The Dog with Three Heads
Time rolled on as October rolled into November. Remus Lupin began staying in the Three Broomsticks down in Hogsmeade, coming up to Hogwarts every weekend to visit Harry. At first their talks were nearly arguments, Harry trying to keep the subject on his father while Lupin tried to get Harry to talk about his life with the Dursleys. But after a while the subject inevitably turned to the world, and before long they were mostly Remus telling Harry about the wizarding world.
Of course, Harry also continued to write to Molly Weasley and to take lessons from Draco. But between talking with Remus, Quidditch practice, and the increasing loads of homework, he barely had any time to relax. Hermione had lent him a book called Quidditch Through the Ages to try and relax him for the first match of the season, which was coming up fast, but Harry had no time to read it.
It was Friday, the night before the first Quidditch game of the season, that Harry was called down to the pitch for his detention with Madam Hooch. When he got down there, he found that Draco had already arrived for his own detention, but the stern Quidditch referee was nowhere to be found.
“Do you know where Madam Hooch is?” Harry asked Draco.
The blonde shook his head. “No idea. I don’t even know what we’ll be doing for detention.”
“Probably picking twigs from the school brooms,” Harry said miserably. “Broom upkeep, the worst part of flying.”
Draco shrugged. “I have elves for that.”
Harry continued to chat about meaningless thing with Draco while they waited. But half an hour passed, then an hour, and before long darkness began to fall.
Draco slipped out his wand and sketched a quick circle in the air, marking out the top, bottom, and sides of it as he said “Doce, tres, sies, nueve. Tempu.” A clock of blue light sprouted into existence. It was only twenty minutes before curfew. “If I’m to get back to the Common Room before curfew, I should leave now,” he said, rather annoyed. “Why hasn’t Hooch gotten here yet?”
Harry shrugged. “Don’t complain,” he recommended. “We came for our detention at the normal time, and we waited for the professor. It’s not our fault she didn’t come, so I think that means the detention counts as being served. No twig-picking for us.”
Draco shrugged. “You’re probably right. I’ll see you in Transfiguration on Monday, then.”
“Not coming to watch me tomorrow?” Harry asked.
Draco shook his head. “My father is coming to Hogsmeade tomorrow to talk to me. Professor Adams is escorting me there.”
Harry nodded before remembering something from Halloween. “Wait – on Halloween, after the troll, Professor Snape said… what was his phrase? Oh yeah, ‘The guardian of a child is not permitted to visit.’ How’s your dad coming?
“Not permitted to visit the castle,” Draco clarified. “Coming to Hogsmeade is allowed, and you can make arrangements for people to be brought out of the castle when it’s not a Hogsmeade weekend. Even underage kids. And my father is on the board of governors anyway, so he could visit if he wanted and talk to me incidentally. But why did Snape say that to you?”
“Mr. Lupin, remember?” Harry asked. “He gave a lecture in defense class?”
“Yeah, I remember.”
“He was a friend of my dad’s. He actually came to talk with me, but Dumbledore had him give the lectures so that the ‘no visits’ rule didn’t apply.”
“Oh. Well, see you on Monday, then.”
Harry gave Draco a cheery wave as they parted, the Slytherin going down a stairwell that was behind a tapestry of Herpo the Foul. Harry, however, would be going up the main stairs.
As he turned the corner and began to climb, though, he saw a quartet of first-years coming down. A pair of redheads, a blonde boy with a round face, and a brunette.
Harry raised an eyebrow. “Ron? Ginny? Hermione? Neville? Why are you coming down? It’s almost curfew.”
“We were worried that you were going to be kept out after curfew,” Hermione said. “What did Madam Hooch have you doing for an hour and a half?”
Harry shook his head. “She didn’t show up. I don’t know why.”
Ron looked thoughtful as Neville spoke up. “Lucky break for you.”
“Well, he did have to spend an hour and a half with Malfoy,” Ginny quipped.
Ron frowned. “That’s really strange,” he commented. “But… earlier, I saw two people going into the forest, and now that I think about it, one of them had white hair just like Hooch’s.”
“Well, that’s not suspicious at all,” Harry commented dryly. “What did the other person look like?”
“I couldn’t tell,” Ron said, seeming rather irked. “He had his hood up all the way.”
Neville shrugged. “It’s probably nothing. But we should get back up to the Tower, it’s almost nine-fifty. Well, to the Towers.”
Hermione looked almost panicked. “Oh no, we’ll be late! It’s a fifteen minute trip!” And she promptly ran up the stairs.
“Hermione, wait!” Ginny cried, running after her, and the boys followed.
They followed Hermione as she ran, but it was clear to Harry that, in her rush to return to Ravenclaw Tower, she had taken at least one wrong turn and gotten lost. It was also clear to Ginny, who was calling for the brunette to stop so they could backtrack.
Harry glanced around as the finally slowed. He recognized this area. “I know how to get us all back to the Towers!” he said brightly. “It’ll only take two or three minutes, too. We’re on the third floor, and–“
“Hold on a moment,” Hermione interrupted. “I’m pretty sure that I remember a shortcut that one of the sixth years showed me, it’s right over here…”
Ron raised his head from where he had been leaning it on the wall. “I think I hear something,” he whispered, and sure enough, a moment later…
“Where are they, my dear?” Filtch’s voice echoed from around the corner. “It’s curfew, my pet. Where are they?”
Ginny gasped. “Uh oh. We need to get moving.” She glanced over at Hermione, who was tugging fruitlessly at a door. “Hermione, what is the problem?”
The brunette growled. “The door is locked. She didn’t tell me that it locked after curfew!”
Ginny furrowed her brow. “Then just use that spell we found in the library, the one that unlocks doors. What was it again? Alohomara?”
Hermione shook her head. “That wasn’t it, it was… alohomora!”
The door clicked, and they all rushed through it. “Phew!” Neville said, wiping some sweat from his forehead. “That was a close one. And now Filch will assume that this door is locked.”
They listen as Filch approached from the other side, and indeed, he scolded Mrs. Norris for leading him to a locked door and left.
“Oh good,” Harry said, wiping sweat from his head. “Now we can do my shortcut, because I remember where it is, and…” he paused to wipe more sweat. “And why am I sweating so much?”
As one, the quintet glanced up to see the head of an enormous dog above them, drooling on Harry. There were apparently two other dogs there too, dripping on Neville and Ginny, and a low rumbling began to build in the throats of all three of them.
“AAAHHHHH!” the group screamed in unison, and ran from the room.
This time Harry took the lead as they ran, and brought them all to the seventh floor corridor that could lead anywhere. He paused. “The entrance to Ravenclaw is below this floor, right?”
“I don’t know,” Hermione said. “What floor is this?”
“Alright,” Harry said. “Walk back and forth three times, thinking of a stretch of corridor. A slide to there will open up.”
Ginny paced, and grinned after a moment as a door sprouted into existence. “Cool.”
Hermione paused, grabbing Ginny’s shoulder before she could leap onto the slide. “Wait. Did everyone see what those dogs were standing on?”
“What?” asked Hermione.
“It was just one dog,” Neville said. “The necks all led together. Life Kamno, but with three heads. What were they called again?”
“Cerberi,” Ginny said. “Just one is called a cerberus. What was it standing on?”
“A trapdoor,” Hermione said triumphantly. “There was a trapdoor underneath it.”
“That was the third floor corridor, you know,” Ron said suddenly. “I bet that it was the one on the right-hand side. The one that Dumbledore said we couldn’t go in. Now we know why. Because there’s a big ol’ Cerberus behind it.”
“And it’s guarding something,” Harry agreed. After a moment of silence, a thought struck him. “I bet it’s whatever Hagrid was picking up!”
Neville raised an eyebrow. “What do you mean?”
“Hagrid was in Gringotts on my birthday,” Harry explained. “He was picking up something from vault – uh, I don’t remember which one, but it’s the vault that was robbed later that day. I think that whatever he took is under that trapdoor!”
Ginny yawned. “This is very interesting, but can we talk about it later? Like, after your thing tomorrow?”
Ron nodded. “I’m curious about what’s under there, but it’s not like someone is trying to steal it, right?”
The next morning, Harry had trouble eating. He was too nervous; he had been doing fine in his practices until now, but it was hard to be confident when the whole school would soon be watching him. Lots of people dropped by to give him words of advice during breakfast, but not all of them were friendly; Harry wasn’t sure whether he was more annoyed by the people who told him he’d do fine or the ones who promised to carry a mattress underneath him.
Harry managed to down a few slices of toast, but no more, and before long he was changing into the crimson Quidditch robes he had bought by owl-order. He was waiting to step onto the field from the locker rooms when the captain, Oliver Wood, cleared his throat for attention.
"Okay, men," he said.
"And women," added one of the chasers, Angelina Johnson.
"And women," Wood agreed. "This is it."
"The big one," said Fred Weasley.
"The one we've all been waiting for," said George.
"We know Oliver's speech by heart," Fred told Harry, "It’s always the same."
"Shut up, you two," said Wood. "This is the best team Gryffindor's had in years. We're going to win. I know it." He glared at them all as if to say, ‘or else.’ "Right. It's time. Good luck, all of you."
As the team lined up to step out of the locker rooms, Harry glanced down at the broom he held in his hand, the one that Ron had recommended. It had arrived from Diagon Alley only a few days ago, but seemed perfect to Harry. It had been expensive of course, taking a good deal of Harry’s trust vault, but there was still more than enough for the rest of his time in school. Besides, as Ron said, better to get a good broom that would last than a flashy one that would have to be replaced every year.
So Harry had purchased a broom made by a muggleborn who was new to the industry but, according to Ron, showed promise. The broom was simple in design, mahogany with yew for the twigs, and was enchanted with mostly the basics, nothing flashy like self-braking charms or parachute charms. It could apparently accelerate as fast as any broom currently on the market, and turned even better then the latest broom, the Nimbus 2000. It did have a tendency to go backwards while resting in place, but that was something that Harry didn’t plan on doing anyway.
Holding his Cruinneas proudly by his side, Harry stepped outside.
The team was just coming out of the locker room when Oliver stopped them. “There’s been a slight problem,” he told them. “Madam Hooch is apparently missing. Dumbledore was going to cancel the game, but Professor Adams volunteered to referee. Did you know he played Quidditch for America for a year or so?”
Fred grinned. “A professional player for referee? Right on!”
Alicia Spinnet cocked her head to the side curiously. “Why did he quit?”
Wood shrugged. “I think there was some sort of dark lord in America and he joined up with the Aurors to help stop him, and just never left. I’m not entirely sure.”
“Okay,” said George, “so we’ve got a missing ref and a good replacement. Let’s get playing!”