Chapter Twenty-One: A Flawed Object

Remus Lupin had never been able to meet Newt Scamander until recent events deemed otherwise. Of course, he knew of the man—few didn't these days—but Scamander had never been one to enjoy the limelight despite his fame, instead preferring to spend his time out in the field studying magical creatures all across the world. If he wasn't tucked away in some remote corner of the planet, the odds were he was busy with the assortment of beasts he personally cared for.

Frankly, even his limited knowledge of Scamander was enough for Remus to figure out why Harry spent so much time with him whenever the man was present at Hogwarts. Dumbledore had mentioned the Magizoologist was responsible for Harry's possession of Aurelion, and that he was overseeing the care of both magical serpents to ensure Harry wouldn't run into any problems.

He was of course wary of anyone new—Remus had learned the hard way that prejudice was entirely too common—but when he entered the expanded briefcase and asked the old man if he could see Harry before he left, Scamander only smiled and led him towards the caves. There were no illusions between them on the walk there.

"Full moon in a week or two, isn't it?"

"Yes," Remus answered tightly.

"Do you have Wolfsbane Potion on hand?"

"It is…not an easy thing to afford with my current financial situation."

"Would you like some?"

Remus blinked. "I beg your pardon?"

"I keep Wolfsbane brewed as a constant," Scamander explained. "Amongst quite a number of other potions in case of emergencies. In my line of work, preparation is a necessity. I have more than enough for you, if you'd like some."

"That's—I couldn't ask that of you, it's expensive—"

"I grow my own ingredients. I didn't pay a Knut for them."

Remus still hesitated. Newt glanced back at him and his lips curved into an easy smile. "It's not doing anyone any good sitting in a cauldron, you know."

"Do you often help Lycanthropy victims?"

"Whenever I can. It's not as if the Werewolf Register has become anything like what I wanted it to be," he grumbled. "So if I can help, why shouldn't I? At least Lycanthropy is treatable, these days. Before Wolfsbane, all I could do was offer victims a place to change where they couldn't hurt anyone, for what little comfort that was worth."

"Any comfort helps a great deal."

"I know," Newt sighed. He looked even older for a moment—Remus had seen that look in the mirror too many times.

The Magizoologist stopped, eyes trailing to the right. Remus followed his gaze and his breath caught in his chest.

Harry Potter stood in a large, open space within the cave, hands caressing the nose of a gargantuan serpent. A Runespoor, Remus realized upon seeing the three heads, but a Runespoor that put even Salazar Slytherin's Basilisk to shame. Its sheer size was astonishing, and it left the boy diminutive in comparison.

But Harry looked happy as he stroked the huge scales, a wide smile on his face as he whispered in the hisses of Parseltongue. The great serpent rumbled in response; the left head said something, then the right, and the middle simply enjoyed the attention Harry doted upon it.

He had Lily's smile, Remus noticed. A soft warmth instead of a mischievous smirk.

One of the huge eyes flitted towards them and the right head hissed something more loudly than before. All three heads and Harry looked towards the newcomers. The boy never took his hands away from the thick, russet scales, but the smile dropped into something a bit more reserved.

"Forgive us the intrusion," Newt apologized. "Mr. Lupin wished to speak to Harry for a moment before he leaves Hogwarts."

Harry glanced at Remus, then looked back to the Runespoor. A few more words passed between them before the leviathan pulled away, slithering up the side of the cave to settle into a nook near the ceiling.

The boy approached as Newt walked off to give them some privacy. "You're leaving?"

"Yes. It's time I got back to my current residence," Remus explained. "Can't afford to miss work, even if I won't be there for much longer."

Harry frowned. He looked truly disappointed about the news. Remus went on. "I'd stay for you if I could, Harry."

"Can I write to you?"

"Of course. I might not always be able to get back to you straight away, but I'll answer whatever questions you have to the best of my ability."

"Thank you, Mr. Lupin."

"Just Remus, please. Or Moony."


"An old nickname your father and our friends had for me," he explained, smiling wistfully. "Moony, Wormtail, Padfoot, and Prongs. That was the four of us—myself, Peter, Sirius, and James."

"For your animal forms," the boy said as understanding filled his eyes.

"You remembered. Lily wrote me once when you were…oh, I think nine months old? A little older? She'd been trying to get you to say 'mummy' and you said 'Moony' instead. Apparently, James laughed until he cried. I have the letter back home, if you want me to mail it to you."

He looked far less disappointed now and much more curious. Excited even, perhaps. "I'd like that."

"Then I'll send it along as soon as I can," Remus promised. "I must be going now, Harry. I wish you the best of luck with your studies."

"Thanks, Moony."

He chuckled and offered his hand for Harry to shake, which the boy accepted. Baby steps. They both needed time to get used to each other, after all.

Remus left Hogwarts feeling happier than he had for quite some time—and with some Wolfsbane Potion courtesy of Newt, of course.

Harry climbed up the steps of the Headmaster's office as the griffin statue shifted to allow him entry. Aurelion floated along beside him and Selena—taking full advantage of her returned freedom—slithered on the ground. It was getting late, but he'd been asked to do a favor for Newt before turning in for the day.

"Dumbledore told me Fawkes is getting close to a Burning Day," the Magizoologist had told him. "I'm a bit short on time, so could you give him this Fireweed? It helps ease a Phoenix through the process; makes them feel a bit less miserable during the ordeal."

Naturally, Harry was more than pleased to do so. The Fireweed was warm in his hand; no longer burning hot as it was when freshly picked, but Newt said that Fawkes would still like it.

He caught sight of the Phoenix on his perch by Dumbledore's desk. Fawkes did look sort of sick, Harry thought. Where the bird had once been bright and energetic, it was now dull and tired. His feathers were starting to fall out and his body seemed to slump, as if his legs could barely stand to hold his own weight. Fawkes blinked as they entered the room, tilting his head slowly at his guests.

"He does look miserable," Aurelion hummed, tongue flicking out. "He smells…not sick, exactly. But I can taste the dying embers."

"Hopefully this helps," Harry replied as he approached the bird. Fawkes gave them more attention as it became clear they were coming to see him.

"Newt gave me something to make you feel better," he told the Phoenix as he got close. Harry held his hand up and offered the Fireweed.

Fawkes almost lit up, eyes gleaming at the sight, and crouched low enough on his perch to eat. Harry smiled as the bird pecked enthusiastically—albeit, with care to avoid hurting him—at the treat. He could feel the warmth slowly coming back as Fawkes consumed the Fireweed with nothing short of greed.

Phoenixes were strictly herbivorous, he knew. Despite looking somewhat raptorial, no one had ever witnessed a Phoenix consuming flesh in any way, shape, or form. Granted, few people had the privilege to actually observe them for an extended period of time, but their diet was one of the only clear traits the Magizoologist community agreed on unanimously.

They were gentle despite their mysterious powers; reluctant to fight, but capable of it. Much less willing to attack first, unlike their American cousin, the Thunderbird.

When Fawkes had finished eating, he straightened on his perch and settled down, loosing a soft cry Harry assumed was thanks or relief. The Phoenix blinked at him and settled in place to rest again. He hoped the Fireweed would make the clear discomfort of the oncoming Burning Day tolerable.

His job done, Harry cast a quick glance around the room, briefly observing the various portraits before he turned to leave with his friends. Before he did, however, he caught sight of a familiar object on one of the shelves near Dumbledore's desk: a patchy, ragged hat.

He paused and stared at it for a short time, his thoughts drifting.

"Bee in your bonnet, Harry Potter?"

The boy jumped as the creases on the Hat formed a face, regarding him with its perpetual scowl. "Sorry. Didn't mean to bother you—"

"What have you done to bother me? As I remember, you were a particularly enjoyable challenge to Sort. And your visits to this office always prove to be…interesting. You break up the monotony."

Harry was quiet for a moment more and the Hat spoke again. "You're wondering if I placed you in the right House?"

"Not…exactly," he confessed. "I love being in Gryffindor, but I do sort of—"

"—wonder why I didn't put you in Slytherin?"


"You were a difficult student to place," the Hat readily admitted. "I thought for a moment you might be my first Hatstall since Minerva McGonagall. You and Hermione Granger—ah, I nearly couldn't decide between Ravenclaw and Gryffindor for that girl! Two wonderful challenges in one class! It was a good year! But as for you…"

It paused and seemed to gather its thoughts for a few moments. "You have the traits of a quintessential Slytherin; cunning, resourcefulness, ambition…oh, you would have made a fine addition to the House. And yet, you also have some impressive Gryffindor traits. Courage, nerve, and determination. Oh, sorting through those was enjoyable…"

"Is it ever going to get to the point?" Selena hissed quietly.

"I will get to the point when I am good and ready," the Hat retorted in perfect Parseltongue.

Aurelion almost fell out of the air while Harry and Selena stared, dumbfounded, at the Hat. Harry recovered first. "You speak—"

"I was imbued with the minds of the Four Founders, boy," the Hat snapped. "Their knowledge and preferences all make up my sentience. Of course I speak Parseltongue—along with French and Italian, thanks for that, Rowena!—Salazar Slytherin's mind helped to create me!"

That was news to Harry. He'd read about how the Four Founders had created the Sorting Hat, but he'd never even considered that the Hat might actually be able to use some of their knowledge in such a way.

"Now, before I was so rudely interrupted," the Hat sneered at Selena, who hissed grumpily at the scolding. "You have traits that would lend you credit towards any of the four Houses, but Slytherin and Gryffindor most of all stood out to me when I Sorted you. I do think you would do very well in Slytherin—but not yet, no."

"Not yet?" Harry echoed. "Can you—what, change my House?"

"No. No, I cannot," the Hat seemed immensely displeased by this fact. "I am a flawed object, Harry Potter, in a flawed system. I have a thousand years of experience behind me and the knowledge of the four great witches and wizards who created me, but I am not omniscient.

"I see the potential of the students whom I Sort, and that is often enough to guide them towards a clear path. But how am I to know what hurdles they will face? How am I to know how they will change? Children are notoriously flexible and…unfinished. A Hufflepuff now might be better suited to be a Gryffindor later. A Ravenclaw might become ambitious enough in their pursuit of knowledge to be a true Slytherin. You are a perfect example of this. Look how you have changed from that frightened boy in the cupboard beneath the stairs."

The Hat suddenly snickered. "Or, perhaps, you have not changed much at all. You ask why I put you in Gryffindor? Because you lack courage."

"You just said—"

"Oh, you do possess some of it," the Hat continued. "When you are with your friends and your serpent guardians. But take them away and what is left? The frightened boy, hiding from his uncle? Who dares, perhaps…dream of justice? Revenge?"

"Stop it."

"You asked me a question and I mean to answer, even if the answer is one you do not wish to hear. You would do well in Slytherin…for a time. But where would it take you that you do not already tread? You thirst for knowledge, for power, and you are ambitious enough to seek out the means to get it. You are a snake wearing a lion's pelt. Make no mistake, putting you in Gryffindor does not magically remove your Slytherin traits, oh no. Never that.

"I put you in Gryffindor because you require self-sustaining courage and a certain…shall we say, lighter atmosphere to improve? I truly did consider Hufflepuff when I decided on that detail, but you wouldn't find the nerve you needed there. You needed Gryffindor fearlessness to bring your Slytherin ambition to its highest potential.

"If I had it my way, you'd be in Gryffindor for two years…perhaps three. Then I would send you straight to Slytherin for the remainder of your time at Hogwarts. But alas, I am only given one choice for every student. I weighed your strengths and weaknesses, and I divulged that improving your weakness would hone your strength. That is why I Sorted you as I did."

Harry considered that with a thoughtful frown. In hindsight, its reasoning made sense; people changed as they grew. What was true once might not be so a few years down the line.

"You are not the first," the Hat admitted, jerking him from his thoughts. "Thousands upon thousands of times have I wondered what might be if I could sort certain students twice, or even thrice! Alas, I am flawed, as we all are. You would do well to remember that. Now begone! I think I have an idea for the lyrics to my next Sorting Song…"

The Hat started mumbling to itself before Harry could speak and he took the dismissal for what it was. Absent in his own mind, he led Selena and Aurelion out of Dumbledore's office and left for the Gryffindor Common Room.

By the time the weekend rolled around, news had traveled throughout the castle about Salazar Slytherin's Basilisk. It also made the front page of the Daily Prophet, along with a slew of other wizarding magazines.

Harry's involvement was kept mostly secret, thankfully—though a few journals did speculate on if he'd been involved due to his keeping of magical serpents. He was glad Dumbledore had tried to derail that line of questioning early on. He did not want that kind of attention.

He had enough attention on him from his classmates. Those who knew him best—Nym, Ron, Hermione, and Draco, chief among them—he admitted the truth to, but for the most part he tried to keep a low profile around the school that weekend. He'd been mobbed by curious students exactly twice and both times only managed to escape by ducking around a corner and yanking his Invisibility Cloak over himself.

After that happened the second time, he slipped away to Hagrid's hut and all but begged to stay there for a bit. His friend was more than happy to offer him some peace and quiet.

So there Harry was, sitting on a huge pumpkin with a book in his hands, a snake in the air above him chasing birds, and another slithering around Hagrid's hut to find any rats that needed catching.

The Unicorns he'd met last years were grazing a bit closer to the edge of the forest; Harry could see the once-golden foal steadily becoming more silver as it neared adulthood. The whole herd had come, apparently. There were eight in total, although most were still too shy to leave the safety of the trees.

He heard a squeak as he turned the page in his Charms book, heralding the end of another rat Selena had hunted down. Harry's gaze flitted up from the text to watch as she slithered onto another large pumpkin and gulped it down within minutes.

She was going through another growth spurt, he thought absently. Newt had told him as much, but both of the young snakes were growing rapidly. Their constant access to food, warmth, and the magic of Hogwarts was propelling them along.

Selena had been less than three feet long when she first hatched. A little more than a year later, she was nearly ten. Aurelion was close behind at seven and a half. Both had nearly tripled in size. He could only imagine how big they'd be by the time they were two years old, let alone when he finally graduated from Hogwarts. Would they be fully grown by then?

Newt seemed to think it was possible, although he'd stressed that magical snakes never really stopped growing. Their growth slowed to a crawl the older they became, but continue to grow they did. The ancient Runespoor was evidence enough of that.

Aurelion seemed to tire of chasing birds and flew down, hovering over Harry's shoulder. "What are you reading now?"

"More Charms Flitwick suggested," Harry replied.

"For this…Dueling Club?"


Harry had attended a few sessions and decided for the time being he wanted to be a part of the organization. Despite Lockhart's obnoxious behavior, it was something he wanted more practice with. He didn't want to feel helpless or defenseless if he could help it; the Dueling Club could help to change that.

The thought of Lockhart briefly made his thoughts sour. Dumbledore had sent him to Hogsmeade during their subjugation of the Basilisk, but upon returning, the man seemed eager to claim any credit he could get for his nonexistent involvement in the battle. He'd already told the class he was working on a book about Slytherin's Serpent.

It made Harry roll his eyes, but sadly he was utterly unsurprised by this turn of events. At least Lockhart seemed to like Hogsmeade so much that he visited at least once a week. That gave the students some sort of reprieve from his…teachings.

He pushed those thoughts aside and returned to the Dueling Club, which was due for a 'practice tournament' of sorts for Flitwick to choose who would be on the official team. Naturally, Harry was studying hard for it.

He'd sort of put off joining some form of extracurricular activity since coming to Hogwarts. Flying was fun, and he'd admit Quidditch seemed interesting, but he didn't know if he'd still enjoy it with throngs of people screaming at him from all sides. Dueling was quieter, and the encounter with Slytherin's Serpent had cemented his decision to improve with combat spells.

"Which one is it this time?" Aurelion hummed.

"Stunning Spell. Non-lethal, of course, but if you get it right, it'll knock your target unconscious. Flitwick said it was a must to learn."

"How useful. Have you tried it yet?"

"Not yet," he admitted. "Not here, either. I don't want to scare the Unicorns. Apparently, some bloke in the 1700's blew his door off trying to fight a Lethifold. I don't think this spell is all that quiet."

"I cannot imagine what would lead you to such a train of thought," Aurelion remarked dryly. Harry grinned at him.

Selena returned to them with another bulge in her belly and content radiating from her entire being. "Ah, I do enjoy a good hunt."

"As much as you enjoy your naps?" Aurelion teased.

She offered him an annoyed look and the Horned Serpent hissed in amusement, levitating off to find another bird to chase. Selena watched him go briefly before she climbed the pumpkin and settled her head onto Harry's lap. The rest of her large body coiled around him.

Harry reached down absently to stroke her scales. "You ate well, then?"

"The half-giant will be pleased to know his house is now home to three fewer rats."

"They breed faster than you can eat them," he pointed out.

"More for me," Selena sounded unbothered by that fact. In fairness, she could have eaten a lot more, but she'd had a decent meal during Newt's visit to Hogwarts and wasn't actually all that hungry.

Harry heard a rustle and looked up to see the Unicorns running off deeper into the forest. He frowned and scanned the treelike, but couldn't see anything that could have scared them—perhaps they'd decided to retreat to someplace more concealed? But they'd been in quite the hurry…

Then again, he didn't know the herd or these particular animals very well. Unicorns were known for being skittish, too. Whatever the case, when Hagrid came out from inside of his hut with a barrel of water for the pumpkins, Harry decided it was time to leave, anyway. The sun was starting to set and he didn't want to break curfew.

Keen eyes watched as the boy stood up with his pair of magical serpents—a surprise he hadn't expected—and walked over to speak to the half-giant before going on his way. The boy was heading back to the castle. The temptation to just go for it was certainly there…

But no. He'd already found a much better way to get to the boy. No need to take unnecessary risks.

All he had to do was be patient.

A/N: I think this is the shortest chapter I've put out in...a really long time. But I'm trying to just get this story moving again. I have so much planned, and the wheel needs to keep turning for me to get it all out. So, let's try to keep things going and I'll get bigger chapters out as more happens.

As ever, please review and thanks for reading!