First of all, I have to admit that I am not a native speaker, so there might be a few mistakes, but if you were so kind as to write me a message to tell me of them, I would immediately correct them.
Disclaimer: All characters belong to Joanne K. Rowling and I don't earn my money with these stories.
These stories are inspired by a challenge in the Ravenclaw Common Room on Habitica.
A Puzzle at Night
Lisa Turpin made her way up the spiral staircase towards the Ravenclaw common room, slowly and with a wincing face. It was already night, the curfew would begin in a few minutes. This had been her first week in Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry and already she felt exhausted. She had used her free Sunday today to study and read in the library. As a Ravenclaw, she felt it her responsibility to have extraordinary grades and show good will at gaining knowledge. But now her eyes and back hurt from constant reading and she was so tired, she would probably fall on her bed with her clothes still on and fall asleep at once.
Finally, she had reached the door to the common room. For a moment, she tried to recollect the password, until she remembered that instead you had to answer a question or solve a riddle to enter.
"Um, hi", she said to the bronze eagle knocker on the door. "I'd like to enter."
"I have a puzzle for you first", the eagle responded in a soft voice. "It goes like this: Ten candles stand burning in a dining room. A strong breeze blows in through an open window and extinguishes two of them. Checking back in on the candles later, you see that one more candle has gone out. To make sure no more flames go out, you shut the window. Assuming the wind doesn't extinguish any more candles, how many candles do you have left in the end?"
Lisa blinked at this. Today was her first time to enter the common room alone and the other times when she had been with fellow first-years the questions had been so much easier! Well, it doesn't do to complain, she thought and started to think about the puzzle. In her mind, a picture of the situation arose, but the answer wasn't clear to her. Tentatively, she answered: "None?" All candles go out eventually.
"That is incorrect," the eagle replied.
Lisa sighed and thought about it again but her answer was still zero. In the end, all candles are gone. She rubbed her tired eyes. "Maybe one?" she started to guess.
"I cannot allow you to simply guess," the eagle replied emotionless. "I need the answer and an explanation for you to enter."
"I don't know," Lisa started to whine. She was so tired! "Please, can you just let me in this one time? Look at my school uniform: I am in Ravenclaw. Or I go inside and ask someone to vouch for me."
"That I cannot do, as well," the eagle returned. "I have no eyes, I cannot see. I can only hear."
"Please," she got tears in her eyes. "I just want to sleep!"
The eagle remained silent, so she started to hammer against the thick wooden door of the common room. "Hey!" she yelled. "Is anyone in there and can open up, please?"
But nothing happened.
The tears in her eyes started to escape and ran over her cheeks. Frustrated and lonely, she slid onto the floor, hugged her knees and started to cry bitterly. She didn't know the answer of the riddle and she was too tired to think about it, so she would have to sleep outside on the corridor until someone else came by or out of the common room in the morning. What a humiliation! A Ravenclaw that is too stupid to enter her own common room! Her older brothers, both in Hufflepuff, would laugh at her endlessly. They had made it perfectly clear on her first day that they didn't think her smart enough to be a Ravenclaw… More tears streamed over her face.
"Miss Turpin?" a voice suddenly spoke, and Lisa looked up at Professor Flitwick. "Is everything alright?"
"Professor!" she exclaimed relieved and stood up. "Thank Merlin, you're here. I can't solve the puzzle and now I can't enter the common room."
Flitwick nodded knowingly. "Yes, I always get a notice whenever a student is stuck on the eagle's question for more than 15 minutes. Don't worry," he merrily winked at her, "you're not the first I have come to rescue." He looked at the eagle and wanted to know the riddle.
The eagle obliged, and Flitwick thought about the solution for a moment, before he answered confidently: "Three."
"That is correct," the eagle stated, and the door opened a little.
"What, why?" Lisa wanted to know at once.
"Those three candles got blown out by the wind," Flitwick explained, "so they are the only ones that cannot burn down."
Lisa had the urge to facepalm herself. Of course!
"But I must say," Flitwick continued and spoke towards the eagle again, "that is quite the difficult riddle to ask a first-year at night."
"My apologies," the eagle declared in his emotionless voice. "I thought this was the fifth-year Mary McTosh."
"No," replied Flitwick. "This is first-year Lisa Turpin."
"My apologies, Miss Turpin. Your voice sounds just like Miss McTosh's."
Confused by this statement, Lisa looked at her Head of House.
"The eagle is able to distinguish everyone's different voices," Flitwick explained, "and therefore can give questions most adept to the person asking entrance. Don't worry, the next time you'll get a question you can answer easily."
"That's good," Lisa smiled. She had already feared to have this problem every other day…
"If I may ask," Flitwick then continued and sounded concerned, "why were you coming so late to the common room?"
"I was in the library studying," Lisa told him proudly. "The whole day."
Flitwick raised an eyebrow. "And why would you do that in your first week? Do you have the feeling you are falling behind already?"
"Um, no, sir," she replied slightly confused. "As a Ravenclaw it is expected of me."
"Oh, my dear girl", Flitwick then said sympathetically. "Being a Ravenclaw doesn't mean you have to spend your free day in a library. The Sorting Hat chose our House for you because you like reading and gaining knowledge, isn't that right?"
Lisa nodded, feeling suddenly stupid and embarrassed.
"It is also very important – and especially Ravenclaws tend to forget this – to have friends around you." Flitwick smiled at her. "Promise me to spend your next Sunday with some of your fellow first-years. You could go outside, to the lake, if the weather is fine. Or play cards together or whatever it is the young kids of today do."
"I will," she promised at once and her heart felt lighter at the prospect of a social and fun Sunday.