Disclaimer: I do not own Harry Potter or anything related to them.

"Hey Harry. Remember that one time you found out you had a huge collection of slaves and you asked me to do a H-U-U-U-G-E favor, and thus you owe me a huge favor too?" Tracey asked Harry in the library a few weeks from the end of year exams.

"I was hoping you had forgotten," Harry lamented. "What's the big favor?"

"I'm hurt, Harry," Tracey acted. "Can't we just remember the good old times before your harem, before you became a married man with heir responsibilities and everything?"

"I hate you, you know that," Harry said without any rancor.

"I know, but I'm not going to become your wife. Cho already fills the grumpy ignored spouse quota," Tracey smirked. "I doubt you'd be able to handle me anyways."

"Tracey, get to the point, I have studying to do and don't want to talk about Cho, or you, or, that."

"So talking about Su is fine?"

"Tracey," Harry growled.

"Anyway," Tracey pushed on. "The same day you found out about the contracts, Dumbledore announced the third floor corridor is off limits to anyone who doesn't want to die horribly. Well, I'm calling in the favor for you to join me going there."

"But I don't want to die a horrible death," Harry countered.

"Thus my calling in my favor instead of just asking you. I've already explored it a little bit, and it looks like it is a gauntlet of challenges with a prize at the end. I want your expertise when I push to the end."

"That is insane," Harry commented. "When are you doing it, and who all is going?"

"I'm thinking the weekend before exams."

"There is no way I can do that," Harry proclaimed. "I wouldn't need to worry about the corridor killing me, Hermione would do it herself if I messed up her carefully laid out study schedule."

"Any other objections?" Tracey asked, too innocently.

"What did you do to Hermione?" Harry asked cautiously.

"Nothing you need to concern yourself with," Tracey waved off the question.

"I do need to study," Harry pointed out.

"Your grades are quite good, Harry. An afternoon of relaxing has positive effects of the memory retention. Next objection?"

"You're going to have something to counter every objection I have, right?"

"If my discussions with Hermione, Daphne, and Su went well enough, then yes, yes I will."

"Then fine, I agree with the stipulation that those three accompany us too."

"Excellent," Tracey declared with more enthusiasm than made Harry comfortable.

"This was a setup, right?" Harry asked, banging his head on the table.

"They agreed to go conditional on you going, so everyone wins when everyone goes."

"Why not wait for after exams?"

"To keep Hermione from exploding mostly," Tracey shrugged, now serious. "That girl would study herself into a blubbering mess if she didn't have a distraction. Plus, after exams is the obvious time to go, especially for the upper years. We can't be obvious about it, so we're going to go at lunchtime the Saturday before the final week before the exams so we're not caught. Be ready by then."

Wondering what he got himself into, Harry shook his head and continued his reading as Tracey triumphantly waltzed out of the library.

"Alright team, this is the big one," Tracey paced in front of her squad.

"Are we really a team, or is it more of a group?" Hermione asked rhetorically. "What are our designated roles? Who's the team leader? The snarky loner who abandons the team but eventually returns just in the nick of time to save the day?"

"Ohh, dibs on that one," Harry called. "Hermione can be the smartypants one who misses the single obvious clue because it's so obvious but is otherwise perfect at all the logic stuff."

"I think we can all agree I am the beautiful one, Harry is the reluctant leader, Hermione is the smart one, Daphne is the straight man, and Su is the silent killer," Tracey listed.

"You can't prove I have killed anyone," Su commented. Everyone stared at her, her dragonscale armor, and her multiple visible blades. Fully functional blades. No one pushed the issue.

"Moving on," Daphne urged.

"Right, so even if there was anything truly dangerous at the beginning of the year, the teachers would have taken care of it by now," Tracey reasoned. "Since they haven't announced it being safe again, it has to be just a fun and relatively safe obstacle course to help break the boredom for the more advanced students during the year. Nothing else makes sense."

"Relatively safe?" Harry chimed in.

"As safe as Quidditch, I think," Tracey shrugged. "So while it may seem dangerous and daunting, they aren't going to actually kill us."

"What's at the end of the corridor?" Hermione put forth.

"Glory, galleons, special books, a magical calendar of sexy firefighters, automatic passing grades," Tracey guessed. "I don't know for sure, but even if it is a rusty old bolt, the journey will sure be fun. Any other questions?"

Seeing none, Tracey led her merry little band of first years out of the empty classroom on the second floor and to the forbidden third floor corridor and their certain doom.

"Daphne, you're up first. There is a cerberus guarding a trap door."

"Tracey, are you absolutely bonkers?" Daphne asked quietly. "What am I supposed to do against a cerberus besides feed it my broken corpse?"

"Sing," Tracey smirked. "Any sort of music puts the big guy to sleep."

"Oh," Daphne said, blushing faintly.

"You can sing?" Harry asked curiously. In all their time together, she'd never sung.

Daphne mumbled something unintelligible, but before anyone could ask for her to repeat herself, she marched to the door. Nobody missed the glare she threw at Tracey.

When Daphne opened the door, she began to sing. To Harry, it was as if an angel had descended from the heavens and began to serenade them. Harry had read about the song of the phoenix, and he couldn't imagine it was any better. As she moved into the room, the melody still lingered with him.

There was a thump through the door, and Tracey motioned Hermione, Harry, and Su to follow her into the forbidden room. The enormous sleeping three headed dog dominated the majority of the abandoned room, softly snoring to Daphne's delicate song. Harry silently helped Tracey move one of the paws that was covering the trap door while Hermione and Su kept a lookout for possible interlopers. After a moment, the pathway forward was clear, and all the group needed to do was drop down into a deep dark abyss.

"YAHOO!" shouted Tracey as she jumped through the hatch without any hesitation. The rest waited a moment, listening to her voice get farther away. It stopped a second later. "It's not that deep, and the landing is cushioned."

Harry moved to go down next, but was stopped by Su's arm across his chest. Without saying anything, she jumped down next. Harry shook his head at her now routine overly protective actions.

Since he officially married Cho last year, Su had always acted like she was his bodyguard, such as during quidditch matches or when he left Hogwarts on House business during the weekends. Due to a variety of causes, the original Draconic contract couldn't be delivered to Great Britain, so Sirius was planning on taking Harry and Su on a vacation trip during the summer to where it was being stored so the exact text could finally be deciphered.

"Clear," came Su's call a few seconds after she landed. Harry jumped next.

The weightlessness from falling was unsettling, but with as many pranks as Sirius usually played involved gravity manipulation, Harry knew how to compensate. The soft landing was thanks to a massive tangle of plants.

"Get ready to cast a lumos spell, as strong as you can," Tracey whispered to him. "Stay on your feet, or the Devil's Snare will get you."

Momentary panic surged through Harry. Devil's snare killed dozens of witches and wizards around the world each year. At least they knew about it, and could be prepared. Most of the deaths were camping accidents where a sleeping mage was caught unawares. Hermione and Daphne jumped down at the same time.

The moment they landed, Harry shouted "LUMOS!"

"Ouch, yell a little louder, won't you?" Hermione complained while rubbing her ear. She looked around at the plant retreating from Harry's bright light and made the connection immediately. "Devil's Snare?"

"Light or flame," Tracey nodded. "Couldn't get rid of it earlier or else you would have been hurt jumping down."

Hermione cast a blue flame spell and Daphne a black flame one, keeping the plant away from their immediate vicinity. Harry and Tracey moved their illuminated wands back and forth, searching for a door or exit as the vines retreated from the light. Su held her twenty inch jian sword ready in her left hand while her right held her wand. The retreating deadly plant revealed a small stone tunnel going through the far wall, no larger than two feet across.

"Looks like we are crawling," Harry observed, shining his wand into the darkness. "Ladies first."

"Oh, so gentlemanly," Tracey sarcastically shot back. "This is as far as I've gotten. It's all a mystery now."

She began trying to wriggle through the hole. With some pushes and shoves, wiggles and inch-worming, they all made it to the next chamber with a single door. To the girls' relief, everyone had thought to wear pants under their robes.

"Clinking, fluttering," Tracey whispered as she listened at the door.

"If the Cerberus was Care of Magical Creatures and the Devils Snare from Herbology, do you think every challenge is going to be from a different class?" Daphne asked Hermione.

"I hope not," Hermione paled. "I haven't studied much on Divination."

"What about Arithmancy?" Daphne asked.

"The first year of Arithmancy isn't too different from muggle algebra. Both Devil's Snare and the Cerberus are covered in their first year of curriculum, so it stands to reason the other challenges will be of a similar level of difficulty," Hermione reasoned.

"Ancient Runes?"

Hermione paled slightly.

"I didn't bring any reference books," Hermione whispered.

"Winged keys," Tracey informed the rest. She had cracked the door and peeked inside. "Someone transfigured keys to have wings."

"So would this be transfiguration or flying?" Harry asked.

"Depends on what we have to do to get through," Daphne considered the problem. "If the keys attack us, we'd probably have to untransifigure them. If they don't attack, then. . . I'm not sure."

"Let's not get ahead of ourselves," Tracey cautioned. "They made these challenges to be beaten. Harry, go run into the room and see if you get attacked. We'll stay here and guard the door."

"So I'm to be the bait," Harry dramatically complained. "Oh, remember me after my flesh is torn asunder from my bones and sing songs of my bravery when your grandchildren ask to hear the tales of my epic demise."

"We might have grandchildren before you get done with your theatrics, get going," Tracey grumbled.

Smiling, Harry pulled his bespoke cloak out of his satchel, made to hold his father's invisibility cloak underneath it, and put it on. If Harry gave a quick flourish, the outer cloak could fall away and leave Harry invisible. He had gotten the idea while watching Star Wars, the way Obi-Wan Kenobi disappeared leaving only his cloak behind. Sirius had been baffled for a moment when Harry tried it out of him while they were dueling over spring break. He hoped he didn't have to reveal it to the girls now, but better safe than sorry. Pranking could wait.

"Kiss for luck?" Harry joked.

Su stalked over and planted a deep kiss on Harry's lips. When she was finished, Harry stood there stunned and breathless.

"Good luck," Su smirked, then walked back to her previous position guarding their rear.

"Harry!" Hermione chastised. "Hasn't Tonks been working with you on your jokes with your, your contracts?"

"That wasn't the contract being enforced," Su spoke up. "That was me taking advantage of his words. Feel free to take advantage as well, I don't mind."

Before anyone else could take advantage of anything, Harry took advantage of the distraction and slipped through the door, closing it mostly shut behind him. He was stunned by what Su had done, and didn't want to think about what it meant or would mean for him and the rest.

The good news was the winged keys flying around the vaulted roof of the cathedral-sized room didn't attack him. It was a good thing too, since undoing transfiguration was tricky, especially if you didn't know exactly what transfiguration was done. A simple finite wouldn't always work. If the keys were originally something like, say, hungry lions, it would be extremely dangerous to undo the transfiguration.

Luckily, it seemed like this was a test of flying instead of spellwork.

"We got a set of brooms by the next door," Harry called out, pulling his cloaks off and putting them back in his bag. The keys fluttered high above his head. "A dozen of them, old school brooms by the looks."

The others tentatively entered, glancing upwards at the cacophony of colored winged keys as they moved across the room to the locked door which would lead them further into the gauntlet. A quick check showed the basic unlocking charm didn't work.

"Looks like we're catching the keys and trying them one by one," Tracey sighed. "There must be hundreds up there."

"And half the brooms here will probably fall out of the sky if you go too fast," Harry added. "Only three of them are any good at all."

"I'm pants on a broom," admitted Hermione.

"True," Harry concurred. "Your flying career would never take off the ground."

"Prat," Hermione smiled and shook her head as the others groaned.

"Maybe we won't have to try every key," Su interjected, sticking a bobby pin into the keyhole and wiggling it around. "The door handle is silver, and the height of the bit is likely between eight and thirteen millimeters."

"The what now?" Harry asked, furrowing his forehead.

"The bit of the key is the end piece that is all jagged, the opposite of the part you hold onto," Hermione explained.

"Most of the keys up there look too small for that lock, then" Daphne observed, grabbing one of the better looking brooms in the pile. Harry and Tracey grabbed the other two good ones. Su and Hermione stood watch, both the air above and the doors on the floor.

The three flyers kicked off and began circling the swarm. Tracey darted after a closeby lime green-winged brass key, only to have it bob and weave away from her outstretched hand.

"We need a seeker," Tracey complained. "These things are as bad as snitches."

"There," Harry cried, pointing to a large silver key with pale blue wings. The other keys seemed to keep a few feet distance from it.

The first few attempts to snatch it out of the air failed. Mild hexes couldn't land on it either. Even their skillful flying couldn't get them close enough to grab it.

"Chase it to me," Hermione called from the ground.

With a round of shrugs, the three began herding the key downwards the best they could. Hermione and Su helped by casting sparks upwards whenever it looked like the key was going to make an escape. It took a few minutes, but eventually they were only ten feet up.

"Retepiscum," Hermione cast, and a weighted fishing net shot out of the end of her wand like a shotgun. It entangled the key and brought it down. The key struggled against the net, sometimes lifting it a few inches up off the ground, but Hermione jumped on it with all her weight.

"What was that spell?" Harry asked.

"Fishing spell my dad found in some of the books I left at home over the winter break," Hermione answered with a smile as she dragged the net and key over to the door. "He loves his fishing, and wanted me to try it out. It's supposed to be used for underwater fishing, not above land, but it works just fine."

Between Hermione and Su, they forced the key into the lock and made it into the next downward sloping passageway between challenges, this one lit by torches placed every five feet. Tracey checked to see if they were real, conjured, or illusionary.

"Real fire, which means it's eating up real oxygen," Tracey said. "We should probably hurry."

Opening the next door held no clues to their next challenge. Harry's lumos (not shouted this time) only revealed a few feet into the inky blackness. Together, the five of them entered into the unknown. The lights in the room came up in a blinding flash to reveal a giant chessboard.

"Oh no," Harry whispered.

"We're bloody buggered," Daphne swore.

"I'm, I'm not that good at chess," Hermione admitted.

"If you are not, then none of us are," Su shrugged. "How do we get across?"

"I, I think we have to beat the game," Tracey glumly said. "How are we going to win when we are all so bad?"

"We cheat," Harry declared with the grin.

"Wha-what?" Hermione stuttered.

"Magical sentience is very rare," Harry explained. "Much too rare to be used in a trivial thing like this set of challenges. That means either the game is preordained, where the pieces will move based on a pre-ordained game, or the pieces will have a specific move to make based on the current arrangement of pieces."

"How does that let us cheat?" Daphne asked.

"Chess is much too complex to allow the second. I mean, there are," Harry paused his explanation while counting on his fingers. "There are sixteen possible options for the first move alone."

"Twenty," Hermione corrected. "You forgot the knights."

"Right, twenty moves for the first move of white, and another twenty moves for black. That's, that's a really big number of combinations.

"Four hundred," Hermione chimed in with a smile.

"Right. With that many combinations for just the first two moves, there is no way even the most complex set of spells could make a fully autonomous chess game. It has to be a predetermined game. We find the game and we exploit it."

"The pieces in Wizard's Chess can play by themselves," Daphne interjected.

"Limited advice," Harry shot back. "And at least with me it's contradictory advice."

"Runes," Tracey interrupted. "Magical chess pieces are animated with runes. This must be the Ancient Runes challenge. And the pieces aren't actively yelling at us right now so this is probably just a muggle chess set, which means this is Runes and Muggle studies."

"In January, several older Ravenclaws were playing muggle chess," Su spoke up. "If I remember correctly, they were taking Muggle Studies as their elective. Perhaps they were shown a particular game in class, and this set emulates it?"

"This is fascinating, and I would love to delve into it in great detail later, but none of us really play chess, and so I doubt any of us know any chess matches, let alone a single specific one, and the way to win that particular chess match," Daphne doused the other's enthusiasm with the reality of their situation.

"True," Harry admitted. "But knowing how the game is set up can tell us how we can cheat."

Harry approached the closest chess piece, the black queen's knight, and examined the base. Su and Daphne joined him.

"Do those squiggles look like runes to you?" Daphne pointed out a series of marks about three inches from the bottom of the piece and about half an inch high. Without specifically looking for the runes, anyone would assume it was just decoration.

"They do indeed," Harry affirmed.

"Can you read them?" Hermione asked. "What do they say?"

"No clue," Harry shrugged. "But it doesn't matter. Remember the copy and paste spell you used to make duplicates of Slytherin's journal, the one for Pansy?"

"Yes," Hermione hesitated in answering.

"Then I say we use that, copy the runes for the queen and paste them on all the pawns."

"Pawns are allowed to be promoted to queens, according to the rules," Daphne considered. "But you have to move the pieces to the other side to promote them."

"In a game with two sentient opponents, yes," Harry countered. "But white is likely using one or two or three sets of predetermined sets of moves, so this isn't an actual game."

"Let's try it and see what happens," Tracey encouraged. "Worst that could happen is the chess pieces turn against us and beat us into blood pulp."

"Lovely," Daphne deadpanned. "Let's try."

Raising her wand and pointing it at the line of runes on the black queen, Hermione cast a seemingly complicated concerto of swishes, flicks, and twists. With a final flourish towards the queen's pawn, there was a glow of magic and the pawn enlarged and transfigured into a queen. The group let out a victory cry, and in short order there were nine black queens facing down the white side of the board.

"If we can't win with this, we don't deserve to finish this obstacle course," Harry announced.

It took forty-two moves and a few close calls, but they finally won.


They really were that bad.

As the white king threw down its crown in resignation after being surrounded by all three remaining black queens, the party hopped past the broken and reforming pieces to the far door. The corridor ceiling was significantly shorter than the previous ones, barely four feet tall. Before they could see the next door they could smell the next obstacle.

"Troll," Hermione whispered, freezing where she stood. Harry and Daphne nodded in agreement. After last Halloween, it wasn't a smell they would soon forget.

"I will take care of it," Su declared solemnly before racing forward.

Harry tried to stop her, but she was gone before he could do more than say her name. From ahead, they heard a door open, a roar, a door close, and another muted roar.

"We got to help her," Harry urged, taking a halting step forward. Hermione didn't move.

"You two, go," Daphne ordered as she put an arm around the trembling Hermione. "I got her."

Tracey and Harry exchanged a glance between them before racing on. They reached the door and threw it open.

Su was dancing around the lumbering troll, easily twice as tall as the one Harry had fought in the bathroom. Little lines of green blood oozed out of the troll's legs where Su's jian had sliced. Her wand shot sparks after sparks into the beast's face, distracting and disorienting it while her sword left its mark.

Tracey levitated a large rock over the troll's head and dropped it, causing it to shout in pain.

Harry animated some thick broken ropes, most likely used to restrain the troll when it was first placed in the room, which began to slowly entangle the legs. He knew firsthand the creature's arms were too strong to bind unless it was with steel or stone.

Su banished the stone Tracey had dropped on the troll's head into the troll's kneecap with a sickening crack, and the troll dropped to the ground snarling. A slash of the jian and the other leg was out of commission as well. With the troll immobile but still flailing, the three dropped rocks on its head, levitated them, and dropped them again, until the troll stopped moving.

"Is it dead?" Tracey asked, more somber than she had been all day.

"Hardly," Su answered. "It will regenerate from these wounds within the hour. A fully grown mountain troll doesn't feel pain from it's injuries, only from its hunger. After Halloween, I researched them extensively. Do not feel pity or sorrow for this beast, Tracey Davis. It will be fine."

Tracey nodded mechanically.

"I'll go get the others," Harry volunteered, leaving the two girls to their own devices. Some reassuring words and a short time later, the group was at the next challenge.

"A logic challenge?" Daphne questioned after Hermione read the puzzle out loud. "A school full of magicals and they throw a logic challenge at us? After a fully grown mountain troll, we get logic?"

"If we had any logic, we wouldn't try to get past a fully grown troll," Tracey shot back. "It's perfect."

"What class is this for then?" Harry asked. "I would say potions but I doubt Snape is competent to think up something like this."

"He is an exceptional potion brewer," Daphne defended her head of house.

"And a substandard teacher," Harry pushed back before shrugging. "Arithmancy?"

"Seems likely," Su confirmed. "Or Muggle Studies again."

"Should we try to cheat again this time?" Harry asked in a false whisper. Hermione glared at Harry before returning to the puzzle before her. While the rest were talking, Hermione had been focused on the riddle.

"Probably safer not to," Daphne said in the same type of voice. "Hermione is likely to hex off something if you bother her. Your wife and concubine would not be pleased."

"Got it," Hermione announced a minute later, holding up a tiny bottle before Harry could respond. "But it's only enough for one swallow."

"Anyone else not excited to drink an unknown potion?" Harry asked. "Or is that just me."

Before anyone could react, Tracey grabbed the small vial and downed the contents in one gulp. After a tiny forced belch, she smiled at the stunned group.

"Not poison?" Su smirked.

"Not yet," Tracey shrugged with a smile. She tossed the bottle back to Hermione and strutted towards the flames impeding their progress. "Here goes nothing."

Harry counted it a good thing when Tracey didn't ignite or scream when she walked through the terror-inducing fire. Unsure of how to proceed, they looked at each other and shrugged their shoulders. Hermione carefully placed the bottle back in it's place, staring at it with intense focus.

"I, I think it's refilling," Hermione whispered barely loud enough for the rest to hear.

"I'll go next," Daphne insisted, and she also drank from the bottle. Without any hesitation, she glided forward through the flames.

After Daphne stepped through, it took all of Harry, Su, and Hermione's effort to patiently wait for the bottle to refill enough to drink. After what seemed like an hour but was really more like three minutes, Hermione drained the few drops and handed the vial to Su.

"See you on the other side," Harry softly spoke. He wanted to put on a brave face, but he was worried. None of the girls had come back to say they were OK. The waiting was killing him.

Only he and Su Li remained.

"We have not yet been intimate," Su stated. "Perhaps next year?"

"Gahk," Harry coughed. Of course she would take advantage of them being alone and trapped by deadly fire. "I told you, I'm not ready for that. Yet. Not yet. I still haven't read the original draconic contract."

"I understand. I am not pressuring you into sex or anything like that, but more signs of affection would be appreciated," Su clarified. "A kiss or a hug, perhaps. Or cuddling. For both myself and for the Lady Slytherin."

"I thought you two didn't get along," Harry questioned.

"We do not," Su affirmed. "We venomously hate each other, but she is Lady Slytherin. I am a concubine of Slytherin. There are responsibilities to the House that must be met. Some by you, some by me, some by Lady Slytherin. Ignoring one part will weaken the whole."

"It's not that simple," Harry started to say before he was interrupted.

"If you have compassion, it is that simple. She and I are bound to obey you. You cannot expect us to take the lead on changing the perception of House Slytherin if you are not willing to take the lead on being compassionate to your own members of the family." Su paused a moment before continuing. "A word of comfort costs nothing, and can plant the seed of hope in the most barren of hearts."

They were silent for a moment, before Su took the now refilled bottle and drank it up. Without another word, Harry soon found himself alone with his thoughts and Su's words.

Before the bottle could refill enough for him to drink, Daphne, Hermione, Tracey, and Su returned through the fire. All were uncharacteristically subdued, each deep inside their own thoughts.

"What happened?" Harry asked, visually searching the four for any signs of injury.

"We got to the prize," Daphne whispered.

"It's the Mirror of Erised," Hermione elaborated. "Look in it, and you see your greatest desire."

"Not truth," Su clarified. "But desire."

"We all looked in it," Tracey continued. "We'll wait here while you go look for yourself."

With a slightly trembling hand, Harry drank and walked through the fire to discover what he truly wanted.

Nine Days Later

"Hello Tom," Dumbledore gently intoned, startling the disintegrating Professor and the wraith inside him. "I see you have fallen victim to the Mirror of Erised, like so many before you."

"I see it, where is it?" demanded Voldemort's demented host, eyes locked on the mirror. "How do I get it?"

"Alas, that is a secret you will never solve," Dumbledore smiled. "Let him go, Tom. Perhaps St. Mungo's can save his body, though I do fear his soul is beyond help."

"I am the only thing keeping him alive," the wispy voice from the back of the turban said. "Perhaps you would prove a stronger vassel."

"I think not," Dumbledore lamented. "I have a terrible addiction to lemon drops, after all."

He had taught Quirrell so many years ago. He remembered his enthusiasm and joy. So full of life. So ready with a joke.

When Tom Riddle de-possessed him, his former student collapsed into a mess of bonedust and ash.

The smoke-cloud wraith flew towards Dumbledore, screaming as it went.

Dumbledore banished it away with a wave of the Elder wand. Conjuring flames to chase the spirit away.

With a scream, the weakened and evidently still alive Voldemort fled from the room, temporarily defeated.

"I'm so sorry, Quirinus," Dumbledore lamented to the dusted remains. "If the school wards hadn't been circumvented, I would have learned about Tom earlier. If you hadn't tampered with the alarms around this gauntlet, I would have been here sooner. I don't even know how long the alarms have been down. I am proud of the challenges you and the other professors made, given the restrictions. Not to kill, but to delay, so even a first year could get through without serious damage, but even an expert could not do so quickly. Thank you for your years of service to this school, this last year notwithstanding."

With a last look at what remained, Dumbledore cleared his mind, closed his eyes, and faced the Mirror. He knew what he would usually see in the mirror, and forced it into the back of his mind. His greatest desire would be of no use to him at this moment. The Stone was his only concern, but not to use it.

Dumbledore had no use for gold, and no appetite for immortality. Those were the goals of the young.

That is what foiled Tom.

Opening his eyes, he saw himself, slightly younger but still recognizable. He smiled at himself. The reflection smiled back. As the reflection put its hand in its pocket, it sprouted a concerned look on its face. It's other hand went to the other pocket, and the reflection of Dumbledore started patting its robes frantically. It pulled out its pockets. It shook out its hat. Even his shoes came off.


With a shrug of disbelief and resignation, Reflection Dumbledore disappeared.

It took a moment before the now-panicked Headmaster began rapidly casting every detection and forensic spell he knew.

"What do you mean, you lost my Stone?" an irate centuries-old Master Alchemist demanded of her former protege. Literal flames began issuing from her ears. Her husband sat quietly in his comfortable armchair, now eating some summoned popcorn.

Dumbledore gulped.

Fortunately, he knew Voldemort didn't have it.

Unfortunately, the list of possible suspects was hundreds of names long.