The Trap-door and the Trials
"While it is always best to believe in one's self, a little help from others can be a great blessing."*
General (ret) Jigme Dorji Wengschuk
Despite Hermione's reassuring words about Professor Dumbledore being enough to keep Voldemort away and that Harriet shouldn't heed what the centaurs in the forest had been hinting, Harriet was a complete wreck by the end of exams.
It wasn't the exams themselves (Harriet actually found them a good distraction) or even Harriet's constant fear that a fully restored Voldemort was going to come bursting through the front door of the castle at any moment. Harriet's scar had started hurting again, and the nightmares had returned.
The nightmares were perhaps the worst part. Instead of just her parents disappearing into bursts of green light or giant red eyes with slits for pupils and a high, cold voice telling her to join Slytherin and give in to the Dark Arts, they now had a black, hooded figure dribbling silver blood from its mouth and crawling rapidly towards her on backwards limbs.
Harriet supposed she wouldn't have minded the nightmares so much if she didn't so often wake up screaming at the end of them. It had been fine when they were happening during the Christmas holidays and the only other person had been Ronnie, but now she always woke all four of her friends.
Fortunately, after three nights of this Ronnie swallowed her pride and again agreed to wait until the others were asleep and sneak over to Harriet's bed to hold her until Harriet fell asleep. Just like during the Christmas holidays, this seemed to make both the pains and the nightmares go away, and Harriet enjoyed her first night's sleep in days.
Their final exam would be History of Magic, and Harriet knew she would be quite glad to get it behind her. She had never managed to grasp Hermione's bizarre ability to completely avoid the sleep-inducing effect of Professor Binns' voice, and knew it was the exam for which she was the least prepared.
The rest of the exams had been fairly interesting. There were written and practical exams for most of the classes. Harriet found the practical exams the most fun. In Charms they had to make a pineapple tap-dance, while in Transfiguration they had to turn a mouse into a snuff-box. Harriet had done rather well in both, though Professor McGonagall was quick to point out how the top of Harriet's snuff-box still had fur. Part of Harriet wanted to try and argue it was just velvet, but she knew Professor McGonagall wouldn't buy it.
The two exams that gave her the most to think about were Potions and Defence Against the Dark Arts. Even though she and her friends suspected Professor Snape of trying to steal the Philosopher's Stone for Lord Voldemort, Harriet couldn't help but feel her intuition troubling her. Professor Snape was either a better actor than Professor Quirrell, or he was genuinely much more interested in giving his final exam.
Most of the students simply thought it was Professor Quirrell being too afraid to assign a really difficult exam, but as Harriet took the Defence Against the Dark Arts exam she couldn't help but feel he had not put much effort into making it. They simply had to perform the Full-Body Bind Jinx on a partner and write a foot long essay (Hermione managed three) about possible defensive applications of the spell.
Harriet didn't know why, but she was sure it had been Voldemort that had given Quirrell the order to attack the unicorns. Quirrell's nearly empty bedroom and the way Quirrell was handling the final examinations for his classes made her feel more unsure of their previous assumptions than ever.
Harriet's doubt lingered when it came to Professor Snape's guilt. She constantly revisited the scene she had witnessed on the edge of the Forbidden Forest after the second Quidditch. What if she hadn't seen what she thought she saw? What if, in fact, Professor Snape hadn't been pushing Professor Quirrell to get past Fluffy? What if Professor Snape was in fact on to Professor Quirrell?
Knowing how her two closest friends felt about Professor Snape and sympathetic her friends felt toward Professor Quirrell, Harriet decided to confide in the two people she knew would at least hear her out with open minds.
"Well, when you put it that way " Scott muttered thinking hard about Harriet's new theory in regards to Professor Snapes and Quirrell and Voldemort.
"Aye that is certainly a new way of looking at things," Kieran added with a nod of approval.
They were sitting under their usual tree down by the lake. Given the beautiful June weather, almost the entire castle was outside except for Hermione who was in the library and Ronnie who was a dozen or so yards away learning more football rules and game strategy with Dean and Marcus.
"Have you talked to Hermione or Ronnie about this?" Scott asked.
His question took Harriet off guard. "I, well, no " Harriet admitted feeling slightly ashamed of herself. "I know I'm supposed to trust my friends and all that, but you guys know how those two think about Professor Snape, they're utterly convinced he's bad after what Hermione saw at the first Quidditch match."
Scott furrowed his brow and chewed the end of an unused quill. "True," he muttered, "though I still wouldn't mind picking Hermione's brain over it "
Harriet couldn't help but smile. "I'm sure Hermione would appreciate knowing that."
Kieran and Scott laughed.
"Well, I will admit that really all the evidence I have against Professor Snape is just what other people have told me, it hasn't been anything I've seen meself," Kieran admitted. "So I suppose I have to take everyone at their word, but you definitely do make a valid point."
"Yeah, I mean, as full of himself as Snape is, I can't see him forcing Quirrell to call him 'my lord' but if Quirrell knew he was between a rock and a hard place with You-Know-Who on one side and Professor Snape on the other I can see why he'd be lookin' rather sickly these days," Scott reasoned.
"Aye, I've noticed that as well," Kieran agreed. "Though Snape looks as lively as he possibly could."
"Yeah, you know, I really think you're on to something, Harriet," Scott said looking impressed.
Harriet blushed, "Thanks."
"Don't mention it, love," Kieran said.
"Now the only question is: do we go to Dumbledore?" Scott asked.
"No, we still don't have any real evidence," Harriet replied.
Kieran agreed. "Aye, but we have enough to at least get him to look into it "
"Maybe," Harriet muttered. She didn't know where her scepticism was coming from, but it was overpowering. She looked up at the large castle, and then over at the giant forest and couldn't help but feel very, very small. I'm just an eleven year old kid, how am I supposed to do anything about all of this?
"Well, we only have one exam left now," Kieran said in a soothing tone. "We'll just get History of Magic out of the way then we can worry about what to do about Professor Quirrell and Snape and You-Know-Who, alright?"
Harriet agreed and felt relieved. Kieran was right, just focus on the final exam and then they would have a whole week in which to discuss nothing but how to deal with the situation.
She thanked both of the boys with hugs and quickly ran off to the library to join Hermione for more studying. While she wasn't able to resist the sleep-inducing effects of Professor Binns' wheezy voice, she did want to do as well as she could in the exam, and knew Hermione was the one who would be able to help her do well.
* * * *
The entire room broke into cheers as the end of the History of Magic exam was finally called. Harriet drew a rather disapproving look from Hermione as she threw her notes up into the air with everyone else but she didn't really care. The exams were over. Now she could focus on what she knew mattered the most, trying to stop Quirrell and Voldemort.
"Thank you so much for the help studying Hermione, I think I actually did pretty well," Harriet muttered as they filed out of the room.
"Oh, you're welcome," Hermione replied her expression a mixture of pride and sheepishness. "Though, you wouldn't have needed help if you'd just paid attention."
"I do try!" Harriet retorted feeling a little wounded. "I just can't fight off the effect of his voice, the way he just goes onnnn and onnn and onnnn and"
Hermione rolled her eyes and gave Harriet a hug around the shoulders, "Oh hush, I was just kidding you."
Harriet laughed. They both heard Ronnie muttering behind them.
"Would have been nice if someone had invited me to the studying."
Harriet grimaced a little but turned and gave Ronnie an 'I'm giving you one whther you like it or not' hug.
"Oh get over yourself," Marcus teased. "Like you really would have given up playing football to go study in the library."
Ronnie laughed, "Okay, you got me there."
Ronnie hugged Harriet back and they all made their way out onto the grounds. It was even hotter today than it was the day before, and they all quickly stripped off their robes, jumpers and ties. Harriet and Ronnie both stopped to strip off their shoes and knee-high socks as well running headlong towards the lake to dip their feet in again. Hermione of course refrained, still too afraid of the giant squid to get near the water and opted to sit back with Kieran, Marcus and Scott who had just joined them. Parvati, Lavender, Dean and Seamus were nearby but in a little cluster of their own, and Harriet didn't know where Neville could have gotten off to.
Harriet sighed in relief from the heat as the cool water lapped over her bare feet. She turned to look back at the others to invite them down too when it happened again. A stabbing pain hit her scar that actually caused her to roll over onto her back and clap her hands to her forehead in pain.
"Harriet!" she barely heard several voices exclaim and felt hands lifting her back into a sitting position. The pain continued to stab at her forehead and she ended up falling back into someone's arms, panting in exhaustion.
"Harriet, are you alright?" she heard a voice ask. Harriet slowly worked her eyes open and realized she was lying back in Kieran's arms. She sat up rapidly.
"I-I'm no it was my scar it just hurt worse than ever that time " Harriet finally said, shivering despite the heat.
"Should we take her to Madame Pomfrey?" she heard Hermione ask timidly.
"I'm not sick," Harriet said, unable to avoid sounding snippy. "It's more like it's a warning. Something really, really bad is about to happen."
Her friends didn't respond right away.
"Harriet, you don't need to worry so much, the Stone's safe, there's no proof Snape or Quirrell have found out how to get past Fluffy," Hermione said trying to sound calm and reasonable.
"And it's going to stay that way; you know Hagrid would never let Dumbledore down," Ronnie chimed in.
"Well, I'm not really sure he would have approved too much of Norbert, but, " Scott muttered.
At Scott's words, a light flicked on in Harriet's head. Of course, how could she have not seen it before!
"Hagrid!" she declared trying to get to her feet.
"Uh, wh-what about Hagrid?" Ronnie asked.
"Hagrid! Quirrell, Voldemort, we have to go talk to Hagrid!"
"Maybe we should take her up to the hospital wing " Hermione whispered into her hands.
"No!" Harriet declared. "Listen, we have to go talk to Hagrid. I just realized something, remember how Hagrid said he got Norbert?"
"Y-yeah, from some bloke in a pub?"
"Right, who just wanders around with an illegal dragon egg gambling them in card games? Convenient they found Hagrid isn't it?"
Scott raised his eyebrows. "You know, there's something to that "
Harriet didn't hesitate. She immediately started running towards Hagrid's hut. She didn't even wait for her friends to catch up.
Hagrid was sitting on his front step, shelling peas and humming merrily.
"Oh, hullo there," Hagrid said. "All done with yer exams, eh?"
"Hagrid!" Harriet said, "I have something very important to ask you."
"Oh? Well sure," Hagrid said a look of concern crossing his face as the rest of the group finally caught up with her. Kieran was panting more heavily than the rest as he brought up the rear, looking disgruntled as he leaned on his shillelagh.
"Hagrid, the night you won Norbert, the person you got him from what did he look like?"
Hagrid thought hard, "Y'know, I don't think I ever did see his face. He kept his hood up the whole time."
Harriet looked over her shoulder at her friends, who had all gone wide-eyed at that piece of information.
"Well, that's not so strange, I mean not that yer'd know bein' firs' years but yeh got a lotter folks like that in the Hog's Head. It's usually got folks who'd rather not be seen in it. Probably just a dragon dealer, it's not illegal everywhere after all."
"Did he did he seem interested in magical creatures in general, or just dragons?" Harriet asked.
"Well yeah, well, let's see he did ask what I do and I told 'im I was gamekeeper hard to remember all the details I'd already had a good bit ter drink and he kept buyin' me more yeah he asked me about the kinds of animals I care for and what kinds I'd like ter get if I could so I told him I always wanted a dragon and he said he happened to have a dragon egg and offered to play cards for it, though he was worried I wouldn't be able ter handle one, and I told him if I could handle Fluffy, I could handle a dragon!" Hagrid said proudly.
"And was he interested in Fluffy?" Harriet heard Hermione ask from behind her. Harriet felt relieved that Hermione was catching on to what Harriet was getting at with these questions.
"Well yeah, I mean, even in Greece, Cerberus like Fluffy are right rare they are. But I told 'im, all yer gotter do is just play Fluffy some music and he drifts right off ter sleep."
Hagrid hadn't even finished saying 'sleep' when Harriet spun and started running back towards the castle.
"Hey, where yeh goin'?" Hagrid called after them.
None of them spoke until they reached the Entrance Hall.
"Okay," Harriet panted, putting her hands on her knees. "Now, we have enough evidence to go to Dumbledore."
"I agree," Scott said.
"It was either Quirrell or Voldemort under that cloak, I'll bet you anything," Harriet said as she stood up all the way.
"What about Snape?" Ronnie asked confused.
"No time to explain, I just hope we've gathered enough for Dumbledore to believe us, we should have Firenze to back us up to though Bane might have something to say about that," Harriet looked around curious. "Now where exactly is Dumbledore's office?"
The rest looked around too. None of them seemed to know either, and Harriet couldn't think of anyone she knew who'd ever had to go there.
"And just what do you all think you're up to?"
They all spun around to see Professor McGonagall standing right behind them with a stack of books in her arms.
"W-we we " Ronnie stuttered.
"We want to see Professor Dumbledore!" Marcus declared.
"You want to see Professor Dumbledore? What for?"
They all looked at each other.
"I-It's private," Harriet said.
"Professor Dumbledore left for the Ministry of Magic ten minutes ago; you will all have to wait until he returns tomorrow."
"He left?!" Harriet asked and felt her heart sink. "And he won't be back until tomorrow?!"
"Yes, Potter, that is what I just said," Professor McGonagall snapped irritably. "Professor Dumbledore is a very great and well respected wizard, Potter, the Ministry of Magic often calls upon him."
"But this is important, Professor! It's about the Philosopher's Stone!"
Harriet actually jumped back a pace as the books tumbled from Professor McGonagall's arms to the floor.
"How on earth do you all know about the Philosopher's Stone!?" Professor McGonagall asked utterly dumbfounded.
"Someone's trying to steal it, Professor, we have to tell Professor Dumbledore right away!"
"Potter," Professor McGonagall said seeming to get her composure back. "No one can possibly steal the Stone, I myself put extensive defences in the path of any thief, as did most of the other teachers, or do you doubt our talents?"
Harriet had no retort to this, and Professor McGonagall started gathering her books.
"I suggest all of you head back out onto the grounds. It's far too beautiful a day outside for you alloh thank you McIntyreyes it is far too nice a day for you all to be inside."
Professor McGonagall watched them all with a hawkish expression as they made their way back outside.
"Well, that was a bust," Marcus grumbled.
"It must be tonight," Harriet said pacing on the front steps. "I'll bet you it was Voldemort who called him off, not the Ministry. And I'll bet you that's why my scar hurt! I told you it was a warning!" Harriet declared.
"So what are we going to do?" Ronnie asked nervously.
"We need a plan we need someone to find and keep an eye on Quirrell "
"What about Snape?!" Ronnie demanded.
Harriet sighed. She couldn't keep them out of that loop any longer.
"Look, Ronnie, Hermione, I know you're not going to agree with me but I really don't think Professor Snape has anything to do with this other than actually trying to stop Quirrell, but I really don't have time to explain it all. You just have to trust me, okay?"
Ronnie and Hermione both looked at each other, almost as though they were communicating telepathically. Finally they both turned and looked at Harriet.
"Alright," Hermione said. "We'll believe you don't believe he's behind it, but we reserve the right to be sceptical given our own evidence."
"Er, what she said," Ronnie agreed.
"Fair enough for now," Harriet agreed. "Now, who's going to go look for Quirrell?"
"Hermione," the rest said nearly in unison.
"What?! Why me?!" Hermione asked flustered.
"Because once you find him you can pretend you want to ask him about his exam," Ronnie explained.
Hermione glowered, "What about Scott? He cares about his grades just as much as I do."
"But he's not as manic about it as you are," Ronnie retorted.
Hermione opened her mouth to snap back but Harriet stepped between them. "Look, it doesn't matter. We don't have time!"
"Okay, how's this for a plan?" Kieran said in a conspiratorial voice. "Harriet, you go back to the Gryffindor common room"
"Just trust me; you go back to the common room. You don't need to be getting in any more trouble unless something really happens. Hermione go to the staff room, you can pretend to be looking for any number of professors that way and it'll still be believable."
Hermione sighed but agreed.
"Okay, good, Scott, you go look for Quirrell around his office."
"Got it," Scott said.
"Okay, Marcus, Ronnie and I will go to the door to the third floor corridor to check on Fluffy and keep anyone else from getting in."
"I'm guarding the corridor too," Harriet declared defiantly. "I am not just sitting in the common room waiting for things to happen."
"Harriet, hun," Ronnie said seeming to get something, "you've already gotten in big trouble, and you saw how angry Professor McGonagall was, she's liable to expel you if she catches you anywhere near there!"
"Fine!" Harriet shouted and turned without another word and stomped into the school.
She was beside herself with anger. How could she just be sitting on the side-lines while everyone else tried to stop Voldemort?
Harriet actually felt a little surprised to find herself in the common room a few minutes later. She'd been so distracted she didn't even remember giving the password to the Fat Lady. Harriet sat in one of the arm chairs by the fireplace, staring blankly into the empty grate resigned to wait uselessly.
Harriet did not have long to wait. Only ten minutes after Harriet had sat down Hermione entered the portrait hole.
"Well that was useless," Hermione muttered miserably.
"What?" Harriet asked, jumping to her feet, anxious for news.
"I went to the staff room but after only a couple minutes Professor Snape came out and he asked what I was doing so I told him I was looking for Professor Flitwick"
"It was the first name that came to my head, anyway, so he went back in and actually got Flitwick so I didn't have anything else I could do but actually come up with a reason to see him, I've only just gotten away "
Harriet sighed and slumped back down in her chair. Hermione sat in the chair next to Harriet, looking sympathetic.
"You really like to be in the thick of things, don't you Harriet?" Hermione asked with a slightly affectionate smile.
Harriet hung her head a little. "I don't like people doing things for me, especially if they're dangerous. I mean, the person who's pushing all this, Voldemort"
Hermione shuddered and squeaked.
"Is the same person who murdered my own parents, he even tried to murder me Hagrid said he killed anyone who got in his way I don't want others risking their lives "
Hermione's affectionate smile grew and she reached over to squeeze Harriet's hand. Harriet squeezed back a little but quickly looked up when the portrait hole swung open again. Kieran, Marcus, Ronnie and to their surprise Scott all climbed in, looking put out.
"Well, my plan failed miserably," Kieran muttered.
"What happened?" Harriet asked.
"We got to the door to the corridor well enough, and Fluffy was alive and well inside, but McGonagall found us again "
"We're fine, just more threats of detentions and massive points lost if she sees us near there again," Marcus said dismally.
"As for me," Scott said. "I actually found Quirrell but more literally than I'd wanted He gave me my results and told me I'd done a really good job then I had no choice but to leave "
"That's pretty much what happened to me but with Snape and Flitwick," Hermione said.
Harriet looked out the window again in thought before she finally made up her mind.
"Alright, that's it "
"What's it?" Ronnie asked.
"I'm going out tonight to try and beat Quirrell to the stone."
"You're what?" Marcus asked stunned.
"I'm grabbing my cloak and I'm sneaking out to beat Quirrell to the Stone I'm not letting Voldemort come back to power, no matter what. I know you've all heard the stories of what it was like when he was taking over, I know you have because you're all too scared to even say his name!"
The little group all looked at each other sheepishly.
"I'm not going to sit by when I know he's going to make an attempt on the Stone that'll return him to power. If I get caught by McGonagall and she expels me then so be it, I'll just have to go back to the Dursleys and wait for him there. But if I have the chance to stop him and keep him from turning Hogwarts into a school for the dark arts and killing anyone who gets in his way again then I'm going to take it!"
"You're right, Harriet," Hermione said though in a very small voice. "You're absolutely right."
"That means the only question is how are all six of us going to get there under the cloak?" Marcus asked grinning.
"All six of us?!" Harriet asked completely caught off guard.
"Oh yeah, what, you really think we'd let you go alone?" Ronnie asked, crossing her arms and raising an eyebrow.
"I, well "
"Okay well enough debate about that," Scott said grinning. "Now it's time to plan "
* * * *
Harriet jumped when Hermione finally shook her awake that night. It was eleven thirty and everyone had gone to bed. Harriet couldn't believe she had actually fallen asleep. Lavender and Parvati were sleeping soundly it seemed and Ronnie was getting dressed as quietly as she could. Harriet slid out of bed and got dressed pulling on jeans and a black jumper. She then grabbed her cloak and the hand-made flute that Hagrid had given her for Christmas.
They had decided to move all at once, but Harriet would be under the cloak and act as a look out for Peeves or Filch or any of the other teachers. They had come to that conclusion noting it would take forever to attempt to do it in two trips.
To their horror, however, they got downstairs to a less than desirable sight. Neville had been awake looking for his toad, Trevor, and was confronting Kieran and Marcus.
"You can't go out! You'll get caught like I did! You'll get Gryffindor House in even more trouble!" Neville said his fists clenched in anger.
"Neville, mate, just listen to us, we have to do something incredibly important tonight. The entire wizarding world could be saved by what we're trying to do tonight!" Marcus retorted, looking over his shoulder nervously, clearly hoping their voices weren't carrying enough to wake anyone else.
Neville then spotted Harriet, Hermione and Ronnie.
"You three are sneaking out too?!" Neville asked in exasperation.
"W-we're not sneaking!" Hermione squeaked.
Neville didn't look convinced. He walked over and stood in front of the portrait hole.
"You're not going out; you'll have to fight me!" Neville declared, and actually raised his fists at them.
"Neville!" Ronnie gasped aghast.
"Neville, no one's going to fight you, please just step away from the portrait hole," Kieran said, looking deeply offended.
Hermione finally sighed and stepped forward. "Neville, I'm really sorry about this " she said and took a deep breath before raising her wand. "Petrificus Totalus!"
The jet of light hit Neville in the chest and he immediately sprang bolt upright, his arms clamping to his sides and his legs slamming together. Neville's whole body had gone rigid as a plank of wood and he began to rock backward and forward and was just about to fall on his face when both Harriet and Marcus ran forward to catch him.
"Oh Neville, I'm so sorry " Hermione moaned as they carried Neville over to a sofa. It seemed much kinder than leaving him on the floor.
"We'll let you out when we get back Neville, and we'll explain everything " Harriet said as she leaned down to hug the prostrate form. Only Neville's eyes seemed able to move as she stood back up and looked around at the other students.
"Okay, we can't afford to waste any more time, follow me," she said and went to the portrait hole. One by one they climbed out, ignoring the Fat Lady who was trying to tell them off.
Harriet put on her cloak. She lifted it just enough that it showed her feet so her friends could follow her. They made their way carefully to Ravenclaw tower where they collected Scott. Harriet was surprised at their luck until they finally made it back to the staircase to the third floor corridor. There they had to pause and wait for Peeves who was loosening the carpet at the top of the stairs, obviously hoping people would trip.
Once he was gone, Harriet waved to her friends who followed her. Harriet's heart fell as she saw that the door was already open.
"Oh no, Quirrell's already gotten in," Harriet groaned as she peered inside. "Okay this is it if anyone else wants to turn back now or wait behind I won't hold it against anyone."
"I'm with you," Ronnie said first.
"I'm with you too," Hermione said.
"And me," Marcus said.
"Aye, me too," said Kieran.
"And me of course," said Scott with an eager grin.
"Oh what the heck, me too," said another girl's voice that made all of them jump and spin around. Dora Flamel was standing right behind them all.
"Dora!?" Harriet asked.
"What are you doing here?" asked Marcus.
"Well I was on my way to the library but a train of Gryffindors and a Ravenclaw following a disembodied pair of feet was hard to ignore " Dora said casually. "So, someone's after my great-grandfather's Stone?"
"Yes, we're fairly sure it's Professor Quirrell, and he's being put up to it by Voldemort," Harriet said. The entire group shuddered at the sound of the name but Harriet ignored them.
"Quirrell?" Dora asked sounding sceptical.
"It doesn't matter who it is," Harriet said, feeling more urgent. They were running out of time. "What matters is we have to try and stop them before they get to the Stone. They are using it to help Voldemort regain power!"
Dora looked at Harriet long and hard, "Okay, I'll help you," She said looking suddenly very serious.
"Shouldn't a Slytherin like you want to help You-Know-Who return to power?" muttered Ronnie looking mistrusting. Dora glared but Kieran stepped in between them.
"Look, we don't have time for this rubbish; we have to get past that dog and past the other defences set up by at least seven other teachers including the headmaster!"
There were murmurs of assent around the group and they finally slowly pushed the door open the rest of the way. Fluffy immediately began growling from all three heads. The trap door beneath his feet was closed, but there was a small harp on the floor beside it.
Harriet pulled out her flute. "Not much of a musician, but here goes " she said and put the flute to her lips and blew. Even though she wasn't really playing a tune, the soft note seemed to work. Fluffy's eyes began to get heavy and his snarls slowly ceased. To Harriet's amazement, the giant dog actually walked in a little circle, sniffing the ground before lying down and falling fast asleep.
"Wow Hagrid wasn't kidding was he?" Marcus muttered with raised eyebrows.
"You mean all you have to do is play music and that monster falls asleep?" Dora asked incredulously.
"I guess so," Scott said as he stepped over Fluffy's tail and gave a heave, pulling open the trap door and peering inside. "I can't see the bottom "
"So, who's going first?" Marcus asked. Harriet took a breath and continued playing. Even in that moment she took the breath, Fluffy snorted and growled before falling back asleep. Despite that, Harriet raised her hand. She passed the flute to Hermione (Fluffy snorted again) and swung her legs over the ledge.
"If I get hurt in the drop or anything else, go to the owlery and send Hedwig to Professor Dumbledore right away, don't try and save me okay?"
Marcus snorted. "Yeah right, we'll send one of us to the owlery but the rest of us are coming in after you no matter what."
"I'll go to the owlery " said a put out sounding voice. They all turned to look at Kieran who was looking miserable.
"What, why?" Ronnie asked.
"Well it's kind of obvious," Dora said. "Hard to jump down into any hole with that leg."
Kieran only gave her the slightest of glares but nodded in agreement.
"Well, wait until I get down and we'll see how deep it is " Harriet said and before anyone could say anything else she slid off the edge and dropped into the hole.
She landed with a soft whump. Whatever she had landed on was soft yet somehow firm, and had a ribbed quality to it as she ran her hands over it.
"It's okay, I'm okay, and it's a soft landing," Harriet called up to the others.
"Alright, I'm coming next," came Ronnie's voice. Ronnie landed with a similar whump right next to Harriet. "Good aim, eh?"
Harriet rolled her eyes as Scott landed on his feet and stumbled a little.
"Well, that wasn't so bad aoh no!" Scott said and jumped back quickly flattening himself against the wall.
"What?" Ronnie and Harriet asked.
"It's Devil's Snare! Don't move, it's already got you two!"
Harriet looked down. Indeed, long tendrils of the creeping vine were snaking themselves around her and Ronnie's legs. Harriet tried to tug, but the moment she did she felt the vines cling tighter, and stopped. Ronnie on the other hand had started to panic.
"Oh no, oh no no no! Help!" She called struggling harder. As she did, the plant began to wrap itself higher and higher, now grabbing her arms.
"Someone do something!" Harriet cried.
Scott looked up at the trap door. "Hermione, we need fire, it's Devil's Snare, conjure some of your"
Scott didn't get time to finish before a ball of nearly golden flames shot down into the little chamber. Harriet closed her eyes from the brightness, but immediately felt the effect it had on the plant. The vines whipped and flailed as they let go of her, trying to get away from of the burning hot flames. They were replaced by Ronnie's arms as Harriet felt Ronnie cling to her, sobbing a little in terror.
"Ronnie, it's okay, the plant's gone, it's okay where did you learn to conjure those flames, Hermione?" Harriet called up to the trap-door.
However, the flute kept casually playing and instead Marcus dropped in, though he gave a little shout of pain and fell back on his backside.
"Ow, that hurt, those were my flames thank you very much, Harriet," Marcus said with a mixture of pride and offense.
"Oh, sorry, w-where did you learn to make those?!"
"I have been getting private lessons from Flitwick all year long. I have to have learned something " he muttered as he got to his feet, wincing a little and taking weight off his left ankle. "Anyway, Kieran mate, I hate to say it but you're not gonna manage this drop."
"You're sure?" Kieran called back sounding deeply disappointed.
"Yeah, I twisted my ankle rather fierce coming down "
"Hmmm, the Devil's Snare was probably supposed to act as a cushion and a trap all in one," Hermione's voice added thoughtfully. There was a snarl and the sound of the flute music started again quickly, putting the dog back to sleep.
"Well alright nothing for it then Hermione? Give me the flute, you lot get ready to catch Dora and Hermione when they come," Kieran said.
"Are yeh sure?" Scott asked. There was another burst of flame from Marcus, the Devil's Snare had tried to come creeping out at them again.
"Aye, I'll take the flute and play while you guys drop down then take the cloak and head to the owlery."
"Alright " Scott replied. "Good luck mate."
"You too," was all the more Kieran said. There was another pause in the flute playing and Scott held his arms out.
Hermione came down first, and Scott managed to take most of her impact. Ronnie had finally managed to calm down enough to let go of Harriet and they both got to their feet as Dora came down as well. Above them they could hear the ominous sound of the flute growing quieter and quieter as Kieran moved to the door before finally leaving them with only the sound of their own breathing and Fluffy's grunts as he awoke.
"Well, this is it," Harriet said. They all turned as one to look down a long passageway.
The passage was unlit, and they moved as a chain, Harriet in the lead with her hand running along the wall to guide her, Ronnie behind with her hand on Harriet's shoulder, then Hermione, then Scott, then Marcus, then Dora. After what felt like many minutes, or even an hour, Harriet couldn't tell in the darkness, they finally saw some light ahead.
"What's that sound?" Ronnie asked as they got nearer to the light.
"Not sure," Hermione said behind them.
"It sounds a little like wings, lots and lots of them," Dora guessed.
They finally left the passageway into a very well lit chamber. They all squinted up to see that the entire ceiling looked alive with little fluttering and brightly coloured birds. Across the room was a large wooden door with a silver handle.
"Reckon they'll attack us?" Ronnie asked, looking up at the birds but seeming a little more confident now they were in the light.
"Most likely," Harriet muttered unenthusiastically. "Well, nothing for it but to try."
Harriet quickly covered her head and face in her arms and darted across the room towards the door. However, the birds didn't seem to do anything but continue to flutter about the ceiling. Harriet gingerly put out a hand to the handle, expecting them to attack now if she touched the door, but again they did nothing. However, the handle was locked.
The rest of the group joined her. Hermione attempted to unlock the door magically, but it did no good.
"Great, now what?" Marcus muttered.
Harriet looked up at the birds, deep in thought. One broke ranks with the others just enough that Harriet could get a good look at it. It wasn't a bird at all.
"Keys!" Harriet said in shock. "They're flying keys! This must be Flitwick's test! He's charmed the keys to fly!"
"You're right!" said Dora, looking excited now. "We must have to catch the right one, look! There's brooms!"
There were indeed three broomsticks against the wall of the chamber.
"Great, we're getting somewhere, now how do we know what one's the right one?"
"Hmmmm," Ronnie said as she examined the door handle. "I'd say it would be really old fashioned, and silver, just like this door handle."
"Good thinking," Harriet said and looked back up at the keys. Before she could do anything else, however, Dora ran over to the brooms, grabbed one and kicked off. She was a very good flyer. Harriet quickly ran over with Ronnie. They both grabbed one of the remaining brooms and mounted it before kicking off too.
While Dora it seemed was a good flyer, Harriet had the quicker eyes.
"There," Harriet said. She had spotted a large silver key, just like what Ronnie had suggested, that had a conspicuously bent wing.
"Okay, here's the plan, Dora, you move below. Ronnie, you come at it from above to force it down. I'll go straight for it and catch it. It looks pretty rough already so I doubt it'll be as bad as a Snitch. Alright, GO!"
Ronnie climbed while Dora dived circling around below, her eyes locked on the key. Harriet shot straight in. Despite being injured the key was still very quick. It darted and jinked away. Harriet finally managed to get close to it when it just managed to dip enough her hands closed on air.
"No!" She shouted angrily. The key darted downwards, towards Dora. Harriet could see Dora grin and shoot off after the key herself. To Harriet's amazement, Dora actually managed to hip-check the key against the wall. She backed away and the key plummeted to the floor both of its wings crumpled. Harriet watched Hermione walk over and pick up the key, looking at it with a sad expression before she walked over to the door, stuck it into the lock and turned it. It was the right key.
"We're through!" Hermione called up to them and Harriet, Ronnie and Dora flew down to join them. Hermione was looking at Dora with deep disapproval.
"You might have found a way of catching it without killing the poor thing," Hermione muttered, cradling the limp key in her hands. Dora raised her eyebrows.
"Um, Granger, it's a key it's not alive," Dora retorted. Hermione opened her mouth to respond when Harriet stepped between them.
"Look, we don't have time for this; we have to get to Quirrell and the Stone. Let's go," She ordered.
They walked through the door. Marcus it seemed was losing the pain in his ankle and didn't have to lean on Scott anymore.
The next chamber was dark when they entered. Then torches lit themselves along the wall and the room was revealed to be a giant chessboard. Their side of the board was populated with towering black chess pieces while the opposite side contained faceless white figures. They all turned and looked at Ronnie, who was studying the pieces carefully.
"Reckon we gotta play to get across?" Ronnie asked herself as she strode up to one of the black pieces. "That's right isn't it, we have to take your places and play our way across?" she asked the piece.
To their surprise the black piece turned to look down at her, and nodded. Ronnie set her face and turned back to the rest of them.
"Alright, let's see Harriet, you take the place of that bishop there, Hermione, you be that rook."
"A rook? It looks like a castle tower to me," Hermione said studying the piece.
"In chess it's called a rook," Ronnie barked. "Scott, you be the other rook there. Marcus, you be that other bishop. Flamel, you be that pawn"
"Why do I have to be a pawn?!" Dora spluttered angrily.
"Just trust me! I have a plan already. Alright, I'll take the place of this knight here," Ronnie said patting the piece she had spoken to. At that, all six of the pieces Ronnie had indicated turned and marched off the board. The six of them made their way onto the board and took their places.
"Now, white always plays first, see?" Ronnie said and indicated a white pawn which had moved two spaces forward. Harriet felt herself trembling a little. She remembered the brutal nature of wizard's chess on the small scale. What would this version be like? Her worries were answered when Ronnie sacrificed their other knight. The white queen smashed him to the floor and dragged his limp form off the board before retaking her spot.
"Well looks like I'll have to be more careful especially with so many of us on the board now," Ronnie said swallowing.
Despite her slight nerves, Ronnie appeared to be in her element. She had them darting around the board, though as they did, Harriet couldn't help but notice a pattern. Instead of their king, Ronnie seemed to be putting most of her effort on protecting and getting Dora advanced across the board. Sure enough, Ronnie gave a triumphant whoop when Dora finally made it all the way to the back row.
"A queen! Dora, you're a queen now!" Ronnie declared pumping her fist in the air.
Dora looked down at her tile and back at Ronnie and grinned, "Brilliant!"
"Right," Ronnie said with a smirk at the white pieces. "Now things are going to be interesting."
Now the tide of the game completely turned. With two queens Ronnie managed to make relatively short work of the white pieces until finally they had the white king in check. Despite their near victory, Ronnie was looking troubled.
"Well nothing for it I suppose."
"What's that?" Scott asked.
"I have to be taken "
"No!" Harriet shouted. She nearly took a step towards Ronnie when Ronnie held up her hand.
"Stay there Harriet! Don't move! I have to be sacrificed. If I don't move and let their queen take me she'll take you instead and we'll lose check, but if I move and let her take me you can move and put the king in checkmate. Then you can all move on and stop Quirrell!"
Ronnie looked around at them. When Hermione couldn't come up with another option, they all agreed Ronnie's choice was the only way.
"Alright, here goes," Ronnie said nervously and made her move. The following events were horrible to watch. The white queen immediately strode over and swung her long stone arm down. Ronnie was knocked sprawling. Her head bounced roughly off the stone floor and she went limp.
"Ronnie!" Hermione yelled and was also about to take a step when Scott yelled out for her to stop.
"Don't move, Hermione!" Scott shouted. "Let Harriet take the king and get this over with!"
Hermione froze and wiped the tears from her eyes. Harriet took a deep breath and strode three spaces to her left. The white king threw his crown to the floor and the rest of the pieces bowed and moved aside to reveal another large door behind them. They had won.
Harriet and the rest ran over to Ronnie. She was breathing and her eyes were rolled back in her head. She was clearly unconscious, but alive.
"What are we going to do?" Hermione asked, holding Ronnie's head in her lap.
"Some of us have to keep going," Harriet said. She leaned down to hug Ronnie. "You were so brave, Ronnie," she said softly. Ronnie gave a little moan. "Who'll help take her out of here ?"
Without any argument, Dora and Marcus both nodded. There was an expression in Dora's face that Harriet couldn't quite identify as Dora looked down at Ronnie. Was it affection or pity? Harriet gave a grimace of thanks before she, Hermione and Scott got to their feet.
"Alright, we'll go on. There can't be that many more trials left. Good luck," Harriet said.
"You too," Marcus replied.
Harriet looked at Hermione and Scott who nodded falling in behind her as Harriet turned and actually ran for the door. They ran up the next passage and were just about to hit the next door when a horrible stench made them all double over. Harriet almost retched.
"Oh what is that?!" Scott asked his voice nasally as he pinched his nose. "Ugh I can taste it in the air!"
Harriet forced herself to the door and pushed it open. The smell hit them even stronger and in the middle of the new room was a troll. It was even larger than the one that had attacked Harriet in the bathroom last Halloween. This troll looked unconscious too, if not nearly dead with a giant lump on its head that was bleeding profusely.
"Well, lucky Quirrell beat us to this one, huh?" Harriet said as they skirted the room, still too nervous to get near the troll.
"Are you really sure this wasn't Snape?" Hermione asked, also pinching her nose "This seems a bit more than Quirrell could take on."
Harriet didn't answer. She got to the door on the other side of the room and pushed it open. They headed down another passageway. The next door, however, held the biggest surprise yet.
Harriet actually yelled and jumped back thinking she had nearly stepped off a ledge. Inside the room was nothing but blackness. As Harriet blinked and took in the room properly, she saw that it was in fact filled with little spots of white light, almost like stars.
Hermione stepped to the edge of the passageway and knelt, putting her hand down. There was in fact a floor there but it looked just like empty space too.
"It's been bewitched, just like the ceiling of the Great Hall," Hermione said. She took a step out and Harriet and Scott followed. The feeling was bizarre, like they were standing in the middle of space. And then Harriet realized they were in fact standing in space, and the little spots of light really were supposed to be stars.
"It's a giant planetarium," Scott said as he looked around in wonder. "This must be Professor Sinistra's trial."
"But what do we have to do?"
"I think we have to assemble the solar system," Scott said as he strode to the middle of the room. Almost at once, a small sphere of light appeared right in front of him, clearly a very small model of the sun.
"Well, that doesn't sound too hard," Harriet said.
Scott shook his head. "It'll be harder than you think, look," He said and pointed in a circle to the edges of the room. As he did, Harriet noticed there was a long series of small orbs around the room.
"We'll have to do all the planets, and their moons, get them in the right places this is going to be a doozy," Scott muttered as he and Hermione walked to the edge of the room and examined the little models of planets and moons.
"Of course, Quirrell was the previous astronomy professor, I bet he solved this in no time," Hermione said bitterly.
"Well, nothing for it then, do you see Mercury anywhere?" Scott asked Hermione.
"I-I think so," Hermione said studying one of the planets. "Or is this Ganymede?"
Scott walked over checking it. "No, that's Ganymede."
And they were off. While Harriet thought she was doing fairly well in Astronomy classes she was rapidly learning she had nothing on either Hermione or Scott. They worked feverishly trying to set the planets and all their moons into the right places and orbits.
Finally, Hermione and Scott stood back looking very pleased with each other.
"There," Scott said with a grin. "Finished."
As he and Hermione backed up the little balls all sprang to life spinning and moving around the sun. Harriet winced when the black vanished and more torches lit themselves on the walls. As Harriet got her vision back she saw that they were in merely another stone room, with a door at the far end and the little planets once more set on little pedestals around the edges of the room.
"Okay, we have to get moving," Harriet insisted as she went to the next door. If she was right, the only trial left should be Professor Snape's.
Given all the other grand trials they had encountered so far: the Devil's Snare, the keys, the chessboard, the troll and the planetarium, Harriet was expecting something a little more exciting for this room. Instead, all she saw was a little table and seven unique bottles lined up on top of it.
"Well, this is anti-climactic," Scott muttered, echoing Harriet's own thoughts. Hermione reached the table first and looked at the bottles thoughtfully. Harriet and Scott stepped into the room but both jumped when a wall of purple flames sprang up behind them blocking the doorway back. Another wall of black flames appeared in front of the doorway on the other side of the room.
"We're trapped!" Harriet declared.
"No, we're not," Hermione said. Harriet looked at her and saw she was reading a small piece of parchment.
"We're not?" Harriet asked.
"No, we just have to solve the riddle on this piece of paper.
Harriet and Scott walked over to her and read.
Danger lies before you, while safety lies behind,
Two of us will help you, whichever you would find,
One among us seven will let you move ahead,
Another will transport the drinker back instead,
Two among our number hold only nettle wine,
Three of us are killers, waiting hidden in line.
Choose, unless you wish to stay here forevermore,
To help you in your choice, we give you these clues four,
First, however slyly the poison tries to hide,
You will always find some on nettle wine's left side;
Second, different are those who stand at either end,
But if you would move onward, neither is your friend;
Third, as you see clearly, all are different size,
Neither dwarf nor giant holds death in their insides;
Fourth, the second left and second on the right
Are twins once you taste them, though different at first sight.
"Hah," Hermione said clapping her hands. "Fantastic! It's logic, not magic!"
"Logic?" Harriet asked. The clues made absolutely no sense to her.
"Yes, now give me time to think," Hermione said.
And she was off. Harriet and Scott stood there and watched with bemusement as Hermione read the parchment and looked at the bottles. Finally, Hermione turned to them and smiled.
"I've got it!" She said and she pulled the smallest bottle and the round bottle from the line. "This little one will get us through the black fire, towards the Stone."
"Get one of us you mean," Harriet said. "There's hardly enough there for a whole swallow."
"Well you know what I mean," Hermione said. "Anyway, the other bottle I pulled out will get us back through the purple flames to the chamber."
"There's a lot more in that one, enough for two," Scott muttered.
"Okay, you two drink that one then."
"What?" Both Hermione and Scott asked at once.
"You two drink that and get back with the others. I'll go on after Quirrell."
"But Harriet, you're no match"
"No arguing!" Harriet said, crossing her arms. "I'm the one who stopped Voldemort the last time. It's my job to stop him this time, no one else's."
Hermione and Scott both gave her long searching look before Hermione stepped forward and gave Harriet a powerful hug.
"You're so brave, Harriet, you're a truly great witch."
"Best I've ever seen," Scott agreed actually managing a smile.
Harriet felt her cheeks getting warm. "Thanks, but I'm not as good as you two "
Hermione let go of Harriet and shook her head.
"Books and cleverness, those only get you so far, you've got so much more than that."
"Aye, yer braver than anyone I've ever met, and that's sayin' somethin'," Scott agreed.
Harriet swallowed and looked at the bottle Hermione had indicated.
"Alright, hand me the bottle, I'll drink and go first."
Hermione reached out a trembling hand and handed it over to Harriet.
"Alright, after I get through the flames, you two go back. You need to get back before the troll wakes up at the very least. Dumbledore should be on his way back if Kieran was successful, maybe even the others have got more teachers to come help us, like McGonagall; okay, here goes."
Before either of them could stop her Harriet swallowed potion from the little bottle. Her insides immediately felt like they had been turned to ice.
"Wow that's cold!" Harriet declared. "Okay, go!" she called and before either Hermione or Scott could say anything more, Harriet turned and ran into the flames. She didn't feel it burning but the flames did warm her. Her insides stopped being so cold and she stopped shivering. She looked back and was barely able to see Scott and Hermione disappear through the purple flames.
Harriet had wanted to have them go first to make sure they'd be safe. But, the look in Scott's eye told her all too plainly that Scott was planning to take the potion from her if he had the chance to go in her place. And Harriet couldn't have allowed that.
Harriet took a deep breath and turned to open the final door. Her hand trembled against her will. She pushed it open and there he was. Right in the middle of the room was the smiling face of Professor Quirrell. His face wasn't trembling, it was sneering the wickedest sneer Harriet had ever seen in her life.
"Ah, Potter, I was hoping you would come."
*General Jigme Dorji Wengschuk is in fact based on General Iroh from the Avatar: The Last Airbender TV-series, so technically this is in fact a more authentic Wengschuck quote than the rest. It was just too appropriate to this chapter to not use it.