Harry checked for the fourth time that his wand was readily accessible as he and Hermione prepared to leave the common room. As soon as everyone had fallen asleep, Harry pulled his invisibility cloak out of his trunk and snuck downstairs to wait for Hermione.
Hermione sat on her bed staring at her wand. She knew she should lie down and go to sleep, to get ready for the last of her finals tomorrow. But the past year at Hogwarts had taught her so much more than what she learned from books. She knew that she had to help Harry, no matter what, because that's what friends do. Standing, she quickly reviewed a list of spells she might need for their adventure before quietly exiting the room.
"You ready?" Harry asked quietly as he shook out his cloak. Hermione nodded quickly as they exited the portrait hole. She startled only momentarily as he whipped the cloak around them and her body disappeared.
"Where did you get an invisibility cloak?" she whispered fervently. Harry grinned and shrugged, as if to say he'd tell her later. Quietly, they snuck around Filch on his way back in from checking the grounds. Once down the dungeons steps, Harry's breath came in shorter bursts. He didn't know if ghosts could see through invisibility cloaks, but getting caught by the Bloody Baron was not on his list of things to happen tonight.
As they approached the entrance to the Slytherin Commons, they heard the wall slide back and Draco's pale head emerged into the torchlight. Not resisting an opportunity to scare his brother witless, Harry directed them behind the Slytherin as he reached out.
Only Harry's hand stifled Draco's scream of surprise, and he eyed his brother enviously as he emerged from beneath the cloak.
"How in the world did you get an invisibility cloak?" Draco's voice was just above a whisper, but too loud for Harry's liking.
"Pipe down, you prat, or you'll get us caught. I got it for Christmas; I don't know who sent it. The note said it belonged to James Potter." A short silence fell over them before Hermione stepped up to them.
"I don't think this will cover all of us completely, but we may as well go on. We only have an hour before Sophie alerts a teacher." She pulled the boys in close, rolling her eyes as Draco tried to put Harry between himself and her.
The trio made their way slowly upstairs to the third floor, only partially surprised when they encountered no one along the way. As they reached the third floor corridor that housed Fluffy, Harry unlocked the door and pushed it open.
"Hang on," he whispered, and Draco threw the cloak off. Before them lay a very large three-headed dog obviously in the middle of a very peaceful slumber.
"He's sleeping!" In the corner a harp sat playing a soft tune, keeping the beast asleep.
"Whoever it is has already been here," Harry said. "Come on," he moved over and found the trap door, staring in dismay at the large black paw that blocked it.
"Well," Hermione urged, "come on." She stooped down and set her hand gently on the paw, testing to see if the beast would awaken. But the canine slept on and the boys ducked down to help her push the large foot off the door. Harry pulled the handle up and swung the door open to reveal nothing but blackness.
"How far down, you think?" Draco asked, his neck craning.
"Lumos," Hermione incanted before thrusting her arm down the hole. As far as the light shone they could see nothing, but Harry thought he detected something slithering down there.
"No time like the present," he shrugged, but Draco's hand on his arm stopped him.
"Does it seem…quiet in here?" As one, the three children looked up at the massive jaws of Fluffy, six eyes staring down at them hungrily. Screaming, Harry pushed Hermione into the hole before shoving Draco after her. He felt the hot breath of one of the heads near his neck as the jaws closed around the spot he had just vacated before plunging feet first into the darkness.
They landed on something springy, and Harry sighed deeply. But his heart stopped as he felt a tendril wrap itself quickly around his ankle and he looked around for his companions. Draco's face was the very picture of panic as he squirmed around trying to free himself. But Hermione wasn't moving at all; she seemed to be studying the thing into which they'd fallen.
The tendrils were shying away from her still-lit wand, and the vine-like tendrils seemed to almost flock to Draco's struggling figure. As soon as she extinguished her wand, the tendrils around her began inching slowly toward her.
"Devil's Snare!" she cried, and both boys froze and looked at her. "We have to relax."
"If I can just reach my wand…" Draco struggled, moving slowly so the vines would not encase him further. Hermione forced herself to calm down and, having no moving target, the Snare released her to the floor below. Harry felt his heart quicken, but forced himself to do the same. As he descended, he saw Draco finally pull his wand from its holster and intone a spell.
"Lumos Solem!" he cried, and a bright light flooded from his wand. The tendrils around him immediately let go and he fell unceremoniously to the floor. Harry pulled him to his feet as he doused his wand.
"'Deadly fun but will sulk in the sun,'" Draco quoted. "Guess those study sessions paid off." They shared a good laugh as they spotted a door ahead of them. Beyond they detected a fluttering sound none of them could identify. But as soon as they opened the door, they stopped.
Hundreds of keys, each with a tiny pair of wings, were flying about the room lazily. A broom sat suspended in the air, waiting for a rider. Moving over to the door, Hermione tried an unlocking spell on the door to no avail.
"We need the key," she said, and Draco looked at the lock.
"This looks like the door to Grandfather's cellar," he said. "We need a big old key." Harry peered around and finally spotted it.
"There!" he said, pointing, "the one with a messed up wing." Looking back at the broom, he shook his head. "No way it's this easy."
"You are Gryffindor's prize Seeker," Draco teased, "surely you can outwit a few keys."
"Enough! Harry, we need that key to get through this door. You go up and get it, then throw it down to us." Hermione huffed and gestured as Harry thought a moment more. Shrugging, Harry gripped the broom and mounted, unsurprised when the entire flock of keys began descending on him. Lifting off, he managed to dodge the first assault and make a grab for the old key. Three of the smaller ones darted toward his hand and stung him into pulling back. Making a large circle he backtracked, pulling the entire flock behind him. Only a few keys remained in front of him, hoping to block his access to the right key.
Doing a barrel roll enabled Harry to reach up and grab the key from underneath. He righted himself and banked just before a pillar and smiled as he heard some of the first few keys impact into it. He tossed the key down to Draco who caught it and unlocked the door quickly. Harry made another circle as Hermione and Draco went through the door, both standing behind it to slam it just after Harry came through.
Putting on a burst of speed, Harry zoomed through the doorway, braking hard as the remaining keys impaled themselves through the thick wooden door. Dismounting, he took a deep breath and surveyed his surroundings.
"What is this place?" he asked, stepping forward.
Large statues were placed around the room, and piles of rubble lay everywhere. Somewhere in the distance a door closed and the statues began to move. Piles of rubble reformed and moved to their spots, and Draco groaned as he realized where they were.
"It's a giant chess board," he sighed. Hermione pursed her lips together and looked at Harry.
"And I think it wants us to play," he pointed as they of the pieces on their side moved off to the side of the board.
"Anyone good at chess?" Draco asked.
"Ron plays all the time," Hermione offered.
"Well, we can't go get him now," Harry shrugged. He made to get on the board, but Draco's hand stopped him.
"This is wizard's chess," he warned, "and I, for one, do not feel like getting clobbered by a Bishop."
"Here, here," Hermione whispered.
"So what do we do?" Harry asked.
"Whoever it is in there is going to have to come back through here to get out. And they don't know we're here," Draco said. "I say we hide and wait for whoever it is. As soon as they step through the door, we stun them."
"With what?" Hermione asked. "We don't learn any offensive spells in DADA until third year."
"Yes, well, lucky for you then that Harry and I have been raised knowing how to defend ourselves should we have to. We know a few. Easiest one is the Disarming Spell. Hermione, that one will be yours. You can position yourself there," he pointed to a spot in the shadows in a corner next to the door. "The incantation is 'Expelliarmus.' It's a simple flick, but you have to mean it." He looked around the room and then onto the chess board.
"Harry, you're really good with the Binding Charm. You remember? Dad couldn't break out for a good two minutes." Harry smiled at the memory and looked around for a good spot.
"I'll climb up on the Bishop there. The higher ground will make it easier to aim." Draco nodded in agreement.
"And you?" Hermione asked.
"Stunning Spell for me," Draco answered. "I practiced that one all last year on the house elves."
"The what?" Hermione asked quietly.
"Tell you later," Harry whispered to her, then turned back to Draco. "Where will you be?"
"In the corner opposite Hermione," he said. With a final practice of the order they retreated to their spots.
As he sat in one of the crevices created by the shape of the Bishop, Harry tried to control his breathing. His scar, which had before only been mildly annoying, was burning fiercely. He guessed it was probably an angry red as well, and it felt hot to the touch. But as he was unable to do anything about it immediately, he did his best to ignore it. Glancing at his companions, Harry found Hermione in her corner practicing her wand movement again and again. Draco's face was determined as he trained his wand on the door.
After a few moments of silence Harry sighed loudly, earning him a sharp glare from Draco. But before he could scold his brother the door flew open and their Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher barreled through the door screeching horribly. Harry and Hermione were fast, however, and soon the man was bound and wandless. As the man's eyes burned into Harry's, Draco put all his power behind the Stunning Spell. Harry's scar exploded just as Quirrell's eyes closed and he pitched forward off the Bishop, cracking his head on the way down. He heard Hermione scream, his brother call his name and footfalls pounding over to him before he blacked out completely.
The next thing he recalled was Madame Pomfrey's worried voice calling to him from very nearby. That's odd, Harry thought, why is Madam Pomfrey in my dorm? But the events of before came screaming back and Harry's eyes flew open. He made to sit up, but a firm hand on his shoulder kept him horizontal. Looking over, he held his godfather's steely gaze for a moment before looking at the mediwitch.
Poppy had a flustered look in her eyes as she began looking Harry over. Harry's eyes wandered to Draco standing off to the side. He looked tired but relieved, and when Harry looked at Severus he saw a mixture of worry and anger. Harry knew he'd be paying the price this summer, but it was worth it.
"What happened?" he croaked, his voice raw from lack of water. Pomfrey helped him to take a few sips from the glass by his bed before Severus stepped forward.
"When you didn't return, Miss Roper came to my chambers and informed me of your idiotic attempt at 'rescuing' the stone. Thankfully she decided not to wait the full hour you had given her. I went through the chambers and found Draco and Miss Granger standing over you and Professor Quirrell. What, may I ask, was going through that Gryffindor brain of yours when you concocted this…this plan?" Poppy stepped back as Severus interposed himself. Sitting on the edge of the bed, he took Harry's chin in his hands and made sure he had the youth's attention.
"You could have died," he said simply, "And you put your brother and your friend at risk as well."
"He didn't make me go!" Draco protested, but a stern glare from Severus let him know that he, too, would be dealt with. Tears came to Harry's eyes but he refused to cry. Still certain he'd done the right thing, he lifted his chin up and out of the man's grasp.
"We tried to tell Professor McGonagall," he protested. "She wouldn't listen to us when we told her the stone was in danger."
"So you decided to go after whomever it was yourselves? Three eleven year olds? Harry…Quirrell had been possessed by the Dark Lord. He was right there, living off the man. If the Dark Lord had realized you were there…" Suddenly realizing the situation he had put himself and his friends in, Harry choked back a sob.
"We tried…" he said weakly, but he now knew he should have trusted his godfather. "I'm sorry." Not caring who was around, he threw his arms around Severus and buried his head in the man's shoulder. Pursing his lips, Severus gave the boy a few short pats on the back before pushing him back to lie down.
"You've had a rough ordeal. You'll stay here one more night; the Leaving Feast is tomorrow. Your parents are coming to get both of you." Severus almost took delight in the fear that simple sentence inspired in both boys, but he knew the punishments Lucius would deal out this summer would be harsh. Harry quieted down and Severus knew the calming potion had once again kicked in. Draco lingered for only a moment before the potions master led his Slytherin out of the Hospital Wing.
Harry was released the next day on strict orders to take it easy for a few days. Harry knew that the punishments his father would dole would wear him down, but he was determined to bear them honorably. He had made a mistake and now he had to pay for it. He only hoped Draco didn't hate him for getting him into trouble as well.
Professor McGonagall found Harry and Hermione in Gryffindor Tower exchanging addresses to keep in contact over the summer. She pulled them aside and squeezed both their shoulders.
"The Headmaster would like to see you two," she informed them, and they followed her out of the portrait hole and through the castle. They came upon a great gargoyle, and Harry admired the stonework before it leapt aside to reveal a spiraling staircase. Following their Head of House, Harry and Hermione entered a small antechamber. Severus was there with Draco and Sophie, and the four exchange ominous looks before following their Housemasters through the doors into the Headmaster's office.
Portraits of past Headmasters and Headmistresses adorned the walls; they were all looking sternly at the children as they entered. A few managed comments about irresponsibility, but Harry ignored them.
Albus Dumbledore sat behind his desk smiling at the six people in his office. The children were ushered to sit while Snape and McGonagall flanked them. Dumbledore stood and came around the desk, offering a small plate of candy.
"Lemon Drop?" he asked jovially, and Harry looked at his friends before taking one. They did as well and they sat sucking on the candy as the headmaster paced a bit.
"I must admit, the story I have heard from your professors is quite astounding, but I'm afraid I'm missing some details. Would you four please elaborate on your adventure?" The headmaster didn't look perturbed at all; quite the opposite actually, and Harry was a little put off at the enthusiasm of the aged wizard.
For the next hour Harry and his friends detailed their story, beginning at how they stumbled onto the mystery (Harry was given a sharp glare for eavesdropping on two conversations) to how they planned to detain whomever had retrieved the stone.
"Very clever, indeed, Mr. Malfoy," Dumbledore smiled at Draco, who squirmed a little at the attention. "It seems the four of you have had quite the adventure. I'm afraid, however, that your attempts were futile. No one could have retrieved the stone. You see, I put the stone in the Mirror of Erised – a device that is quite remarkable. It shows what one desires most above all things, and men have been driven mad in front of it. By placing the stone inside, I ensured that only one who wanted the stone but did not want to use it would be able to retrieve it. Quirrel was unable to remove the stone even for Voldemort."
"Professor Snape said that You-Know-Who was possessing Professor Quirrell," Harry asked the question with his tone and the headmaster's face dropped a little.
"Yes, well, it seems that Voldemort has decided that the poor professor's usefulness had run its course."
"You mean he's dead," Sophie said, and Hermione gasped.
"Alas, yes," Albus sighed. "But now is not the time to dwell on such things. I summoned you here to hear your story and to adjust the point standings." Harry's face dropped, and he stole a glance at Draco. Slytherin was in the lead after winning the Quidditch cup (Harry had been unconscious for the finals and Gryffindor lost horribly without their star Seeker), but Harry feared a point loss would put Ravenclaw in the lead.
"First, to Miss Sophie Roper, for her willingness to help her friends even if it went against their wishes – fifty points to Slytherin." Draco and Harry's heads shot up simultaneously at the awarding of points. They had been sure points were to be deducted, and they couldn't help but notice Snape and McGonagall's silent outrage at the headmaster's actions.
"To Miss Hermione Granger, for cool use of intellect while others were losing their heads, fifty points." Hermione smiled at Harry, but stifled it at a stern glare from McGonagall. "To Mr. Draco Malfoy for developing an effective strategy to protect his friends, fifty points. And to Mr. Harry Malfoy," Dumbledore's eyes lost their twinkle for a moment, though no one save Severus noticed, "For having the honor and courage to continue in the face of danger and peril, and for encouraging comraderie, sixty points." Harry and Hermione shared a small smile as they realized they had ousted Ravenclaw from their second place position. Slytherin had won the House Cup, but Harry couldn't have been happier. As they left the Headmaster's office, the four began chatting about the headmaster's odd behavior.
"I was so sure he was going to take away every last point from our houses," Sophie admitted. "I just hope my parents don't go completely stark mad." Harry shrugged nonchalantly, not telling the girl he had practically pleaded with Professor Snape to not tell her parents of her involvement in the scheme. In the end, the potions master had sent the letter home to her parents, but he requested that they not pull her from her studies at Hogwarts. Harry hoped it was enough.
"How long until the Leaving Feast?" Draco asked suddenly, reminding Harry of their parents' impending arrival. Hermione checked a clock as they passed the Entrance Hall.
"About four hours. I guess we should go pack." They paused and looked at each other, Hermione shifting from foot to foot.
"We'll set up the study sessions when we get back, I guess?" Harry said finally.
"Sure," Hermione replied. "But we may have to change the night depending on classes and Quidditch."
"If our parents let us play next year," Harry sulked.
"Let's plan to meet in Diagon Alley," Sophie suggested, and the others were enthusiastic.
"Sure, but we'll have to owl you guys later this summer. And Draco and I always have a joint birthday sometime in the summer. We'll invite you."
"We have to go," Draco interjected. "I'd like to get packed before Dad gets here and we can't move for a week." Harry chuckled nervously but agreed, and they split into pairs as they returned to their common rooms.
Sometime later, Draco had nearly finished packing and was lying on his bed staring at the ceiling. The door opened, but Draco didn't look up believing it to be one of his roommates. A sharp rap on his leg alerted him to the fact that his father had in fact stormed into the room and was now looming over him.
"What in Merlin's name do you think you were doing!" he exclaimed. "We get a call from Severus alerting us that Harry had just been released from the Hospital Wing, and Albus just got done explaining why! What on earth were you thinking?" He had grabbed Draco's robes and hoisted the boy out of bed and was now standing over him.
"I…We were just…I was just trying to make sure Harry didn't kill himself!" Draco said finally. "You and Mum always said to look out for him! Well I was!"
"You didn't think telling Severus was a better option? You thought you'd just follow him into the bowels of this castle hoping that what little schooling you've had would be of use?" Draco shrunk down a little, a little scared by the fact that his father was probably going easy on him here at school. "Your mother is retrieving Harry and we are leaving."
"But the feast!" Lucius whirled on his eldest son with fury.
"You have no right to sit there and enjoy this! You will be coming home with us; Albus has already released the two of you for the summer. You will finish packing and meet me in the common room." Without another word Lucius strode out the door and slammed it behind him. Hoping Harry had fared better with their mother, Draco forlornly folded his blanket and closed his trunk.
When he ascended the staircase he found his mother and Harry already there. Harry was trying his best to hide behind Narcissa, not realizing she was just as furious with him as Lucius was.
But as before, when Harry had fallen so many years ago, Lucius' fury was not completely filled with contempt at their actions. Draco saw a glimpse of worry buried beneath the anger, and he knew that Lucius had been genuinely fearful for his sons' lives. Gathering his summer cloak around him, he greeted his mother before following them out the door. He waved goodbye to some of the Slytherins sitting in the common room still stunned at the entrance of the Malfoys.
Walking beside Harry, Draco couldn't help but think about what they'd done to warrant their current situation. Not being able to help himself, Draco snickered. Harry shot him a warning glare, but Lucius didn't seem to have noticed. Leaning over, Draco threw an arm around Harry's shoulders.
"What do you think they'll do with Fluffy now?" he asked quietly, causing Harry to snort with laughter. Draco couldn't contain himself either and Severus was treated to the rare sight of the Malfoy family passing his classroom door, the two adults looking stern and furious and the boys snickering in their wake. Stealing a glance inside, Harry managed a small smile to Severus. Pausing only for a moment, Harry caught Severus return nod – a promise to visit over the summer. Harry quickly caught up with his brother and parents, looking back and forth between them as they made their way to the headmaster's office to Floo home.
And despite the immense amount of trouble he was in – not to mention the extensive work he and Draco were bound to be assigned – Harry couldn't imagine a better life.
And there it is. Book 1. Though I think those of you reading "The Road Taken" are still waiting for Book 2 to start. I've had a few ideas popping around in my head. I don't think I'm going to keep going with this universe – though it's a good start. I may come back to this if I have no other ideas, but I'm sure you'll see it if I do. Please let me know what you thought. Some of this seemed a bit rushed to me, and I may go back and change it later.
Thanks for reading and I hope you enjoyed it. - Awahili