We need to find her," said Dumbledore.
"Professor McGonagall, please go to Mr. Filch at once and tell him to search every painting in the castle for the Fat Lady."
"You'll be lucky!" said a cackling voice.
It was Peeves the Poltergeist, bobbing over the crowd and looking delighted, as he always did, at the sight of wreckage or worry.
"What do you mean, Peeves?" said Dumbledore calmly, and Peeves's grin faded a little. He didn't dare taunt Dumbledore.
Instead he adopted an oily voice that was no better than his cackle.
"Ashamed, Your Headship, sir. Doesn't want to be seen. She's a horrible mess. Saw her running through the landscape up on the fourth floor, sir, dodging between the trees. Crying something dreadful," he said happily.
"Poor thing," he added unconvincingly.
"Did she say who did it?" said Dumbledore quietly.
"Oh yes, Professorhead," said Peeves, with the air of one cradling a large bombshell in his arms. "He got very angry when she wouldn't let him in, you see."
Peeves flipped over and grinned at Dumbledore from between his own legs. "Nasty temper he's got, that Sirius Black."