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Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone 18 страница



"Should call Filch, I should, if something's 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 mistake -- I didn't see you -- of course I didn't, you're

invisible -- forgive 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, I'll not bother you."

 

And he scooted off

 

"Brilliant, Harry!" whispered Ron.

 

A few seconds later, they were there, outside the third-floor corridor

-- and the door was already ajar.

 

"Well, there you are," Harry said quietly, "Snape's 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 won't blame you," he said. "You can take the

cloak, I won't need it now."

 

"Don't be stupid," said Ron.

 

"We're coming," said Hermione.

 

Harry pushed the door open.

 

As the door creaked, low, rumbling growls met their ears. All three of

the dog's noses sniffed madly in their direction, even though it

couldn't see them.

 

"What's 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 Hagrid's flute to his lips and blew. It wasn't really a tune, but

from the first note the beast's eyes began to droop. Harry hardly drew

breath. Slowly, the dog's growls ceased -- it 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 dog's hot, smelly breath

as they approached the giant heads. "I think we'll be able to pull the



door open," said Ron, peering over the dog's back. "Want to go first,

Hermione?"

 

"No, I don't!"

 

"All right." Ron gritted his teeth and stepped carefully over the dog's

legs. He bent and pulled the ring of the trapdoor, which swung up and

open.

 

"What can you see?" Hermione said anxiously.

 

"Nothing -- just black -- there's no way of climbing down, we'll 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 don't 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, don't 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.

 

"It's okay!" he called up to the light the size of a postage stamp,

which was the open trapdoor, "it's a soft landing, you can jump!"

 

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

 

"What's this stuff?" were his first words.

 

"Dunno, some sort of plant thing. I suppose it's 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 Harry's other side.

 

"We must be miles under the school , she said.

 

"Lucky this plant thing's here, really," said Ron.

 

"Lucky!" 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 is -- it's

Devil's Snare!"

 

"Oh, I'm so glad we know what it's called, that's a great help," snarled

Ron, leaning back, trying to stop the plant from curling around his

neck. "Shut up, I'm trying to remember how to kill it!" said Hermione.

 

"Well, hurry up, I can't breathe!" Harry gasped, wrestling with it as it

curled around his chest.

 

"Devil's Snare, Devil's Snare... what did Professor Sprout say? -- it

likes the dark and the damp

 

"So light a fire!" Harry choked.

 

"Yes -- of course -- but there's no wood!" Hermione cried, wringing her

hands.

 

"HAVE YOU GONE MAD?" Ron bellowed. "ARE YOU A WITCH OR NOT?"

 

"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 doesn't lose his head in a crisis --

'there's no wood,' honestly."

 

"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 dragon -- Norbert 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 it's a ghost?"

 

"I don't know... sounds like wings to me."

 

"There's light ahead -- I 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 they'll attack us if we cross the room?" said Ron.

 

"Probably," said Harry. "They don't look very vicious, but I suppose if

they all swooped down at once... well, there's no other choice... I'll

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

wouldn't budge, not even when Hermione tried her Alohomora charm.

 

"Now what?" said Ron.

 

"These birds... they can't be here just for decoration," said Hermione.

 

They watched the birds soaring overhead, glittering -- glittering?

 

"They're not birds!" Harry said suddenly. "They're keys! Winged keys --

look carefully. So that must mean..." he looked around the chamber while

the other two squinted up at the flock of keys. "... yes -- look!

Broomsticks! We've got to catch the key to the door!"

 

"But there are hundreds of them!"

 

Ron examined the lock on the door.

 

"We're looking for a big, old-fashioned one -- probably 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 didn't. After a minute's

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 one -- there -- no, there

-- with bright blue wings -- the 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.

 

"We've 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 above -- Hermione,

stay below and stop it from going down and I'll 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 Hermione's 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 turned -- it 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 couldn't 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 slightly -- the towering

white chessmen had no faces.

 

"Now what do we do?" Harry whispered.

 

"It's obvious, isn't it?" said Ron. "We've 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, "we're going to have to be chessmen."

 

He walked up to a black knight and put his hand out to touch the

knight's 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 we -- er -- have to join you to get across?" The black knight

nodded. Ron turned to the other two.

 

"This needs thinking about he said. I suppose we've got to take the

place of three of the black pieces...."

 

Harry and Hermione stayed quiet, watching Ron think. Finally he said,

"Now, don't be offended or anything, but neither of you are that good at

chess --"

 

"We're not offended," said Harry quickly. "Just tell us what to do."

 

"Well, Harry, you take the place of that bishop, and Hermione, YOU 90

next to him instead of that castle."

 

"What about you?"

 

"I'm 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. Harry's knees were trembling. What if they lost?

 

"Harry -- move 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.

 

"We're nearly there," he muttered suddenly. "Let me think let me

think..."

 

The white queen turned her blank face toward him.

 

"Yes..." said Ron softly, "It's the only way... I've got to be taken."

 

"NOF Harry and Hermione shouted.

 

"That's chess!" snapped Ron. "You've got to make some sacrifices! I take

one step forward and she'll take me -- that leaves you free to checkmate

the king, Harry!"

 

"But --"

 

"Do you want to stop Snape or not?"

 

"Ron --"

 

"Look, if you don't hurry up, he'll already have the Stone!"

 

There was no alternative.

 

"Ready?" Ron called, his face pale but determined. "Here I go - now,

don't hang around once you've 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 floor -

Hermione screamed but stayed on her square - the white queen dragged Ron

to one side. He looked as if he'd been knocked out.

 

Shaking, Harry moved three spaces to the left.

 

The white king took off his crown and threw it at Harry's 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 he's --?"

 

"He'll be all right," said Harry, trying to convince himself. "What do

you reckon's next?"

 

"We've had Sprout's, that was the Devil's Snare; Flitwick must've put

charms on the keys; McGonagall transfigured the chessmen to make them

alive; that leaves Quirrell's spell, and Snape's."

 

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.

 

"I'm glad we didn't have to fight that one," Harry whispered as they

stepped carefully over one of its massive legs. "Come on, I can't

breathe."

 

He pulled open the next door, both of them hardly daring to look at what

came next - but there was nothing very frightening in here, just a table

with seven differently shaped bottles standing on it in a line.

 

"Snape's," 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 wasn't 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 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 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.

 

"Brilliant," said Hermione. "This isn't magic -- it's logic -- a puzzle.

A lot of the greatest wizards haven't got an ounce of logic, they'd be

stuck in here forever."

 

"But so will we, won't 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

fire -- toward the Stone."

 

Harry looked at the tiny bottle.

 

"There's only enough there for one of us," he said. "That's 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, they'll get you out of the trapdoor

and past Fluffy -- go straight to the owlery and send Hedwig to

Dumbledore, we need him. I might be able to hold Snape off for a while,

but I'm no match for him, really."

 

"But Harry -- what if You-Know-Who's with him?"

 

"Well -- I was lucky once, wasn't I?" said Harry, pointing at his scar.

"I might get lucky again."

 

Hermione's lip trembled, and she suddenly dashed at Harry and threw her

arms around him.

 

"Hermione!"

 

"Harry -- you're a great wizard, you know."

 

"I'm 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

things -- friendship and bravery and -- oh Harry -- be careful!"

 

"You drink first," said Harry. "You are sure which is which, aren't

you?"

 

"Positive," said Hermione. She took a long drink from the round bottle

at the end, and shuddered.

 

"It's not poison?" said Harry anxiously.

 

"No -- but it's like ice."

 

"Quick, go, before it wears off."

 

"Good luck -- take care."

 

"GO!"

 

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 couldn't feel them -- for a moment he could see nothing

but dark fire -- then he was on the other side, in the last chamber.

 

There was already someone there -- but it wasn't Snape. It wasn't even

Voldemort.

 

 

CHAPTER SEVENTEEN

 

THE MAN WITH TWO FACES

 

It was Quirrell.

 

"You!" gasped Harry.

 

Quirrell smiled. His face wasn't twitching at all.

 

"Me," he said calmly. "I wondered whether I'd be meeting you here,

Potter."

 

"But I thought -- Snape --"

 

"Severus?" Quirrell laughed, and it wasn't his usual quivering treble,

either, but cold and sharp. "Yes, Severus does seem the type, doesn't

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 couldn't take it in. This couldn't be true, it couldn't.

 

"But Snape tried to kill me!"

 

"No, no, no. I 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 I'd

have got you off that broom. I'd have managed it before then if Snape

hadn't been muttering a countercurse, trying to save you."

 

"Snape was trying to save me?"

 

"Of course," said Quirrell coolly. "\Why do you think he wanted to

referee your next match? He was trying to make sure I didn't do it

again. Funny, really... he needn't have bothered. I couldn't do anything

with Dumbledore watching. All the other teachers thought Snape was

trying to stop Gryffindor from winning, he did make himself unpopular...

and what a waste of time, when after all that, I'm going to kill you

tonight."

 

Quirrell snapped his fingers. Ropes sprang out of thin air and wrapped

themselves tightly around Harry.

 

"You're too nosy to live, Potter. Scurrying around the school on

Halloween like that, for all I knew you'd seen me coming to look at what

was guarding the Stone."

 

"You let the troll in?"

 

"Certainly. I have a special gift with trolls -- you 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 off -- and not

only did my troll fail to beat you to death, that three-headed dog

didn't even manage to bite Snape's 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 he's in London... I'll 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 I'd got.

He suspected me all along. Tried to frighten me - as though he could,





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