The word “forbidden” was an interesting concept. It wasn’t a label just anyone could slap on just anything. If it wasn’t something people would care about to begin with, there wouldn’t be a point in naming it “forbidden.” On the other hand, calling it that would pique the interest of those inclined to break the rules. Otherwise, the forbidden fruit was just an apple—or a pomegranate, depending on who you asked—the forbidden forest was just a bunch of trees, the Forbidden City was just some place in China, and the forbidden third floor corridor was just a corridor. Granted, James made it a point of going everywhere in Hogwarts, strictly forbidden or otherwise. Naturally, he respected the rules of the school, knew that they were there for a reason, and even understood some of the reasons. As such, he’d only ventured into the third floor corridor a mere two hundred and forty-six times. That might sound like a large number, but compared to the six hundred and ninety-one times the Gryffindor had been to the kitchens, it wasn’t very much at all.
It wasn’t that the lion wanted to break the rules just to break them, not at all. That would’ve been petty and stupid, and really just a waste of time. No, it was just that this particular corridor was the only one in the school that led to James’ favorite strange little passageway. The Gryffindor had no idea where else to find it, because, although one end could always be counted on to stay put on the third floor, the other side was always some place different. The seventh year had never, in the one hundred and thirty seven times he’d used the passageway, ended up in the same place twice. He imagined it had to repeat itself eventually, of course. There weren’t an infinite number of places to go in the castle; it only seemed like that from his limited perspective. Then again, if no one used the passageway, who was to say it went anywhere at all? For all James knew, he was the only person who knew it existed, the only one who used it, and so the passage had never repeated itself. That seemed unlikely. Granted, not everyone at Hogwarts ventured into the forbidden corridor—it wouldn’t be very effective then, would it?—but still, there were people who had been here. The lion had seen places in the castle with much more dust than this one, for one thing. In fact, there wasn’t a speck of dust on the stone floor. It could be that the house elves kept it spotless, but they didn’t do the same for other parts of the castle, so why would this abandoned stretch of corridor be any different? Unless it wasn’t actually abandoned. If it had been, the word “forbidden” wouldn’t have been put on it. Curiouser and curiouser. James couldn’t resist a good mystery, not at Hogwarts. Curiosity was his middle name. Actually, no, it was Hugh, but never mind. The point was, the Gryffindor had come back two hundred and forty-five times after the first because it was all so incredibly strange. Well, that, and it was hard to resist the urge to see where the passageway would spill out to this time.
James wasn’t expecting company at this time of night. It was late, most everyone in the castle was asleep, or at least safely in their dorms. The Gryffindor rarely found other students out wandering the corridors on his late night jaunts—at least not the sort of student who wouldn’t get him into trouble, anyway. He was hardly the only person who snuck out at night, though the seventh year liked to think he was probably the person who snuck out the most. It would still be easy to miss other students. The castle was huge, and there were so many places to go, not to mention the fact that they didn’t have to necessarily limit themselves to the castle itself. So, on the occasions when the lion did run into another student, particularly one who wasn’t a patrolling prefect, it was something of a pleasant surprise.
That being said, James would have preferred it if his fellow delinquent for the evening hadn’t literally run into him. As someone collided with his back, the boy braced himself, doing his best not to tip over. The Gryffindor took out his wand and muttered, “Lumos.” It wasn’t completely dark in the corridor once you let your eyes adjust, but the more light the better, he figured, if he didn’t want anyone bumping into him. Turning around, James raised his wand to shine the light at the person in front of him, revealing a girl near his age, probably no more than a year or two below him. Their impact had apparently knocked her to the ground. The wizard was about to say something when he felt something tugging at his trousers. Looking down, the seventh year spotted the trouble. There was a small grey cat tugging at his jeans as if it thought James was about to do something terrible. Raising an eyebrow, the lion turned his wand back to the girl, doing his best to keep from shining the light out of her eyes. “You all right?” Ignoring the cat, he leaned forward, holding out his hand to help the girl up. “Name’s James. Didn’t mean to make you fall there.” The Gryffindor offered a grin, hoping she was a good sport.
James reached for the cat, trying to remove him from this trouser leg as gently as possible. For his trouble, the cat sank its teeth instead into the lion’s hand. It was all the boy could do not to drop the cat immediately. Instead, James set the grey tom to the side before sticking his stinging fist up to his mouth.