Chapter 15: FollowTheLeader
Disclaimer: I do not in any way, shapr or form own any recognisable characters or settings. Everything belongs to JK Rowling
Exams were approaching. The students were all pouring over the notes they'd made in class over the year; Harry only did so, however, because Mandy threatened to cut off a certain part of his anatomy and Charm it to be irreversible.
'I know all this,' Harry drawled.
'How can you?' Mandy demanded. 'Most of this stuff is from the start of the year!'
Harry shrugged. 'It's not that difficult to remember,' he said.
'Why bother making notes then?' Mandy grumped.
'I'll need them come time to study for my OWLs,' Harry said.
Mandy blinked. 'OWLs?' she queried.
'Ordinary Wizarding Levels,' Daphne explained. 'Taken in fifth-year. Necessary if you ever want a job. It's impossible to get one without them. Even the rubbish labouring ones.'
'Like Muggle GCSEs,' Harry added.
Now Daphne looked blank. 'General Certificate of Secondary Education,' Mandy explained.
Daphne shook her head. 'Secondary?' she asked.
'It will take too long to explain,' Harry interrupted. 'Maybe I'll tell you more about it later.'
'I'm not that interested,' Daphne said sniffily.
Harry shrugged. 'Why bother asking then?' he said.
They studied in silence for a while before Mandy stood, shoving her books back into her bag. 'I promised Lisa and Su Li that I'd study with them as well,' she said. 'I'd better get back.'
'Bye,' Daphne said, not looking up.
Harry never said anything, keeping his eyes down instead.
The exams arrived and the students were made to sit through theory papers and practical tests where they were expected to cast Jinxes, Charms and Transfigurations. Severus had them sweating over difficult Potions for two straight hours while Sprout had them prune dangerous plants. In Astronomy they were asked to identify the stars in the sky.
It was when they left their History of Magic exam that they overheard Granger and Weasley talking again.
'Tonight,' Granger said forcefully. 'Snape will try and take it tonight. Dumbledore said so.'
'So?' Weasley hissed.
'So, we go down the trapdoor after him,' Granger said. 'Dumbledore said if we manage to stop him between us we'll get Special Services to the school awards.'
Weasley looked a little awed by that. 'Wow,' he said. 'None of my brothers have Special Services awards.'
'Then you'll come with me tonight?' Granger asked.
'Of course!' Weasley said eagerly.
They walked away and Harry turned to his friends. 'We follow them,' he said. 'They think they're going after my dad but it's Quirrell and Voldemort they're following. I'm the only one who can handle Voldemort. I have to follow them.'
'We're with you,' Daphne said firmly. 'I can't speak for Mandy, though.'
'I can,' Harry said grimly, 'and she wouldn't miss this for the world.'
'I'll message her,' Daphne said. 'Tell her we'll meet her at curfew.'
'Good,' said Harry. 'Do it. Now.'
Daphne rolled her eyes and took out her wand. 'Nuntius ut Mandy Brocklehurst. Mandy, tonight we go after Quirrell and the Dark Lord. Be outside your common room at curfew. Don't be late.' Daphne twirled her wand and a silver light streaked out of it and around the corner, apparently heading towards Mandy's wand, which would then vibrate to let her know she has been messaged. 'Done,' Daphne said.
'Now we plan,' said Harry. 'Library everyone.'
That night, at quarter to nine, Harry, Daphne, Crabbe and Goyle snuck out of the Slytherin common room and made their way to the Ravenclaw common room. Mandy was already outside waiting for them.
'Took your time,' she grumbled.
'We got here, didn't we?' Daphne shot back. 'Harry, the Charms.'
Harry took out his wand and placed strong Notice-Me-Not charms on each of them. They were planning on waiting outside the door leading to the right hand corridor on the third floor. They knew Quirrell would arrive first and they were going to follow Granger and Weasley down the corridor.
'Filch!' Crabbe hissed suddenly.
The five of them pressed back against a wall, sucking in as much as possible as Filch and Mrs Norris prowled past them. Several times, Filch looked directly at one of them and they bit their lips in fear until he shook his head in confusion and looked away.
'Come on,' Harry said quietly, once he was sure Filch was sufficiently far away.
They started moving again, treading as silently as possible to avoid catching the attention of the portraits, which would quickly inform the nearest professor of the footsteps without bodies.
'Where are we standing?' Mandy asked upon their arrival at the third floor.
'As far up against the wall as possible,' Harry said. 'If you think someone is going to bump you at all, move.'
Mandy rolled her eyes. 'Well that's common sense,' she said sarcastically.
'Sarcasm does not become you, Mandy dear,' Daphne said coolly.
'Shhh!' Harry hissed suddenly.
They all turned silent and pressed back into the dark shadows, as footsteps grew louder. Harry squinted through the darkness to see who it was and was gratified when he was able to make out the shape of a hideous turban.
'Quirrell,' he muttered under his breath.
'Just waiting on Weasley and Granger now,' Daphne muttered back.
'Who knows when they'll turn up,' Harry said darkly, slumping back against the wall.
'Now?' Mandy suggested.
Harry's head whipped around in time to see two figures sneaking past, whispering furiously together.
'Let's go,' Harry muttered.
The five of them crept out of the shadows and entered the forbidden corridor only to be confronted by the three-headed Cerberus. Luckily, a magical harp was playing so the beast was fast asleep and drooling on the stone floor.
'Goyle first,' Harry instructed.
The big lug blinked stupidly before lumbering over to the wide open trapdoor and jumping down into it. Harry waited a moment before calling down, 'What's down there?'
'Big plant,' Goyle grunted back. 'Soft.'
'Right,' Harry said. 'Daphne next.'
With a sigh, Daphne stepped elegantly into the gaping hole falling swiftly.
'Now Mandy,' Harry said, his keen ears recognising the harp's song coming to an end.
Mandy grinned at her "brother". 'See you down there,' she said, before jumping in, curling her knees up to her chest.
'Boss?' Crabbe said, once Mandy was out of sight. 'The – '
'I know,' Harry snapped. He turned to face the Cerberus and was confronted with a low growling.
'What do we do, boss?' Crabbe asked nervously.
'Nothing,' Harry said slowly. 'We don't have time. Go.'
Crabbe blinked. 'You first,' he said firmly.
Harry glared at his bodyguard. 'Do. What. I. Say,' he said through gritted teeth.
'But,' Crabbe protested. 'Boss, I'm supposed to protect you.'
'Together then,' Harry said, looking incredibly angry. 'We don't have time to argue.'
Crabbe watched as the Cerberus opened its mouth wide and moved to lunge forward at them. Without thinking, he grabbed Harry's shoulder and shoved the thin boy down the trapdoor before jumping in after him.
Harry landed on something soft and had to scramble out of the way to avoid having Crabbe land on him. The thin boy whipped out his wand and pointed it directly between Crabbe's eyes. 'Don't ever do that again,' he snarled.
'Sorry, boss,' Crabbe mumbled.
'What is this?' Daphne's voice cut in.
'A plant,' Mandy piped up. 'Give me a minute and I'll identify it.'
'Rather you than me,' Daphne said, wrinkling her nose distastefully. The blonde shifted uncomfortably; it felt like something was wrapping around her thigh. 'Who's grabbing my thigh?' the Ice Queen demanded.
Harry growled. 'Whoever it is had better let go,' he said heatedly.
Mandy squealed suddenly. 'It's Devil's Snare!' she cried.
'What's that, then?' Daphne asked as whatever was holding her thigh tightened painfully.
'A mass of spring tendrils used to ensnare any person within reach,' Mandy recited. 'The more you struggle, the tighter it holds on, eventually choking its victim.'
'Any other way to get free?' Harry asked sarcastically. He had trouble relaxing when he wasn't in a death grip.
'It likes the dark and damp,' Mandy said. 'Anyone know a fire spell?'
Harry pointed his wand at part of the plant. 'Incendio!' he cried.
The plant erupted in flames and an inhuman shriek resounded around them as the five children fell through to the next chamber. They landed heavily and painfully.
'Good work, Mandy,' Harry said when he got his breath back. 'Who knew Herbology would come in handy.'
Mandy rolled her eyes. 'At least one of us actually pays attention in that class,' she said. 'I'm probably going to be the only one to get an O.W.L in the subject.'
Now Harry rolled his eyes. 'Just go,' he said, shoving her slightly in the back to get her moving again.
They walked down the long, dimly lit corridor to the door leading to the next chamber. Goyle opened the door and went in first. 'Just birds in here,' he called back. 'They're not paying any attention to me.'
The others followed him inside and Harry glanced up to where the "birds" were flitting around.
'They're not birds, idiot,' Harry hissed. 'They're keys Charmed to fly. And I'm guessing that one of them opens the door over there.'
He pointed at the door at the far end of the chamber.
'How do we know we actually need the key?' Daphne asked, eyeing the door speculatively. 'Who says a simple Alohomora won't open it?'
Harry shrugged. 'Let's find out,' he said.
The group made their way to the far end of the chamber and Harry pointed his wand at the door's lock. 'Alohomora!' he muttered.
There was a click and, raising his eyebrows, Harry reached for the door handle. As he turned the knob, there was another click and he was thrown back from the door with an almighty bang.
USE THE CORRECT KEY! resounded through the chamber.
'There's our answer,' Harry said, rising to his feet and grudgingly allowing Daphne to brush him off.
'Does anyone know the Summoning Charm?' Mandy asked. 'I've read about it but I've not learnt it yet.'
Everyone's heads turned to Harry. The boy narrowed his eyes. 'I've only studied spells outside of Hogwarts' curriculum,' he snapped.
Daphne rolled her eyes. 'Figures,' she drawled. 'Well, guess we'll have to figure out some other way to get the key.'
'There're brooms in the corner,' Mandy observed.
All heads once again turned to Harry. The tall boy sighed. 'Me?' he said. 'I've never flown before.'
'Crabbe and Goyle are too heavy to chase a speedy key,' Daphne said. 'I'm terrified of heights and – '
'I have a terrible habit of falling off my broom,' Mandy finished sweetly.
Harry rolled his eyes. 'Me then,' he grumbled. 'Fine, pass me a broom.'
Mandy grabbed a broom and tossed it to Harry. Emerald eyes glared hatefully at the magically enhanced stick of wood, before long legs straddled it and pushed off. Harry squinted through the mass of fluttering, multi-coloured wings, his quick eyes spotting a heavy silver key with electric blue wings, one of which was crumpled causing it to fly rather crookedly.
'Found it,' he said smugly.
Flattening himself on the broomstick, Harry shot forward with one arm outstretched to grab the key. He was successful first attempt and smirked at his friends when he landed.
'Show off,' Mandy muttered.
Harry's smirk widened as he tossed the broomstick aside and strode forward to open the door.
The third chamber, they discovered upon entry, was already occupied. Weasley and Granger were engaged in a life-size game of Wizard's Chess.
The chamber door swinging shut with a bang attracted the Gryffindors' attention and Granger whipped around to glare at them.
'What are you doing here? Granger spat.
Daphne glared back. 'Ensuring the Dark Lord does not obtain the Philosopher's Stone,' she said icily.
'You-Know-Who is dead,' Weasley cut in, looking more than a little scared.
'No,' Harry said shortly. 'He is not.'
Weasley gaped at Harry in shock. He looked like a Muggle child who had just been told there's no Santa Claus.
'We're wasting valuable time on these two,' Daphne said.
Harry's eyes coolly studied the situation. Then, pointing his wand at the Black King, he calmly said, 'Spiro Sursum!'
There was a loud explosion as the chess piece exploded into tiny fragments. The reaction was instantaneous; all the chess pieces went berserk and turned on all seven children. Swords were brandished and the pieces with no weapons rolled agitatedly.
'Bloody hell!' Weasley shouted. 'What did you do that for?'
'Oh please,' Daphne scoffed. 'This is much more effective.' She pulled out her own wand and pointed it at the Black Queen. That piece met the same fate.
Mandy, Crabbe and Goyle quickly joined in, leaving the Gryffindors watching in horror. The air was soon thick with fragments of black and white stone as the Slytherins and Mandy fought off the chess pieces.
'Spiro Sursum!' Harry cried, pointing his wand at the last piece – a White Pawn.
It wasn't until the room stopped ringing that they heard screaming.
'Ronald! Ronald!' Granger was shrieking shrilly.
Weasley was lying on the floor with blood pouring out of the back of his head. He was deathly white.
'Daphne, Mandy, take them to the Hospital Wing,' Harry ordered. 'Goyle, escort them. Crabbe, with me.'
'Yes,' everyone agreed, knowing it made no sense to argue. Time was of the essence here.
Goyle flung Weasley over one shoulder, grunting slightly with the effort, while Mandy took Granger by the arm, leading the hysterical girl out of the chamber with Daphne proudly stalking ahead.
Harry shook his head once they were out of sight and turned to Crabbe. 'Listen to me this time,' he told the bulky boy coldly, not having forgiven him for the shove down the trapdoor.
Crabbe headed a sigh. At least Malfoy had been easy to guard – he was a wimp! 'Yes, boss,' he said, looking resigned.
Harry looked grimly pleased as he opened the door to the next chamber. A second later both boys reeled back as a horrendous stench hit them. Inside the chamber was a mountain troll and it looked to be spoiling for a fight. The beast let loose a roar and hurled its club at the doorway. The walls vibrated from the impact and Harry and Crabbe dove aside to avoid being hit by debris. 'Attack its head!' Harry yelled as the beast snarled and charged at him. Harry, much smaller and quicker than the troll, dove aside, bouncing when the troll stupidly crashed into a wall, causing the entire chamber to shudder. Both boys did not dare shield their heads lest the creature attack again.
The troll lumbered to its feet, snarling the whole time
'Diffindo on three!' Harry shouted. 'One!'
The troll roared.
The troll narrowed its gaze and started running.
Both boys pointed their wands at the troll's neck and cried, 'Diffindo!'
The troll lurched as its thick neck was sliced open. Blood spurted everywhere and there was a last groan before the monster's head toppled off its shoulders and the body crumpled.
Harry and Crabbe stood in the centre of the chamber breathing harshly.
'Get my father,' Harry ordered.
Crabbe did not need telling twice. With surprising speed he ran, leaving Harry alone. The tall boy spared the dead troll one last disgusted look before moving into the next chamber. Immediately, flames sprung up in both doorways. Harry walked forward to the centre of the chamber and picked up the sheet of parchment on the table there.
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 for evermore,
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 onwards, 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 the second on the right
Are twins once you taste them, though different at first sight.
'Good old dad,' Harry said with a smirk, reaching for the smallest bottle.
He quickly downed it and walked through the flames before him – towards Quirrell and Voldemort.
A/N: God, I am so sorry this took so long. It was an absolute pig to write and I had many tantrums whilst doing so. Also, I've recently discovered that my boyfriend is an absolute nuisance if I go too long without seeing him. I didn't see him for a whole day last week and the following day he was so clingy! I'm going to have to do something about that, really. I can't be having that for much longer. I like my space.
Anyway, many thanks to iGymnast for betaing this for me. Thanks sweetie!