The Sugar Quill
Author: Jelsemium  Story: Harry Potter and the Book Wyrm  Chapter: Chapter One
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The distribution of this story is for personal use only. Any other form of distribution is prohibited without the consent of the author.

Characters Owned by J.K. Rowling and used without permission or intent to make a profit.

Rating: PG for threat of violence.

Author's Notes: This chapter is more or less set during the Christmas break of the third book -- Prisoner of Azkaban. It contains no spoilers, though.

Special thanks to my beta readers: (In order of exposure): My sister, Karen, lala_kus of the HPBetaFanFiction club at Yahoo groups and Sugar Quill’s Very Own Seldes Katne

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Part 1

Gryffindor was ahead by three hundred and twenty points and the Golden Snitch was just ahead of him. In a few more seconds, Harry would have the game, and the Quidditch Cup, sewn up for Gryffindor. All he had to do was reach out and…

*SNAP!* A log cracked in the fireplace, sending a shower of sparks up the chimney, waking Harry up.

He sighed without opening his eyes. The Quidditch match was just a dream. No wonder it had been going so well. Harry took a few moments before opening his eyes to orient himself. “It was Christmas Eve, and most of the students had gone home for the holidays. Hermione and Ron had stayed to keep him company. He could feel a heavy book in his lap and the heat of a nearby fire. He must have fallen asleep reading in front of the fire in the Gryffindor common room.

“Say, that’s given me an idea, why don’t we play Exploding Snap?” That was one of the Weasley twins -- George. (It was easier to tell George from his twin Fred by voice than by sight, so Harry didn’t bother opening his eyes.)

“Will you hush? You’ll wake him!” hissed a female voice. That was Hermione Granger, one of Harry’s best friends.

“Well, I want to do something more fun than watch you brush your flea-bitten cat!” George grumbled.

“Crookshanks does not have fleas!” snapped Hermione.

“Whatever,” grumped George.

“Why does he have to sleep here? He’s got a perfectly good bed upstairs!” That was the other twin, Fred.

“He didn’t plan to take a nap here, I’m sure,” Hermione said reasonably.

“Besides, a game of Exploding Snap would wake him up even if he were upstairs.” This last was from Harry’s other best friend Ron Weasley, the younger brother of the twins.

“Well, maybe we could do something to make sure our game doesn’t wake him?” said Fred.

Harry didn’t like the sound of that. The Weasley twins were notorious practical jokers, so there was no telling what Fred would do to insure that Harry wasn’t awakened by the noisy game. Apparently, Hermione and Ron came to the same conclusion.

“Oh, no, you don’t!” snarled Ron. There was a faint scuffling noise, then a laugh from one of the twins. (It wasn’t as easy to tell their laughs apart.)

Harry opened his eyes. The room was blurred, but he could make out the general picture. Ron and Hermione had squared off against the twins like a pair of Wild West gunslingers. Their wands were out and ready. To the uninitiated, it would have looked like overkill, as the older boys only held cardboard boxes. However, considering the twin’s reputations, Harry didn’t blame his friends for arming themselves.

One of the twins met Harry’s eyes and grinned. “Oh, did these two (he pointed at Ron and Hermione) ickle noise makers wake you up? So sorry, Harry!” George said mischievously.

“Yeah, I bet you are,” Harry muttered. He sat up straight, set his book down on the table next to a bowl of Bertie Bott’s Every Flavor beans and rubbed at his eyes with the back of his hand, trying to get rid of the blurriness. Then he woke up the rest of the way and realized that his glasses had been removed.

Ron and Hermione turned around. “Sorry, Harry,” Hermione said sincerely. She pushed back her bushy brown hair and frowned. “Where are your glasses?” she asked. She tapped her wand against her hand and studied the twins as if deciding which hex to throw.

“I was wondering the same thing,” Harry said, feeling the top of the table next to his chair in case they were blending into the woodwork… or had been made invisible.

“Oh, we took your glasses off so they wouldn’t fall off your nose and get smashed,” Fred said, trying to suppress a smirk.

“Oh, great, what did you do to them?” muttered Ron. “Mum’ll kill you if…”

“Oh, keep your hair on!” George said, with a huge attempt at innocence. “They’re right here!” He opened his cardboard box and held it out to Harry. Nestled in a wad of green and red tissue paper were Harry’s glasses.

At least, they looked like Harry’s glasses. Harry let out a faint sigh at the irony that, without his glasses, he couldn’t tell if these were his glasses. He gave the twins a suspicious look. “So, what happens when I put them on?” he asked. “I get huge black rings around my eyes?” He lifted the glasses from the box and eyed them warily. He held them in front of his face and looked through the lens. The glasses, and the view through the glasses, looked normal at this distance.

The twins put their hands over their hearts and adopted what Harry suspected were supposed to be horrified expressions.

“Harry!” George said huffily. “We’re hurt!”

“Wounded to the core,” Fred added and he put the back of his free hand to his forehead.

“Cut to the quick that you would think…” George put in, duplicating Fred’s move.

“…That we can’t come up with something more original that that old dodge!” Fred finished.

The twins exchanged looks and nods.

This was not reassuring and Harry said so.

The twins laughed. “It’s not supposed to be reassuring!” hooted Fred. “But, hey, you’re the great Harry Potter! The boy that sent You-Know-Who packing! Surely the Great and Powerful Harry Potter isn’t afraid of his own glasses!”

Harry’s face went as red as the Weasleys’ hair. “Right now you’re a bigger threat to me than Voldemort is,” he muttered.

All three of the Weasley’s gasped in unfeigned apprehension.

“Don’t say that!” Ron complained.

“You’ll get lumps of coals in your stocking if you keep saying that name!” Fred warned.

“Don’t be silly, it’s just a name,” Hermione chided. She brushed her bushy brown hair out of her eyes. “No harm ever came from saying somebody’s name!”

Ron shook his head. “You Muggle-raised just don’t understand the power of names,” he said. “So humor us, okay?”

“Of course,” Harry squinted at his glasses again. There was no alternative that he could see.

Hermione looked worriedly at Harry, obviously more concerned about him trying on his glasses than his saying that name.

Harry gave her a lopsided smile. “Be ready for anything,” he said. “And I hope you know the remedy for whatever it is they’re planning.” Then he put his glasses on.

Harry took a deep breath as the world came back into focus and waited for the payoff. He took another breath, still waiting. Cautiously, he moved his head to scan the room, still waiting.

Ron and Hermione were holding their breaths.

Harry shook his head, blinked and waved a hand in front of his face, still waiting. “Well, whatever’s supposed to happen, didn’t.” he informed the twins.

George and Fred fell into overstuffed chairs and laughed.

Alarmed, Harry yanked off his glasses and looked at them. “What?” he demanded. He looked at Ron and Hermione. “What’s happening?”

Hermione and Ron shook their heads.

“Nothing,” Hermione reported. “There are no circles around your eyes. Nothing’s changing color. Nothing’s sprouting. Nothing’s growing, shrinking or changing shape…” She scowled at the twins who just laughed harder.

Harry let out a snort and relaxed. “So, that’s the trick?” he asked. “That I’ll think there’s a trick when there isn’t one?” He brushed a wisp of his unruly black hair out of his face. The gesture exposed his lightning shaped scar and the firelight made it stand out even more than usual.

“Maybe,” George said.

Harry took a deep breath. “Vol…”

“Yes! Yes!” Fred put up his hands in a token of surrender. “We just wanted to see how long it would take you to get the nerve to put them on.”

George grinned and shrugged. “Would’ve been funnier if you’d held off putting them on longer, but one can’t have everything.”

Fred nodded and pushed the bowl of Bernie’s Every Flavor Beans towards Harry. “Here, have a bean. If you’re lucky, it’ll be cherry and mint.”

In honor of Christmas, the bowl was filled with various shades of green and red beans. There was really no telling what the flavor any given bean was, not even by the color. Red and green beans could be anything from cherry and mint to roast beef and brussel sprouts. Even strange flavors like dragon scales and belly button lint had been known to turn up.

Harry polished his glasses on his handkerchief, then put them back on and looked around warily. When catastrophic consequences continued to not happen, he relaxed a bit, accepted a red bean from Fred and bit into it.

“Whoa, what’d you get?” George demanded eagerly.

Harry’s expression had obviously given away the fact that the flavor was NOT cherry.

He spat the bean into his handkerchief. “Blood,” he said.

“Ewww…” Hermione and Ron chorused.

“Cool!” the twins said. They dove into the bowl trying to find another. They exclaimed in disgust as they found, one after the other: radish, rhubarb, rubber and cedar.

“You try,” George urged Hermione.

Tentatively, Hermione picked a bean that was the same color as the Weasleys’ hair. “Cinnamon,” she said with a woof of air that seemed to indicate that she’d been holding her breath.

“Now you,” Fred urged his youngest brother.

Ron reached for a green bean, only to get hooted at. Sighing, he picked up a bean. “Smoked salmon,” he said, rolling it around on his tongue. “Very nice.”

George tried another and made a face. “Paprika,” he complained.

Fred tried one. “Wow! Cayenne!” and he ran to wash his mouth out. When he got back, he found George urging another set of red beans on the three younger students.

Ron, Hermione and Harry exchanged resigned look and each took a bean with all the enthusiasm they’d have shown to taking castor oil. This time, Ron got apple and Hermione got rose petals. “Too bad I can’t be sure of those every time,” she said. “These are nice.”

“Harry?” George prodded.

Harry picked a bean that he thought was a brighter shade of red than the last one, took a bite, then spat into his handkerchief again.

“Blood, again?” George said.

Harry nodded.

“No fair!” Fred complained.

They examined the color of the beans in Harry’s napkin and tried to match the color.

“Care for a chocolate frog?” Harry asked. He fetched some boxes and held them out to his friends. The twins shook their heads, determined to find a blood-flavored bean.

“Thank you,” Hermione said, accepting a frog. “The way things are going, I wouldn’t be surprised if some of those green beans tasted like real frogs.” She winced as the bean flavors went from poinsettias to bricks to rouge to even more disgusting things. Hermione looked at the collector’s card that came with the Chocolate Frog. “Anybody want the Sphinx?” she asked.

“WOW! Jalapeno pepper!” George’s yelp was somewhat muffled and he bumped into Harry as he dashed for the bathroom. He came back in a few minutes land picked another bean. “I will not be stopped by a little spice!” he declared.

Ron shook his head, continuing the conversation about the Sphinx. “I’ve already got a dozen of her.”

“I have one, too,” Harry said, but he accepted the card anyway.

“Maybe we should head over to the library,” Hermione said after she finished her chocolate frog.

“Why the library?” Ron asked. “That’s so…”

“Euk! Iodine!” Fred exclaimed.

“Raspberry!” George said as disgusted as if it had been iodine.

“You want another bean?” Hermione asked.

Ron took another look at his brothers and shook his head.

“You know, I should return my book,” Harry said suddenly. “It really wasn’t very interesting. How anybody could make Quidditch into a dull read is beyond me, though.” He picked up the book from the table and absentmindedly stuffed his handkerchief into his pocket.

The three slipped out of the Gryffindor tower before the twins could force another round of beans on them. They didn’t even stop long enough to pick up their wands – an oversight that they would soon regret.

“Why so many disgusting flavors in one batch?” Harry asked.

“I think they don’t like being color coordinated,” Ron said wisely. “They want variety.” He had to love the way his Muggle-raised friends accepted his superior knowledge of the wizarding world. Hermione, whose parents were completely non-magical dentists, was big on book learning, but magic candy was something she hadn’t read up on… yet.

Harry’s parents had been famous wizards. However, they had been killed when Harry was only a year old, and so Harry had been raised by his Aunt Petunia and Uncle Vernon, who weren’t just non-magical, they were fanatically anti-magical.

It made a nice change for Ron to be the center of attention for a change. As the youngest of six boys, he’d always been over-shadowed by his brothers. And, in some ways, being Harry Potter’s best friend was even worse. Not that Harry tried to hog the spotlight. It’s just that circumstances always seemed to shove the dark-haired boy into the limelight.

Sometimes Ron wished that he were the one in the limelight. Then something would happen, like an insane murderer escaping from prison to come looking for Harry, and Ron would decide there are advantages to being the sidekick. Sidekicks don’t get blood-sucking monsters coming after them. Heck, sidekicks don’t even get blood-flavored beans!

They walked into the library and looked around. Something flashed in Harry’s eyes and he turned his head away from the window. Then he frowned. The flash of light couldn’t have come from the window, there was no sunlight today. He walked over to the desk and handed his book back to the librarian, Madam Pince.

Ron sighed. “Spending the day in the library isn’t my idea of fun.” He looked around gloomily.

Hermione snorted. “It would do you some good to spend more time reading and less time getting into trouble.”

“You sound like Percy,” Ron complained.

“So, then, what do you want to do?” Hermione asked. “Go back to the common room and play guinea pig for your brothers’ latest round of practical jokes?”

Ron sighed and shook his head. Then he looked out the window at the gloomy weather outside. “I’d rather go outside and freeze. At least I know what to expect from sleet. Harry? Any ideas?”

“We could go see Hagrid,” Harry said.

Hermione sighed, then decided that visiting Hagrid was actually a pretty good idea. She liked Hogwarts’ giant sized gamekeeper. “Very well, then, let’s pick out something interesting to read, then go down to visit Hagrid.”

“Sounds good to me,” said Ron.

Harry moved towards the shelves that had Quidditch books. The new book that he wanted to read, Hogwarts’ Twenty Best Seekers, had been checked out since September and he wanted to see if it was back in yet. He played Seeker for his House team and he wanted to know about others who had played that position. He was especially eager to know if his father was mentioned. He’d seen the trophy that James Potter had helped win for his House, so Harry knew his father had been good. The question was, had he been good enough to get into this book?

There was a nasty flash of light in his eyes again. “Ow.” He took off his glasses and rubbed his eyes.

“Harry? Are you all right?” Hermione asked, worried.

“Yeah,” Harry said. “I think so.”

Hermione eyed him, unconvinced. “You think so? If you don’t know so, maybe you’d better go see Madam Pomfrey.”

“It’s nothing,” he said. “Just some light reflecting in my eyes.”

“From where?” Ron wondered.

Harry put his glasses back on. “From that door,” he said, gesturing.

Hermione and Ron looked in the indicated direction. Then they exchanged puzzled looks.

“What?” Harry demanded.

“There’s no door there,” Hermione explained. “There’s nothing there but bookshelves.”

“What?” Harry said. “But…” he squinted. “It’s right…” he took his glasses off. There was nothing there but bookshelves. “I don’t get it,” he muttered, putting his glasses back on. “But I can see a door,” he complained. He started toward the door, wondering if he was seeing something magical or if he was just going crackers. Of course, neither option ruled out the other, he mused to himself.

Hermione looked worriedly at Ron. Strange things happened around Harry Potter, even by wizarding standards.

Ron suddenly slapped his forehead and made a disgusted sound. “George and Fred,” he snarled in disgust. “They did mess with your glasses.”

Harry stopped and sighed. “That would make sense,” he said. “I wonder why I’m seeing a door, though?” He reached out to where the door handle should have been… and fell through the bookcase.

“Harry!” Ron and Hermione cried.

They rushed over to the bookcase, but nothing they tried opened it up again.

“Shhhhh!” hissed Madam Pince. “What’s all this noise about?”

“Harry fell through the bookcase,” Hermione replied.

The librarian scowled. “Figures the Potter boy would be making trouble,” she huffed. She poked at the bookcase a few times, pulled at a few books, then frowned. “I’ve never known this case to do anything. I’d better get Filch to look into opening it again.” She stomped off. “You two had better not try anything!”

“Wonderful,” Ron sighed. “He’ll probably give Harry detention, just out of spite.” The students’ dislike of Caretaker Argus Filch was only outdone by Filch’s dislike of the students. He gave the students detention at every opportunity that presented itself. His main sorrow in life was that Headmaster Dumbledore didn’t allow him to hang the students by their thumbs anymore.

“We’d better get him out of there ourselves,” Hermione said.

“How?” Ron wanted to know.

“Figure out how he fell in, of course!” Hermione said impatiently. She reached for her wand and made a sound of disgust when she realized that she no longer had it on her.

“I’ll see if I can find out what Fred and George did to his glasses,” Ron said. He sprinted out of the library before Hermione could ask him to fetch her wand for her.

Hermione scowled at the bookcase in front of her. It looked so perfectly normal that she was surprised she hadn’t suspected it of something before. Nothing at Hogwarts was ‘perfectly normal’ by Muggle standards.

***

Harry managed to get his arms up and prevented himself from smashing face first into the floor. However, his glasses bounced off his nose and went clattering away. He sat up and shielded his eyes with one hand from the sudden brightness. With his other hand, he felt around for his escaped glasses.

“Allow me,” a low sibilant voice spoke.

The next thing Harry knew, the glasses were placed in his outstretched hand.

“Thank you,” he said. He lowered his other hand and blinked as his eyes adjusted.

“You’re welcome,” hissed the serpent he found facing him. “You’ve come just in time for dinner.” The serpent smiled as best it could. “MY dinner.”

***

Ron burst into the Gryffindor common room. “George, Fred, WHAT DID YOU DO TO HARRY’S GLASSES!” Ron bellowed. “Fix it before I tell Mum!”

Fred almost gagged on his rust-flavored bean.

“Huh? What are you talking about?” George demanded as he slapped Fred on the back.

“Harry saw something strange in one of the bookcases and then he fell through and we can’t get it open and Pince went to get Filch and if we don’t get Harry out of there before Filch arrives he’ll get detention and that’s a shoddy thing to do to a friend on Christmas Eve!”

“I’m telling you, Ron, we didn’t DO anything to those glasses!” gasped Fred. “I don’t even know any tricks that would make somebody fall through a bookcase!”

“But if Harry’s in trouble…” George said, bolting through the exit.

“And has found a new secret passage…” Fred added following his twin, still carrying his cardboard box.

“Oh, help,” Ron said. He started to follow the twins, then whirled around and dashed up the stairs to fetch Harry and the twins’ wands from the boys’ dormitory. He wasted a few minutes looking for his own wand, then remembered that he’d had it downstairs in the common room. Then he bolted down the stairs from the boys’ dormitory and up the stairs into the girls’ dormitory to get Hermione’s wand before he remembered that she’d had it in the common room, also. Maybe she still had it on her. He dashed downstairs and found Hermione’s wand lying next to his own, right next to the bowl of Every Flavor beans. He took a moment to catch his breath and count wands. THEN he made a mad dash for the library.

***

Harry swallowed. “Hello,” he said.

The serpent’s head raised and its neck swelled, like a cobra’s. “You speak Parseltongue!” it hissed in delight. “I’ve never eaten a human Parselmouth before!”

“Wh… why would you want to eat me?” Harry asked. “Wouldn’t that be like, well, cannibalism?”

The serpent’s tongue flickered at him. “And your point?”

Harry sighed. “Never mind,” he said, wishing he’d brought his wand with him. He should have known better than to leave it behind.

“Ah, I thought perhaps you were challenging me to a riddle contest,” sighed the serpent. “Glad you decided to just give up and go down quietly.”

“Riddle contest?” Harry asked.

The serpent actually winced. “Did I say that out loud?” it asked in dismay.

“If I challenge you to a riddle contest, does that mean you’re not allowed to eat me?”

The serpent sighed like a hissing tea kettle. “Oh, great, I finally meet a meal who doesn’t know the rules, and I…”

“Spill the beans?” Harry asked.

“Don’t be smart mouthed,” the serpent said. “You’re making me hungry.”

“Oh, sorry,” Harry said automatically before he realized that he was apologizing to the creature who was planning to eat him. “So, what are the rules of this contest?”

The serpent sighed. “Easy, you ask me a question, I ask you a question. The first one who fails to answer must forfeit… well, whatever it is that the winner wants.” It grinned. “So, what is it that you want, Parselmouth?”

“Umm… surviving this encounter would be lovely,” Harry managed. “What are you, anyway?”

The serpent chortled. “I am a BookWyrm,” it hissed. “The only kind of dragon relative that lurks in the bookcases of libraries.” It slithered closer. “My turn.”

Harry swallowed when he realized he’d asked his first riddle. He should have asked something harder. On the other hand, he couldn’t think of any riddles, so maybe his best bet was to stall for time. Ron and Hermione must have gone for help by now.

“Sooo, my little Parselmouth, who are you?”

“Harry Potter,” Harry said.

The reptilian head drew back a little, as if in alarm. Maybe he’d heard of Harry’s encounter with Voldemort. That made Harry feel a little better, but not much.

“You’re…” the BookWyrm stopped itself.

Harry eyed it narrowly. “What happens if one of the contestants asks two questions in a row?” he prodded.

The BookWyrm made a face. “Then that contestant loses,” it hissed. “My turn. You’re not serious about being Harry Potter… about being THE Harry Potter that defeated the Dark Lord?”

“Yes, I am” Harry replied. He pushed his bangs aside to show the distinctive lightning bolt shaped scar that was the souvenir of Voldemort’s first attempt to kill him.

The BookWyrm sounded like the Hogwarts’ Express now. Harry wondered if anybody outside the bookcase could hear it.

***

Hermione was almost beside herself with worry when Madam Pince returned with Filch.

“What have you been up to, eh?” Filch growled at her.

“Harry fell through the bookcase,” she said, pointing to the offending piece of furniture. And there’s something inside there with him!” Hermione cried. “I can hear it hissing!”

“Hissing?” snapped the librarian. “Nonsense, there is nothing in this library…”

“D’yeh supposed that this is BookWyrm’s case?” Filch asked suddenly, suddenly sounding alarmed. “Maybe it’s come back?”

“Oh! I thought that was just a myth,” Madam Pince said. Then she fainted.

“Stupid git,” growled Filch. He glared at Hermione. “I’ll get the headmaster. He’s the best one to deal with that thing. You wait here and see what you can do for her!”

It took Hermione several minutes to bring the librarian around. “Water,” she gasped. “There’s a glass on my desk.”

Hermione hurried over and fetched the glass, which the librarian finished off in one gulp.

“There must be some information on opening this bookcase somewhere!” said Hermione. She was a firm believer in the power of books. Before she had met Ron and Harry, books had been her best friends.

The librarian looked at her angrily. “Do you really want to open that door and face that…” she gestured as another furious hiss emerged from behind the bookcase.

Hermione looked at her frostily. “Do you really want the Headmaster to arrive and find you’ve done nothing to help one of his students?”

The librarian’s eyes went wide. “Ah, perhaps I saw something in the restricted section once…” she murmured, getting to her feet. “You wait here.”

***

“Your turn,” prompted the BookWyrm.

Harry hunted in his mind for a riddle and came up blank. “Um, why do you hang about libraries looking for meals?” he asked.

“Because I love to read, and I love intelligent dinners,” the BookWyrm replied. “You are what you eat, you know.” It thought for a few minutes, then continued. “Besides, most library patrons are exactly, y’know, paragons of ferocity.” It looked Harry up and down. “Even you don’t look that… dangerous.”

Harry frowned.

“No offense intended,” the BookWyrm added hurriedly. Now it’s my turn. Let’s get down to cases, shall we?”

“If you insist,” Harry said, wondering about the BookWyrm’s reaction. For a second there, it had almost seemed scared of him. Maybe that would help him somehow. “And now it’s my turn.”

The BookWyrm winced as it realized he’d asked a question. “Go on, then,” it hissed. “You’re in luck, I seem to be a wee bit out of practice. It’s not everyday I get to eat a celebrity.”

“You haven’t won the right to eat me yet,” Harry warned as he tried to think of a stumper.

“You realize that not asking a riddle is the same as forfeiting,” said the BookWyrm as Harry’s silence lengthened.

Harry sighed. “Okay, so why hang out at Hogwarts? Don’t…” he stopped himself before he asked if the BookWyrm knew that the place was filled with witches and wizards. “I’d think it would be too dangerous here,” he finished.

The BookWyrm laughed. “Oh, yes, I know, but I’m dangerous, too.” It showed its fangs. “My turn.” Its head bobbed back and forth a few minutes, then it said: “I can sizzle like bacon. I am made with an egg. I have plenty of backbone, but lack a good leg. I peel layers like onions, but still remain whole. I can be long, like a flagpole, yet fit in a hole. What am I?”

***

When Ron reached the library, Hermione was all but in tears. “Why didn’t you idiots bring your wands!” she hissed at the twins. “Harry’s in danger!”

“How were we supposed to know that?” Fred asked, aggrieved.

George shot him an ironic look. “This is Harry Potter we’re talking about, remember?”

“Oh, my mistake,” Fred said. The cardboard box that he’d been carrying around was on the floor next to him. The twins were pulling books from the case and piling them up neatly on the floor as they tested for hidden panels.

“You idiots!” Ron said. “What if the spell that opens the bookcase needs to have the books arranged a certain way!”

“That’s twice today we’ve been called idiots, George,” Fred said. “You think there’s something to it?”

“Nah,” George said. “Ickle Ronniekins just doesn’t realize that we have the books arranged so we can put them back exactly the way they were.”

Ron snorted as he handed Hermione her wand. “Finally, a Weasley with some sense!” Hermione said.

“What? Is Mum here?” Fred asked, looking over his shoulder.

Ron kicked him, then handed him his wand. “Maybe we should just blast the bookcase,” he said grimly.

“You’re more likely to hurt Harry than whatever is in there with him,” snapped Hermione.

“So much for Ron being a Weasley with sense,” muttered George.

***

As all that was happening, Harry was staring at the BookWyrm as he wracked his brain for an answer. The serpent stuck its tongue out at him and suddenly Harry’s brain kicked back into gear. “You’re a snake,” he said. “Snakes are hatched, like birds and they shed their skins, like onions.” He took his first good look at the BookWyrm’s body and saw that it, indeed, had no legs.

The BookWyrm chuckled. “Pity, for a minute there, I thought I had you on a very basic riddle. Your turn.” It folded itself back on its coils, as though it was reclining in an easy chair.

Harry felt a little queasy and he wished Hermione were there. His bookish friend probably knew scads of riddles. All he could think of, however, was: “Um, how do you get in here?”

The BookWyrm sighed and rolled its eyes. “There’s a secret passage from the catacombs through the pipes. The outside opening is near the statue of Godric Gryffindor, the inside opening is right in this bookcase. These aren’t proper riddles, I’m on the verge of disqualifying you.”

Harry swallowed.

The BookWyrm rolled its eyes as it thought. “What has roots as nobody sees. Is taller than trees. Up, up it goes. And yet never grows?”

Harry swallowed again. ‘Taller than trees?’ He thought. What is taller than trees? “Um, a mountain?”

The BookWyrm let out a hissing sigh. “Correct. Your turn.” It paused, then added, “And it had better be a proper riddle!”

Harry let out a small ‘eep.’ “Why is a math book sad?” he asked, remembering a riddle that he’d heard in his Muggle school, eons ago.

The BookWyrm sighed and made of show of rolling its eyes. “Because it has so many problems!” he growled. “You aren’t very good at this, are you?” he asked.

“Haven’t been eaten yet,” Harry pointed out. “My turn, by the way.”

“GAH!” said the BookWyrm, smacking itself on the forehead with its tail.

Harry could have smacked his own forehead. If he hadn’t said anything, the BookWyrm might have asked two questions in a row and automatically lost. “Um,” he said. “Thirty white horses on a red hill. First they champ. Then they stamp. Then they stand still.”

The BookWyrm snorted. “Human teeth,” it replied snootily. It thought for a moment. “What can run but never walks, has a mouth but never talks, has a head but never weeps, has a bed but never sleeps?”

Harry blinked. ‘What runs and has a mouth and a bed…?’ “A river,” he replied after a few minutes.

“Fangs, I’m losing my touch,” the BookWyrm muttered. “Okay, go.”

Harry put his hands in his pocket, looking for inspiration.

“And if you ask me what’s in your pocket, I’ll just eat you,” the BookWyrm said.

“Oh, right,” Harry sighed. He felt the Sphinx card from the Chocolate frog and said: “What walks on four legs at dawn, two legs at noon and three legs at dusk?”

The BookWyrm laughed. “Oh, that one’s as old as the Sphinx! Man, of course! He crawls when he’s a baby, walks on two legs in his prime and uses a cane in his old age.” The serpent eyed Harry hungrily. “Here’s another famous riddle. It was put to Homer by some fishermen of Ios, and is said to have caused his death from frustration when he couldn’t answer it.”

‘Lovely,’ Harry thought. ‘I’m supposed to solve a riddle Homer couldn’t.’ “Well, go on,” he said.

“Those we caught we threw away, those we could not catch we kept.”

Harry looked at the BookWyrm blankly. The BookWyrm licked its chops. Harry sighed; less than half an hour ago, he’d been safe in Gryffindor Tower, reading his book, watching Hermione brush her cat, listening to George complain about watching Hermione brushing her cat…

Wait a minute. What if the reason you kept something you couldn’t catch is because it was something that you already had? Something like… “Fleas,” he said aloud.

“Pssst… ,” the BookWyrm said. “Your turn.”

Harry chewed the inside of his cheek. The comment about asking what was in his pocket made him think of the riddle contest in The Hobbit. Which gave him another riddle. “A box without hinges, key, or lid. Yet golden treasure inside is hid.”

The BookWyrm nodded approvingly. “Better. I think you’re getting the hang of this. The answer is an egg, of course.”

Harry sighed. He wasn’t likely to know any riddles that the bookworm didn’t know, and he wasn’t very good at making them up.

The BookWyrm chuckled. “Walk on the living, they don't even mumble. Walk on the dead, they mutter and grumble. What are they?”

Harry had heard something like this before, he was sure. “Grass!”

The BookWyrm chortled. “No, leaves.” It started towards Harry.

“Same thing!” Harry complained, backing up until he ran out of space. “Blades of grass are leaves, too!”

The BookWyrm considered this. “Very well, your turn,” it grumbled.

“Um,” Harry said, wiping sweat from his forehead.

The BookWyrm licked its chops as Harry’s silence lengthened.

***

“This is not good,” Ron muttered as the twins continued to investigate the bookcase. “Are you sure you can put things back exactly the way they were?”

“As long as you don’t move anything,” grunted George.

Hermione moved away so she wouldn’t accidentally displace anything. “It has to be a simple answer. Why did Harry fall through the bookcase?” Hermione muttered to herself.

Ron frowned as he paced. “Question is, why didn’t anybody else fall through? I mean, what’s different about Harry than you and me? I mean, besides the whole business with You-Know-Who and the scar and the madman who’s out to kill him and being such a good Seeker at Quidditch and all. I mean, really, aside from all that, he’s just a shrimp in glasses!”

His eyes went wide. “Glasses! That must be it. He couldn’t see the door when he took his glasses off, that’s why we suspected Fred and George!”

Hermione dashed over to Pince’s desk. “Good thinking!” she said. She snatched up Pince’s drinking glass and hurried back to the bookcase. She held the glass up and she and Ron could see the doorway that Harry had mentioned.

Ron had to bend a little to bring his eyes on the same level as Hermione’s. He touched the glass so he could scan the bookcase better. “Oh, there’s the handle!” Ron said, pointing.

“Whatever you do, don’t…” Fred started.

“Do that,” George finished as Ron and Hermione disappeared.

They sighed heavily. “Find some glass,” said George.

***

“Go on,” the BookWyrm hissed.

‘Wonderful,’ thought Harry. ‘This will make a great epitaph, or t-shirt: “I survived the Dark Lord only to get swallowed by an overgrown snake.” ’ Then the answer hit him.

Shortly after that, Ron and Hermione hit him as they fell through the bookcase. It took a few minutes to sort out whose limb belonged to whom. Then the three of them scrambled to their feet.

“No fair calling in reinforcements!” the BookWyrm complained.

“Something hissed!” Ron said, looking around for the source.

When he spotted the BookWyrm, his eyes went wide and he shoved Harry’s wand into his hand.

“Thanks,” Harry said. He gestured with his wand. “This is the BookWyrm. He likes to read and eat people.” Harry said in English. He gestured with his hand to Ron and Hermione. “These are my two best friends,” he hissed in Parseltongue.

“Don’t tell it our names!” Ron said in scandalized tones.

“I didn’t!” Harry snapped indignantly.

The BookWyrm inclined his head. “But I already know your names, Mr. Ronald Weasley, Miss Hermione Granger,” it said in cultured tones. “I like to read, and Mr. Potter here is rather famous, you know. And you two aren’t unknowns anymore.”

“You speak English!” Hermione said, almost accusingly. She gripped her wand until her knuckles turned white and glared at the BookWyrm.

“Of course, I speak many tongues,” the BookWyrm said smugly. “As I said, I am well read.” It smiled. “And shortly, I shall be well fed.” It looked at Harry and licked its lips.

“I don’t think so,” Ron said, scowling. “In case you aren’t as good at arithmetic as you are at literature, I should like to point out that there are three of us and only one of you.” He swished his wand meaningfully and hoped he looked threatening.

“No, you cannot interfere,” the BookWyrm complained. “It’s against the rules, it is. I’ve played by the rules, so I get my shot at dinner!”

“What rules?” Hermione demanded, trying to look fiercer than she felt.

“Riddle game rules,” the BookWyrm said.

Ron swallowed. “We can’t interfere, Hermione,” he hissed. “Riddle contests are serious.”

“However, you are now in the game,” the BookWyrm said. “She asked a question during his turn. I answered it. So now it’s my turn to ask a question.”

“But…” Hermione started.

Harry silenced her by holding up his hand. “You can’t ask two riddles in one turn or you lose.”

“Losing to me means you forfeit your life,” the BookWyrm warned.

“If they can’t interfere, then you can’t eat them,” Harry said fiercely.

“I changed my mind,” the BookWyrm said silkily. “They are now part of the game, and they face the same fate, should you all fail to answer.”

Harry looked at the other two in dismay.

“Well, we didn’t come barging in here just to brush dust off your robes,” Ron said, almost huffily. “We rather figured we’d be facing mortal peril.”

“This is you we’re talking about,” Hermione added.

Harry blushed, but before he could decide whether to be touched, indignant, embarrassed or some combination of the three, the BookWyrm spoke up.

“So, are…” The BookWyrm stopped itself before it asked if they were ready to continue. “Enough chit-chat, my little tapas, it’s my turn.” Before the three could respond, the BookWyrm continued. “Here’s the next riddle. Where may you find roads without carts, forests without trees, and cities without houses?”

Harry and Ron exchanged anxious looks, but Hermione only snorted. “That’s easy, you find them all on a map.”

The BookWyrm snorted. “Little Miss Know-it-all,” it said, unknowingly echoing the complaint of many of Hermione’s classmates.

Harry actually grinned. “You say that like it’s a bad thing. Our turn,” he said. He took a deep breath. “Say it aloud, and he’ll know who you are. So name me the wizard that gave me this scar.” And he pointed to his forehead.

The BookWyrm froze in horror. “You… that’s cheating! Besides, you guessed wrong my other question. I’m not letting you…”

Ron, Harry and Hermione raised their wands threateningly.

“You’d better count to ten before you lose your temper,” Harry said.

The BookWyrm hesitated.

“Or at least count to three,” Ron added darkly.

Gah,” it said. “All right, I concede the contest. But I’m not giving you a forfeit, you cheated. Besides, it’s annoying to have to leave without so much as a taste of blood.”

“Well, if all you want is a taste,” Harry said. He pulled out his handkerchief and displayed the beans. “Bernie Botts Every Flavor Beans has blood flavor, too.” He tossed them up to the BookWyrm, who swallowed them down with a sour hiss.

“Well, it’s better than nothing,” Ron said. “After all, it’s not every monster that can claim it’s tasted Harry Potter’s blood.”

“Yeah, yeah,” the BookWyrm said.

“Dumbledore will be here any minute,” Hermione warned.

The BookWyrm decided to take the hint. It slithered off with a hiss that really didn’t need translating.

***

The three adventurers sighed with relief.

“You should have insisted on your forfeit,” Ron said jokingly, giving Harry a friendly punch in the shoulder. “It’s in the rules, you know.”

Harry gave him a disgusted look and slapped his hand away. “All I wanted was to get out of that encounter alive,” he said. “It forfeiting its dinner is enough for me.”

“Are you hurt?” Hermione asked.

Harry shook his head and ran his hand through his hair. “No, just…” He stopped. They all knew he’d been scared silly, so why dwell on it? “Thanks for coming to my rescue,” he said sincerely.

“Yeah, sure,” Ron said diffidently, suddenly uncomfortable at the possibility of mushy stuff.

“Well, we had to do something,” Hermione said, blushing.

Harry grinned and changed the subject. “How did you find me?” he asked.

Relieved at getting past the potentially embarrassing gratitude part, Hermione picked up the water glass and explained their deductions.

“Good thinking,” Harry said looking around. “Any idea how to get out of here?”

Hermione looked around, too. “No,” she sighed. She looked through the water glass before it dawned on her that if looking through glass would show the solution, Harry would have already seen it. She blushed again, but the boys were too busy poking around the backside of the bookcase to notice her slip.

“Dunno if you could say we actually rescued you, though,” Ron said. “You were doing fine.”

“The BookWyrm wouldn’t have given up that easily if you two hadn’t been here,” Harry said. Then he sighed. “I just wish I could riddle a way out of here before Filch shows up.”

“Dumbledore will know how to open the case,” Ron said reassuringly.

“How will Professor Dumbledore know…” Hermione started, then she interrupted herself. “Oh, of course, he wears glasses, too. He’ll spot the door right away.”

“He probably already knows about it,” Ron said.

Just then, George and Fred came through the bookcase, wands at the ready.

“Is everybody all right, then?” Fred asked, relaxing a trifle. He tucked the magnifying glass he’d swiped from the librarian’s desk into his pocket.

“No, we all got eaten,” Ron replied. “Can’t you see the bloody bones lying about?”

“Pity,” Fred said. “I was hoping for a quick game of Exploding Snap.” He opened up the box he’d been carrying around. “Anybody interested?”

***

End Notes: The Hobbit was written by J. R. R. Tolkien and several of the riddles besides “A box without hinges, key, or lid. Yet golden treasure inside is hid” were taken from the contest between Bilbo and the Gollum. Other riddles came from http://www.riddlenut.com and http://members.tripod.com/~riddles/sphinx.htm. The riddle of the fishermen of Ios is from those worthy fishers. (There are several alternate answers, such as lice. Same idea, though.) The Sphinx’s riddle came from the Muses, as does all artistic inspiration.

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