It was Quirrell. Alexis stared at him. Part of her had thought that Snape might be a red herring, so she hadn't been surprised when it wasn't him. However, she had never really considered it could be Quirrell ever since the conversation she had overheard. Furthermore, he didn't act as if he could be a servant to Voldemort, though she supposed it could have been an act. "YOU!" she shouted.
Quirrell smiled. His face wasn't twitching at all.
"Me," he said calmly. "I wondered whether I'd be meeting you here, Miss Potter."
"I thought Snape was the more likely culprit, though I also wondered if maybe he was a red herring."
"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?"
"But my friends and I did suspect you for a time!" snapped Alexis. "They saw both you and Snape doing something during that Quidditch match, They figured one of you was jinxing my broom and the other was doing the counter."
"Very smart," said Quirrell, an eyebrow raised. "Yes, I tried to kill 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 counter-curse, trying to save you."
"So Snape was trying to save me?" inquired Alexis
"Of course," said Quirrell cooly. "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 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 Alexis. "You're too nosy to live, Miss Potter. Scurrying around the school at Halloween like that, for all I knew you'd seen me coming to look at what was guarding the Stone."
"So you were the one who 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 about 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, Miss Potter. I need to examine this interesting mirror."
It was only then that Alexis realised what was standing behind Quirrell. It was the Mirror of Erised.
"This mirror is the key to finding the Stone," Quirrell murmered, 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 ..."
Alexis did have a small contrary streak in her. There were times when she had wanted to do exactly the opposite of whatever the Dursleys said, but hadn't because she'd be punished for it. Now, she didn't care. She decided to not wait quietly and do something instead that would throw of Quirrell's concentration. She recalled an annoying song she'd learned in primary school and began singing loudly (and a bit off-key in her nervousness), "This is the song that never ends, yes it goes on and on my friends. Some people started singing it without knowing what it was and they'll continue singing it forever just because this is the song that never ends ..."
"Will you stop singing that song?!?" demanded Quirrell in the middle of the fourth repeat of the song.
"Okay," replied Alexis cheekily. "I'll stop singing that song." Then she launched into, "This is the song that gets oon everybody's nerves, everybody's nerves, everybody's nerves. This is the song that gets on everybody's nerves and this is how it goes..."
"That is enough!" snapped Quirrell after the third repeat. "Stop singing that annoying song!"
"Okay, I will." Alexis stopped sing that song, but began singing the chorus of "It's a Small World," several times. Quirrell, increasingly frustrated with having his concentration broken, yelled a third time for her to stop singing that song. Alexis did, but began singing "Old MacDonald", determined to have every animal she could think of be on the farm.
She hadn't even gotten as far as to name the first animal (a horse), when Quirrell yelled, "ENOUGH! Miss Potter, you will cease singing immediately, or I will kill you right now!"
Alexis stopped singing, but still was determined to distract Quirrell with conversation. "I saw you and Snape in the Forest -" she 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, 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 ... I'm presenting it to my master ... but where is it?"
Alexis struggled against the ropes binding her, but they didn't give. She had 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, didn't you know? They loathed each other. But he never wanted you dead."
"But I heard you a few days ago, sobbing - I thought Snape was threatening you ..."
For the first time, a spasm of fear flitted across Quirrell's face.
"Sometimes," he said, "I find it hard to follow my master's instructions - he is a great wizard and I am weak -"
"You mean he was there in the classroom with you?" Alexis gasped.
"He is with me wherever I go," said Quirrell quietly. "I met him when I travelled 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 ..."
Quirrell's voice tailed away. Alexis was remembering her trip to Diagon Alley - how could she have been so stupid? She'd seen Quirrell there that very day, shaken hands with him in the Leaky Cauldron.
Quirrell cursed under his breath.
"I don't understand ... is the Stone inside the Mirror? Should I break it?"
Alexis's mind was racing.
What I want more than anything else in the world at the moment, she thought, is to find the Stone before Quirrell does. So if I look in the Mirror, I should see myself finding it - which means I'll see where it's hidden! But how can I look without Quirrell realising what I'm up to?
She tried to edge to the left, to get in front of the glass without Quirrell noticing, but the ropes round her ankles were too tight: She tripped and fell over.
Quirrell ignored him. He was still talking to himself.
"What does this mirror do? How does it work? Help me, Master!"
And to Alexis's horror, a voice answered, and the voice seemed to come from Quirrell himself.
"Use the girl ... use the girl ..."
Quirrell rounded on Alexis. "Yes - Miss Potter - come here."
He clapped his hands once and the ropes binding Alexis fell off. She got slowly to her feet.
"Come here," Quirrell repeated. "Look in the Mirror and tell me what you see."
Alexis walked towards him.
"I must lie," she thought desperately. "I must look and lie about what I see, that's all."
Quirrell moved close behind her. Alexis breathed in the funny smell that seemed to come from Quirrell's turban. She closed her eyes, stepped in front of the Mirror and opened them again.
She saw his reflection, pale and scared-looking at first. But a moment later, the reflection smiled at her. It put its hand into its pocket and pulled out a blood-red stone.
It winked and put the Stone back in its pocket - and as it did so, Alexis felt something heavy drop into her real pocket. Somehow - incredibly - she'd got the Stone.
"Well?" said Quirrell impatiently. "What do you see?"
Alexis screwed up his courage.
"I see myself flying on a broom, with my parents watching me," she lied. "They're alive and I'm living happily with them."
Quirrell cursed again.
"Get out of the way," he said. As Alexis moved aside she felt the Philosopher's Stone against her leg. Dare she make a break for it?
But she hadn't walked five paces before a high voice spoke, though Quirrell wasn't moving his lips.
"She lies ... She lies ..."
"Potter, come back here!" Quirrell shouted. "Tell the truth! What did you just see?"
The high voice spoke again.
"Let me speak to her ... face to face ..."
"Master, you are not strong enough!"
"I have strength enough ... for this ..."
Alexis felt as if the Devil's Snare was rooting her so the spot. She couldn't move a muscle. Petrified, dhe watched as Quirrell reached up and began to unwrap his turban. She began wondering if Voldemort was possessing Quirrell somehow.
The turban fell away. Quirrell's head looked strangely small without it. Then he turned slowly on the spot
Alexis would have screamed, but she couldn't make a sound. Where there should have been a back to Quirrell's head, there was a face, the most terrible face she had ever seen. It was chalk white with glaring red eyes and sltis for nostrils, like a snake..
"Alexis Potter ..." it whispered. Alexis didn't flinch, determined not to show any fear. She'd done her best not to show fear in front of the Dursleys, and just because Voldemort was worse than them combined didn't mean she was going to act afraid.
"See what I have become?" the face said. "Mere shadow and vapour ... I have form only when I can share another's body ... but there have always been those willing to let me into their hearts and minds ... Unicorn blood has strengthened me, these past weeks ... your friends saw faithful Quirrell drinking it for me in the Forest ... and once I have the Elixir of Life, I will be able to create a body of my own ...Now ... why don't you give me that Stone in your pocket?"
So he knew. Alexis pointed her wand at him and took a step back.
"Don't be a fool," snarled the face. "Better save your own life and join me ... or you'll meet the same end as you parents ... they died begging me for mercy ..."
"LIAR!" Alexis shouted suddenly. From her dreams, she knew perfectly well that her father had died fighting off Voldemort.
Quirrell was walking backwards at him, so that Voldemort could still see him. The evil face was now smiling.
"How touching ..." it hissed. "I always value bravery ... Yes, girl, you're parents were brave ... I killed your father first and he put up a courageous fight ... but your mother needn't have died ...she was trying to protect you ... Now give me the Stone, unless you want her to have died in vain."
"NEVER!" Alexis sprang towards the flame door, but Voldemort screamed, "SEIZE HER!" and, next second, she felt Quirrell's hands close on her wrist.
At once, a needle-sharp pain seared scross Alexis's scar; her head felt as though it was about to split in two; she yelled, struggling with all her might, and to her surprise, Quirrell let go of her.
The pain in her head lessened - she looked around wildly to see where Quirrell had gone and saw him hunched in pain, looking at his fingers - they were blistering before his eyes.
"Seize her! SEIZE HER!" shrieked Voldemort again and Quirrell lunged, knocking Alexis clean off her feet, landing on top of her, both hands round her neck - her scar was almost blinding her with pain, yet she could see Quirrell howling in agony. "Master, I cannot hold him - my hands - my hands!"
And Quirrell, though pinning Alexis to the ground with his knees, let go of her neck and stared, bewildered, at his own palms - Alexis could see they looked burnt, raw, red and shiny.
"Then kill her, fool, and be done!"screetched Voldemort.
Quirrell raised his hand to perform a deadly curse, but Alexis, by instinct, reached up and grabbed Quirrell's face -"AAARGH!"
Quirrell rolled off her, his face blistering, too, and then she knew: Quirrell couldn't touch her bare skin, not without suffering terrible pain- her only chance was to keep hold of Quirrell, keep him in enough pain to stop him doing a curse.
Alexis jumped to her feet, caught Quirrell by the arm and hung on as tight as she could.
Quirrell screamed and tried to throw her off - the pain in her head was building - she couldn't see - she could only hear Quirrell's terrible shrieks and Voldemort's yells of "KILL Her! KILL HER!"and other voices, maybe in Alexis's own head, crying, "Alexis! Alexis!"
She felt Quirrell's arm wrenched from her grasp, knew all was lost, and fell into blackness, down ... down ... down ...
Something gold was glinting just above her. The Snitch! She tried to catch it, but her arms were too heavy.
She blinked. It wasn't the Snitch at all. It was a pair of glasses. How strange.
She blinked again. The smiling face of Albus Dumbledore swam into view above her. "Good afternoon, Alexis," said Dumbledore.
Alexis stared at him. Then she remembered. "Sir! The Stone! It was Quirrell! he's got the Stone! Sir, quick -"
"Calm yourself, dear girl, you are a little behind the times," said Dumbledore. "Quirrell does not have the Stone."
"Then who does? Sir, I -"
"Alexis, please relax, or Madame Pomfrey will have me thrown out."
Alexis swallowed and looked around her. She realised she must be in the hospital wing. She was lying in a bed with white linen sheets and next to her was a table piled high with what looked like half the sweet-shop.
"Tokens from your friends and admirers," said Dumbledore, beaming. "What happened down in the dungeons between you and Professor Quirrell is a complete secret, so, naturally, the whole school knows. I believe your friends Misters Fred and George Weasley were responsible for trying to send you a lavatory seat. No doubt they thought it would amuse you. Madame Pomfrey, however, felt it might not be very hygenic, and confiscated it."
Alexis chuckled, then asked, "How long have I been here?"
"Three days. Your friends will be most relieved you have come round, they have been extremely worried."
"But sir, the Stone -"
"I see you are not to be distracted. Very well, the Stone. Professor Quirrell did not manage to take it from you. I arrived in time to prevent that, although you were doing very well on your own, I must say."
"You got there? So one of my friends must have sent you an owl?"
"If he or she did, we must have crossed in mid-air. No sooner had I reached London than it became clear to me that the place I should be was the one I had just left. I arrived just in time to pull Quirrell off you -"
"It was you."
"I feared I might be too late."
"You nearly were, I couldn't have kept him off the Stone much longer -"
"Not the Stone, child, you - the effort involved nearly killed you. For one terrible moment there, I was afraid it had. As for the Stone, it has been destroyed."
"Destroyed?" said Alexis blankly. "But your friend - Nicolas Flamel -"
"Oh, you know about Nicolas?" said Dumbledore, sounding quite delighted. "You did do the thing properly, didn't you? Well, Nicolas and I have had a little chat and agreed it's all for the best."
"But that means he and his wife will die, won't they?"
"They have enough Elixir stored to set their affairs in order and then, yes, they will die."
Dumbledore smiled at the look of amazement on Alexis's face.
"To one as young as you, I'm sure it seems incredible, but to Nicolas and Perenelle, it really is like going to bed after a very, very long day. After all, to the well-organised mind, death is but the next great adventure. You know, the Stone was really not a wonderful thing. As much money and life as you could want! The two things most human beings would choose above all - the trouble is, humans do have a knack of choosing precisely those things which are worse for them."
Alexis lay there, lost for words. She hoped that wherever her parents were, in Heaven or whatever afterlife was waiting, they were happy and having their own adenture.
Dumbledore hummed a little and smiled at the ceiling.
"Sir?" asked Alexis. "I've been thinking ... Sir - even if the Stone's gone, Vol - ... I mean, You-Know-Who -"
"Call him Voldemort, Alexis. Always use the proper name for things. Fear of a name increases fear of the thing itself."
"Yes, sir. Well, Voldemort's going to try other ways of coming back, isn't he? I mean, he hasn't gone, has he?"
"No, Alexis, he has not. He is still out there somewhere, perhaps looking for another body to share ... not being truly alive, he cannot be killed. He left Quirrell to die; he shows just as little mercy to his followers as his enemies. Nevertheless, Alexis, while you may only have delayed his return to power, it will merely take someone else who is prepared to fight what seems a losing battle next time - and if he is delayed again, and again, why, he may never return to power."
Alexis nodded, but stopped quickly, because it made her head hurt.
Then she said, "Sir, there are some things I'd like to know, if you can tell me ... things I want to know that truth about ..."
"The truth." Dumbledore sighed. "It is a beautiful and terrible thing, and should therefore be treated with great caution. However, I shall answer your questions unless I have a very good reason not to, in which case I beg you forgive me. I shall not, of course, lie."
"Well ... Voldemort said that she only killed my mother because she tried to stop him killing me. But why would he want to kill me in the first place?
Dumbledore sighed very deeply this time.
"Alas, the first thing you ask me, I cannot tell you. Not today. Not now. You will know, one day ... put it from your mind for now, Alexis. When you are older ... I know you hate to hear this ... when you are ready, you will know."
And Alexis knew it was no good to argue.
"But why couldn't Quirrell touch me?"
"Your mother died to save you. If there is one thing Voldemort cannot understand, it is love. He didn't realise that love as powerful as your mother's for you leaves its own mark. Not a scar, no visible sign ... to have been loved so deeply, even though the person who loved us is gone, will give us some protection for ever. It is in your very skin. Quirrell, full of hatred, greed and ambition, sharing his soul with Voldemort, could not touch you for this reason. It was agony to touch a person marked by something so good."
Dumbledore now became very interested in a bird out on the window-sill, which gave Alexis time to dry his eyes on the sheet.
When she had found his voice again, Alexis said, "And the Invisibility Cloak - do you know who sent it to me?"
"Ah - your father happened to leave it in my possession and I thought you might like it." Dumbledore's eyes twinkled. "Useful things ... your father used it mainly for sneaking off to the kitchens to steal food when he was here."
"And there's something else ..."
"Quirrell said Snape -"
"Professor Snape, Alexis."
"Yes, him - Quirrell said he hates me because he hated my father. Is that true?"
"Well, they did rather detest each other. Not unlike yourself and Mr. Malfoy. And then, your father did something Snape could never forgive."
"What?" asked Alexis curiously.
"He saved his life."
"Yes ..." said Dumbledore dreamily. "Funny, the way people's minds work, isn't it? Professor Snape couldn't bear being in your father's debt ... I do believe he worked so hard to protect you this year because he felt that would make him and your father quits. Then he could go back to hating your father's memory in peace ..."
Alexis tried to understand this but it made her head pound, so she stopped. "Professor, why did you have Hagrid bring me to live with the Dursleys? Didn't I have godparents or magical relatives that could take me in?"
"Your only close living relatives are your aunt and uncle," replied Dumbledore. "They were the only ones that could take you in. As pureblood families are related and your father was a pureblood, you would find yourself distantly related to most of your friends. However, just because you happen to be fifth cousin or something similar, to, say, Ronald Weasley, does not mean that the Wealseys can take in you. In addition, you are protected at your aunt's house. Your mother died to protect you, and as your aunt shares her blood, the protection is extended. So long as your home is at your aunt and uncle's, you will not be harmed by Dark wizards while you are there. That is mainly why I had you live at your relatives' home."
"I understand, but have you ever considered that my relatives might not like me and not be, un, very nice to me, sir?"
Dumbledore looked taken aback. "Your relatives have been less than kind to you? I did not want them to spoil you, but neither did I want them not to treat you properly. I shall write to your aunt and uncle and remind them that they have to be kinder to you. And I am truly sorry for how they may treated you before, Alexis. I never expected that they would do this. I had hoped that your aunt would remember the love she once had for her sister and for her sake take you in and bring you up as a daughter."
"Apology accepted, sir," responded Alexis. "You couldn't have known, at least not until my Hogwarts letters was sent out."
"Ah yes, I did notice your address," said Dumbledore. "I was concerned about it, but then Professor McGonagall said you had a proper bedroom when she came to see you, so I stopped being concerned."
"I see. And, sir, there's one more thing ..."
"Just the one?"
"How did I get the Stone out of the Mirror?"
"Ah, now, I'm glad you asked me that. It was one of my more brilliant ideas, and between you and me, that's saying something. You see, only one who wanted to find the Stone - find it, but not use it - would be able to get it, otherwise they'd just see themselves making gold or drinking Elixir of Life. My brain surprises even me sometimes ... Now, enough questions. I suggest you make a start on these sweets. Ah! Bertie Bott's Every-Flavour Beans! I was unfortunate enough in my youth to come across a vomit flavoured one, and since then I'm afraid I've rather lost my liking for them - but I think I'll be safe with a nice toffee, don't you?"
He smiled and popped the golden-brown bean into his mouth. Then he choked and said, "Alas! Earwax!"
"You let Professor Dumbledore in ..."
"Well, of course, that was the Headmaster, quite different. You need rest."
"I am resting, look, lying down and everything. Oh, go on, Madam Pomfrey ..."
"Oh, very well," she said. "But five minutes only."
And she let Alexis's friends in.
Hermione looked ready to fling her arms around her, but Alexis was glad she held herself in as her head was still very sore.
"Oh, Alexis, we were sure you were going to - Dumbledore was so worried -"
"I was ready to carry out my threat if you had died," said Eric.
"The whole school's talking about it," said Ron. "What really happened?"
It was one of those rare occasions when the true story is even more strange and exciting than the wild rumours. Alexis told them everything; Quirrell; the Mirror; the Stone and Voldemort. Her friends were a very good audience; they gasped in all the right places and, when Alexis told them what was under Quirrell's turban, Hermione and Neville screamed out loud.
"So the Stone's gone?" said Sophie finally. "Flamel's just going to die?"
"That's what I said, but Dumbledore thinks that - what was it? - 'to the well organised mind, death is but the next great adventure'."
"I always said he was off his rocker," said Ron, looking quite impressed at how mad his hero was.
"So what happened to you guys?" asked Alexis.
"Well, we got back all right," said Hermione. "Sophie, Eric, and I brought Ron and Neville round - that took a while - and we were dashing up to the owlery to contact Dumbledore when we met him in the Entrance Hall. He already knew - he just said, 'Alexis's gone after him, hasn't he?' and hurtled off to the third floor."
"D'you think she meant you to do it?" said Ron. "Sending you your father's Cloak and everything?"
"Well," Hermione exploded, "if he did - I mean to say - that's terrible - you could have been killed."
"No, it isn't," said Alexis thoughtfully. "He's a funny man, Dumbledore. I think he sort of wanted to give me a chance. I think he knows more or less everything that goes on here, you know. I reckon he had a pretty good idea we were going to try, and instead of stopping us, he just taught us enough to help. I don't think it was an accident he let me find out how the Mirror worked. It's almost like he thought I had the right to face Voldemort if I could ..."
"Yeah, Dumbledore's barking, all right," said Ron proudly. "Listen, you've got to be up for the end-of-year feast tomorrow. The points are all in and Slytherin won, of course - even though we managed to win the Quidditch match and Cup against Ravenclaw - but the food'll be good."
"How did you win?" asked Alexis. "I was here, and Gryffindor doesn't have a reserve seeker."
"I took your place," answered Sophie. "Wood was in a state about you not being able to play, and I convinced him to let me substitute. I'm a decent flyer, even if I haven't flown all that much. I borrowed your broom, Alexis. I hope you don't mind. The school brooms are rubbish, and there wasn't enough time for Grandmother to send me my broom. I caught the Snitch in about fifteen minutes, and now Wood wants to make me a reserve seeker in case you can't play a match in the future. I'm not sure. I think I perfer being Chaser to Seeker, and I'm not certain I really want to get involved with the team. Wood says he'd want me to be at all the practices, and I really don't want to make such a commitment right now."
"Oh, and Wood has a girlfriend now," said Eric in mild disgust. "It's Kyra Channing. You know how they kissed after the record-breaking match with Hufflepuff? At that stage, they were attracted to each other. After Gryffindor won the Quidditch cup, Wood and Kyra kissed again in the euphoria, and now they're officially boyfriend and girlfriend." He made a face.
At that moment, Madam Pomfrey bustled over.
"You've had nearly fifteen minutes, now OUT!" she said firmly.
After a good night's sleep, Alexis felt nearly back to normal.
"I want to go to the feast," she told Madam Pomfrey as she straightened her many sweet-boxes. "I can, can't I?"
"Professor Dumbledore says you are allowed to go," she said sniffily, as though in her opinion Professor Dumbledore didn't realise how risky feasts could be. "And you have another visitor."
"Oh good," said Alexis. "Who is it?"
Hagrid sidled through the door as she spoke. As usual when he was indoors, Hagrid looked too big to be allowed. He sat down next to Alexis, took one look at her, and burst into tears.
"It's - all - my - ruddy - fault!" he sobbed, his face in his hands. "I told the evil git how ter get past Fluffy! I told him! It was the only thing he didn't know an' I told him! Yeh could've died! All fer a dragon egg! I'll never drink again! I should be chucked out an' made ter live as a Muggle!"
"Hagrid!" said Alexis, shocked to see Hagrid shaking with grief and remorse, great tears leaking down into his beard. "Hagrid, he'd have found out somehow, this is Voldemort we're talking about, he'd have found out even if you hadn't told him."
"Yeh could've died! sobbed Hagrid. "An' don' say the name!"
"VOLDEMORT!" Alexis bellowed, and Hagrid was so shocked, he stopped crying.
"I've met him and I'm calling him by his name. Please cheer up, Hagrid, we saved the Stone, it's gone, he can't use it. Have a Chocolate Frog, I've got loads ..."
Hagrid wiped his nose on the back of his hand and said, "That reminds me. I've got yeh a present."
"It's not a stoat sandwich, is it?" asked Alexis anxiously and at last Hagrid gave a weak chuckle.
"'Nah. Dumbledore gave me the day off yesterday ter fix it. 'Course, he shoulda sacked me instead - anyway, got yeh this ..."
It seemed to be a handsome, leather-covered book. Alexis opened it curiously. It was full of wizard photographs. Smiling and waving at him from every page were her mother and father.
"Sent owls off ter all yer parents' old school friends, askin' fer photos ... Knew yeh didn' have any ... D'yeh like it?"
Alexis couldn't speak, only nodded dumbly, but Hagrid understood.
Alexis made her way down to the end-of-year feast alone that night. She had been held up by Madam Pomfrey's fussing-about, insisting on giving her one last check-up, so the Great Hall was already full. It was decked out in the Slytherin colours of green and silver to celebrate Slytherin's winning the House Cup for the seventh year in a row. A huge banner showing the Slytherin serpent covered the wall behind the High Table.
When Alexis walked in there was a sudden hush and then everybody started talking loudly at once. She slipped into a seat between Sophie and Neville at the Gryffindor table and tried to ignore the fact that people were standing up to look at her.
Fortunately, Dumbledore arrived moments later. The babble died away.
"Another year gone!" Dumbledore said cheerfully. "And I must trouble you with an old man's wheezing waffle before we sink our teeth into our delicious feast. What a year it has been! Hopefully your heads are a little fuller than they were ... you have the whole summer ahead to get them nice and empty before the next year starts ...
"Now, as I understand it, the House Cup here needs awarding and the points stand thus: in fourth place, Hufflepuff, with three hundred and twelve points; in third, Gryffindor, with three hundred and sixty-two; Ravenclaw have four hundred and twenty-six and Slytherin, four hundred and seventy-two."
A storm of cheering and stamping broke out from the Slytherin table. Alexis could see Draco Malfoy banging his goblet on the table. It was a sickening sight.
"Yes, yes, well done, Slytherin," said Dumbledore. "However, recent events must be taken into account."
The room went very still. The Slytherins' smiles faded a little.
"Ahem," said Dumbledore. "I have a few last-minute points to dish out. Let me see. Yes ... to Mr. Neville Longbottom, Miss Sophie Kent, Mr. Ronald Weasley, Miss Hermione Granger, and Mr. Eric Carrow, I award thirty points each. They showed exemplarly courage and skill in the face of danger and tests, whether it be dangerous plants, chess games, or logic puzzles in the face of fire."
The Gryffindors began cheering, and some of the Ravenclaws and Hufflepuffs joined in. Those who could do math and cheer at the same time realized that Gryffindor and Slytherin were tied in first place. Dumbledore held up a hand and continued, "And to Miss Alexis Potter, I award forty points, for her pure nerve and outstanding courage."
At this, the Great hall erupted into loud cheers. Alexis found herself enveloped in hugs from the other Gryffindors. Kyra gave her a sisterly kiss on the cheek and a mixed congratulations and scolding. She was pleased with Alexis's courage, but not with the fact that she'd gotten herself into danger.
Alexis managed to disentangle herself from the hugs. Sstill cheering, she nudged Sophie in the ribs and pointed at Malfoy, who couldn't have looked more stunned and horrified if he'd just had the Body-Bind curse put on him.
"Which means," Dumbledore called over the storm of applause, for even Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff were celebrating the downfall of Slytherin, "we need a little change of decoration."
He clapped his hands. In an instant, the green hangings became scarlet and the silver became gold; the huge Slytherin serpent vanished and a towering Gryffindor lion took its place. Snape was shaking Professor McGonagall's hand, with a horrible forced smile.
He caught Alexis's eye and gave her a nod, an unreadable expression on his face. Alexis decided not to ponder over it. It seemed as though life would be back to normal next year, or as normal as it ever was at Hogwarts.
It was the best evening of Alexis's life, better than winning at Quidditch or Christmas or knocking out mountain trolls ... she would never, ever forget tonight.
Alexis had almost forgotten that the exam results were still to come, but come they did. Hermione and Sophie, not to Alexis's surprise, were tied for top of the year. Hermione had done slightly better in Transfiguration, but Sophie equaled things out by doing slightly better in Charms Alexis was slightly surprised to find that she had placed second. Eric had placed third with two others. He didn't mind being tied with Ravenclaw Padam Patil, but definitely did not like being tied with Draco Malfoy. Ravenclaw Anthony Goldstein placed fourth, and Ron (to his utter surprise), was in fifth place. Neville wasn't on the top five list, but he had made the top ten list. He placed ninth, his excellent Herbology grade (the one class where he beat all his friends) making up for his rather poor Potions mark.
They had hoped that Goyle, who was almost as stupid as he was mean, might be thrown out, but he had passed, too. It was a shame, but as Ron said, you couldn't have everything in life.
And suddenly, their wardrobes were empty, their trunks were packed, Neville's toad was found lurking in a corner of the toilets; notes were handed out to all students, warning them not to use magic over the holidays (I always hope they'll forget to give us these," said Fred Weasley sadly); Hagrid was there to take them down to the fleet of boats that sailed across the lake; they were boarding the Hogwarts Express; talking and laughing as the country-side became greener and tidier; eating Bertie Bott's Every-Flavour Beans as they sped past Muggle towns; pulling off their wizard robes and putting on jackets and coats; pulling into platform nine and three-quarters at King's Cross Station.
It took a while for them all to get off the platform. A wizened old guard was up by the ticket barrier, letting them go through the gate in twos and threes so they didn't attract attention by all bursting out of a solid wall at once and alarming the Muggles.
"You guys must come and stay this summer," said Ron, "I'll send you an owl."
"Thanks," said Alexis. "I'll need something to look forward to."
"Oh, and you're all invited to my birthday party," said Sophie. "My birthday's July 16th. And I'll see if I can't talk my grandmother in letting you guys stay for a couple of weeks. Since I did so well on the exams, she'll probably allow it."
People jostled them as they moved forwards towards the gateway back to the Muggle world. Some of them called: "Bye, Alexis!"
"See you, Potter!"
"Still famous," said Ron grinning at her
"Not where I'm going, I promise you," said Alexis.
Out in the Muggle part of the station, Ginny and Mrs. Weasley were waiting. Ginny greeted Alexis excitedly, and said that Alexis must come over soon so she could explain fully what had happened with the Philosopher's Stone. Alexis had written about it in her last letter, but Ginny wanted evry little detail, not just a summary.
Mrs. Weasley smiled down at them when Ginny was done talking.
"Busy year?" she asked.
"Very," replied Alexis. "Thanks for the fudge and the jumper, Mrs. Weasley."
"Oh, it was nothing, dear."
Mrs. Channing came over then. "Alexis, you're going to be spending the night with me. I informed your aunt and uncle that I was picking you up and would bring you over tomorrow. With the combination of a letter your headmaster sent, my warning, and a threat from Matt to turn them all into flies if they harmed you, they should leave you alone and not bother you. And you will tell me the full details of what Kyra and Emma gave vague details about in their last letter tonight."
Alexis quickly introduced her friends to Mrs. Channing, who smiled pleasantly and greeted them. Then Alexis bid her friends good-by and followed Mrs. Channing, Kyra, and Emma out of the station. It looked as if she would have a comparitively pleasant summer.
Author's Note: Well, this is the end of this fic. I would like to thank all those who read and/or reviewed this. I will have a sequel, Alexis Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, up sometime in the next week or two. My sister, Amy, may colloborate with me on it. However, it will still be under my penname, because she can't get an account here until next year, when she turns 13 on November 18th. I hope you have enjoyed this fic and will plan to read the sequal once it's posted. And Happy Thanksgiving to those in the U.S.