AN: The more I write on this story, the more amazed I become that an idea I barely gave any thought to before I started writing it has become probably my most popular story. That and the fact that I'm still pumping out more stuff for it; I really have no idea where I'm going with this thing, guys. I just hope that when it's finished, no one is disappointed.
Chapter Seven: A Treasure Trove of Trouble
The possible treasure hidden on the third floor had been prodding at Harry's brain since he realised its possible presence. Harry had been denying himself the chance to go snooping for a peek at it, reminding himself that being chewed up by a three-headed dog wouldn't be a fun way to go and that riches were all well and good if it didn't kill you to get to it. The temptation driving him batty came to a head when he was reading up on the mythology of Hades — Greek sorcerer turned muggle deity of riches, thus Harry's hero — and discovered that Hades' kingdom had been guarded by the original Cerberus.
Further reading into the matter of Hades' guard-dog informed Harry that the beast was dealt with in several different ways by a handful of yahoos bonkers enough to tangle with a creature twice the size of a mammoth. Herakles wrestled it into submission as a part of his Twelve Labours, but Harry wouldn't dream of trying to do so as well unless he was the size of Hagrid. Aeneas followed behind a god-possessed oracle that drugged Cerberus into sleeping, but that option came with the guilt of being a drug-dealer. Theseus' and Sisyphus' ways were also a bust since they required outside help from someone already in control of the dog; Harry wasn't about to let any professor know he was thinking of entering their metaphorical underworld.
Harry was on the verge of giving up when he came across the story of Orpheus. And then promptly wished he hadn't spent so much time going over other methods. Orpheus got around Cerberus by playing a bit of music, putting it to sleep. Why hadn't the stupid book said so sooner?
Harry couldn't fall to sleep that night for imagining how easy it would be to sneak past the cerberus if he could get his hands on an instrument or a music box. Maybe he could even sing! Would the beast like a lullaby? Who cared what it would take if he could see what all the fuss was about! Harry resolved to hop to it as soon as he could.
In the morning, Harry remembered that life was important, so he couldn't go bursting in on the monster with only a song in his heart as protection. He'd have to find some music equipment and see what would work before even thinking about flying down that trap-door to find whatever treasure awaited. He wasn't one for adventure but he really wanted to know what they were going through so much trouble for.
He just had to get an instrument first.
"Alright, team!" Harry barked, tossing his book onto the table with a resounding THUMP!
His friends jumped, Justin even shrieking a little. They looked up from their assignments with wary expressions on their faces.
The four of them were holed up in their hidden nook on the seventh floor, finishing up the last of their homework for the week. It was Friday already and they were all looking forward to goofing off for the weekend. Justin had been absorbed in a Transfiguration worksheet and Dean and Morag had been helping each other with a Defence essay when Harry bounded in with a book the size of his torso held on top of his head like an indigenous woman carrying a jar of water.
"What is it?" asked Justin, his tone as hesitant as his expression.
"I'm glad you asked, Justin, ol' pal, ol' chum!" said Harry, the merry look on his face belied by the power stance he had over his flopped open book. "No doubt you've been thinking about visiting the third floor again—"
Three heads were shaken fervently in denial.
"—And no doubt you've been despairing about how to get past the cerberus," Harry continued blithely, flipping through the pages. He made a sound of triumph and smacked the page he had landed on. "Well, I'm here to tell you today that you no longer have to yearn fruitlessly for such an impossible task; I've come up with a way for us to easily slip past the beast and discover what wonders lie beyond!
"Who's with me?" asked Harry putting a fist to his hip and thrusting the other into the air.
Justin and Morag exchanged glances while Dean avoided eye contact.
"Harry . . ." Dean started, not looking away from his essay. "I'm all for doing cool stuff, but that dog was straight out of Hell, mate. I almost wet myself, I was so scared."
"Justin did wet himself," Morag chimed in.
Justin flushed the colour of bubblegum.
"I thought we agreed we'd never speak of it!"
"But, but!" He flapped his hands helplessly. "It'd be so easy this time! All we have to do is play it some music and it'll fall straight to sleep! It says so right here in this book!"
Morag eyed him carefully.
"And where did you find that book?"
Harry fidgeted with the corner of a page.
"We-ell. . . ."
Morag frowned and reached for Harry's book.
The short boy pulled it out of her reach and hugged it to his chest, looking like a toddler clutching a picture-book.
"Nowhere important really! Just in the library of course!"
"Harry. . . ." the warning was distinct.
"Alright, alright, I got it out of the Restricted Section. There, are you happy?"
"The Restricted Section?!" she squawked. "How did you even get in let alone check it out?"
Harry assumed a haughty mien, turning his nose up.
"I have my ways," he replied vaguely.
"You mean you sneaked in and nicked it when no one was looking," said Dean, trying to suppress a grin.
Harry waved off his words.
"You say potato, I say rutabaga. The point is," he carried on when Justin and Morag made signs of protest. "I have it on good knowledge that a little music will send the beastie right to sleep even with us directly under its noses, and we'll be able to see what they've got in that trapdoor."
"Why do we want to know?" asked Justin. "It doesn't seem worth the trouble."
" 'Doesn't seem worth the trouble'," Harry echoed, looking at the Hufflepuff as if he was an octopus climbing a tree. "Think about how much it must be worth, man! It's being protected by an XXXX Class Magical Creature on top of being behind wards as old as England and known to be as secure as the Ministry of Magic. If it's worth all the security, it's worth a few moments of our time to get a peek at it!"
"But will the pleasure of just finding out what it is and nothing else be worth sneaking past that XXXX Class Magical Creature into what might be even more security, thus risking punishment on top of injury?" Morag countered.
"I'm with Morag on this," said Dean.
"But I wanna kno-ow," Harry groaned, plopping down on a seat and dropping his head to the table.
Justin patted his shoulder in a consoling manner.
"Maybe they'll tell us about it at the end of the year."
"Unlikely," Morag shot down before Harry could even look hopeful. She turned back to her essay. "They might tell us when the danger's over but they won't be telling us what they're hiding. Pass me my blue ink would you, Dean?"
Harry was not one to be discouraged when he made up his mind about something. The cerberus' weakness for music was a total life-hack and he wasn't about to let it go to waste just because his friends didn't understand that riches beyond imagination must be hiding just out of their reach.
He resolved to stake out the third-floor corridor when he discovered that the teachers had something of a rotation going on to patrol the floor against nosy buggers like Harry. More often than not it was Mr Filch and his cat that watched it, the teachers too busy with classes and grading to put more hours in.
It was his fourth night of observing from inside a sort of air vent in the ceiling — one he had shuffled through on the first day of school — and he had only the bone-structure of their schedule figured out. Filch was inconsistent in timing when he got to the forbidden corridor and the teachers popped in without rhyme nor reason. Hagrid had stopped by a few times, likely to feed the beast, but other than that, not one adult seemed to do any planning for their patrol time.
It was almost curfew. He had been grumbling to himself about the tight fit of the vent for ten minutes already and a new staff member hadn't been seen for twenty minutes already. Harry was about to call it a night when he saw the oddest sight.
A hunched-back one-eyed witch statue was not far off from his vent. He had never given it any more attention than an idle once-over as it was much like any other statue in the school. In this case, it was doing something very uncharacteristic for a Hogwarts' statue; its hunch was splitting open, revealing a hidden tunnel.
Harry slowly pulled open the vent, grappled down a tall suit of armour and then hid behind it to get a better look.
Out of the witch's back came a pair of identical redheads, ones Harry had seen quite often when buddying up with Dean and his two best Gryffindor friends at the Gryffindor table. Fred and George Weasley heaved themselves out of the witch as if they did it every day, not even bothering to glance around in fear of being discovered. This, of course, backfired on them when they made to walk back to the door that opened to the Grand Staircase and immediately saw the wide-eyed face of Harry Potter gaping at them.
They stared at each other a moment, both parties too shocked to say anything.
"I say, Fred," one of the twins said. "Didn't you say the floor was clear?"
"It was!" the other replied, flabbergasted. "No one was on this floor not half a minute ago!"
"Then how did Potter here manage to get here in those few seconds?"
Both twins pinned Harry with a piercing look as if they were trying to laser him into answering.
Harry squirmed under the attention.
"I'm not sure how you would know, but I was technically one floor up until just now. I saw that statue acting up and wanted to have a look."
"Now how could you know about the statue—?"
"—if you were one floor up?"
"And how did you get down here so fast—?"
"—when the stairs are all the way out there?"
Harry had heard them finish each others' sentences before but never had it made him feel overwhelmed before.
"Ah, um, there's a vent over there." Harry waved in the general direction of where he had been. "It pretty much goes all over the school. I was curious about the teachers patrolling this corridor and wanted to have a look."
The two took in the sight of the vent with unconcealed incomprehension. They shared a quick glance before looking back at Harry. Sly grins were on their faces.
"—a fellow mischief-maker!"
"How did you know about the vents?"
"We've never heard anything about them before!"
"It was a bit of an accident," Harry admitted. "Got lost and wound up in the walls, trying to find my way back through all sorts of weird, hidden rooms. There's an amazing amount of secret passages and staircases all over the school." He gave them a wry smirk. "Not that I have to tell you two that."
"We didn't realise there were more passages than we already knew about," admitted one twin, likely George since he had called the other one Fred.
"That vent certainly wasn't on the map," added Fred.
Harry was confused.
"Map?" Did they give out maps of the castle in Gryffindor?
The twins grinned at him gleefully. As one, they threw arms over his shoulders and lead him in the direction of the Grand Staircase.
"How about an exchange, little trouble-maker? You tell us what you know of the secret passages and we'll tell you what we know."
Out from a cloud drifting across the ceiling of the Great Hall, a rope ladder unfurled until it ended just three feet off the ground, halfway between the wall and the Slytherin fifth-years seated with their backs to the wall. The aforementioned fifth-years didn't notice the odd occurrence, too absorbed in their afternoon meal to notice anything besides their plates. Everyone else on the other hand — the Slytherins not too distracted by food, the students of the other Houses, the ghosts that were drifting by, the professors supervising the meal — gaped at the sight.
Like a prelude to the second coming of Christ, a small figure descending from the ladder, appearing to be climbing right out of the sun. The figure reached the bottom with little pomp, as if such an entrance was performed every day, and straightened their clothing in a fussy manner.
Frowning at the inconvenience, Harry Potter huffed. He shot a flat look at his rope ladder and tugged at it sharply, watching with the rest of the Hall as it collapsed into itself, forming a perfectly average rope and slipping from the rafter he had hitched it to. He coiled it up again and tucked in back into the pocket in his satchel where he always kept it.
Nodding to himself, Harry strode up to the gorging fifth-years and wriggled himself in between two of the larger ones, firmly seating himself at the table. With nonchalance borne from years of pretending that his cousin was a human being instead of the hippopotamus he really was, Harry fixed himself a plate and started eating before the boulders on either side of him realised something had changed.
"Potter?" said the burly youth on Harry's right with arms as thick as Harry's middle. He was a Slytherin Harry hadn't met yet, and he regarded the younger boy with the same askance all of the House of serpents did when being confronted with his existence.
"Yes, hello," answered Harry around a bite of roasted chicken.
The interplay drew attention to the new addition among them.
"What the Hell?" asked many a bewildered upperclassmen. Slytherins naturally settled themselves into a hierarchy, only ever sitting outside their year-levels if they had multiple friends in older years. That the titchiest of the titchy first-years, not even in the same House, planted his rear in their presence was mind-blowing to them.
"Potter. . . ." groaned Flint, the mountain on Harry's left. "Isn't it enough that you're a bother on the Quidditch pitch?"
Harry frowned at him reproachfully.
"I've been looking all over for you," Harry rebuked. "You always disappear the moment I catch sight of you."
"You can't take a hint?"
"Are you saying you've been avoiding me on purpose?" Harry's tone was offended.
Flint gave him a flat look, lifting a drumstick to his mouth and ripping a chunk out.
"I'm saying your hounding is a bother. And my answer is no."
"You don't even know why I wanted to talk to you!" Harry protested. "It's not like it's written on my face!"
"Potter, if you were any more transparent, you'd be invisible."
"I just want—"
"Why no-ot?" Harry whined.
Flint slammed his cutlery down and glowered at the younger boy.
"Potter, I already have enough of your groupies planning out my murder because you damn near fell to your death. Apparently, your broom acting up was my fault. I'm not going to fuel the flames by actively helping you commit suicide through unusual means. Would I be safe in assuming all the other captains already turned you down?"
"But it's the stupidest thing!" Harry cried, smacking the table in irritation. "I'm allowed to fly hundreds of feet in the air with nothing but a branch of wood keeping me up but I'm not allowed to play with the charmed cannon balls? I'll have a bat! How is that even dangerous?"
"Not my problem."
"Are we just going to ignore that he came out of the bleedin' ceiling?" interjected an exasperated voice. Adrian Pucey stood with his hands on his hips, vexation written all over him.
Murmurs of agreement sounded, also curious.
"The hell are you on about?" Flint grunted, digging into his food again.
"Potter! The ceiling! And where the hell did the rope come from?"
Harry reached for an egg custard.
"I was playing hide and seek with my owl when I saw Flint having lunch. I always have a length of rope with me so I climbed down. I should probably go back to looking for her soon; Hedwig's so impatient when it's her turn to hide."
The winter holidays sneaked up on them like a serial killer from the Scream series. One morning mid-December, the school woke up to find the grounds covered in a layer of snow that came up to a first-year's knees. The lake froze solid, and the Weasley twins were punished for bewitching an auxiliary of snowballs to follow Quirrell around, bouncing off the back of his turban. The few owls that managed to battle their way through the stormy sky to deliver mail had to be nursed back to health by Hagrid before they could fly off again.
Everyone was eager for the holiday to start. Chatter about seeing families and receiving presents was the talk of the castle. Not only that but they were relieved that the days of shivering in the dungeons, breathing out snowflakes were nearing their end.
Harry had been thinking about going home for the break as well, but his steward had owl'd him, saying the workers repairing the manor had accidentally set fire to the West Wing and that he advised Harry to stay at school while everything was being fixed. He figured that staying at the school wasn't going to be any hardship and put his name on the sign-up sheet for those staying for the holiday with no compunction. His friends fussed over him a bit about it since all three of them were returning home, but he waved off their concerns, citing freedom to mess about the school all he wanted as reason enough to not be bothered.
The Weasley twins seemed to have taken him under their wings much to the anxiety of many teachers. As the two redheads swooped in to drag Harry off whenever he had a free moment, staff and students alike worried themselves into knots wondering what catastrophe such a terrible trio could dream up. They worried for naught of course; Harry wasn't the type to play pranks, especially not ones that people saw coming. The three spent time wandering the secret passages they had discovered, the twins even showing Harry the map they had mentioned, a masterpiece of enchantment that showed secret locations and the movements of people within the school.
The passages Harry had discovered were mainly ones that were not on the map. The twins were elated to learn that the few that they knew were only the tip of the proverbial iceberg and offered to lend the map to Harry should he ever need it as thanks for showing them.
To get better acquainted with the passages, the three decided to play a game sort of like Capture the Flag. Each of them would hide a flag — blue for Fred, red for George, and green for Harry — and then set out to find one of the other flags and return to home-base — the kitchen — before the others, all while staying away from the public rooms and corridors. They had thirty minutes to find a good location before they had to go search for the other flags.
At the moment, Harry was in a circular room with tall pillars and a short set of stairs that led to an indention in the floor. It put him in the mind of an auditorium but it was smaller and what would've been the stage was inverted. There was a door opposite of him but the dustiness of the room told him that the room hadn't been used for years at the very least.
Harry trotted over to check the door anyway. The handle jammed — definitely locked. This had to count as away from the regular rooms and corridors.
Harry pulled the green handkerchief he was using as a flag from his pocket and began looking for a place to stash it. The pillars had torch holders, but that was too obvious a place for Harry's tastes. Maybe this wasn't a very good place, after all, the room was pretty bare besides—
What was that?
He had been trailing his fingers on the walls as he walked the room. Just now he felt an odd indention near the spot he head popped out of. Harry ran his fingers back over the place again and made a sound of triumph. There, giving way under the pressure of his stroking, a slot in the wall appeared, just big enough to put a lunch-box.
Wondering at his luck, Harry shoved his flag in and watched as the slot disappeared again. He smirked victoriously. Let's see those ginger devils find that.
His task complete, Harry felt about the doorway that led him to that room. Unfortunately, it seemed to be of the same design as the wall he had fallen through on the first day. How was he supposed to get out now? The only other door was ruddy locked!
Harry considered waiting for the twins to find him, glaring at the room at large. He went over to kick a pillar in frustration. He was getting in some serious anger relief when the blasted pillar gave way after the fourth kick. He fell in arse over tit, landing in the corridor he had been wandering before he found his flag hiding spot.
Brushing himself off, Harry grinned and trotted off back the way he had come. He checked his watch. Six more minutes until they had to go look for the other flags. He peered around a corner covertly. There was nothing stopping him from getting a head start, now was there?
The game of Capture the Flag was put on pause to be continued at a later date when it became abundantly clear that none of them were going to find the others' flags anytime soon. In hindsight, trying to find a handkerchief being hidden in the hidden passageways of an enormous castle wasn't exactly a quick job. They'd all search for a few hours every few days, but none of them were any closer to the goal. On the bright side, all three of them likely knew the school better than even the Founders.
Christmas came with a pile of presents to be opened in the Gryffindor common room. All of his roommates had gone home for the holiday and the twins had asked Professors McGonagall and Flitwick for Harry to sleepover in Gryffindor for the holidays. Their request was granted and Harry had the time of his life rooming in the Gryffindor third-year boys' dorm.
All four Weasley boys were staying for the holiday since their parents were visiting one of their older brothers in Romania, the family dragon-tamer, Charlie. Harry was fascinated at such a profession and prodded them for all the information they could give. His curiosity endeared him to Percy, the oldest of the four of them. Fred and George despaired, saying, "You're leaving us for the dark side!" but Percy gave them a stern talking to that they mostly ignored about encouraging younger students to seek out knowledge.
Harry wasn't certain why Percy wasn't in Ravenclaw even though he was very Ravenclaw in personality. He considered the possibility that the older boy was braver than he was intelligent, but decided to keep such a thought to himself since it would hardly sound complimentary out loud.
Harry received a rape-whistle, water-wings, and a crash helmet from Dean; a book on magical parasites from Morag (he had told her about his fascinations with parasites after Dudley came home with a leech once); and The Princess Bride from Justin ("It makes about as much sense as you do" was written on the note that came with it). The Weasley twins had coerced their mother into sending him one of the jumpers she made them every year as well. He thanked them profusely and pulled it on at once — it really was the cosiest thing.
As the Weasleys popped out to get some breakfast to bring up, Harry opened the rest of his presents. Amidst the packages of sweets his more casual friends had sent him, Harry found an unmarked package as well. Being the cautious person he was, he called for Mimsy.
"Master Harry sir is needing Mimsy?" Mimsy squealed, bouncing.
"Hello, Mimsy. Could you tell me if there are any spells on this package?" Harry handed said package to the eager house elf.
Mimsy turned it over a few times with a serious expression on his face and snapped his fingers. When nothing happened, he returned the package to Harry with a bright smile.
"There's being no nasty-nasty magic on Master Harry sir's present! The only magic Mimsy was finding was the present itself, and that's being aaaaallll safe!"
"Thank you, Mimsy." Harry nodded as he unwrapped the gift.
Something fluid and silvery grey sat within. Curiously he picked it up, marvelling at was proved itself to be a brilliantly beautiful cloak. Getting up, he rushed up the stairs to the twins' dorm room to see how it looked on him.
Catching sight of himself in the mirror, Harry pulled up short and gaped. His body had vanished! He instinctively whipped the cloak off and threw it in front of him.
"Mimsy!" he called again, shock pitching his voice higher.
Mimsy popped in once more.
"Yes, Master—? Oh!" Mimsy clapped delightedly at the sight of the silvery cloak. He picked it up and danced with it. "Master Harry sir is finding Master James' invisibility cloak! Mimsy's mummy told Mimsy about it!"
An invisibility cloak? Harry received the cloak from Mimsy once again, peering more closely at the thing.
"It . . . It belonged to my father?"
"Yes, sir, Master Harry. It's being Master James' and before Master James', it's being Master Fleamont's. Mimsy's mummy was telling Mimsy that it's being in the family for centuries!"
So it was an heirloom. But how was he receiving it as a gift if it already belonged to the Potter family?
Harry trotted off back to where he left the wrapping, hoping to find some sort of clue. There, underneath where his cloak had been sitting, was a note. Written in narrow, loopy writing he had never seen before were the words:
Your father left this in my possession before he died. It is time it was returned to you. Use it well.
— A very merry Christmas to you.
There was no signature.
"Mimsy, do you know who my father lent the cloak to?"
"Mimsy does! Before Master James and Miss Lily went into hiding, Master James let Professor Dumbly-door borrow the cloak."
Professor Dumbledore. Harry wasn't certain how he felt about the Headmaster, but he was reserving judgement until he talked to the man himself. He appeared to be a jolly fellow; he couldn't be too bad if he was returning an heirloom he had been safekeeping.
Putting serious thoughts out of his mind, Harry grinned at Mimsy.
"Fancy sneaking up on the Weasley twins?"
The students had returned to Hogwarts after a restful winter holiday. It was the weekend before class started up again and the students were busy finishing up winter assignments while the teachers were engrossed in their lesson plans.
In an alcove near the Boathouse, a location rarely used outside of getting the first-years in the school, a fidgeting figure stood nervously beside a door to the Reception Hall. He was shuffled just outside of a shadow, still within easy ducking distance if someone entered the out-of-the way nook. Discovery was unlikely though, the mustiness of the air lending credence to the fact that the place was all but forgotten, the door to it appearing to be a portrait, much like the Gryffindor common room.
At this time, most of the school was either in the Great Hall for dinner or heading back to their common rooms, ready to turn in for the night. The person plastered against the wall of the hidden room had slipped away when the opportunity had arisen, breaking away from the sleepy crowd with no one to notice he wasn't where he should be. He arrived at the agreed upon location early, elated that he hadn't kept the person he was meeting waiting.
The person had been there for no more than five minutes and yet he was already sweating like a fat guy after eating. He was new to this cloak-and-dagger business and he wasn't sure if the reward would be worth the anxiety that accompanied the wait.
As if to startle his stuttering heart into stopping altogether, a sofa and the floor beneath it shifted aside, revealing an opening in the floor darker than a grave-digger's heart. Out of the shadowed depths came a cloaked figure, more heavily robed than an Elizabethan nun. This new person oozed out of the hole in the ground and glided toward the fellow with delicate sensibilities that was convulsing in fright at the peculiar mode of entrance.
"Wha—How—? B-b-but the door—?"
"Silence!" the cloaked figure hissed. Giggling and the pitter-patter of footfall could be heard distantly as if coming through several layers of fabric.
The troubled fellow spasmed for a moment but fell silent all the same. The pair stood without speaking for a breathless moment until all sound faded away.
"I believe we both know why we're here?" said the second person, tone becoming mild.
"Y-yes. . . ." the first person warbled quietly. He dug into his pocket and pulled out a nondescript pouch, holding it out as if for protection. "A-a-and you have the. . . ?"
"Of course. It's right here." A sheaf of parchment was brought out, causing the first fellow's mouth to go dry.
"Th-that's. . . ?"
Property was exchanged swiftly, the first fellow already looking through the parchments, the second person weighing the pouch in their hand expertly. Nods exchanged, the two figures made to leave their separate ways.
Stopping at the door, Ernie Macmillan, a first-year Hufflepuff Justin had cleared as safe to interact with, turned and said, "Thanks for this — I don't know if I'd survive my mother's wrath if I got another bad grade on a Potions assignment. You wouldn't believe the chewing out she gave me when I got home!"
Melting back into the darkness, Harry Potter peeked out from under the cloaked costume he had nicked from the abandoned theatre classroom and grinned.
"Think nothing of it, old chap. For the right price, I can get you anything you need."
AN: Ahahaha. There you go! Not as humorous as the chapters before it but what can you do?
EDIT 1/29/2015: Proof-reading just before bed is a bad idea. All the typos I found have been fixed.