The Race To The Stone
Goyle peered down into the darkness. "If there's a bed of spikes at the bottom of this hole, I'm going to be very upset," he said. Without further ado, he hopped lightly into the square of blackness and vanished from sight. "Yar!"
"Goyle!" Harry called down. "Goyle, are you all right?"
"I've landed on a plant, I think," his voice echoed up to them. "Jump down."
Crabbe shrugged and hopped after his friend. Theo leapt in after him. The girls jumped as well. Finally only Harry and Draco were left.
"Jumping into blackness like this is something a Gryffindor would do," Draco said, his House prejudices appearing even now. "Don't ever tell anyone I did this. Yah!" He dove down into the darkness. Harry followed without a word. He landed on some sort of plant, just as Goyle had said. He made a muffled, funny-sounding thump as he landed. All around him was gloom and darkness.
"Someone make a light," Harry called out.
"Lumos!" Tracy said. Then she shrieked. "Get out of here!"
The light revealed a huge plant with vines and tendrils everywhere. Subtly, sneakily, vines had crept up in the darkness and ensnared them. Now, as they realized their predicament, they tried to free themselves, but the creepers bound them faster the harder they struggled.
"It's Devil's Snare!" Theo shouted. "It likes damp and dark! We need light and heat!" He arched back as the vines went for his throat.
"Incendio!" Goyle shouted, having managed to draw his wand. Bright orange flames leapt from the tip, lighting all over the plant. Instantly the creeper vines began to retreat, wriggling and flailing to escape. One by one, they each pulled themselves free of the loosening vines and onto stone floor.
"Good work, Goyle," Theo said. "Once again, your little fire spell saves the day."
"If you need fire, I'm your man," Goyle said, grinning.
"You're just destined to be a pyromancer," Millie ribbed him. "Thankfully stone doesn't burn, so our part of the castle is safe."
The only way forward was down the sloping stone passageway. Apart from their footsteps, all they could hear was the sound of their own breathing and the gentle drip of water trickling down the walls. The light at the end of the corridor beckoned to them, and Tracy extinguished her wandlight.
"What's that sound?" Pansy asked.
As they strained their ears, a fluttering, rustling, clinking sound could be heard from up ahead. It came from a brilliantly lit chamber, its ceiling arching high above their heads. It was filled with small birds, bright like jewels, fluttering and tumbling all around the room. On the opposite wall, they could see a plain, heavy wooden door. They stood at the entrance to the room, considering.
"Chances of being attacked by birds if we step into this room?" Draco asked lightly.
"Probably fairly high," Theo mused. He drew his wand and pointed it at the far door. "I think we're too far away, but Alohomora!" A jet of white light shot from the tip of his wand, but fell short of the door. "One of us has to go out there."
"I will," Tracy said confidently. "I can unlock that door." Without waiting for anyone to object, she darted into the light-filled room, running across the smooth stone floor to the heavy wooden door. No birds made a motion towards her. "I think it's safe to come this far."
"You open the door," Draco said easily. "We'll just watch and approve from over here."
She stuck her tongue out at him and cast the spell on the door. Though the lock flared with white light, the handle stubbornly refused to turn. "Looks like we have to figure out a different way," she said.
The others meandered into the room. Theo gazed up at the open space where all the birds fluttered around in a lazy manner. He looked deep in thought.
"There's got to be some sort of connection," he mumbled, scratching his chin. "They wouldn't be here if they didn't have a purpose."
The birds were tiny, rather hard to see. They soared overhead, glittering in the torchlight.
Millie groaned. "Oh by Merlin's robes, it's so obvious! What kind of bird is all sparkly like that? Look closely. They're not birds at all; they're keys! Winged keys!"
They peered up at the birds, straining their eyes. One by one, they each nodded at the truth of Millie's words.
"Well if they've got wings, there's got to be a way to get up there and nab it," Daphne reasoned. She investigated the darker corners. "Ah hah! Broomsticks! We've got to fly up and catch the key to the door."
"Harry can do that easily!" Tracy said enthusiastically.
"Harry's not going to do a bloody thing," Theo said firmly. "You're not going to take any unnecessary risks, you hear me, Harry? You're too important for that. You need to stop You-Know-Who from getting the Stone."
"But I can get that key," Harry protested. He loved to fly, and catching the correct key would be simplicity itself.
"So can I," Draco said, picking up a broomstick. "Hey, a Nimbus Seventeen-hundred, not bad." He mounted and kicked off.
Draco could fly, Harry had no illusions about that. Now that he had a decent quality broomstick under him, he was able to show off some moves that simply weren't possible with the broken-down, school-owned equipment. Draco made quick changes to his course, flying his broom with speed and skill. He would have made an excellent Seeker, Harry thought.
"There's too many of them!" Draco called down to them. "We'll be forever catching and trying them all."
Pansy examined the lock. "Look for a silver key to match the lock, big and old-fashioned, like the keys for Malfoy Manor."
Harry chaffed at not being permitted to go up into the air. He felt at home there, and he knew he would never fall off. He'd managed to stay on a jinxed broom, after all. Could Draco say the same?
The keys were a great protection for the Stone. There were hundreds of them, and they all darted and dived so quickly that catching one was nearly impossible. Once you caught one and it wasn't the right key, you had to let it go to wander back out and mingle with the others.
"I've caught this key already!" Draco shouted angrily. Clearly they needed a new plan.
Harry grabbed the other broom. He mounted and kicked off before anyone could stop him. He was the youngest Seeker in a century. He had a knack for spotting things that others could not. He wove through the whirling cloud of glittering rainbow feathers and saw a largish silver key that gave him a good feeling.
"There!" he said, pointing. "That big silver one with the bright blue wings."
"How do you know?"
"I just know."
"Good enough for me," Draco said, zooming by. "Now get to ground."
"No way," Harry responded, leaning low over his broom and taking off after Draco.
"Harry, knock it off," Draco called to him as they chased after the key. Through the ceiling beams they flew, left and right, up and down, back and front and all around. The flock of keys started zooming around after the boys, seemingly enchanted to protect the one key.
"No! I can get that key!" Harry suddenly felt the desire to stand out, to prove that he didn't need protection. Here in the air, he was in his element, and nothing could stop him.
They were neck and neck now, both reaching out for the key, which fluttered along in front of them just like a Snitch. Harry flashed back to the times they'd played pick-up games of Quidditch and remembered that Draco had been limited by the inferior broom. He reached out his hand just a little further.
Draco bumped his broom into Harry's. "Sorry!" he called. It probably had been an accident, but that only highlighted the risks that flying encompassed.
Harry didn't answer, but leaned so low that he was practically hugging his broomstick. He stretched his hand just a fraction of an inch further, and managed to hook a finger through the ring of the key.
"Got it!" he shouted happily. He slowed up, and the pursuing flock of keys immediately swarmed him. His broom sank steadily towards the floor. "Gah, geroff, stupid birds."
The instant the key was placed in the lock, the other keys flew off. Once it was turned, and the door unlocked, the key took flight again, looking a little battered and abused now that it had been caught. One of the wings was bent, and it couldn't fly straight anymore.
"Ready?" Harry asked, looking at the unhappy faces of his friends. "What?"
Tracy hugged him. "Harry, that was so reckless!"
"It was something a Gryffindor would do," Pansy said, her voice half-sneering.
"Oh, so now Draco acts like a Gryffindor?" Harry riposted. "Draco, what do you think about that?" He pulled open the door.
"I think that I'm not as important as you are, you git," Draco said, stepping first into the dark chamber beyond the door. "No Dark Lord tried to kill me, so I can take a few risks here and there when we're on our way to confront one of his followers."
As soon as they stepped into the dark chamber, the door slammed shut behind them and torchlight suddenly flooded the room, blinding them, but revealing an astonishing sight.
They stood on the edge of a huge chessboard, behind the black pieces, which were all taller than they, and carved from onyx. Across the way were the white pieces, spooky and ominous; creepy, for the flickering torchlight revealed that the white chessmen had no faces.
"This is brill," Theo enthused. "I could go for one of these in the backyard."
"Now what?" Millie asked.
"Unless I am wrong, and I am never wrong," Theo said, ignoring Pansy's snort of derision, "we have to play our way across the board. We've got to defeat the opposing army to reach, yes, see that door behind white pieces?"
Draco grimaced. "If only Elan were down here. He'd wipe the board clean in five minutes flat."
"Well he's not here," Daphne said. "That leaves Theo as our resident chesspert."
Theo started. "Me?"
"Yes, you," Harry chimed in. "You taught me a lot about the game. You can do this; I know it."
"I taught you the basics, Harry. Something like this," he gestured, "is liable to be far beyond my poor skill."
"Stop being modest," Pansy told him crossly. "You can do this. Just don't think about it and play it as though it were any other game."
Theo nodded his head slowly. "All right. I'll do it. But how? White moves first, and those pieces aren't going anywhere."
"Join us." The words shocked them, because none of the boys could have produced a voice that deep and powerful. They looked up into the shining eyes of the black king.
"You mean we have to take the place of some of your pieces?" Tracy asked. The black king nodded solemnly.
"Right," Theo said decisively, slipping into his appropriate mindset. "Crabbe and Goyle, go to the corners and replace the rooks. Next to them, Pansy and Millie will be our knights. Draco, Daphne, you two replace the bishops."
"And I get to be the queen?" Tracy inquired perkily.
"Unless Harry wants it," Draco snickered. Harry felt himself blushing.
"No, Harry will be the king. He's the most important piece, and the safest one, as it's taken last." Theo was not really looking at them. He studied the board, probably playing out possible sequences of moves in his head.
"Where will you be?" Harry asked him.
Theo looked directly at Harry, his dark brown eyes very serious. "I'll be standing here. I will be the Chessmaster."
The back row cleared of pieces, and the Slytherins took their places. There was silence for a moment, then the pawn moved to King Four.
Theo's directions were crisp, clear, and blunt. No one argued with him. Chess was not played by committee. He directed the black pieces around the board. The pawns, the only remaining onyx figures, were silent as they obeyed orders.
It was quite a shock when the first piece was taken. Their pawn thrust out with a spear and pierced the white pawn, which dropped its stone sword. Shattered stone chips flew as the piece was destroyed -- just like in real wizard chess. Theo visibly gulped.
He played defensively, as he was keen to protect his friends. He moved the pawns forward, moving significant pieces up each in turn to guard them. He captured opposing pieces with the pawns, regretting each one of his own that was taken, for each loss further exposed his friends to danger. Finally only four pawns were left.
Theo had done well, taking more a quarter of the white pieces. The chessboard was littered with the rubble and dust of the destroyed marble statues. His own pieces were arrayed for defence. He could not press for the white king without losing some of his more valuable pieces. That meant his friends would get hurt, but if he continued to play defensively, he would soon start to lose them anyway.
A drop of sweat rolled down his face. The unseen Chessmaster was good, in fact, brilliant. Every move had a countermove, blocking Theo on everything he tried to do. It was as though the essence of many great Masters had been distilled and imbued in the magic of the board. How could he beat that?
He studied the board intently, taking his time. There was no timeclock in this match. The white pieces were scattered, excepting three protecting the king.
The king was blocked. Theo looked again. The king was still blocked -- trapped, unable to move in three directions. Had he found a weakness? Was that the key? He traced the sequence in his mind. Two moves. It was right there. He stared wild-eyed at the board, sure it was a trap. The opposing Chessmaster was too good for that. It had to be a trick!
But there was nothing presently in position to trap a piece that moved into that region. Only the last white rook could be moved into position to defend the square that Tracy could step into to checkmate the king. His eyes fell on Pansy. She was in perfect position to intercept that rook, and she would be sacrificed. Theo bit his lip. He had to do it. There was no other way to win.
"Knight to King's Knight Four," he said in a small voice. He didn't feel very good about himself right then.
"Theo!" Draco said, startled. "That'll put her right-"
"I know!" Theo burst out. "I know! But she has to do it. It blocks the rook and leaves Tracy free to check the king. It's the only way to win."
Pansy looked very scared. Her eyes were wide as she stared up at the massive, solid rook. "I can see the moves, and he's right. If I'm taken, the game is over." Her voice trembled, but she began walking.
Each step came slower and slower. Only another few steps would carry her into the square, but she did not take them. Her face was green. With a pitiful cry, she collapsed to the board, crying uncontrollably.
"I can't," she wept. "I'm scared! Please don't make me!"
Harry's heart lurched in sympathy. He had been holding his breath practically the whole game, half-sick with fear for his friends, praying that Theo wouldn't make a mistake. He hadn't, but now he had been called to make a difficult decision.
"Pansy!" Harry called to her. He half-took a step.
"No!" Theo shouted. "Don't move! You can't, or we lose even more! Pansy!" She lay on the board, shaking and sobbing. "Pansy, you have to be strong," he told her. "I know you're scared, but this is the only way. When we win, I'll stay. I'll take care of you, but you have to do this."
Each of them was aching to go to her. Nothing could be more difficult than having no one to comfort you. Nothing could be more frightening than being told that you must risk your life.
But her weeping ceased. She lifted her head and looked right at Theo. "You'll stay with me?" she said in a small, scared voice.
"I promise," he told her.
She slowly got to her feet. She stood with her back to the rook and looked at Theo. She took one step backwards into the designated square.
The rook came to life, morphing from a stone tower to a rock monster. It raised one horrible hand and slapped at her. She never saw it coming as she was flung into the air, off the board, and against one of the stone pillars at the side with a sickening sound. Harry winced.
"Quickly," Theo said in a sick voice. "Tracy, run up and stand a square away from the king."
Tracy ran. She set foot inside the square. "Checkmate!" Theo called, running to Pansy's side.
The king's greatsword, which he had been resting his hands on, point down, fell loose and crashed to the board. He reached up and removed his crown, dropping it on the board at Tracy's feet. The game was over. Those who had played rushed to where Pansy lay with a small pool of blood under her head.
"Is she all right?" Daphne asked. "Aside from being bashed into a pillar like that, of course."
"I don't think her head's cracked," Theo said, probing at the back of Pansy's skull. "Gi-normous lump here though. She won't be waking up for a long time, but she'll be happy about that. If she's lucky, she won't wake up until after she's been treated."
Harry brushed away a stray lock of Pansy's hair. "I think she's already been really lucky. She could have been killed."
"I know." Theo's voice was little more than a whisper, "but it had to be done." He set his jaw and looked up at them all. "You need to keep going. I'll stay here."
"Pansy needs Madam Pomfrey," Draco said. He turned to Crabbe. "Get back up into the castle. Go find any teacher except McGonagall and get help. The rest of us are going after the Stone."
Crabbe nodded and opened the door back into the key room. Now that the chessmen had been conquered, the door stayed open. Harry, Draco, Millie, Daphne, Tracy, and Goyle all walked towards the far door. They emerged into another stone corridor, a respite before the next challenge.
A disgusting odor wafted out at them when Harry pushed open the door at the end of this hallway. He tried not to gag. He held his nose and took shallow breaths. Tracy pulled her robes up over her face.
"Eew," she said, retching.
Harry and Draco turned to each other with long expressions.
"You don't think- ?" Draco said, his voice filled with dread.
"I've seen too much tonight to dismiss anything," Harry replied. "Smells just like the one we tangled with on Halloween. I hope there are some columns in that room."
"You three were foolish to go after it in the first place," Tracy told him.
"So Snape told me," Harry said with a grin, "and so Draco objected at the time."
"I object to this as well," Draco said, "but I can't see that we have any other choice."
"Let's get a look."
Harry and Draco peered into the room, trying not to breathe. It was a mountain troll all right, even bigger and uglier than the last one. It, too, carried a huge club. Unfortunately, they did not see any other suitable objects for bashing it on the head.
"What spells do we know that would be useful?" Harry asked.
"We can take his club away like Theo did. Trolls are pretty resistant to direct magic."
"That's only one weapon."
"I think that's all we get."
"So who gets to do it?"
"I will," Tracy said. "I'm the best at the Levitation Charm."
"She is," Harry said.
"Then it's settled," Draco agreed. "How are we going to distract it?"
"I think I can do it from behind the door. It can't get through the door. I wonder how they got it in here in the first place."
"We'll ask Dumbledore later. Good luck."
Tracy put her head to the crack in the door. "Oh my God. You three really are idiots. I know I said so before, and I meant it, but now that I'm actually seeing one for myself, I need to say it again. What on Earth were you thinking last Halloween?"
Harry and Draco looked sheepishly at each other.
"We tried to stop him," Harry said.
"Not hard enough. I can't believe I'm going to do this. The club. Focus on the club. Wingardium leviosa!"
Though they could not see it happen, the meaty thunk of the club hitting the troll's head was very distinct, and the roar of pain hurt their ears. From the sound of things, the first hit hadn't done it.
"You can do it, Tracy," Harry whispered.
"Don't talk," she said tensely, twitching her wand slightly.
With one last groan of pain, the troll collapsed with a crash that shook the floor beneath them. Tracy exhaled sharply and leaned back against the door frame.
"Well done, Tracy," Draco said. Everyone congratulated her.
"Thanks. That was very difficult. That club is a lot bigger than a feather."
"Size doesn't matter," Harry said. "You did great."
When they had moved on and firmly shut the door behind them in the smell-free room beyond, they thankfully took a great many breaths of fresh air. The room they were presently in contained nothing very frightening at all. There was only a table with seven differently shaped bottles standing on it in a line.
"This would be Professor Snape's challenge," Draco said.
When they had all moved away from the door, a purple fire burst into life in the doorway, making them jump. In that same instant, black flames shot up in the doorway leading onward. They were trapped.
"Definitely Professor Snape's," Daphne observed dryly.
"Here's a clue," Millie said, picking up a roll of parchment lying next to the bottles. She read it aloud:
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 hold death in their insides;
Fourth, the second left and the second on the right
Are twins once you taste them, though different at first sight.
As she read, Millie's face fell more and more. She was clearly overwhelmed by the puzzle, just as Harry was. This was tricky business. One wrong move and they'd be dead. Despite their dismay, Daphne was smiling.
"This is brilliant. I'd expect no less from Professor Snape," she said admiringly.
"What do you mean?" Draco asked her.
"It's not magic," she said. "Not proper magic at all. It's a logic puzzle. It involves critical thinking."
"And wizards don't exactly behave logically, is that what you're saying?" Harry asked.
She nodded. "As purebloods, we're rather immune to the fact that magic is not completely logical. In fact, more than half of it is rather illogical. This sort of puzzle would trip up most fully-trained wizards."
"And also us," Draco pointed out.
"Not at all," Daphne scoffed. "Use your brain. All the information we need is right here on the paper. There are seven bottles. Three contain poison; two hold wine; one will let us go forward; the last will let us go back.
"So which is which?" Goyle asked.
"Well, since the poison is always on the wine's left, the first bottle has to be poison," she said.
"Huh?" Draco questioned.
"The parchment says that the bottle on either end are not our friends to move forward. These two here," she pointed, "are the same, wine. The fourth and fifth bottles here are poison, both on the wine's left side, note, and the potion to go back is in the one on the right. That leaves the small bottle, number three, to help us go forward."
Harry picked up the bottle. It was nearly full, but there still wasn't much. "I think me and maybe two others."
He looked at his friends. Each of them had risked a lot to stand here with him.
"You don't have to come," he said, giving it one last try.
"Bollocks," Draco said. "Would you leave me here?"
"Then I'm not leaving you." Draco looked at the others. "Who's coming with us?"
Goyle cleared his throat. "You'll need someone clever if there are any more puzzles. I should go back."
"Thanks for coming this far," Harry said sincerely.
Tracy, Millie, and Daphne looked at each other.
"You figured out the riddle," Millie said to Daphne.
"Tracy beat the troll."
"Millie-" Tracy said and stopped short. "Oh Millie, I'm sorry. I didn't mean-"
"No, you're right," Millie said heavily. "I've been pretty useless. I couldn't figure any of these challenges out. Why should I be able to beat any others? I'll go back as well."
"Millie, thank you for coming with me."
"Sorry, Harry. I wish I could see you through."
"Which leaves one last choice."
"You've both been useful," Draco said.
"That's polite," Daphne said.
"Well you have been."
"How do we decide?"
"Hey, I've got an idea," Goyle said. "Let's just drink all of the potion to go forward. Then even if someone comes along behind us to get the Stone, they won't be able to get through."
"Would that even work?" Daphne asked. "It couldn't possibly be that simple."
"We can't chance it," Harry reasoned. "We don't know that someone didn't get past the troll without knocking it out. If the potion refills itself after we go through, come on through. Otherwise, get back to Theo and Pansy.
"We'll draw straws," Tracy said briskly. "Harry, would you hold them?"
Tracy drew the short straw.
"Aww," Daphne said with disappointment. "Good luck, though."
Goyle clasped Harry's hand in an iron grip. Millie looked at him for a long second before she also hugged him. When Daphne's turn came, she squeezed his ribs briefly and tousled his hair.
"Be careful, ok?" she said. She leaned up and kissed his cheek. "For luck."
Harry looked at Draco and Tracy, his final companions on this adventure. He hoped their company wouldn't be further reduced.
"Thanks, you two. Let's be careful."
"Always," Draco said. "Shall we?"
Harry took a deep breath and uncorked the bottle. "Here goes nothing," he said, and drank as small a sip as he could.
It was as though ice were flooding his body. This is what Snape had meant about "the delicate power of liquids that creep through human veins." He handed the bottle to Draco and stepped forward into the flames. Though he braced himself, he could feel nothing.
Harry saw nothing but black flames. It was rather like he imagined stepping into a black hole might feel. Complete, baffling, disorienting darkness engulfed him. There was suddenly no stone floor beneath his feet. He couldn't feel the walls around him.
He panicked briefly, but he forced himself to relax. It was just like Professor Snape to throw a nasty trick into his test. It was only the magic. Harry felt a warm reassurance spread out from his stomach, erasing the icy chill of the potion he had swallowed. He let his body continue on, though he could not feel it. Then he was on the other side, in the last chamber.
Harry looked around, taking in the rich, finished marble. The room didn't look so much assembled as carved from the very rock of the Earth. Torches flamed to life, illuminating a great empty room with one very familiar object in it: The Mirror of Erised.
Draco stepped through the flames and blinked several times. "That was distinctly unpleasant," he said.
"Tell me about it."
"Is that what I think it is?"
"Dumbledore said it was being moved somewhere new."
"This is pretty new."
Tracy staggered into view. Harry caught her before she fell.
"I never want to go through that again. Where are we?"
"Remember that Mirror we told you about over Christmas?"
"Is that it?"
"It shows you the deepest desire of your heart?"
"I want to have a look."
"Tracy, we don't have time."
"It'll only take a second. I'm curious."
"No. It's no good to dwell on dreams."
She moved around him and stood in front of the Mirror.
"Tracy, don't! We've got to figure out where the Stone is."
"The Stone," she murmured. "Of course. Where is it?"
"Tracy, what are you doing?"
"Show it to me, Mirror. Show me the Philosopher's Stone. I want it."
Tracy stared into the Mirror, her hands bent into claws at her sides. Her face was nearly unrecognizable. The twisted look of greed didn't seem like his friend at all.
"Petrificus totalis! Stupefy!"
Draco and Tracy fell to the floor as jets of light struck them. Harry whipped around with his wand pointed and received a shock.
It was Professor Quirrell.
"You!" Harry said with loathing.
Quirrell smiled at him. It was an evil smile, and the man wasn't twitching at all. Something was definitely very wrong here.
"Me," he said evenly. "I wondered whether I'd be meeting you here, Potter."
"I knew it was you," Harry said with an edge in his voice.
"You always were clever, Potter," Quirrell laughed again. It was not his normal, high-pitched, nervous, treble laugh, either, but was cold and sharp. "You earned the top marks I gave you in Defence."
Harry noted that remark with cool pleasure, but didn't let himself be distracted. "You've been behind all the strange things this year, haven't you?" he said.
"I have. Despite my best plans, you managed to survive. You have the most damnable luck, Potter." Quirrell's face grew stony. "But it ends tonight!" He snapped his fingers.
Ropes sprang out of thin air and wrapped themselves tightly around Harry, pinning his arms to his sides. His ankles snapped together, likewise bound. Harry wavered and nearly fell, biting back a foul word he'd learned from Theo. He hadn't been fast enough, and he'd dropped his wand.
"You know entirely too much to be allowed to live, Potter. I shall dispose of you in a moment. Be silent while I examine this mirror."
Harry stayed quiet as Quirrell turned his back. "This mirror is the key to finding the Stone," he muttered, tapping his foot impatiently. "Trust Dumbledore to come up with something ingenious. He's in London, but he'll be back soon. Too late, too late..."
Harry strained to reach his wand. If he could touch it to the ropes, he ought to be able to break them. -- There! He felt the ropes around his arms loosen.
"I see the Stone," Quirrell said, staring hungrily into the mirror. "I am presenting it to my master." His lips twisted in an angry snarl. "But how do I get it?"
Harry bent down and touched his wand to the rope around his ankles, which sprang loose immediately. What in the world was he going to do?
"Master, I don't know what to do," Quirrell was muttering. "I don't understand. Should I break the mirror? Is the Stone inside? Master, help me." Strange as it might seem, Quirrell appeared to be expecting an answer.
"Is- is your master here?" Harry couldn't help but ask.
Quirrell stopped pacing. "He is here," the wizard said quietly. A spasm of fear flitted across his face, reflected in the mirror. "He is with me wherever I go. I met him when I traveled the world. I was a foolish young man then, full of ridiculous ideas about good and evil. Lord Voldemort showed me how wrong I was. There is no good and evil but only power, and those too weak to seek it. Since then, I have served him faithfully, although I have disappointed him many times." Quirrell shuddered. "He does not tolerate failure lightly. When I failed to steal the Stone from Gringotts, he was most displeased. My punishment was that he would keep a closer watch upon me."
Harry's mind was flashing back to the day in Diagon Alley. He had seen Quirrell that day, had even shaken hands with him in the Leaky Cauldron.
"Master, I cannot solve this puzzle. I need your help."
To Harry's sudden horror, a voice answered, and the voice seemed to come from Quirrell himself.
"Ussse the boy... Ussse the boy..." It was a low, dry voice, dusty like a snake's hiss. Harry couldn't imagine what human throat could make such a tone.
Quirrell rounded on Potter. "Come here, boy!"
Harry ached to raise his wand. If he could cast some spells and incapacitate Quirrell, then he could find the Stone. Locomis toner, he thought. No, that wasn't right. His head was throbbing; he couldn't think of any suitable spell. He stumbled towards the Mirror.
How does this final trick work? The Mirror has to be the key. It shows you whatever you desire most deeply in your heart. Okay, what I want more than anything else in the world at this moment is to find the Stone before Quirrell does. If I look in the Mirror now, I should see myself finding it. I can see where it was hidden. I'll just lie to him; make something up
Quirrell stood behind him, watching him like an avenging hawk. Harry gagged on the funny smell that seemed to come from Quirrell's turban. He cleared his mind of all but his desire to keep the Stone away from Quirrell.
He saw his reflection, pale and scared-looking at first. A moment later though, his reflection grinned at him. The mirror-Harry reached his hand into his pocket and pulled out a blood-red rock. He winked and slipped the Stone back in his pocket, and as he did so, Harry felt something heavy drop into his real pocket. He suppressed a gasp. Somehow -- incredibly -- he'd gotten the Philosopher's Stone!
"What do you see, boy?" Quirrell demanded impatiently.
Harry's mind was reeling. "Incredible," he breathed, putting all of his very real astonishment into the word. "Slytherin has won the House Cup. That's not incredible, of course, but we've won the Quidditch Cup too. I know that's not incredible either, but I- I'm Captain of the team!"
Quirrell cursed at him. "Step aside, you useless boy," he growled, shoving Harry out of the way.
Harry stepped back, wondering if he dared to make a break for it. He could leave Quirrell down here struggling with the Mirror for hours. The Stone was heavy against his leg, but before he had taken two steps, the strange voice spoke again. "He liesss... He liesss..."
"Potter!" Quirrell shouted. "Come back here! Tell me the truth! What did you see?"
Harry ran for the door. Just as he thought he was going to make it, scorching flames roared up in the doorway. He fell back, cringing away from the heat.
The voice spoke again. "Let me ssspeak to him, face-to-face."
Quirrell's own face became solemn. "Master, you are not strong enough."
"I have ssstrength enough for thisss..."
Harry felt as if Devil's Snare was rooting him to the spot. He couldn't move a muscle. Terrified, he watched as Quirrell reached up and began to unwrap his turban. What was going on? The purple cloth fell away, revealing Quirrell's bare head, which looked strangely small now. Then Quirrell turned around.
Harry would have screamed, but he couldn't make a sound. Where there should have been the back of Quirrell's head, there was a face, the most terrible face Harry had ever seen. It was chalk white with glaring red eyes and slits for nostrils, like a snake. It was a horrible face, one that Harry had seen in his nightmares.
"Harry Potter," the lipless mouth whispered.
Harry was trapped, pinned between the wall of flame and his own terror. His scar was on fire. His head felt like it would split open and spill his brains out. He had to fight back the urge to vomit.
"Sssee what I have become?" the face said. "Mere ssshadow and vapour, that isss all I am. I have form only when I can ssshare the body of another. Unicorn blood can ssstrengthen me, as you sssaw in the forest, but the Elixir of Life can ressstore my powers, and I will create a new body for myself. I grow tired of waiting, Harry Potter, ssso why not give me the Ssstone?"
"Master, he does not have the Stone!" Quirrell protested.
"Oh yesss," Voldemort hissed. "He hasss the Ssstone. Asssk him. Asssk him what he hasss in his pocket!"
So he knew. Harry raised his wand, determined to make a good accounting of himself.
"Don't be a fool, boy" snarled Voldemort. "Sssave your own life. Give me the Ssstone and join me."
"NO!" Harry shouted.
"Join me, or you will meet the sssame fate as your parentsss. They died begging me for mercy."
"LIAR!" Harry screamed.
Quirrell was walking backwards at him, so Voldemort could see Harry. The evil face was still smiling at him, chilling Harry to the core.
"How brave," it hissed. "I alwaysss admire bravery. Your parentsss were very brave, yesss? Your father died firssst, but he challenged me like a fool. He put up a courageousss fight, the sssame as your mother. Ssshe died for you. Give me the Ssstone, or she will have died in vain."
"NEVER!" Harry didn't know what spell he cast, but the jet of blue light was deflected away by some sort of shield.
"Seize him!" Voldemort screamed. Quirrell whirled around and clamped his hand down on Harry's wrist. At once, pain seared across Harry's scar, and his head felt as if it were splitting in two again.
Harry yelled, struggling with all his might, and to his surprise, Quirrell let go of him. The pain in his head lessened. He looked around wildly to see where Quirrell had gone, and saw him hunched in pain, looking at his fingers, which were blistering before his eyes.
"The burning!" Quirrell cried.
"Seize him!" Voldemort shrieked again. Quirrell dove at Harry, landing on top of him, and he wrapped his hands around Harry's throat. The pain from Harry's scar was nearly blinding him, yet he could see and hear Quirrell howling in agony.
"Master, I cannot touch him! It burns me so!"
And Quirrell, though pinning Harry to the floor with his knees, let go of his neck and stared, bewildered, at his hands as they blistered and smoked. Harry could see the flesh looked burned and raw.
"Then kill him!" shrieked Voldemort. "Kill him and take the Stone!"
Quirrell raised his hands to perform some deadly magic, but Harry lunged up and clapped his own hands to Quirrell's face.
Quirrell scrambled to get away from him, his face blistering just like his hands. Then Harry figured it out: Quirrell couldn't bear the touch of his bare skin. Harry could use that against him.
Harry managed to get his feet under him and sprang at Quirrell, falling on top of him down to the floor. He had to keep the Dark wizard in enough pain that he couldn't cast a deadly spell. He grabbed for Quirrell's face.
Quirrell was screaming in agony. Voldemort was screeching for Quirrell to kill Harry. Harry was nearly going mad from the pain in his scar. He felt himself blacking out and latched onto Quirrell as hard as he could. Nonetheless, he was slipping down into blackness. Down, down, down...