A/N: Thanks everyone who reviewed. Several of you seem really anxious to see poor Harry in all sorts of trouble. ;-) I hope you like the way I've handled this.
Harry awoke in the hospital wing. The first thing he saw was his father's concerned face. "He's awake," James said.
"I'll go get Madame Pomfrey," Harry heard Sirius's voice say, followed by the sound of footsteps. Harry tried to sit up but his father put both hands on his shoulders and held him down.
"Just stay still, Harry," James ordered. "Madame Pomfrey's going to want to look at you."
"Can I at least have my glasses?" Harry asked. James handed them over and Harry put them on. "How long have I been here?" He asked.
"You've been out about twelve hours. Professor Dumbledore found you last night. He got an owl saying he needed to go to the ministry, but when he got there no one was there and he realized he'd been sent on a wild goose chase, so he immediately came back here and went to check on the stone. He found you there with the stone in your pocket and Quirrell attacking you. He says he saw Voldemort."
"Yes, Voldemort was there. He was possessing Professor Quirrell," Harry whispered, feeling a renewed jolt of terror shoot through him at the memory of Voldemort's face.
"You're safe now," James said soothingly, squeezing Harry's hand.
Harry nodded and searched about for something to take his mind off his fears. He found it in the boxes that littered his bedside table, as well as the floor surrounding his bed. "What's all this?" He asked.
"Gifts from your admirers," James told him with a smile. "What happened between you and Quirrell is a secret so, naturally, the whole school knows. Fred and George are the ones who sent you the toilet seat. You mind if I take it with me? I've been waiting all year for you to send me one."
"Go ahead," Harry told him. "Are you really going to put it in the dining room?"
"That was my plan," James said with a wink.
Just then Sirius returned to Harry's side, Madame Pomfrey following along behind. She clucked and fretted over him for a long while before declaring him fit. She ordered him to get plenty of rest, shooting James a stern look.
"I'll make sure he rests," James promised her. "Honestly, you'd think I don't have a clue how to take care of a child," he muttered after she was out of earshot.
"She does that to everyone," Sirius said with a shrug. "It's nothing personal."
Harry sat up in bed. "Sirius, I want you to teach me how to lie," he said.
"Gladly," Sirius replied easily.
"Wait just a moment!" James said. "Why do you want to learn to lie?"
Harry told James and Sirius everything that had happened the night before. "If I was better at lying, I might have been able to get away," he finished.
"I really don't think that's the lesson you should take away from last night," James told him.
"I think that's a fine lesson," Sirius cut in.
"You would," James said, shaking his head. Then he turned his sternest look on Harry. Harry quailed beneath it. "Harry, your ability to lie wouldn't have mattered if you hadn't gone down there in the first place. What were you thinking?"
"Are you mad at me?" Harry asked sheepishly, sneaking a glance into James's face. Their eyes locked and he could see the worry he'd caused his dad.
James took a deep breath. He had promised himself this wouldn't happen, but now that Harry was awake, he was so relieved he hardly had it in him to be stern. Now, looking in his son's worried eyes, so like Lily's, he didn't have the heart to scold. "No, I'm not mad at you," he relented. "But you scared me to death."
"Are you going to punish me?" Harry asked.
Sirius cleared his throat meaningfully. Harry knew that meant the two of them had been discussing this very thing.
"I think I'd like to hear why you thought you needed to go down there on your own before I make a decision about that."
"I wasn't on my own. Ron and Hermione were with me."
"Okay, then, I'd like to know why you needed to go down there alone except for two other eleven year olds."
"They're both twelve!" Harry offered.
"You know what I mean," James said sternly.
"I'm tired," Harry said. "I think I'd like to rest now." He slipped back down into the bed and threw the blankets over his head. "Good night."
"Oh no you don't," James said, uncovering Harry and trying not to laugh. "You're not getting off that easy."
"No one believed us," Harry said softly. "We tried to tell all sorts of people, but everyone kept telling us that the stone was safe and that it was protected and that we should worry about it."
"Why didn't you come to me last night?" James asked.
"You wouldn't have believed me," Harry responded. "I tried to tell you at Christmas."
"You told me Snape was trying to steal the stone," James corrected, "And he wasn't, was he?"
"No," Harry admitted, "But someone was trying to steal it. And no one would help us. If I had told you last night, would you have believed me?"
"I don't know." James said. "Maybe," he added after a pause. Sirius cleared his throat again. "Probably not," James finally admitted. "You're right. I would have told you that the stone was safe and that you shouldn't worry about it." There was another pause before James began to backpedal. "But that doesn't mean you should have gone after it alone."
"I wasn't alone," Harry told him, exasperated. "Ron and Hermione were there and they're really good. Hermione's the best in our year!"
"Well, I suppose that makes all the difference. Three first years can easily take on the most evil wizard to ever live when one of them's best in her year." James muttered. "Listen to me, Harry," he said sternly. "When you are in trouble, you can always come to me. I suppose I can understand why you thought I wouldn't help you, and I'm sorry for making you think that. But next time, at least try me before you go running off into Voldemort's waiting arms."
"I will," Harry assured him. Then he screwed up his courage to ask, "So, are you going to punish me?"
"I haven't decided yet," James said, trying to buy himself some time. While he was waiting for Harry to wake up, he'd had plenty of time to reflect on this very question, but he'd been so worried he hadn't focused on it much. It was impossible to think about punishing his child while said child was lying unconscious in the hospital. He and Sirius had been discussing it, and Sirius campaigned hard for letting Harry off the hook. Sirius usually did; he always said someone had to advocate for the poor boy, not to mention offering a counterpoint to Remus who never seemed to be satisfied that Harry was being properly disciplined. James was torn.
After all Harry had been through - after all the obstacles and all the dangers; after meeting the wizard who had killed his mother, the wizard that other wizards feared above all else; after being attacked by that wizard's evil servant; after all that James's instincts told him that what Harry needed now more than anything was to be hugged and spoiled and told that everything would be all right. Part of James wanted to tell Harry not to worry about it and take him out for ice cream. The other part wanted to grab the boy and spank him right here in the middle of the hospital wing for running head first into so much danger. He had not yet determined which desire he was going to feed.
Sirius cleared his throat loudly again. "All right, fine! No! I'm not!" James snapped. Then he turned toward Sirius. "Would you kindly stay out of it?"
Sirius held up his hands innocently. "I didn't say a word." James immediately cleared his own throat loudly, sticking out his tongue and hacking melodramatically in an imitation of his friend. Sirius laughed. Harry joined him.
"You two are ganging up on me," James said, beginning to laugh himself. "That's not on."
Just then Dumbledore walked in. James and Sirius both stood to greet him. "Are you feeling better now that Harry's awake?" Dumbledore asked James.
"Much," James answered. "But if you're looking for an apology, you're not going to get one. I'd shout at you again if I had it to do over."
"I wouldn't expect any less," Dumbledore said, a twinkle in his eye. "Now, would you two mind terribly if I had a private word with Harry?"
Sirius and James agreed and they both left the room, Sirius turning to give Harry a wink on the way out.
"I see you got your gifts. You're quite the hero."
"I really didn't do anything much," Harry admitted. "I wouldn't have even got past the devil's snare if it weren't for Hermione. And Ron was the one who got us across the chess board. Then Hermione figured out the potion riddle. The only thing I did was catch the key."
"And find the stone," Dumbledore reminded him. "That was no small task. Only someone who wanted to find the stone - find it, but not use it, could get to it. That was one of my brighter ideas, and, just between you and me, that is saying something."
"What happened to Professor Quirrell?" Harry asked.
"He is gone," Dumbledore answered.
"What happened to him? Why couldn't he touch me?"
"I'm not entirely sure," Dumbledore admitted. "You are something of an anomaly. But I have a theory, and I hope you won't think I'm being egotistical if I say my theories are usually correct."
Harry waited for Dumbledore to continue, but he didn't. "What's your theory?" Harry finally asked.
"I'm so glad you asked," Dumbledore said cheerfully. "I believe that the reason Voldemort's curse failed to kill you all those years ago was because your mother sacrificed herself to save you. Being loved that deeply leaves a mark on a person."
Harry put his hand to his scar.
"No, not a mark we can see, but one that resides deep in our soul. You carry your mother's love with you wherever you go, and Voldemort, who is driven only by greed, power, and hatred, can't stand to be near something so pure, so he couldn't touch you."
Harry nodded, trying to understand.
"What happened to the stone?" He asked.
"I've had a talk with Nicholas Flamel about that, and we agreed that it is best for the stone to be destroyed."
"But then, won't he die?"
"He has enough elixir of life left to get his affairs in order and then, yes, he will die. But you shouldn't feel badly for him, Harry. To the well-ordered mind, death is but the next great adventure. For Flamel, I imagine it will be rather like going to sleep after a very long day."
"Will Voldemort come back?" Harry asked.
"That I can't tell you. There are certainly other tricks he could try. Whether or not he will be successful remains to be seen. But for now, you don't need to worry about that. You stopped him tonight, and I am very proud of you," Dumbledore said with a smile.
Harry nodded."I hope my dad didn't shout at you too much," he said softly.
"No more than I deserved," Dumbledore said, smiling.
"What did he say?" Harry asked.
"Much of it probably shouldn't be repeated." Dumbledore confessed, his bright blue eyes twinkling. "It's not the worst dressing-down I ever got. That award belongs to Professor McGonagall. But he did run her a close second."
Harry blushed, thinking of his dad shouting at Dumbledore. Then, not knowing what else to do, he offered Dumbledore a Bertie Bott's Every Flavor Bean.
"Oh, no thank you," Dumbledore told him. "I was most unfortunate in my youth to come across a vomit flavored one. Since then, I'm afraid I've rather lost my liking for them." Nevertheless, he rummaged around in the box until he found a light golden-brown one. "Although, I suppose I will be safe with this toffee." He popped it into his mouth and made a face. "Alas, earwax."
That night was the end-of-year feast. Harry entered the Great Hall triumphantly. A seat had been placed at the top table next to Sirius for James. Snape sat on the other side of James, scowling at him
"Severus, I wanted to speak to you," James said, turning to him.
"Oh, goody for me," Snape sneered.
"Harry told me about how you were saying the counter-jinx at the first quidditch match. And Dumbledore told me you insisted on refereeing the one after that so you could keep an eye on Quirrell, and I just wanted to say thank you for protecting my son."
"I didn't do it for you," Snape snapped.
"I know," James said, taking a deep breath to keep his temper in check. "But I still appreciate it. More than I could ever say."
Snape glared at James for a moment before he slowly opened his mouth and said, "You're welcome."
Harry was enjoying his new-found popularity. He reckoned every student in the whole school, except the Slytherins, had come round to shake his hand and clap him on the back. He'd told about his face-off with Quirrell so many times he was tiring of the story himself. Beside him, Ron and Hermione were enjoying just as much attention. The only damper on the evening was that Slytherin had, once again, won the house cup.
After the feast, Dumbledore stood up to make his end-of-year speech. "Another year gone," he began. "I hope you have all learned quite a lot this year, and I hope you are excited about having the summer to forget it all. And now, the house cup needs awarding. As the points stand now, Slytherin is in the lead."
There was a loud cheer from the Slytherins. Harry scowled.
"Yes, yes," Dumbledore said. "Well done, Slytherin. However, I think recent events must be taken into account. Therefore, I have a few last-minute points to give out. First, to Mr. Ronald Weasley, for the best-played game of wizard's chess Hogwarts has seen these many years, I award Gryffindor House fifty points."
Harry looked at Ron, whose ears were turning red as people congratulated him and clapped him on the back.
"Second," Dumbledore continued, "To Miss Hermione Granger, for the use of cool logic in the face of fire, I award Gryffindor House fifty points."
Hermione hid her face in her arms.
"Third, to Mr. Harry Potter, for pure nerve and outstanding courage, I award Gryffindor House sixty points."
Those who were good at math had figured up that Gryffindor was now tied with Slytherin. The Hall went deathly quiet. No one remembered there ever being a tie before. "If only he'd given one of us one more point!" Harry thought.
"Finally, there are many different kinds of courage. It takes a great deal of bravery to stand up to our enemies, but it takes even more to stand up to our friends. Therefore, I award Mr. Neville Longbottom ten points."
The hall erupted as the decorative banners changed from Slytherin green and silver to Gryffindor red and gold. Harry thought he might explode with happiness, and Neville looked beside himself as his fellow Gryffindors descended upon him to offer up their congratulations.
The next day, Harry boarded the Hogwarts Express with his friends feeling on top of the world. Gryffindor had won the house cup. Voldemort had been defeated and, perhaps more importantly, no one was mad at him anymore. Except the Slytherins, of course, but that was almost an added bonus. The trip to London went almost too fast, but Harry was glad when he stepped on the platform and saw his dad waiting for him and smiling.
"I forgot to tell you yesterday," James told him, taking hold of Harry's trunk and dragging it along behind him. "I am very proud of you."
"I know," Harry said, smiling.
"But if you ever do anything like that again, I'm going to kill you." James said matter-of-factly. "And, I suppose I should warn you that Remus will be waiting for us when we get home. He wants to speak to you about it, and I have no intention of intervening."
All the color drained out of Harry's face. "That's not fair!" Harry protested. "I'm a hero!"
"You should try telling him that. See how far it gets you," James suggested, laughing.
"This is going to be a long summer, isn't it?" Harry asked.
"Oh, he'll get it out of his system in a month or so." James told his son, throwing his free arm around Harry's shoulder. "I wouldn't worry too much. You should try staring at the vein in his forehead. It always bulges just before he gets particularly wordy. That way, at least you know it's coming and can brace yourself."
"How do you know that?" Harry asked.
"Are you kidding? I've endured more of Remus's scoldings than anyone else alive, except maybe Sirius. You should have seen how mad he used to get when he got in trouble because Sirius and I dragged him along on some dunderheaded scheme. What you'll get will be nothing compared to that. Did I ever tell you about the time we put spiders in Snape's bed?"
Harry shook his head.
"It was our second year. We used to invisibility cloak and followed him around until we got the password to Slytherin common room. Then we skived off potions and sneaked down there and dumped an entire jar of spiders in his bed. Big black ones. That night, we heard him screaming all the way in Gryffindor. I've never seen McGonagall so mad. And, of course, she immediately knew who'd done it. She wouldn't believe us when we told her Remus had nothing to do with it."
"Did he?" Harry interrupted.
"We bullied him into standing guard outside the dormitory." James admitted. "Mostly it was Sirius and I, though. I sort of hated seeing Remus in trouble, and not least because I knew he'd make me miserable for it. It really bothered him to get into trouble. I never could understand it. Anyway, McGonagall caned us all and made us apologize to Snape, which was far worse than being caned. Remus really read us the riot act. He's probably the only person in the world who can berate someone while still smarting from the cane himself. Sirius finally told him to just shut up and he got so mad he wouldn't speak to us for nearly two weeks. I think that was the worst part of the whole thing. At first we kept telling ourselves how lucky we were that at least he wasn't upbraiding us anymore, but we really missed him. We were afraid we'd finally gone too far and he'd decided he was well shut of us. He came around eventually, though. No one can ever stay mad at me. I'm far too adorable."
Harry made a gagging sound as the two of them lifted his trunk into the car. James ruffled his hair and then pushed him playfully toward the passenger side. "Get in, you," he said.
Harry climbed into the car and sat quietly in thought as his dad pulled into traffic. "Will you make me one promise?" Harry finally said.
"What's that?" James asked.
"Promise me you'll rescue me if he goes on longer than an hour."
James laughed loudly. "I might be able to do that." He said, smiling. "I'll think about it anyway. But I make no promises."
Harry groaned. It was going to be a long day.