Categories > Books > Harry Potter > Harry Potter and the Tower of Pime


by Quillian 5 reviews


Category: Harry Potter - Rating: PG-13 - Genres: Fantasy - Characters: Harry - Warnings: [!] - Published: 2007-09-30 - Updated: 2007-10-01 - 9438 words



CANON DISCLAIMER:This chapter covers events from the first flying lesson to Harry's midnight escapade, and how differently things play out than in canon should also be noted.

This chapter is approximate to Book 1 (Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone), Chapter Ten, "Halloween."



Harry got Pim's letter on Saturday morning. As he read it and then reread it, he thought about Pim's words.

So, his guardian's name was "William Verdediger,"a Dutch merchant who had been doing business for years. But Harry realized something else about specifics: What about other aspects of this "William Verdediger,"such as physical appearance or age or any distinguishing characteristics. Harry would have to ask Pimabout that in his next letter, especially before anyone else asked what his guardian looked like.

There was also another issue, about this web of lies which he now had to spin. He already told Ron that had grown up with Muggles... maybe that could be interpreted to mean that this "William Verdediger"was a Muggle, or that he was a wizard but they lived among Muggles? In the end, Harry concluded that he would have to cross that bridge when he came to it.

It was only now that Harry was beginning to grasp the magnitude of how he would have to lie about his past in order to protect himself and his life with Pim which he cherished so much. However, if it was the price which he had to pay for a better life with Pim than the life which he had to endure with the Dursleys, then he would gladly pay it. All things considered, it wasn't such a bad trade-off.

After he ate that morning, Harry was rummaging through his trunk, looking for something, when he found something else which he hadn't noticed before. It was a hardwood box, which opened up for him, revealing what looked like a tablet with a glossy surface in the main compartment and a silvery quill in a smaller compartment.

As he looked it over, he realized that maybe Pim merely forgot to tell him about this, whatever it was. He would be sure to mention it in his next letter to Pim.

In the meantime, it looked like a beautiful day outside, and so, grabbing a book to read (just in case), he went outside to enjoy the wonderful weather.

Later that evening, Pim was in his tower, working on something, when he received another letter from Hedwig. After giving her the customary thanks and Owl Treat, he read the letter.


Thanks for telling me what your new name will be. However, it would also help if I had some idea as to what you would look like in this disguise.

I'm also unsure what Ishould tell everyone else. Apparently, afew months ago (after my last run-in with the Dursleys), there were these rumors going around that I was the Harry Potter who was living with them. Believe it or not, the Wizarding world refused to believe it, saying that there was no way I could have been left with Muggles like them!

But then what should Itell them? I already told this other boy named Ron that I grew up with Muggles who didn't like me very much. I was trying to make him feel better at the time, and I figured that honesty might help. I also made sure that I didn't go into detail about them, let alone name them. So now what do I tell him without giving away that I was treated badly by the Dursleys? For that matter, what do I tell the rest of the world? If they find out the truth, things could get really ugly, and I might never hear the end of it.

Also, I found what looks like a kind of writing tablet in the trunk you gave me. What is it? Am I supposed to have it, or was it something which you put in by accident?



For a brief moment, Pim fretted over how the secret of Harry's upbringing with his awful Mugglerelatives would get loose and cause irreparable damage of all kinds. After collecting his thoughts and keeping calm, Pim wrote out a reply to Harry.


First of all, I can understand about you trying to help another young boy feel better, but now, we'll have to be more careful and revise our cover story. (I was also thinking about altering this boy's memory, but only if we REALLY had to do so. If he somehow forgets anyway, then you might want to take advantage of that.) If he doesn't even remember what you said to him about growing up with Muggles, then you might want to take advantage of that. If this boy asks again, just tell him that after things got out of control with your Mugglecaretakers, you ran away and your current guardian found you.

Now, as for my planned appearance... Dutch, at least sixty years old, gray and white hair, narrow face, and dark eyes. I'm working on a new appearance right now, and will send you an image of it as soon as possible.

As for what you found in the trunk... yes, that is a kind of writing tablet. I must have forgotten to mention it before you left for Hogwarts. I figure that if you ever want to sketch something, take temporary notes or just doodle, then it would be ideal, as it would not be wasting materials. Obviously, you write with the pointy end. However, with sweeps of the feather-end of the quill, it will "erase" anything swept with it, like the eraser on a Muggle pencil. Make good use of it. I know you will.



Hedwig was resting, and so Pimgave it to one of the other owls to deliver.

Pim had purposely selected ten owls - two of each of five breeds, and one of each gender - for a reason. Well, other than the fact that he couldn't decide if he narrowed it down. The reason was that if Pim was going to have plenty of contact with the outside world, beyond his own tower, then he would need plenty of owls, just in case.

Pim was planning on contacting plenty of intellectuals and experts to ask questions about magic - sounding as innocent and innocuous as possible, of course. And beyond asking the magical intellectuals and experts, he would also ask some questions about certain things to whatever decent Muggleintellectuals and experts he could find. He had plenty of questions to ask about magic and science alike, and every day, he was finding more and more people of both worlds to ask his questions to.

However, Pim's biggest project at the moment was trying to create a new body for himself. Something of real flesh and blood, and not just made of stone like Galatea was. Now that could be tricky, but fortunately, he had a plan in mind...

As the next couple of weeks went on, Harry began to adjust to his scheduled life at Hogwarts. Each Friday morning, before Double Potions with the Slytherins, he made sure he mentally prepared himself for having to endure an hour or so with the Slytherins and their biased Head of House, Professor Snape.

Snape rarely picked on Harry during the lessons, but whenever he did, it was some stinging, biting comment, as though he was saving them just for him.

Harry privately noted how some of Snape'scomments were borderline insults and harassment, saying things the likes of which none of the other teachers said to any of their students, regardless of House.

Rather than keep all his anger at Snapebottled up, Harry found an alternative way of venting out his stress over the situation. Every time Snape said something nasty about him, Harry would commit to memory, and after the lesson was over, he would return to Gryffindor Towerand write down what Snape had said, word-for-word, on an ever-growing list which was titled, "Nasty Things Which SnapeHas Said to Me." He figured that if Snape would keep up these petty insults, then Harry would make it come back to haunt him.

Otherwise, aside from Potions and Snape, Harry did well in all his other classes with their respective professors. And whenever Hagridhad the chance on Friday afternoons, Harry would stop by his hut so they could meet and talk about whatever there was to talk about.

Oannes was pleased, because Dumbledore accepted his ideas for both his obstacles around the special object and the means of getting there. The first step to getting the special object would be in the third-floor corridor, behind a door, just like the three-headed dog which guarded the other object. If anyone wanted to go after the object, they would have to get through that obstacle of his own first. They may have had a trapdoor being guarded by the dog, but he had a different kind of portal in mind.

Now that the basic plan for protecting the object was being implemented, Oannes could finally relax a little before moving onto the next part. In fact, by now, he was completely healed from when the Darkness invaded his abode at the bottom of the sea a few months previous and dropped all those rocks on him. The last of the scars were finally healed.

If the first obstacle was the portal, then the next obstacle for Oannes would have to include the creatures which his associates had acquired for him...

Harry had spent so much of his life being made miserable by Dudley Dursley that he never considered that there could be anyone (at least his own age) who was just as cruel, if not crueler. And yet, within three weeks of his first year at Hogwarts, Draco Malfoy had more-or-less officially taken the position of the most-hated schoolmate for Harry Potter.

Whenever Harry walked the halls alone, Malfoywould sometimes come out of nowhere, with Crabbe and Goylein tow, and make some sort of stupid, childish comment to tease and taunt Harry, which was followed by laughter from his two bodyguards. Harry just tuned them out, hoping that their failures to get him riled would convince them to give up. He kept telling himself, it could be worse, worse than just having to deal with them in Potions on a weekly basis, plus whatever occasional, random encounters he had with them in the halls.

However, when he and his fellow Gryffindorssaw notices posted about how they would be having flying lessons with the Slytherins, he began to wonder if someone was deliberately putting them - that is, the Gryffindors and the Slytherins - together. Harry really had nothing against the Slytherinsjust for being Slytherins... but he began to get the feeling that they simply didn't want to get along with the Gryffindors.

Of course, the vocal protests from both Houses had been mutual, but there was really nothing more that they could do about it. Ron even made some comment about how they saw enough of the Slytherins as it was during Double Potions on Fridays, and if they had to do flying lessons with the Slytherins, then it should have been during what would have been Potions. Nearly all the other Gryffindors strongly agreed. (While Harry didn't agree with Ron's sentiments which bordered on fanaticism, he did privately agree that he didn't want to see the Slytherins any more than he had to.)

As the flying lessons drew nearer, both Gryffindorsand Slytherins did various things to handle their nervousness. Being the braggart that he was, Draco Malfoy was quick to boast about how he got close enough to Muggle airplanes and helicopters without getting caught. However, Harry was just as quick to shoot down (no pun intended) Malfoy'stall tales.

"So, Malfoy," Harry suddenly spoke up one day, "You say that it was a clear day, with no clouds or anything whatsoever, when all of a sudden, a helicopter came at you out of nowhere?"

"Yeah, that's right," Malfoy said haughtily. "What about it, Potter?"

"Unless you were completely oblivious to everything else that was going on when you were flying, there's no way it could have just 'come out of nowhere,'" Harry said flatly. "With the loud noises which helicopters make, you should have been able to hear one well before it could have gotten that close to you."

Malfoy's face began to flush, and he opened his mouth to refute Harry's argument, but before he could speak, Harry also added, "Oh, and don't try to force that story about the Muggle airplanes on us; I know how high even the best broomsticks can go, and none of them can get anywhere as high as a Muggle plane with jet engines."

Malfoy spluttered a little, and unable to retort, he just stalked off. The other Gryffindors looked impressed.

Speaking of which, his fellow Gryffindorsalso had their own experiences with flying on broomsticks, or lack thereof. Ron also had his own story, one about a near-collision with a Muggle on a hang glider on Charlie's old broom, and judging by the details and truth of his statements, Harry was more inclined to believe Ron's stories than any of Malfoy's. Seamus didn't have any particular stories about encounters with Mugglesin the air, but did speak fondly of flying around the countryside when he was achild. Accident-prone Neville had never been on a broomstick before. Dean, who was raised by Muggles, tried to start some conversations about football, but this only lead to some arguments with Ron about which sport was better. Hermione knew that this was one thing which she couldn't just learn out of a book, although she did try in that regard. For an entire day, she bored the rest of her fellow Gryffindorsstupid with a book entitled Quidditch Through the Ages until it got to a point where, out of sheer desperation to hang onto their sanity, Lavender and Parvati secretly hid the book under Hermione's own bed so she couldn't read it.

The morning of their lessons, Harry and all the other students waited for their respective messages and packages to come in that morning's post. He was still thinking about the last serious message which Pim sent him, the one about lying about his past and upbringing, and he took Pim'sadvice to heart. Otherwise, Harry and Pim just sent small, casual notes back and forth. For Harry, it was nice for a change to have someone to write to, and to receive messages from in return. Hedwig certainly didn't seem to mind the exercise, either.

After skimming through Pim's note and treating Hedwig to a piece of toast, Harry casually gazed around as he saw other students going through their own mail. On the other side of the hall, Malfoy could be seen gloating over his usual package of sweets from home, delivered by his eagle owl. He smiled grimly to himself as he remembered one morning when Malfoy came over to gloat about how "Potter didn't get any packages from home" when, as if on cue, Hedwig swooped in and dropped off a letter from Pim, prompting Harry to casually say to Malfoy, "You were saying something?" Unable to think of aretort, Malfoy then stalked off.

A few seats down from Harry, Neville was presently opening asmall package from his grandmother. After opening it excitedly, he found its contents: A glass ball the size of a large marble, which seemed to be full of white smoke - a Remembrall. Even though Harry didn't instantly know what it was until Neville explained what it was and what it did, he had seen a couple of devices of Pim'swhich did the same thing: Remind a person if they were forgetting something.

As Neville was trying to remember something, Harry spotted Malfoy and his goons coming their way, directly for Neville. As Malfoymade a move to snatch the Remembrall out of Neville's hand, a sudden sound made everyone present jump. Hedwig suddenly screeched and flailed her wings, all the while staring at the Slytherin trio, as though they were doing something to upset her. As she screeched again, the ever-alert Professor McGonagall came by the Gryffindor table.

"What appears to be the problem?" she asked curtly.

"Sorry, Professor McGonagall," Harry said, "but Hedwig seems a little bothered by something." He held out his arm and Hedwig hopped onto it, at which point Harry began to soothe her by stroking her feathers; however, he guessed what the truth was as she kept looking at the Slytherin trio all the while.

Professor McGonagall then turned to the Slytherintrio - not that she looked at them distastefully because they were Slytherins in the way that Snapelooked at Gryffindors - but before she could say anything, Malfoy said, "Nothing, Professor McGonagall, we were just passing through."

After the Slytherins left, and then McGonagall did, Harry looked at his pet owl intently as she innocently preened herself. Just between the two of them, Harry whispered, "You did that on purpose, didn't you, girl?"

Hedwig cocked her head as if to ask whatever was Harry talking about, and he elaborated, "You purposely made a scene to stop Malfoy from bullying Neville."

The snowy owl bobbed her head ever so slightly, and Harry just smiled. "You did a good thing, girl. I can see you're learning; I also try to stop Malfoy before he can do any real harm. Here, for your hard work, have apiece of bacon."

Hedwig cheeped happily and as she proudly accepted Harry's treat for her. She truly did like her master. He was kind, caring, knowledgeable and generous... what more could an owl ask for?

That afternoon, both Gryffindorsand Slytherins were ready for their flying lessons with Madam Hooch. With her short, gray hair and yellow eyes, she made Harry think of a hawk. She wasted no time in getting down to business, and so they all got started with summoning their brooms ("UP!").

She then went about, correcting the postures and grips of anyone getting it wrong. When she told Malfoy that he had been doing it wrong for years, Harry said or did nothing, although Ron looked delighted and as though he wanted to laugh.

When the time came for them to take off, Neville accidentally took off ahead of everyone else, causing his broom to fly and spiral out of control as it zoomed this way and that through the air. Neville tried to come back down, but that resulted in him falling twenty feet to the ground and breaking his wrist as his broomstick drifted out of sight towards the Forbidden Forest.

As Madam Hooch escorted Neville to the hospital wing in the castle, she warned them not to try anything or else they would be out of Hogwarts. But no sooner than they left earshot than Malfoy began to make fun of Neville's accident, with the other Slytherins joining in. After all present began to take sides - the Slytherins ridiculing Neville and the Gryffindorsdefending one of their own - things escalated with Malfoyfinding Neville's Remembrall, which he must have left behind. Harry demanded that Malfoy hand it over, but the blond Slytherinhad other ideas, and he took the Remembrall, hopped on a broom, and took off into the sky, accidentally-on-purpose knocking into Harry and Ron on the way up.

Harry could have dealt with the childish taunts from Malfoy, and he could have shrugged off the physical attack if he tried, but his strong sense of right and wrong told him that he couldn't simply stand aside and let Malfoy do this to Neville, especially when the latter wasn't even around to defend himself.

Hermione begged Harry not to do it, but he didn't heed her advice; instead, he kicked off the ground and shot after Malfoy. A moment later, Ron joined him.

Harry and Ron tried to go after Malfoytogether, but to his credit, Malfoy was a great flyer(even if he had been flying wrong all these years as Madam Hooch said). He went every which way with Neville's Remembrall, confusing the both of them as they tried to catch him. Harry and Ron even nearly collided at one point, but they quickly recovered.

Finally, Ron got fed up with it and tried to ram Malfoy. As a result, the blond Slytherin dropped the Remembrall- and right beneath them was the lake.

Ron immediately dove after it, and tried to catch it, and again, and again, but Malfoy came up behind him and was pulling back on his broomstick to stop Ron from catching it.

But in one smooth, fluid motion, Harry dove down and leveled out over the water's surface, and caught the Remembralljust before it could hit the water.

"I GOT IT!" he yelled up to Ron, who whooped and threw off Malfoy, who in turn went spiraling out of control and splashed into the water.

Harry and Ron smoothly flew over to the cheering and laughing Gryffindors, while the Slytherinsshot them brief dirty looks before rushing over to the lake. Both of them looked behind for a moment to see Malfoy splashing and flailing in the water, with a few tentacles rising up behind him.

However, their blissful mood came to an abrupt end soon enough...


Everyone turned to see a shocked and outraged Professor McGonagall striding up towards them, who was muttering things like "never" and"not in all my years." Harry and Ron themselves felt shocked, and now also horrified.

After dismissing the various attempts by their fellow Gryffindors to explain what Harry and Ron were trying to do, McGonagall turned to the two of them, stony-faced, and said as calmly as she could, "Mr. Potter, Mr. Weasley, come with me now."

As Malfoy looked triumphant, even when soaking wet, Harry and Ron dejectedly cast their brooms aside and gloomily followed their Head of House inside the castle. They were really in for it now, and assuming that they survived whatever they would endure at the hands of Professors McGonagall and Dumbledore and were eventually expelled, they would have to worry about the reactions of their caretakers once they got back home. Harry inwardly winced at the thought of Pim'sglacial disappointment, while Ron outwardly shuddered at the thought of his mother's volcanic anger.

Suddenly, they halted, and Professor McGonagall directed them into an empty classroom. Crossing her arms, she faced them and calmly said, "Madam Hooch has been teaching here for a long time, and I know about how she promises anyone who goes flying behind her back that they will 'be out out of here before you can say "Quidditch."' But I also know that during her time here, no students have ever dared do that, for whatever reason... until now." After pausing for a moment, she asked the two of them, "Before I make any judgments or decisions based on this, I want to hear your versions of events. If both of you defied that promise of hers, you must have both had very good reasons for doing so."

Both boys felt rays of hope begin to shine in their inner pits of dread. Did they actually have achance?

"Mr. Potter, why don't you go first?"

Harry took a deep breath and calmly explained how, after Madam Hooch took Neville to the hospital wing, Malfoytried to take Neville's Remembrall and do something bad with it before anyone could stop him. He also emphasized how he wanted to do something about it because it was the right thing to do, and he didn't want Malfoygetting away with something as scummy as that.

When Harry was finished with his explanation, Ron had his turn. He said that he just wanted to help Harry out and also do the right thing.

After a poker-faced Professor McGonagall observed them both for a few moments longer, she finally said, "I see. Come with me."

So they both followed her out of the room and up a few more flights of stairs before stopping at another classroom, this one currently in use. She then poked her head in and asked, "Excuse me, Professor Flitwick, could I borrow Wood for a moment?"

Harry looked confused, and the mention of "wood" made him wonder if they still practiced corporal punishment here at Hogwarts, but Ron had a flicker of recognition in his eyes. Wood, a burly fifth-year Gryffindor, came out looking confused at the situation but at Harry and Ron curiously. Upon seeing him, the recognition in Ron's eyes seemed to flicker a little brighter.

And so the three of them followed her to another classroom which was empty (except for Peeves, who was currently writing rude words on the blackboard). After Professor McGonagall got the poltergeist to leave, she addressed her three Gryffindors.

"Potter, Weasley, this is Oliver Wood, captain of the Gryffindor Quidditch team. Wood - I've found you a Seeker and areplacement Seeker."

Now Wood began to look delighted. "Are you serious, Professor?"

"Absolutely," she said crisply. "These boys are naturals. I've never seen anything like it. Was that your first time on a broomstick, Potter?"

"Well, no," Harry admitted, "but I haven't been flying that much since I got a broomstick a couple of months ago, either. I guess it just comes naturally to me."

As Harry felt his hopes of avoiding expulsion rise, Professor McGonagall was telling Wood something about how he caught that thing in his hand after a fifty-foot dive without scratching himself, which even CharlieWeasley couldn't have done. McGonagall was also explaining about how Ron came close to catching it as well.

"So, I've decided that because he caught it, Mr. Potter will be your new Seeker, and because he nearly caught it, Mr. Weasleywill be the replacement Seeker."

Ron had this goofy, excited grin on his face, while Wood was looking as though all his dreams had come true.

"They're also the right builds for Seekers, too," Wood added, sizing them up, "light and speedy. But as for getting them a decent broom..."

"I have a Nimbus Two Thousand," Harry explained to save Wood the trouble of going any further. "And Idon't mind sharing it with Ron."

Professor McGonagall was going on about talking to Professor Dumbledore and seeing about bending the first-year rule as Harry and Ron were sharing surprised looks. After she dismissed Wood, saying he could return to class, she peered sternly over her glasses at the two younger boys.

"This is something of a unique situation, what the two of you have done, and the way I see it, sometimes unique situations call for unique solutions. I want to hear that both of you are training hard, or else I just might change my mind about punishing you and how I do that."

However, once she was done with the obligatory warning, she did smile a little.

"I know your older brothers will be impressed, Weasley," she told Ron, before she turned to Harry and said: "Your father would have been proud, seeing as he was an excellent Quidditch player himself."

At dinner, Harry felt relieved that he hadn't been expelled, and that his "punishment" was to be the Seeker for the Gryffindor Quidditch team. Immediately after McGonagall had dealt with him and Ron, Harry wrote aletter to Pim, asking him to send the broomstick. He explained about what happened, but also stressing how he was not happy that he got "rewarded" in away for breaking the rules. He was sure that Pim would understand.

Meanwhile, Ron felt very happy, because he was so excited about this new turn of events. However, at the same time, something was nagging at him. Before they could discuss anything further about Ron getting his own broomstick, Harry had to suggest bringing in his own broomstick and sharing it with Ron. If only Harry had held his tongue, Ron could have gotten a broomstick all for himself; he was sure that the school could have sprung for it. And while he had to agree that it sounded fair that Harry became the Seeker because he caught Neville's Remembrall, thus making Ron the replacement Seeker, that bothered him a little too.

"We must be the youngest house players in a century," Ron muttered to Harry under his breath so no one else could hear them.

"Yeah, I know," Harry said; Wood had already told him that, and Ron had repeated it a few more times after that.

So far, it was a secret which only they knew, along with the rest of the team; Fred and George had even come by to congratulate them, saying things like how they must have been good to make Wood so happy and how they would win the Quidditch Cup for sure this year.

"Well," Ron said smugly, "I just can't wait to see the looks on those stupid Slytherins' faces when we hammer them at Quidditch..."

As Ron continued to rant, Harry's patience finally ran out, and with an exasperated sigh, he collecting his things and left from the Gryffindor Table and swept out of the Great Hall.

He had just turned a corner when Ron came running up to him, asking, "Harry, what's wrong?"

"What's wrong is that, to be honest, I'm getting sick and tired of your rants," Harry said as calmly as he could.

"What rants?" Ron asked as he gaped incredulously.

"The way you go on and on about how it's so nice to be a Gryffindor, being so much better than the Slytherins... I hate to say it, but you sound a lot like Malfoy."

Ron looked insulted. "No I don't! I don't sound like that ponce!"

"Replace the word 'Gryffindor' with 'Slytherin'and your speeches are practically identical to his."

Deep down, Ron knew this to be true, so he countered with,"At least I'm not a pureblood idiot like he is!"

"As someone once told me, it takes more to be a good person than simply not being a prejudicial fool." Thank you, Pim,Harry mentally added.

Ron's face began to flush red. "At least I don't sound all high-and-mighty like you right now."

Harry had to admit that in retrospect, he did sound a little arrogant the way he said that, quoting Pim'swisdom. "The point is, Ron, I'm just simply tired of constantly hearing you rant on and on about Slytherinswhen you sound quite a lot like one of them."

"Oh, come on, Harry, don't tell me you like Malfoy!"

"Granted, I don't like Malfoy... but I don't dislike him because he's a Slytherin, Idislike him because he's a jerk. It's as simple as that."

Looking for some kind of rebuttal, Ron spat out, "He's a Slytherin, you're a Gryffindor! You ought to be loyal to your own House!"

"I am loyal to my House, Ron, but if being a loyal Gryffindor means constantly rambling on about how being a Gryffindor is the greatest thing ever and how bad the other Houses are, then I don't think I like it."

And with that, he turned to leave, leaving Ron behind him, who was gaping like a fish.

On the next floor up, Harry was approached by another person: Hermione.

"Harry," she said, "I heard what happened. To be honest, I am not so sure about Ron's beliefs about the school Houses either."

"Hm," Harry said in acknowledgement, not really wanting to talk about it.

"I think we might have something in common, Harry," Hermione said, although a little nervously.


"I see how you like to read and study like I do. We're probably both of the top students in our year. We both like to take in facts and knowledge. And I know how hard it can be to make friends..."

Something about that last statement rubbed off the wrong way with Harry, and before Hermione could continue any further, he blurted, "Excuse me?"

However, before Hermione could answer, Harry heard muffled laughter from around a corner. He spun around to see a lot of older girls (most of them Slytherins)giggling and whispering to each other in gossipy tones. His patience when he hit the breaking point when he heard the words "Harry Potter" and "unable to make friends" used together in the same sentence by one of the girls. As he narrowed his eyes at those words, they fled like a pack of birds.

Whirling around on his heel, Harry turned around and stalked back towards Hermione, looking angry. Upon seeing the angry look on his face, she knew she had done something wrong.

"Why did you say that?" Harry asked quietly but in a tone which was not at all comforting.

"Well, I..." she began to say, but as her voice faltered and was unable to finish that sentence, he continued himself.

"So you thought that I had trouble making friends... why? Because you never really had any friends yourself?"

Harry knew to himself that he was figuratively stabbing in the dark with that wild guess, but judging by Hermione's embarrassed reaction, he saw that his wild guess was correct.

"Well, I... I just assumed...

"Yes, you assumed," Harry cut her off. "You assumed wrong."

"Please, understand," she said. "I didn't have all that many friends back either in my old Muggle school... I thought you had the same problem as me."

"Oh?" Harry asked, his tone of voice expressing doubt. "What was your problem in primary school before you came to Hogwarts? You know, the one stopping you from having friends?"

"Well," she said in a small voice, now that she was the one being asked the questions, "no one ever talked to me..."

"Was there ever a bully who kept going out of his or her way to make your life miserable, and who also threatened to bully anyone else who tried to be nice to you?"

Hermione thought about it. True, a few people had teased and taunted her occasionally... but certainly not to the extent like how Harry seemed to be describing. "Well, no," she admitted.

"I'm guessing you could have gone up and talked to someone any time you would have liked, right?" When Hermione didn't answer that, Harry pressed on with, "So you had the opportunity to make friends with other people, but you didn't, because you just preferred books instead?"

Before Hermione even knew it, she felt herself nodding her head affirmatively. "Then I guess you and I have had very different problems. You just didn't want to make friends; I wanted to make friends, but there was always one particular bully who always stopped it from happening. So I guess you were wrong, which means you assumed incorrectly, which means you don't know everything. Are you done now? Anything else you want to assume for someone else standing by to overhear?"

Hermione looked at him nervously, put off by his cold and somewhat aggressive attitude.

Not waiting for an answer, Harry turned around and briskly walked down the hall, wanting to put some comfortable distance between himself and Hermione.

Harry went up another floor, hoping to maybe hide out in the library where no one could bother him, at least not without incurring the wrath of Madam Pince. However, Harry soon heard sounds behind him, like a small group of people hurrying up to catch him; he didn't feel comfortable with that, so he quickly spun around, wand ready, to find Malfoybehind him, flanked by Crabbe and Goyle.

"No need to get so hasty, Potter," Malfoydrawled. "Although, I do have to wonder... how was your last meal? You know, before you and Weasley get sent back home?"

As Crabbe and Goyle chuckled stupidly, Harry thought about what to say. "Well, sorry to tell you this, Malfoy, but Idon't plan on leaving Hogwarts anytime soon."

Malfoy stared. "You're bluffing."

"Nope," Harry said, his face concealing nothing.

Malfoy's face darkened as he fumed about his hopes for seeing Harry Potter's expulsion evaporate.

"Now that I think about it... where's your friend Weasley?"

"He's not my friend, and as you can see, he's not with me,"Harry said coolly.

Now Malfoy was intrigued. Assuming that Potter and Weasleywere ever actually friends in the first place, he wondered what drove them apart.

"Well then, Potter. I could take you on anytime. Tell you what... how about a wizard's duel? Tonight, if you want. Wands only, no contact. What, you've never heard of a wizard's duel before?"

"As a matter of fact, I have," Harry calmly countered. It was true; Pimhad told him about them, and according to some of his own reading, wizards duels and their rules hadn't changed that much in the past thousand years or so.

"In which case, who's your second?" Malfoysneered.

"I'll be fine by myself," Harry said.

Malfoy raised an eyebrow, but didn't comment on it. Turning around, he sized up Crabbe and Goyle, and turning back to Harry, he said, "Crabbe's my second."

"Okay, now what? When do you want to do this?"

"Tonight, in the trophy room - that's always unlocked."

Once the three Slytherins were around the corner and gone, Harry decided to go to the library and look up the rules on dueling, just in case.

A few corridors away, Dumbledore was doing damage control.

He had witnessed the spectacle with Miss Granger assuming out loud that Mister Potter had social problems which made it hard for him to have any friends. Fortunately, after the older girls who were eavesdropping fled around the corner, they ran into the Headmaster himself. Acting innocent and pretending to be completely unaware of the spectacle itself, Dumbledore rambled a little in his "eccentric old Headmaster" mode about how spreading gossip was bad and tended to come back to haunt the gossiper. The girls didn't know whether the Headmaster was aware of the spectacle or not, but either way, they got the hint. At least that potential catastrophe was now averted.

For the time being, Dumbledore could only hope that Harry would be able to make some friends; Merlin knew he deserved some kind of companion.

In the meantime, the Headmaster was in the final stage of picking out a room near the currently-forbidden third-floor corridor for a new acquisition, courtesy of Oannes...

Pim was busy as usual, working on various kinds of energy sources. So far, he had jury-rigged a few things together, and as far as temporary power sources went, they were doing their jobs.

The solar panels on roof of the tower were already doing well, the small windmills around the edge of the property were also helping in their own way, and that newly-installed lightning rod on the very top of the tower had come in handy during a thunderstorm not so long ago. If the solar panels kept doing a good job, Pim just might put some of them on the eastern and western sides of the tower for maximum exposure to the sun.

However, Pim was still debating the issue with trying nuclear energy. During the past summer, he and Harry had learned firsthand about Muggle technology malfunctioning when exposed to magic itself, and with something as tricky as nuclear energy... well, let it just be said that Pim was being more cautious than ever.

Wisely, Pim had been reading up on nuclear power and its destructive consequences, ranging from the deliberate(such as the use of the atomic bombs in World War Two) to the accidental(especially the accident in Chernobylbarely five years before). While Pim humbly considered himself to be a smart, intelligent wizard, he still couldn't just build a nuclear reactor of his own. On top of that, there would also be the issue of where he would get the radioactive material, be it plutonium or uranium or something else altogether.

At the moment, Pim was being absolutely frugal with how he was conserving his energy. In fact, he had even come to an unspoken agreement with his owls to spend as much time outside the tower and in the park itself as possible. He just wanted enough energy to be able to last the entire winter holiday with Harry. According to his estimates, if he remained absolutely frugal from now until then, Pim would be able to do just that.

At ten minutes to midnight, Harry silently got out of bed fully-dressed, made sure he had his wand, and exited his dormitory unseen. (He also went unheard, thanks to Ron's snoring.)

He knew that was he was doing was wrong, especially by breaking yet another rule even after he had narrowly escaped a conventional albeit dire punishment, and was risking getting caught by Filch and Mrs. Norris, but he decided that he would humor Malfoy and show up anyway.

Besides, between what Pim had taught him, what he had learned on his own, and what he was learning at Hogwarts, he figured he knew enough spells to protect himself.

After creeping carefully down the spiral staircase and through the Gryffindor common room, making sure he wasn't being watched, he exited through the portrait hole.

As Harry carefully made his way through the halls, he reflected to himself about this turn which his life was taking. As far back as he could remember he had walked this path of loneliness and sadness. It almost felt like some greater force was at working, mocking him, continuing to make things difficult, but now in new and different ways.

It seemed like this was the only way which Harry knew, which he always walked along, even now. As the rest of the castle slept, he walked on this path of fleeting hopes. He always kept hoping to walk beside something other than his own shadow.

However, before Harry got anywhere near the trophy room, he heard a sort of snuffling sound. He was initially afraid that it was Mrs. Norris, but it turned out to be Neville.

"Neville?" he asked in surprise while trying to keep himself as quiet as possible. Neville was curled up in a ball, fast asleep, but Harry's voice snapped him out of it.

"Harry?" Neville asked blearily. As he became more awake and realized what was going on, he thanked Harry profusely for finding him ("I've been out here for hours because I couldn't remember the new password!" he explained).

"It's 'pig snout,' but the Fat Lady's gone at the moment,"Harry told him. "By the way, how's your arm?"

"Oh, it's fine, Madam Pomfreyfixed it in about a minute."

"Well, I have something I need to do, so... see you later."

"Wait, what about me?" Neville asked, sounding worried again. "The Bloody Baron's been past here twice already!"

"Well, I suppose you could just go back to her portrait and wait for her to return so you can get back into Gryffindor Tower," Harry tried to suggest helpfully.

Neville appeared to be weighing his options, and ultimately, he decided to try Harry's idea. "Thanks," Neville said gratefully, and then hurried back to Gryffindor Tower.

With that taken care of, Harry continued on his way to the trophy room, checking around every suspicious corner and dashing down moonlight-striped corridors. After he sped up a staircase to the third floor, he tiptoed into the trophy room, with all its shiny metal contents.

Harry waited until midnight, ever alert for Malfoy or someone else. Finally, at midnight, he could hear someone coming... but it wasn't Malfoy.

"Sniff around, my sweet, they might be lurking in a corner,"said Filch to Mrs. Norris. As Harry realized what was going on, he realized that Malfoymust have set him up. So, was Filch got ever closer to where Harry was now, the boy crept away from them and towards the door. However, just as Harry was at the door, he heard a mewling sound behind him and saw Mrs. Norris, her eyes locked onto him.

As she hissed angrily, proclaiming her discovery of the rule-breaking student, Harry bolted, throwing open the door and running down the corridor before Filch could see him and identify him. Harry didn't know where he was running to, but he figured as long as he stayed out of Filch'sline of sight, he was safe.

He ran behind a tapestry, down a corridor, and through aroom, before he realized that he had hit a dead end, except for one single door, which might have been his only chance at salvation from Filch. Harry dashed to the door, and without even thinking about it, he opened it, ran inside, and quickly shut the door behind him without actually slamming it shut. After regaining his breath and taking a moment to relax, he turned around to see something which he didn't know was there.

Made of dark gray stone, it looked like an archway, of sorts- big, wide, and square. However, despite its size, it was still relatively small compared to the rest of the big room; in fact, it almost looked to Harry like a stage prop, the way it was just standing there. In the center was a circular recess, about three or four meters wide, and only about half a meter deep before there was more of the same stone at the bottom of the recess.

On either side of the circular recess but still within the object itself were two bas-relief figures in profile, both of them facing the circular recess, which looked mostly human, but were definitely not entirely human. If Harry had to describe these two figures, he would have described them as "scorpion people." The bearded figure on the left looked to be male, while the other figure on the right with her softer features looked to be female. Instead of clothing of any sort, these two figures had smooth scales over their bodies which ended at their ankles, wrists and necks, leaving their feet, hands, and heads bare of such scales, with what looked like human skin instead. And, of course, the reason he would have called them "scorpion people" was because of these big, scorpion-like stingers which grew out of the bases of their spines and went high enough so that their pointy ends were above their heads.

Harry just stood there, gazing at it; looking closer, he could see that something was written in cuneiform in the block over the circle and the two figures. However, as he took a step closer to get a better look, he must have caused something to happen, because then the two figures became alive.

Their eyes suddenly opened, giving off not-so-bright white light. The male figure suddenly turned his head so it was no longer in profile but facing Harry fully. In a somewhat eerie voice which made chills run up Harry's spine, he spoke: "What is the name of the hero who lost that which is beyond here?"

Its head just as suddenly snapped back into its original position, and then, an instant later, the female figure's head turned to face him. "Answer correctly, and we will give you access; answer incorrectly, and we will defend our station; say nothing, and you may leave unharmed."

As the female figure's head likewise snapped back into place, Harry was now extremely curious to know what this was all about, but he wisely held his tongue. But as he made to leave, the door suddenly began to open, and beyond it, Harry heard a man's wheezing and a cat's mewling.

It was Filch and Mrs. Norris! Moving fast, Harry ran to the side and around the big stone object; he was safely out of view of the caretaker and his cat, but he knew that, barring some sort of intervention, he was only delaying the inevitable...

The two scorpion-people then spoke again, just as they did before; they must have been talking to Filch. However, it seemed to Harry that Filch'sdesire to catch and punish potential troublemakers overrode his patience and common sense, because he just snarled, "Don't bother me with that now, will you! I have to catch whoever's out of bed and roaming the corridors!"

That must have been the wrong answer, because with sounds like stone breaking apart, the two scorpion-people came down from their places in the object, and began to move in on Filch.

Deciding that it was now or never, Harry ran back from the other side of the object and ran out of the room before they could go after him; he quickly figured out that as long as he didn't say anything, Filch wouldn't know that he was there and the scorpion-people wouldn't attack him for saying something which couldn't have been their correct answer. Out of the corner of his eye, Harry saw the two scorpion-people looming menacingly over Filch, who was protecting Mrs. Norris in his coat, shouting, "Don't fear, my sweet, we'll figure out a way to get out of this!"

Desperate to put as much distance between himself and Filch as possible, Harry ran to the end of the corridor, where his only possible escape was through a door... which just happened to be locked. However, he did remember a new spell which he had come across and had learned: "Alohamora!" After the lock clicked and the door swung open, Harry dashed inside.

From the other side of the door, Harry could hear distant sounds and voices, such as Filch still screaming in fright and terror... but then a new voice, nervous and stuttering, could be heard: Professor Quirrell. From where he was, even with his ear pressed against the door, Harry could just barely make out what they were saying; apparently, Quirrellwas making the scorpion-people stand down and making sure that Filch was alright. Soon enough, their voices faded as they walked away.

Letting out a sigh of relief, Harry turned around to lean back against the door and relax for a moment... but then he realized something. The first thing he realized was that he was in a corridor, not a room. The next thing he realized was that this must be the forbidden corridor on the third floor. The final thing he realized was that he now saw why it was forbidden.

Nothing quite says"this is forbidden" like a giant three-headed dog, Harry thought to himself, feeling panic coming on to him.

Harry had read enough mythology to know about Cerberus, the three-headed dog which guarded the entrance to the Underworld in Greek mythology, whose job it was to make sure that the souls of the dead went in, and that none got out. From what he could recall, practically the only times when a mortal had ever managed to get past the monster or even subdue it was when the talented Orpheus charmed it with his music on his quest to reclaim his beloved Eurydice, or when Heracles(better known by his Roman name Hercules) brought it back to present to his corrupt cousin Eurystheus as his final labor. Unfortunately for Harry, he was not anywhere close to being that musically talented or that strong, a point which was driven home as he looked at this beast, and it looked at him.

Harry thought for just a moment how, while he was bad enough in his own way, even Ripper couldn't compare to Cerberus, not with the latter three heads on a massive body, with each having mean eyes, strong noses, and sets of big, yellowish fangs. To be frank, this dog could have easily devoured that mean old bulldog with only one bite. As the beast began to take some steps forward, it suddenly tripped and made a yowling sound, one so loud that it hurt Harry's ears and made him worry that it just might wake up the whole castle. It fell over to one side, and the head on that side closest to the wall whacked itself against the wall, letting out another yowl of pain.

Looking closer, Harry could see a food bowl which was now shattered; the Cerberus must have stepped on it as it focused on him, because one of its shards was stuck in its front paw. Lying on its side and clearly in pain, all three heads looked at him as they whimpered in pain.

Something about Harry compelled him to do something about it. Sure, he could just flee and leave the Cerberus like this, but then something deep within him realized that the fearsome hound might remember this if Harry ever crossed paths with it again. And Harry didn't want the three-headed dog to think it was just another scoundrel, the kind of person which it was most likely trained to guard against.

So, summoning all of his courage and bravery, Harry slowly and gently approached the Cerberus, making soothing sounds. Lifting up its huge paw (which was easily just as big as his own head, if not bigger), Harry did his best to remove the ceramic shard while causing as little pain as possible. After a few moments, he finally got it out and tossed it aside, far away from the hound.

Once it knew that the shard was gone, the Cerberus withdrew its paw and licked its wound with one of its heads. Harry stayed there for a few moments, wondering whether he should stay a little longer or go while he had the chance. Once the dog was done treating its own wound, it turned its attention back to him, with all three of its heads looming over him.

The next moment, Harry knew he didn't have to worry about the Cerberus killing or somehow otherwise harming him - especially after it decided to show its affection and gratitude by having each of its three heads lick him with their big tongues. After afew moments, when they were done with that and Harry had drool all over his front, he calmly took out his wand and used a cleaning spell which Pim had taught him. He had to do it about a dozen times to make all the drool go away, but it was worth it.

After he was done with cleaning himself of dog drool, he saw all three heads lowered to his level, with their eyes looking expectantly at him. Sensing what they wanted him to do, he scratched all three of them behind the ears, one at a time. Through the reciprocation of good will, Harry could sense that he had gained this dog's trust.

"You're not so bad, are you?" he commented aloud. All three heads simply looked back at him, their tongues lolling happily.

However, being wary of the time, Harry decided that now would be a good opportunity to return back to Gryffindor Towerbefore he got in any more trouble, especially with the professors. As he got up, Harry thought he saw something under the Cerberus - was that possibly a trapdoor? - said to the magical creature, "Well, nice meeting you, but I have to go now," and then left.

On the entire way back to Gryffindor Tower, during which he walked as quietly as possible and looked around every corner in advance, Harry thought about what he had just experienced. He remembered how Hagridtold him more than a month ago how no place in the world could be safer than Gringotts for something, except maybe for Hogwarts. He also remembered the grubby package from vault seven hundred and thirteen, as well as the other packaged object which Hagrid had picked up at some point after that.

Between the scorpion-people and the Cerberus guarding the portal and the trapdoor respectively, Harry could tell that this was just too much to be a mere coincidence. Exactly what was going on here?

A/N: I realize how I'm sticking to canon in some ways, but I also hope that what I'm doing to make it more original and different is showing. (Also, it took a little while for me to write and then post, between Real Life, writing the chapter itself, and concerns as to whether or not it was fine the way it was.)

Regarding the chapter title... it's derived from the wisdom about how "familiarity breeds contempt."

The question as to whether or not Harry might be friends with Ron or Hermione or even get along with them will be answered in the next chapter.

The thing with Harry gaining Fluffy'strust was something of a throwback to the fable of Androclesand the lion.

You know what to do... review!


(First posted: September 30, 2007)
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