That night, Ginny was the first one to share a bed with Harry. The redhead was understandably still freaked out over the fact that an adult man had spied on her several times in the past. So, she desperately needed some comfort and Harry was only too happy to give it to her.
The next few days passed by without much incident, except for the Daily Prophet splashing the news of Sirius's innocence on the front page. Emily and Cal opened their doors for him after he was cleared by the St. Mungo's healers. Though the witch did chew him out for being an idiot and going after Pettigrew.
Meanwhile, Penny found out from one of the seniors, Cedric Diggory, that Prefect Jane Court had a reputation for being very protective. The girl even witnessed it first hand when she witnessed Court hex a few Sixth Year Slytherins for bullying Penny's dorm-mate, Chiara Lobosca. Diggory mentioned that Jane even earned the nickname, 'Honey Badger'.
Back in the Gryffindor camp, Harry struck a tentative friendship with Neville Longbottom and Ben Copper. He was also fairly close to Ron, now that he knew him a little better, and the boy proved that he was no threat. However, he still kept Dean, Seamus, Murphy and Jae at arm's length.
Neville and Ben's timid natures allowed them to bond quicker and they became fast friends. He was still a bit intimidated by the senior boys though. Ginny helped a little when she firmly told Fred and George that Harry was off limits on the pranks until he got over his phobia.
Another thing that made Harry really uncomfortable, was the number of whispers he heard. Speaking of the whispers, it was because of that, that he struck a small friendship with John Silvertongue. The Ravenclaw was the only one who could sympathize, as he was also a victim of the stares and whispers.
One fine Friday, Harry decided that he wanted to explore the castle. Luckily for him, the First-Year Gryffindors had a free period and he had already finished his pending homework. However, he could not convince any of his classmates to accompany him. Ron and Seamus were locked in an intense Wizarding Chess battle. Hermione had dragged Ginny off to the library. Lavender and Parvati were gossiping.
Jae was in the kitchen, serving a detention, while the Gryffindor Quidditch captain Oliver Wood had cornered Murphy about potential Seeker candidates. Apparently, their current Seeker, Aiden had fallen behind in his academics, so McGonagall had no choice but to drop him. Unfortunately, the Quidditch try-outs had ended and there were no standouts, apart from Katie Bell, who got the role of Chaser.
Owing to the situation, McGonagall approached Dumbledore for permission to use the coming week's combined First-Year Flying practical class as an impromptu audition for a Seeker. If they found someone, they were exempted from the No-Broomstick policy. Harry was looking forward to it, as they only covered the theory in the first couple of lectures.
Coming back to the present, Neville was spending his free time in the greenhouse, while Ben got on the wrong side of Peeves the poltergeist earlier that day. As a result, Dean and Faye had a hard time trying to convince him to come out of the dorm. None of the older students were free either, so Harry shrugged and slipped out.
Along the way, he met John, who joined him in exploring the castle. John had just come out of the Defence Against the Dark Arts with Slytherin. Rowan decided to head to the library, while the other Ravenclaws split up to do their own thing.
The two boys started off on the ground floor, where the Great Hall was. From there, they planned to steadily work their way up. However, they also wanted to avoid the third-floor corridor.
As they passed the dungeons, two voices barked, "Petrificus Totalus" and two bright purple lights streaked towards the unsuspecting boys. The spells struck their backs and petrified the two.
Harry was starting to panic, but he could not move. Instead, he could only gaze in fear, as Draco Malfoy and Merula Snyde sauntered into his and John's field of vision.
The blonde smirked, "Well, well, well! Looks like a lion cub and a raven chick have wandered into the snake pit. I have waited a long time for this, Potter. You should have accepted my gesture of friendship. Now, I am going to make your life a living hell. What was that that Professor Snape said? You are prone to panic attacks?"
Merula laughed mockingly, "Fancy that… The Boy-Who-Lived is a coward. I wonder if you truly defeated the Dark Lord or if you are just a phony. Hey Draco, shall we test his Gryffindor courage?"
He grinned back, "What did you have in mind?"
One of their cronies, Ismelda Murk drawled, "Let's lock them in the third-floor corridor. Then we can 'innocently' tip off the Squib that Potter and Silvertongue are there. I can guarantee that they will lose a chunk of points!"
"I like the way you think, Murk."
With that, they levitated the two petrified boys and went to dump them. Unbeknownst to the group of Slytherins, there were a couple of eavesdroppers. The first was the owner of a pair of ice blue eyes, who shook her head in disgust before she stealthily followed the group.
At the same time, caretaker Argus Filch followed the eavesdropper. He was smirking as he imagined stringing up the Malfoy spawn by his thumbs. Filch was not an idiot and knew that the Potter and Silvertongue brats were innocent in this situation. However, he was going to keep an eye on them in the future, call it intuition.
The trip took a few minutes, but eventually, they reached the third floor. Malfoy stopped in front of a suspicious-looking door and reached for the knob. Unfortunately, he could not open it, but Merula performed a quick Alohomora and got it open. Murk quickly dumped Harry and John's bodies inside before reviving them. Malfoy slammed the door shut and used a Colloportus to lock the door again. There were frantic bangs as he taunted, "This is what happens when you cross me, Potter and Silvertongue! By the time the filthy Squib finds you, we'll be long gone and-"
He was interrupted when a grizzled hand grabbed his shoulder and spun him around. Draco Malfoy got the shock of his life when he saw the menacing face of Argus Filch looming over him. The caretaker quickly frog-marched the three Slytherins to the Headmaster's office, cackling away.
Inside the room, John and Harry were both freaking out. However, it was for completely different reasons, as John realized that they were not alone. He turned came face-to-face with a freaking Cerberus, of all things. Meanwhile, Harry began to experience flashbacks of being locked in his cupboard at the Dursley's. He was hyperventilating so badly that he could not find it in himself to take a calming draught.
He began to breathe heavily, as his vision began to go black. His ears could barely register John's own freak out and the taunts from outside. Harry repeatedly threw his body desperately against the door, but to no avail.
Suddenly, just as he was throwing himself at the door again, it flew open and he crashed into a girl with long blond hair and ice blue eyes. John also scrambled out, before he slammed the door closed and locked it with a Colloportus. Harry was still out of sorts and he bolted.
He had no idea where he was going, but he had to get away somehow. Harry barely heard John's muffled shouts nor the girl's footsteps as she chased after him. The boy kept running and running through the castle, bounding up the stairs and kept going. Eventually, he reached a dead end, which was a wall with a tapestry of a man trying to teach some trolls how to dance.
Harry paced back and forth, trying to calm himself down. Needless to say, he was surprised when a door materialised in front of him. Wasting no time, the 11-year-old burst inside the room. Inside, there was all sorts of paraphernalia, but one thing stood out, a gramophone. The music was on and it was playing Fausto Papetti's 'Petite Fleur'. Just as he was beginning to calm down, a voice startled him, "Potter!"
He leaped nearly three feet in the air, retreated to a corner of the room and flattened his back against the wall. At the door was the Slytherin girl. As he tried to relax, he vaguely recognised her as Daphne Greengrass.
Harry had never really interacted with her, but knew her by reputation as the infamous 'Ice Queen'. This time though, her stoic mask was gone and she had a look of concern on her face. The girl slowly stepped forward, "Potter… It's okay… I won't hurt you. Calm down Potter. Just breathe… In… and out… In… and out…"
Eventually, Harry managed to regain his senses. Daphne took another step forward, she motioned with her head towards a spot next to him. Understanding her wordless question, he gave a hesitant nod. At that, she walked over and slid down next to him.
Neither of them said a word and just listened to the song, until Harry began to sob. The girl slowly reached out and pulled him towards her. Daphne allowed him to bury his face on her shoulder and cry his eyes out as she rubbed his back gently. She remembered her and Tracey's talk with the Tuttle girl. Daphne and Tracey were pretty shocked at the revelations.
It took all of her Occlumency training to not get angry. She knew that whether it was in the Muggle world or Wizarding world, sexual abuse was a despicable act. It was worse when the culprit was family.
After a while, Harry calmed down and the two sat in silence as the music continued. That was when she noticed her surroundings. Daphne mused, "Where are we? I don't remember reading about this room in Hogwarts: A History."
Suddenly, there was a *Pop* and a house elf appeared. The elf squeaked, "This is the Come and Go Room. It is also known as the Room of Requirement. The room is on the seventh floor opposite a tapestry of Barnabas the Barmy teaching trolls ballet. Walk three times past it and think about what you really want. You are the first students to find this room. Us elves have known about the room for years."
With that, the elf popped away. Meanwhile, Daphne gently guided Harry out of the room and held him close. She murmured, "Come on Potter, let's go to the Great Hall and find Silvertongue as well."
As they stepped onto the ground floor, a familiar voice shrieked, "Harry!". That was all the warning Harry got before Penny Haywood glomped him in a fierce hug. She turned to Daphne as she hugged her brother, the girl mouthed, 'John told me you saved him. Thank you!'.
Daphne only nodded, as the three of them made their way to the Great Hall. As they entered, Hannah, Susan and the Patil twins crowded around the trio and fussed over Harry. A few other girls also joined them and hugged Harry.
Then, John, Rowan and Ron Weasley approached. Ron looked at Daphne and said, "Thanks Greengrass… You're alright in my book. You saved Harry and John."
She nodded coolly, "No thanks necessary, Weasley. Not all of us Slytherins are fond of Malfoy. Speaking of which, he's a disgrace to the house in my opinion. Slytherin is the House of Cunning and Ambition. He and his posse were scheming out in the open. I happened to be nearby and so was caretaker Filch. The 60-point loss is deserved and I have no sympathy for him."
John then gestured everyone to gather around him. He sat down with Rowan and Ron on either side of him. Padma, Parvati, Ginny, Hannah, Susan, Penny, Harry and Daphne also gathered around him. John spoke, "Hey Penny, is Harry claustrophobic?"
She nodded and he sighed, "I thought as much. His freak-out was a lot worse than mine. Anyway, I was freaking out because there was a Cerberus in the room."
Susan looked startled, "A what!?"
Daphne snapped her fingers, "It must be guarding something. That's what most Cerberi are bred to do. Did you notice anything else?"
He nodded, "Yeah, I noticed that one of its paws was on top of a trap door."
Rowan also agreed, "Obviously, whatever its guarding, there will be more traps."
Ron chipped in, "Hey remember yesterday the Daily Prophet reported that there was a break-in at Gringotts?"
Penny replied, "Yeah, it happened on the same day that Harry and I were there."
Just then, Padma saw something in the corner of her eye. She turned and spotted Malfoy, Snyde and Murk tramping into the Great Hall. The girl suddenly remembered that it was his fault that Harry and John were in danger. Padma got up and stormed to the blond, "You! What is wrong with you! You could have gotten both of them killed! K***e! K*****y! C*****a! M*******d! B******d! B*******e!"
Parvati was scandalised, "PADMA LAKSHMI PATIL!"
But then, Malfoy had to open his mouth, "Speak English you filthy little colonial…"
Then, "SARPA BHAVA!"
Parvati whipped out her wand and fired off a spell at Malfoy. The boy was transformed into a half snake, with his upper body in human form. However, his arms had disappeared and he was left flopping uselessly.
This time, it was Padma's turn to look scandalised, "PARVATI REKHA PATIL!"
The Gryffindor simply sniffed, "He got what he deserved."
Padma snapped, "That's not the point!"
Parvati whined, "Fine! I'll change him back. Vyasta Zapa!"
The snake half disappeared and Draco Malfoy was back to normal. He stormed out, muttering, "My father will hear about this!"
Ron was wide-eyed, "Whoa! What did you guys do!"
The twins blushed a little, Parvati said, "First off, Padma rarely swears, and all those words she was screaming were Hindi swear words. When that jerk called her a colonial, I just snapped. So, I used a family curse on him. Most of the spells we are learning are based on Latin. However, the Patil family spells and curses are in Sanskrit, one of the languages spoken in India."
Padma continued, "Admittedly, Sanskrit speakers are rare, but it forms the base for all modern Indian languages. Also, every one of our spells is in Sanskrit. Before you ask, as I mentioned, these are family spells and we cannot teach outsiders."
The drama did not end there, as Professors McGonagall and Flitwick came over. The half-Goblin squeaked, "Misses Patil and Patil, Professor McGonagall and I heard from Professor Snape that you cursed one of his students for no reason. Before we decided anything, we wanted to know your side of the incident."
Daphne spoke out suddenly, "Professors, this whole incident started when Silvertongue and Potter were exploring the castle earlier. When they were near the dungeons, Malfoy, Snyde and Murk used Petrificus Totalus on them and then planned to leave them in the third-floor corridor. I was nearby, as was caretaker Filch, he can back up my accusation."
She continued, "After I rescued the boys, Potter bolted. I chased him for a bit until I caught up to him on the seventh floor. I managed to calm him down a little before bringing him down. Patil was probably angry at Malfoy so she stormed up and yelled at him. However, he insulted her and that prompted her sister to hex him and turn him into a half snake. She later turned him back. "
Flitwick nodded, "I thought that there was a story behind this. Having known you all for nearly two weeks, I know that you would not have attacked without provocation. Also, Minerva, I seem to recall that the headmaster had deducted 60 points from Slytherin for their actions, as per caretaker Filch's report. Having said that, you still hurled foul language and attacked a student Misses Patil. Yes, all Hogwarts faculty are well-versed in different languages. I think 20 points each from Gryffindor and Ravenclaw, no matter how noble your intentions were."
The twins shrugged and wrapped an arm around Harry, "It was worth it, and we would do it again in a heartbeat."
With that, the two professors took their leave. The kids then decided to get back to brainstorming what the Cerberus was guarding.
As they got up to return to their respective common rooms, Daphne motioned for Harry and Penny to stay behind. The Slytherin girl spoke, "Haywood, when I went to comfort Potter, we discovered a secret room in the castle. It's on the seventh floor and there are certain conditions to find it. According to a house elf, they have known about it for years, but we were the first students to find it. I was thinking that when Harry has one of his episodes, he could go there. This is just between the three of us for now."
"Got it, thanks Daphne!"
I am not translating the foul language