But if we get caught, you two will be expelled, too.

Not if I can help it, said Hermione grimly. Flitwick told me in secret that I got a hundred and twelve percent on his exam. Theyre not throwing me out after that.

After dinner the three of them sat nervously apart in the common room. Nobody bothered them; none of the Gryffindors had anything to say to Harry any more, after all. This was the first night he hadnt been upset by it. Hermione was skimming through all her notes, hoping to come across one of the enchantments they were about to try to break. Harry and Ron didnt talk much. Both of them were thinking about what they were about to do.

Slowly, the room emptied as people drifted off to bed.

Better get the cloak, Ron muttered, as Lee Jordan finally left, stretching and yawning. Harry ran upstairs to their dark dormitory. He putted out the cloak and then his eyes fell on the flute Hagrid had given him for Christmas. He pocketed it to use on Fluffyhe didnt feel much like singing.

He ran back down to the common room.

Wed better put the cloak on here, and make sure it covers all three of usif Filch spots one of our feet wandering along on its own

What are you doing? said a voice from the corner of the room. Neville appeared from behind an armchair, clutching Trevor the toad, who looked as though hed been making another bid for freedom.

Nothing, Neville, nothing, said Harry, hurriedly putting the cloak behind his back.

Neville stared at their guilty faces.

Youre going out again, he said.

No, no, no, said Hermione. No, were not. Why dont you go to bed, Neville?

Harry looked at the grandfather clock by the door. They couldnt afford to waste any more time, Snape might even now be playing Fluffy to sleep.

You cant go out, said Neville, youll be caught again. Gryffindor will be in even more trouble.

You dont understand, said Harry, this is important.

But Neville was clearly steeling himself to do something desperate.

I wont let you do it, he said, hurrying to stand in front of the portrait hole. IllIll fight you!



Ron exploded, get away from that hole and dont be an idiot


Dont you call me an idiot! said Neville. I dont think you should be breaking any more rules! And you were the one who told me to stand up to people!


Yes, but not to


said Ron in exasperation. Neville, you dont know what youre doing.


He took a step forward and Neville dropped Trevor the toad, who leapt out of sight.

Go on then, try and hit me! said Neville, raising his fists. Im ready!

Harry turned to Hermione.




he said desperately.


Hermione stepped forward.

Neville, she said, Im really, really sorry about this.

She raised her wand.


Petrificus Totalus!

she cried, pointing it at Neville.


Nevilles arms snapped to his sides. His legs sprang together. His whole body rigid, he swayed where he stood and then fell flat on his face, stiff as a board.

Hermione ran to turn him over. Nevilles jaws were jammed together so he couldnt speak. Only his eyes were moving, looking at them in horror.

Whatve you done to him? Harry whispered.

Its the full Body Bind, said Hermione miserably. Oh, Neville, Im so sorry.

We had to, Neville, no time to explain, said Harry.

Youll understand later, Neville, said Ron as they stepped over him and pulled on the Invisibility Cloak.

But leaving Neville lying motionless on the floor didnt feel like a very good omen. In their nervous state, every statues shadow looked like Filch, every distant breath of wind sounded like Peeves swooping down on them. At the foot of the first set of stairs, they spotted Mrs. Norris skulking near the top.

Oh, lets kick her, just this once, Ron whispered in Harrys ear, but Harry shook his head. As they climbed carefully around her, Mrs. Norris turned her lamplike eyes on them, but didnt do anything.

They didnt meet anyone else until they reached the staircase up to the third floor. Peeves was bobbing halfway up, loosening the carpet so that people would trip.

Whos there? he said suddenly as they climbed toward him. He narrowed his wicked black eyes. Know youre there, even if I cant see you. Are you ghoulie or ghostie or wee student beastie?

He rose up in the air and floated there, squinting at them.

Should call Filch, I should, if somethings a creeping around unseen.

Harry had a sudden idea.

Peeves, he said, in a hoarse whisper, the Bloody Baron has his own reasons for being invisible.

Peeves almost fell out of the air in shock. He caught himself in time and hovered about a foot off the stairs.

So sorry, your bloodiness, Mr. Baron, Sir, he said greasily. My mistake, my mistakeI didnt see youof course I didnt, youre invisibleforgive old Peevsie his little joke, sir.

I have business here, Peeves, croaked Harry. Stay away from this place tonight.

I will, sir, I most certainly will, said Peeves, rising up in the air again. Hope your business goes well, Baron, Ill not bother you.

And he scooted off.



Harry! whispered Ron.


A few seconds later, they were there, outside the third floor corridorand the door was already ajar.

Well, there you are, Harry said quietly, Snapes already got past Fluffy.

Seeing the open door somehow seemed to impress upon all three of them what was facing them. Underneath the cloak, Harry turned to the other two.

If you want to go back, I wont blame you, he said. You can take the cloak, I wont need it now.

Dont be stupid, said Ron.

Were coming, said Hermione.

Harry pushed the door open.

As the door creaked, low, rumbling growls met their ears. All three of the dogs noses sniffed madly in their direction, even though it couldnt see them.

Whats that at its feet? Hermione whispered.

Looks like a harp, said Ron. Snape must have left it there.

It must wake up the moment you stop playing, said Harry. Well, here goes

He put Hagrids flute to his lips and blew. It wasnt really a tune, but from the first note the beasts eyes began to droop. Harry hardly drew breath. Slowly, the dogs growls ceasedit tottered on its paws and fell to its knees, then it slumped to the ground, fast asleep.

Keep playing, Ron warned Harry as they slipped out of the cloak and crept toward the trapdoor. They could feel the dogs hot, smelly breath as they approached the giant heads. I think well be able to pull the door open, said Ron, peering over the dogs back. Want to go first, Hermione?

No, I dont!

All right. Ron gritted his teeth and stepped carefully over the dogs legs. He bent and pulled the ring of the trapdoor, which swung up and open.

What can you see? Hermione said anxiously.

Nothingjust blacktheres no way of climbing down, well just have to drop.

Harry, who was still playing the flute, waved at Ron to get his attention and pointed at himself.

You want to go first? Are you sure? said Ron. I dont know how deep this thing goes. Give the flute to Hermione so she can keep him asleep.

Harry handed the flute over. In the few seconds silence, the dog growled and twitched, but the moment Hermione began to play, it fell back into its deep sleep.

Harry climbed over it and looked down through the trapdoor. There was no sign of the bottom.

He lowered himself through the hole until he was hanging on by his fingertips. Then he looked up at Ron and said, If anything happens to me, dont follow. Go straight to the owlery and send Hedwig to Dumbledore, right?

Right, said Ron.

See you in a minute, I hope

And Harry let go. Cold, damp air rushed past him as he fell down, down, down and

FLUMP. With a funny, muffled sort of thump he landed on something soft. He sat up and felt around, his eyes not used to the gloom. It felt as though he was sitting on some sort of plant.

Its okay! he called up to the light the size of a postage stamp, which was the open trapdoor, its a soft landing, you can jump!

Ron followed right away. He landed, sprawled next to Harry.

Whats this stuff? were his first words.

Dunno, some sort of plant thing. I suppose its here to break the fall. Come on, Hermione!

The distant music stopped. There was a loud bark from the dog, but Hermione had already jumped. She landed on Harrys other side.

We must be miles under the school, she said.

Lucky this plant things here, really, said Ron.



shrieked Hermione. Look at you both!


She leapt up and struggled toward a damp wall. She had to struggle because the moment she had landed, the plant had started to twist snakelike tendrils around her ankles. As for Harry and Ron, their legs had already been bound tightly in long creepers without their noticing.

Hermione had managed to free herself before the plant got a firm grip on her. Now she watched in horror as the two boys fought to pull the plant off them, but the more they strained against it, the tighter and faster the plant wound around them.

Stop moving! Hermione ordered them. I know what this isits Devils Snare!

Oh, Im so glad we know what its called, thats a great help, snarled Ron, leaning back, trying to stop the plant from curling around his neck. Shut up, Im trying to remember how to kill it! said Hermione.

Well, hurry up, I cant breathe! Harry gasped, wrestling with it as it curled around his chest.

Devils Snare, Devils Snare what did Professor Sprout say?it likes the dark and the damp

So light a fire! Harry choked.

Yesof coursebut theres no wood! Hermione cried, wringing her hands.


Oh, right! said Hermione, and she whipped out her wand, waved it, muttered something, and sent a jet of the same bluebell flames she had used on Snape at the plant. In a matter of seconds, the two boys felt it loosening its grip as it cringed away from the light and warmth. Wriggling and flailing, it unraveled itself from their bodies, and they were able to pull free.

Lucky you pay attention in Herbology, Hermione, said Harry as he joined her by the wall, wiping sweat off his face.


Yeah, said Ron, and lucky Harry doesnt lose his head in a crisistheres no wood,



This way, said Harry, pointing down a stone passageway, which was the only way forward.

All they could hear apart from their footsteps was the gentle drip of water trickling down the walls. The passageway sloped downward, and Harry was reminded of Gringotts. With an unpleasant jolt of the heart, he remembered the dragons said to be guarding vaults in the wizards bank. If they met a dragon, a fully grown dragonNorbert had been bad enough

Can you hear something? Ron whispered.

Harry listened. A soft rustling and clinking seemed to be coming from up ahead.

Do you think its a ghost?

I dont know sounds like wings to me.

Theres light aheadI can see something moving.

They reached the end of the passageway and saw before them a brilliantly lit chamber, its ceiling arching high above them. It was full of small, jewel bright birds, fluttering and tumbling all around the room. On the opposite side of the chamber was a heavy wooden door.

Do you think theyll attack us if we cross the room? said Ron.

Probably, said Harry. They dont look very vicious, but I suppose if they all swooped down at once well, theres no other choice Ill run.

He took a deep breath, covered his face with his arms, and sprinted across the room. He expected to feel sharp beaks and claws tearing at him any second, but nothing happened. He reached the door untouched. He pulled the handle, but it was locked.

The other two followed him. They tugged and heaved at the door, but it wouldnt budge, not even when Hermione tried her Alohomora charm.

Now what? said Ron.

These birds they cant be here just for decoration, said Hermione.


They watched the birds soaring overhead, glittering




Theyre not birds! Harry said suddenly. Theyre


Winged keyslook carefully. So that must mean he looked around the chamber while the other two squinted up at the flock of keys. yeslook! Broomsticks! Weve got to catch the key to the door!



But there are


of them!


Ron examined the lock on the door.

Were looking for a big, old fashioned oneprobably silver, like the handle.

They each seized a broomstick and kicked off into the air, soaring into the midst of the cloud of keys. They grabbed and snatched, but the bewitched keys darted and dived so quickly it was almost impossible to catch one.

Not for nothing, though, was Harry the youngest Seeker in a century. He had a knack for spotting things other people didnt. After a minutes weaving about through the whirl of rainbow feathers, he noticed a large silver key that had a bent wing, as if it had already been caught and stuffed roughly into the keyhole.

That one! he called to the others. That big onethereno, therewith bright blue wingsthe feathers are all crumpled on one side.

Ron went speeding in the direction that Harry was pointing, crashed into the ceiling, and nearly fell off his broom.

Weve got to close in on it! Harry called, not taking his eyes off the key with the damaged wing. Ron, you come at it from aboveHermione, stay below and stop it from going down and Ill try and catch it. Right, NOW!

Ron dived, Hermione rocketed upward, the key dodged them both, and Harry streaked after it; it sped toward the wall, Harry leaned forward and with a nasty, crunching noise, pinned it against the stone with one hand. Ron and Hermiones cheers echoed around the high chamber.

They landed quickly, and Harry ran to the door, the key struggling in his hand. He rammed it into the lock and turnedit worked. The moment the lock had clicked open, the key took flight again, looking very battered now that it had been caught twice.

Ready? Harry asked the other two, his hand on the door handle. They nodded. He pulled the door open.

The next chamber was so dark they couldnt see anything at all. But as they stepped into it, light suddenly flooded the room to reveal an astonishing sight.

They were standing on the edge of a huge chessboard, behind the black chessmen, which were all taller than they were and carved from what looked like black stone. Facing them, way across the chamber, were the white pieces. Harry, Ron and Hermione shivered slightlythe towering white chessmen had no faces.

Now what do we do? Harry whispered.

Its obvious, isnt it? said Ron. Weve got to play our way across the room.

Behind the white pieces they could see another door.

How? said Hermione nervously.

I think, said Ron, were going to have to be chessmen.

He walked up to a black knight and put his hand out to touch the knights horse. At once, the stone sprang to life. The horse pawed the ground and the knight turned his helmeted head to look down at Ron.

Do weerhave to join you to get across? The black knight nodded. Ron turned to the other two.

This needs thinking about he said. I suppose weve got to take the place of three of the black pieces

Harry and Hermione stayed quiet, watching Ron think. Finally he said, Now, dont be offended or anything, but neither of you are that good at chess

Were not offended, said Harry quickly. Just tell us what to do.

Well, Harry, you take the place of that bishop, and Hermione, you go next to him instead of that castle.

What about you?

Im going to be a knight, said Ron.

The chessmen seemed to have been listening, because at these words a knight, a bishop, and a castle turned their backs on the white pieces and walked off the board, leaving three empty squares that Harry, Ron, and Hermione took.

White always plays first in chess, said Ron, peering across the board. Yes look

A white pawn had moved forward two squares.

Ron started to direct the black pieces. They moved silently wherever he sent them. Harrys knees were trembling. What if they lost?

Harrymove diagonally four squares to the right.

Their first real shock came when their other knight was taken. The white queen smashed him to the floor and dragged him off the board, where he lay quite still, facedown.

Had to let that happen, said Ron, looking shaken. Leaves you free to take that bishop, Hermione, go on.

Every time one of their men was lost, the white pieces showed no mercy. Soon there was a huddle of limp black players slumped along the wall. Twice, Ron only just noticed in time that Harry and Hermione were in danger. He himself darted around the board, taking almost as many white pieces as they had lost black ones.

Were nearly there, he muttered suddenly. Let me thinklet me think

The white queen turned her blank face toward him.

Yes said Ron softly, Its the only way Ive got to be taken.

NO! Harry and Hermione shouted.

Thats chess! snapped Ron. Youve got to make some sacrifices! I take one step forward and shell take methat leaves you free to checkmate the king, Harry!


Do you want to stop Snape or not?


Look, if you dont hurry up, hell already have the Stone!

There was no alternative.

Ready? Ron called, his face pale but determined. Here I gonow, dont hang around once youve won.

He stepped forward, and the white queen pounced. She struck Ron hard across the head with her stone arm, and he crashed to the floorHermione screamed but stayed on her squarethe white queen dragged Ron to one side. He looked as if hed been knocked out.

Shaking, Harry moved three spaces to the left.

The white king took off his crown and threw it at Harrys feet. They had won. The chessmen parted and bowed, leaving the door ahead clear. With one last desperate look back at Ron, Harry and Hermione charged through the door and up the next passageway.

What if hes?

Hell be all right, said Harry, trying to convince himself. What do you reckons next?

Weve had Sprouts, that was the Devils Snare; Flitwick mustve put charms on the keys; McGonagall transfigured the chessmen to make them alive; that leaves Quirrells spell, and Snapes.

They had reached another door.

All right? Harry whispered.

Go on.

Harry pushed it open.

A disgusting smell filled their nostrils, making both of them pull their robes up over their noses. Eyes watering, they saw, flat on the floor in front of them, a troll even larger than the one they had tackled, out cold with a bloody lump on its head.

Im glad we didnt have to fight that one, Harry whispered as they stepped carefully over one of its massive legs. Come on, I cant breathe.

He pulled open the next door, both of them hardly daring to look at what came nextbut there was nothing very frightening in here, just a table with seven differently shaped bottles standing on it in a line.

Snapes, said Harry. What do we have to do?

They stepped over the threshold, and immediately a fire sprang up behind them in the doorway. It wasnt ordinary fire either; it was purple. At the same instant, black flames shot up in the doorway leading onward. They were trapped.

Look! Hermione seized a roll of paper lying next to the bottles. Harry looked over her shoulder to read it:



Danger lies before you, while safety lies behind,

Two of us will help you, which ever 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 bidden 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 wines 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 the second on the right

Are twins once you taste them, though different at first sight.



Hermione let out a great sigh and Harry, amazed, saw that she was smiling, the very last thing he felt like doing.



said Hermione. This isnt magicits logica puzzle. A lot of the greatest wizards havent got an ounce of logic, theyd be stuck in here forever.


But so will we, wont we?

Of course not, said Hermione. Everything we need is here on this paper. Seven bottles: three are poison; two are wine; one will get us safely through the black fire, and one will get us back through the purple.

But how do we know which to drink?

Give me a minute.

Hermione read the paper several times. Then she walked up and down the line of bottles, muttering to herself and pointing at them. At last, she clapped her hands.

Got it, she said. The smallest bottle will get us through the black firetoward the Stone.

Harry looked at the tiny bottle.

Theres only enough there for one of us, he said. Thats hardly one swallow.

They looked at each other.

Which one will get you back through the purple flames?

Hermione pointed at a rounded bottle at the right end of the line.

You drink that, said Harry. No, listen, get back and get Ron. Grab brooms from the flying-key room, theyll get you out of the trapdoor and past Fluffygo straight to the owlery and send Hedwig to Dumbledore, we need him. I might be able to hold Snape off for a while, but Im no match for him, really.

But Harrywhat if You-Know-Whos with him?

WellI was lucky once, wasnt I? said Harry, pointing at his scar. I might get lucky again.

Hermiones lip trembled, and she suddenly dashed at Harry and threw her arms around him.




Harryyoure a great wizard, you know.

Im not as good as you, said Harry, very embarrassed, as she let go of him.


Me! said Hermione. Books! And cleverness! There are more important thingsfriendship and bravery andoh Harry

be careful!


You drink first, said Harry. You are sure which is which, arent you?

Positive, said Hermione. She took a long drink from the round bottle at the end, and shuddered.

Its not poison? said Harry anxiously.

Nobut its like ice.

Quick, go, before it wears off.

Good lucktake care.


Hermione turned and walked straight through the purple fire.

Harry took a deep breath and picked up the smallest bottle. He turned to face the black flames.

Here I come, he said, and he drained the little bottle in one gulp.

It was indeed as though ice was flooding his body. He put the bottle down and walked forward; he braced himself, saw the black flames licking his body, but couldnt feel themfor a moment he could see nothing but dark firethen he was on the other side, in the last chamber.

There was already someone therebut it wasnt Snape. It wasnt even Voldemort.




It was Quirrell.



gasped Harry.


Quirrell smiled. His face wasnt twitching at all.

Me, he said calmly. I wondered whether Id be meeting you here, Potter.

But I thoughtSnape

Severus? Quirrell laughed, and it wasnt his usual quivering treble, either, but cold and sharp. Yes, Severus does seem the type, doesnt he? So useful to have him swooping around like an overgrown bat. Next to him, who would suspect p-p-poor, st-stuttering P-Professor Quirrell?

Harry couldnt take it in. This couldnt be true, it couldnt.

But Snape tried to kill me!


No, no, no.


tried to kill you. Your friend Miss Granger accidentally knocked me over as she rushed to set fire to Snape at that Quidditch match. She broke my eye contact with you. Another few seconds and Id have got you off that broom. Id have managed it before then if Snape hadnt been muttering a countercurse, trying to save you.



Snape was trying to





Of course, said Quirrell coolly. Why do you think he wanted to referee your next match? He was trying to make sure I didnt do it again. Funny, really he neednt have bothered. I couldnt do anything with Dumbledore watching. All the other teachers thought Snape was trying to stop Gryffindor from winning, he


make himself unpopular and what a waste of time, when after all that, Im going to kill you tonight.


Quirrell snapped his fingers. Ropes sprang out of thin air and wrapped themselves tightly around Harry.

Youre too nosy to live, Potter. Scurrying around the school on Halloween like that, for all I knew youd seen me coming to look at what was guarding the Stone.



let the troll in?


Certainly. I have a special gift with trollsyou must have seen what I did to the one in the chamber back there? Unfortunately, while everyone else was running around looking for it, Snape, who already suspected me, went straight to the third floor to head me offand not only did my troll fail to beat you to death, that three headed dog didnt even manage to bite Snapes leg off properly.

Now, wait quietly, Potter. I need to examine this interesting mirror.

It was only then that Harry realized what was standing behind Quirrell. It was the Mirror of Erised.

This mirror is the key to finding the Stone, Quirrell murmured, tapping his way around the frame. Trust Dumbledore to come up with something like this but hes in London Ill be far away by the time he gets back

All Harry could think of doing was to keep Quirrell talking and stop him from concentrating on the mirror.

I saw you and Snape in the forest he blurted out.

Yes, said Quirrell idly, walking around the mirror to look at the back. He was on to me by that time, trying to find out how far Id got. He suspected me all along. Tried to frighten meas though he could, when I had Lord Voldemort on my side

Quirrell came back out from behind the mirror and stared hungrily into it.

I see the Stone Im presenting it to my master but where is it?


Harry struggled against the ropes binding him, but they didnt give. He


to keep Quirrell from giving his whole attention to the mirror.


But Snape always seemed to hate me so much.


Oh, he does, said Quirrell casually, heavens, yes. He was at Hogwarts with your father, didnt you know? They loathed each other. But he never wanted you



But I heard you a few days ago, sobbingI thought Snape was threatening you

For the first time, a spasm of fear flitted across Quirrells face.

Sometimes, he said, I find it hard to follow my masters instructionshe is a great wizard and I am weak

You mean he was there in the classroom with you? Harry gasped.

He is with me wherever I go, said Quirrell quietly. I met him when I traveled around the world. A foolish young man I was then, full of ridiculous ideas about good and evil. Lord Voldemort showed me how wrong I was. There is no good and evil, there is only power, and those too weak to seek it Since then, I have served him faithfully, although I have let him down many times. He has had to be very hard on me. Quirrell shivered suddenly. He does not forgive mistakes easily. When I failed to steal the stone from Gringotts, he was most displeased. He punished me decided he would have to keep a closer watch on me

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