Chapter 9: The Sorcerer's Stone

(Wit Beyond Measure)

(Wit Beyond Measure)

The evening of Halloween, Harry sat alone in the library. Hedwig had delivered a book he had ordered at breakfast. Naturally, he had spent the rest of the day scouring its pages. He hoped to find something that would help his quest to cure his mother within its pages. Lily's brain had been damaged beyond conventional repair so Harry sought out speculations and experiments beyond the normal branches of magic. His new book went over some of Nicolas Flamel's research. The French wizard was the famous creator of the Philosopher's Stone. While he was notoriously tight lipped about the process involved in creating the stone, Flamel had allowed some of his research, from his six hundred some odd years, to be published. Most notable of these publications were his work with Dumbledore on the uses of dragon's blood, but Harry had sought out some of alchemist's older works. More precisely he had sought out the dead ends on the road to immortality.

"You should go down to the great hall. It is halloween you know." Simon commented. "You stick around here for much longer and you'll miss the feast."

"You make it sound like I actually care about these types of things." Harry muttered, still engulfed by the book in front of him.

"It will be more trouble for you to skip it." Simon explained. "The questions, the rumors, The…"

"Fine." Harry sighed. Simon was right, and thus far he had not found what he hoped for in the book. It referenced some of Flamel's trials, but only the complete failures, such as the curse that came with unicorn blood. Ingesting blood from a unicorn could supposedly sustain even the weakest of bodies, but the curse that came with it doomed its drinkers to a half life, neither dead nor alive. Harry did wonder how Flamel had discovered these things without subjecting himself to the horrors some of them wrought, but considering his quest had taken place during a less morally conscientious time, maybe Harry did not want to know. Deciding he had done enough for one day, Harry tossed the book along with the others he had spread about into his bag. He swept up Simon from the table and placed the ratty hat on his head. Shouldering his bag, he asked, "How late am I?"

"A few minute's." Simon answered. "One might call it fashionably late. Sounds about right for the gouchy heir to the Potter name." Harry chuckled. The magically animated hat was always a good source of humor. He just had to remember not to take it personally when it was directed at himself.

Harry let his feet carry them down through the castle while he contemplated runes and arithmancy. Both were incredibly difficult subjects, even for him, and at the moment, they were the weakest links in his repertoire. He had started runes early, and of course had read up on arithmancy, but his practical skills were not advancing as quickly as he would have liked. When he arrived, Harry automatically reached for the door to the great hall, but before he could open the massive door, he heard several low thuds come from the dungeons. Curious, Harry let go of the door and continued past the great hall. A horrid stench assaulted his nose as soon as he descended into the dungeons. Coughing in disgust, Harry quickly cast the bubblehead charm. Safe from the nearly toxic fumes, he set off after the noises. The further down into the dungeons he traveled, the louder and more consistent the sounds were. It almost sounded like heavy, uneven, footsteps, and whatever was causing it was heavy, because the floor shook ever so slightly each time Harry heard a thud. As close as he was, Harry carefully poked his head just far enough around the corner to see down the next corridor. Less than fifty feet away, Quirrell stood directing a fully grown mountain troll. The beast seemed to be responding to various flicks of the professor's wand, but Harry felt it looked strained, like the professor was struggling to retain control. Under more normal circumstances, he may have considered a defense teacher handling a troll to be in line with their profession, and the dungeons would offer a secure place for an older class to study the creature. However considering he often called Quirrell an incompetent coward, and that the professor was acting under the cover of the feast, things just did not add up. Harry also noticed the rather dark expression on the Professor's face. The man was taking a perverse pleasure in his attempt to dominate the brutish creature.

It seems you've been pulling one over on us Quirrel. Harry thought as he watched. The question is, what are you up to? When the defense professor released his control over the troll, Harry knew he needed to leave. He watched as Quirrell nudged the troll in one direction, before turning and walking towards Harry. With the Professor briskly making his way towards him, Harry had two choices, run or hide. He quickly scanned the area, but it was devoid of any sort of suitable hiding place. To make things worse, the corridor he had come down was too long for him to run from one end to the other without Quirrell seeing him. Nearly out of options, Harry looked to Simon. "I hope you can stay on my head." He whispered. Not waiting for a response, Harry dove towards the floor. His body morphed in mid air, and he landed on all fours in the form of a large, emerald eyed, black furred wolf. Hoping the troll's grunts and groans would mask the sound of his claws, Harry sprinted away. He did not stop until he was back outside the doors of the great hall. Once there, he checked to make sure no one was around before reverting to his human form. For once lady luck had sided with him. It would not have been very hard to identify him even as an animagus. He was known for carrying around the sorting hat, so a green eyed wolf wearing the tattered old hat would have raised a few questions. He probably would have offed himself if he had been discovered over such a simple detail. Dipping into the great hall, Harry joined his friends at the Ravenclaw table.

"What took you so long?" We're almost done." Artemis asked, a hint of concern in his voice, when Harry sat down next to him. Harry may have been the most antisocial of the group, but he rarely missed to dinner.

"I lost track of time in the library." Harry answered absently. He piled an assortment of different foods onto his plate, but could not get his mind off what he had just seen. What had Quirrell been doing? Harry managed to get all of three bites in down, before Quirrell came stumbling into the Great Hall, slamming the doors open as he did. Looking a little more worn than he had been moments ago, the panicked Professor ran into the hall shouting, "TROLL IN THE DUNGEON! TROLL IN THE DUNGEON!" He Stopped halfway up the hall between the Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff tables as if to catch his breath and muttered, "Just thought you should know." before collapsing into an unconscious heap. There was a moment of silence, and then the entire great hall exploded into mass hysteria. Some people scrambled away from their tables while others crouched and hid underneath theirs. A few, including Harry, Artemis, and Cedric, remained calm.

Before too much damage was done, Dumbledore stood to his full height and shouted. "SILENCE!" Everyone froze. If it were not for the clattering of plates and spilled goblets Harry would have thought that the Headmaster had put the entire hall under a spell. As it was, Harry could see the power radiating off the ancient wizard. He now understood why so many revered the man. "Everyone please stay calm. Prefects lead your houses back to their common rooms." He turned to the remaining staff. "Professors follow me if you would." Dumbledore ordered as he led the way out of the great hall.

"Just when I begin to think he's not a senile old bat he goes and pulls something like this." Harry sighed.

"My opinion that he is an incompetent, two bit, backstabbing, manipulating, dusty old pedophile, still stands." Simon commented.

Harry rose from the table and joined the throng of students leaving the hall with the rest of the students. Once they were all there. The Ravenclaw prefects formed up around the house and led them up into the castle. "Been working on that list while I was gone?" Harry asked, doing his best to ignore the panicked population.

"I have, thank you for noticing." Simon replied. "Should I go on? I have more. Perhaps a different member of the staff?" He offered

"What are you two talking about?" Cedric interrupted.

Harry looked at his friend like he was an idiot, which really was the case at this point in time. "Dumbledore is a damn buffoon and no one has realized it because no one questions the senile old codger." Harry explained. "Think about what's going on and then think about what our esteemed headmaster is doing about it."

Cedric thought about it for a second before he realized what Harry was saying. "The Slytherin common rooms are in the dungeons where the troll is supposed to be."

Artemis had come to similar a conclusion, but something else immediately jumped to the forefront of his mind "Tracey!" Not bothering to wait for the other two, Artemis sprinted off towards the dungeons.

Harry sighed. "If we let him go by himself, he will get killed. Which he might deserve, but if anyone is going to do it. It better be me."

"No one other than us is going claim him." Cedric countered, as if were talking about a stray dog.

"No one wants the ugly duckling." Simon cackled. "But he is my object of torture."

"Right, well since the hat claims him, I guess we do, we have to go." Said Cedric. Harry nodded, and they slipped out the back of the marching group of students. Once clear, they set off at a brisk pace. Artemis was long gone, but they had a pretty good idea of where he was going. They returned to the ground floor of the castle and made their way towards the dungeons, but before they could descend into the castle's depths, a feminine scream echoed through the corridor. It had come from one of the adjacent halls. Artemis' voice rang out shortly after the scream, but the sound of crushing stone and splintering wood drowned out his voice. A second, louder, and more panicked, scream followed.

"Our luck can't be that bad, can it?" Harry groaned. He really hoped, their friend wasn't stupid enough to take on a troll by himself.

"Only one way to find out." Cedric gulped.

The two teens silently drew their wands, and sprinted towards the source of the scream. The horrible stench of the troll permeated the corridor. Several suits of armor lay scattered across the floor, missing limbs and weapons or simply crushed beyond repair. Artemis lay amongst them, bleeding slightly, but thankfully he was not just a red smear on the ground. Harry and Cedric ran up to their friend, Harry immediately checked for a pulse. "He's hurt, but it looks like he's too stupid to die." said Harry. He stood and turned to face Cedric. "Cover your ears." He commanded. With three flicks of his wand, Harry produced three loud booms that reverberated down the corridor. They could probably be heard throughout the entire lower half of the castle. "The Professors will have heard that and will be on their way. Now Let's go. We need to find Tracey. Artemis will never forgive us if we let her die." They left Artemis on the ground and followed the path of destruction the troll had carved through the castle to the girls bathroom at the end of the hall. Harry doubted the thing could have made more of a mess if it had tried. The boys stopped outside the door, Harry turning to Cedric. "I'll distract it, you get the Tracey, and whoever else is in there, out." Harry ordered over the screams, shouts and grunts coming from the bathroom.

"Right." Cedric nodded.

Stepping into the bathroom, Harry and Cedric split apart. Harry went straight for the troll. He commanded its attention by hurling a cutting curse at its head, which gave Cedric room to sprint past it. The spell barely broke skin, but if the roar of pain troll gave off was any indicator, it had hurt. Turning to face Harry, the troll swung its club at the teen. Harry ducked under the swing, and cast a permanent sticking charm on the end of the club. When the wooden object connected with the wall, it stuck. The troll tugged at the club, but it would not budge. The simple minded creature all but forgot its former target as it frantically attempted to free its prized possession.

With Harry occupying the Troll, Cedric drug, a hurt but conscious, Tracey from the destroyed stalls. "You ok?" He asked. She nodded, but looked to be in too much pain to respond, her right leg bent at an odd angle. Cedric smiled and draped her over his back. He turned to the other three students in the room, two terrified first years and Neville Longbottom. All three stood at the ready, but it looked like longbottom's friends were ready to wet themselves. "We're leaving." Cedric grunted, straining slightly under the weight of Tracey. "All of us." He said, when Longbottom went to protest.

"Hurry up." Harry hissed. He could not see what was taking so long because he had kept himself in front of the troll. If it decided its club wasn't worth the trouble he wanted to be its first target. Finally, Cedric led the charge out of the room,. Moving as fast as he could, Cedric drug Tracey and two first years passed the troll. Harry saw the red hair of a Weasley, and a bushy haired girl follow closely behind Cedric. A fifth figure lagged behind the others slightly. It was longbottom. Halfway past the troll, the Boy Wonder whipped out his wand and shouted "Stupefy!" A beam of crimson light erupted from his wand, and impacted against the troll's head. It bellowed with rage, and in a savage yank, managed to rip its club, and part of the wall, free. "Worthless little bastard." Harry cursed, as he dove away from the troll. He reluctantly pushed Longbottom out of the way, as the stone encrusted club smashed through their previous position. The strike threw a pile debris across the room, and unfortunately for Harry, the broken stalls, broken sinks, and cracked stones landed in the doorway, blocking their exit. Staying in an enclosed space, with a live troll and the Boy Who Lived for company was not his idea of a good time. At this point, Harry gave up his quest to just let the teachers handle the troll. He probably should have just killed the thing from the get go but at least now if the troll collapsed the only other person at risk would be Boy Wonder. Considering Longbottoms valiant attempt to subdue the beast, Harry really didn't care if the troll landed on him.

Facing the troll, Harry silently summoned the creature's club. He levitated it above his head, made a few intricate flicks with his wand, and turned the club into a giant spear. An utterly ruthless look on his face, Harry muttered "Depulso." and with as much force as he could muster, Harry banished the weapon at the troll. Harry ducked to avoid the splatter of blood and brains as the spear impaled the creature's head. The spear went all the way through the creature and pinned the troll to the wall. Even with a giant spear through its skull, the troll still struggled for a few moments, trying desperately to remove the object and free itself. "Utterly stupid creatures, but they're persistent. I'll give them that." Harry muttered, dragging Neville off the floor. Ignoring the boys whimpers of pain, it looked like he may have sprained something when Harry pushed him out of the way, Harry drug the boy towards the door. Staring at the rubble, Harry sighed. "You had to be a good old fashioned Gryffindor didn't you? I could have walked away without killing the thing if you just run out the door like the rest of them." Neville looked like he wanted to say something, but Harry dropped him before he could respond "You're more trouble than you're worth you know that?" Harry added to the groaning boy as he pointed his wand at the rubble. "Cedric, get everyone clear of the door. I'm making a new one." Harry shouted.

He heard some shuffling out in the hall before Cedric responded. "It's all clear Harry."

A determined scowl on his face, Harry viciously jabbed his wand at the rubble. A blasting curse blazed from the tip of his wand. Impacting the remains of the bathroom, the incandescent spell, ejected the obstruction, sending bits and pieces crashing out into the corridor. Harry pushed The Boy Who Lived out into the hallway and followed closely behind. With everyone safe, Harry too the time to inspect the group. Cedric looked no worse for the wear, the Weasley boy and the bushy haired girl had gotten off easy with a few scrapes and bruises, but Tracey appeared to have a broken her leg. She was awake and currently leaning heavily on Cedric for support. Harry was about to ask her what had started all of this, when he heard rushed footsteps. "Oh look, the calvary is finally here." Harry spat, understandably upset with the situation. He knew the professors would ask all the questions he had and more, so for the time being he withheld his own. McGonagall, Snape, Flitwick and Dumbledore trotted towards them from the end of the hall.

"Potter! Diggory! We found Mr. Wilks, and now this? What has happened here?" McGonagall demanded, clearly distressed by the destruction rampant across the corridor. Harry was relieved to know they had found Artemis. Hopefully Pomfrey had already patched him up.

"Lord Voldemort appeared inside the castle and began blasting walls apart." Simon cackled to the annoyance of several of the professors. Harry fought a chuckle when McGonagall and Flitwick flinched at the name. "No that wasn't it. There was a giant and he wanted to grind our bones into dust and make bread?" Simon announced hesitantly, as if he were puzzled. "No, no that was last century. Ah, now I remember. It was a troll, and it was most definitely not in the dungeons."

"Enough!" Mcgonagall screeched. "Someone explain what happened here this instant!" She ordered, her usual stoic expression long gone.

"As you wish." Simon grunted. "This all started because the old codger is also a senile old fool. I mean really, who sends a fourth of their student population into the exact area where a troll was just spotted." McGonagall and Snape glared at Simon, but the hat continued. "Realizing this, Artemis, also known as my favorite chew toy, ran off with the intention of saving Miss Davis, who I lovingly refer to as, The Harpy. My caretaker, Mr. Potter, and previous chew toy, Mr. Diggory, knew that Artemis would almost certainly run into the troll that had everyone's knickers in a bunch. Concerned that he would meet a squishy end, we gave chase, and thankfully so. We found my favorite chew toy bleeding and unconscious, but alive. It was at that point that we discovered that The Harpy, and the three Bravehearts you see here, had also experienced the misfortune of ruining their nostrils by way of troll. This leads me to believe that Artemis attempted to take on said smelly beast in the hopes of saving The Harpy, no doubt hoping for a rather intimate reward." Tracey's face soured, but she was in too much pain to hex the cursed hat. "Needless to say he was bested by the troll. However, his heroic attempt did allow the others to run to the loo. Not my first choice of hiding place, but then again perhaps they had soiled themselves. Naturally this did little to sway the stinky creature. At this point, my caretaker, my former chew toy, and I arrived. Upon discovering the dire circumstances the others were in, we proceeded into the loo. Once there we distracted the troll and collected The Harpy and the three Bravehearts." None of the teachers seemed too skeptical yet, but Simon's pet names did make his tale harder to follow. "However in the process of escaping from the troll the Braveheart leader, in his infinite wisdom decided to attack the otherwise distracted troll." Simon did his best to turn and face Longbottom."The stunning spell, not matter how powerful is simply an irritation to trolls because of their magically resistant skin." Neville humphed and turned to look away. "Fueled by anger, the troll forcefully freed it's club from the wall and created quite a mess with it. Trapped inside the loo with the angry, undistracted, flesh pile and the daring Braveheart leader, my dear friend Mr. potter was forced to find a more permanent solution to the problem and free us from our would be tomb. The rare dish known as troll on a stick, quite a tasty entree if you're curious, and the carnage you see around you is a result of this entire process."

"I believe some congratulations are in order." Dumbledore announced, the usual twinkle in his eye. "Had misters Potter, Diggory, and Wilks not seen to take action after realizing my mistake, this incident could have resulted in much worse than a destroyed corridor. Fillius you should be proud of your house. Not only did they spot my mistake, but they chose to actively attempt to correct it. For showing commendable skill, and bravery, I award you two hundred points collectively." Flitwick seemed ecstatic about this, while Snape scowled and McGonagall gave the faintest expression of approval.

Harry muttered under his breath, never enjoying the spotlight, but thankfully everyone's attention switched to Longbottom when McGonagall asked, "And what exactly were you doing down here Mr. Longbottom?" As Gryffindor tower was nowhere nearby. The boy stuttered under the pressure, mumbling an inaudible answer.

"I ran into them on my way out of the dungeons." Tracey explained with a groan. "A full house of students or not, I had no desire to become troll food, so I returned to the great Hall. I was going to wait things out there, but when I saw Longbottom leading these two down the hall, and boasting about besting the beast in combat I attempted to stop them…" Harry tuned out Tracey as she explained how moronic the boy who lived actually was. It would be a miracle if Longbottom actually survived his first year at Hogwarts, let alone all seven. Harry's thoughts shifted when his nose caught the scent of blood. He was surprised he could pick it up. Even with his canine like sense of smell, the troll's stench should have masked just about everything. Harry discretely searched the group for the source of the smell. Ignoring the small cuts and scrapes that covered the newly named Braveheart brigade, the only place Harry smelled the blood was on Snape. The potions professor had covered it well, but upon a closer inspection, Harry noticed his pant leg was slick with blood. All sorts of curious things involved the staff. First Quirrell and now Snape, Harry wondered if they were connected.

After listening to Tracey's story, the esteemed headmaster let the braveheart brigade off with little more than a slap on the wrist. He took away a few measly points and made some comment about lessons learned or some other load of bollocks. It was a blatant showing of favoritism, something which would only further inflate Longbottom's ego. Rather than stick around and become the sole recipient of Dumbledore's attention once again Harry excused himself. "Unless you need something else from me, I have school work to do." Harry announced. Rather than wait for an answer, Harry simply walked away, and hoped they wouldn't call him back.

(Wit Beyond Measure)

"So they really let you do this?" Remus asked astounded by what his friend had done. Over the last month, Sirius had spent all of his time on some pet project of his.

"Well, I didn't really give them much of a choice." Sirius explained with a smirk. "You should have seen the look on Umbridge's face when I told her to fuck off and sign the papers or I'd have fudge do it." He said with a chuckle. Remus barked with laughter, Dolores Umbridge was ultimate opposition to anything that she considered "Dark," "Filthy," or a "half breed". It was well known that she abused her position in the ministry to stack things against people she labeled as such, but it went almost completely unopposed because of how few influential people it affected. "It needed to happen too. Think of this as seven years of birthday presents all wrapped into one. Besides, I don't want to go back to being an Auror. These days the department is a joke. Moody's the only one who I'd be willing to work with and he's on his way out. I think this is much more up my alley, causing trouble, ignoring the rules, and throwing parties whenever I want." Remus smiled and shook his head. No matter how old he got, Sirius would still be the same adventure seeking Gryffindor he went to school with. Before he could comment on the man's antics, Hedwig flew into the room. Swooping past them, she dropped a letter between the two. Circling around, she landed on Remus' shoulder and gave the werewolf an affectionate hoot. Remus scratched the top of her head, much like Harry often did, much to her pleasure. Once he was done, the bird just glared at Sirius. "Why does she like you so much but hate me?" Sirius asked. Every time she was in the same room as him, Hedwig would glare at him, sometimes she would even violently peck at the former felon.

"I'm not sure, the only two people she seems to dislike more than you are Simon and Jill. Though Jill did try to eat that one time, so that's understandable." Remus offered as he opened the letter. He scanned over its contents before handing it over to Sirius. "He's just like James, but when you add the power of Lily's brain you get a bit of a monster." Remus chuckled.

Sirius read the letter and chuckled. It was a warning from Harry saying that Dumbledore may try contact them soon. He explained how he had killed a troll, and unintentionally turned a few heads in the process. "And I thought I was going to be on the front page this week. Although dumbledore might cover it up with that silvery tongue of his."

"We will see soon won't we?" Said Remus. "About your project, what are you going to call it?"

"I haven't really come up with anything yet, but I promise it will be rude and obnoxious." Sirius smirked.

"I'm sure it will." Remus chuckled, not expecting anything else from his friend. "Harry has a quidditch game coming up do you want to go watch it?"

"Of course I do." Sirius replied happily. "I can catch up with Minerva while we're there too."

"You're going to get a claw stuck in your nose. But suit yourself."

"Life is no fun if you don't take a chance here and there, and she needs a good joke to lighten her up." Sirius rambled. Remus did not feel obliged to remind him that McGonagall had Harry as a student, and was most likely at her wit's end when it came to anything Marauder. Alucard appeared between them in a swirl of red. Remus had grown used to it, but Sirius jumped a few feet every time the vampire or his wife suddenly appeared. "I hate that you can do that. Even if it did get me out of jail. It's just not right" Sirius muttered.

"Did I hear something about Quidditch?" Alucard asked, ignoring the man's complaints.

"You did, we're going to see Harry play in a few days. Would you like to come?" Remus offered.

"The boy never fails to entertain, and it has been awhile since I've seen a game." Alucard replied. "Jillian will most likely wish to attend as well."

"Excellent, I'll inform Dumbledore that the four of us will be coming to the next game." Remus concluded.

(Wit Beyond Measure)

The Troll incident had rolled through the school's rumor mill, and passed on relatively quickly. Despite his scolding, Longbottom had claimed all the credit for killing the troll. Of course, most of the school believed him. Harry thought about putting the little twerp in his place, but decided against it when he realized the attention seeking Gryffindor had done him a favor. No, instead of the troll, the school was concerned with the upcoming Quidditch match between Ravenclaw and Gryffindor. It was amazing how quickly students forgot the mortal danger they had been in. Despite being a player in the upcoming match, Harry was back to being the relatively ignored Ravenclaw who carried around the angry, and foul mouthed sorting hat, who was kind enough to scare away any students brave enough to interrupt his studies. Unsurprisingly most of the attention was once again on the Braveheart leader, as Simon liked to call Longbottom. It would be the boy's debut game as a seeker since Gryffindor's original game against Slytherin had been postponed for some crackpot reason. Artemis was still in the hospital wing, so Cedric and Harry were alone in their nighttime explorations of the castle. Considering Artemis' injuries, Harry had decided, and Cedric had agreed, it was time for a bit of a show. It was time they retaliated for the whole troll incident. In an interesting bit of circumstance the two Ravenclaws ran into the Weasley twins in the castle's dark corridors. It seemed the twins were out adventuring as well, using their new map as a guide. "Gred I do believe our nemesis has pulled one over on us, look here." George announced pointing at the map.

"Too right Forge he gave us a faulty map." Fred answered.

"No It just doesn't display my location, or those of a few others." Harry answered, effectively cutting off what was sure to become a Weasley sided rant. "Now unless you were actually searching for us I suggest we get on with our selective tasks. There's a whole castle beckoning to be toyed with." The twins smirked at Harry's words, and in a show of mutual respect, departed with nods. The twins headed for the dungeons, most likely to mess with Snape. The potions professor was always a good target, but Harry was after Quirrell. He hadn't really figured out what the man was after yet, but he was the one who had let the troll in as a distraction. He hadn't told Cedric or the recovering Artemis anything about Quirrell, but it hadn't been hard to convince Cedric to come along. Their first stop was Quirrell's chair in the great hall. Harry placed a simple sticking charm on several thumbtacks and then hid them from. The classics tended to produce some of the best results after all. Stop two was the defense classroom. Knowing his teachers' phobia of all things vampire, Harry, with the assistance of Cedric, removed all of the vampiric defenses from the room. Harry would have to thank the twins for the next bit, at least partially. He had managed to snatch a box from their workshop during his talk with them. He had no idea what the original intention of product had been, but with some intensive tweaking of his own, Harry had created the insta boggart. Simply activate it with the desired image or creature pictured, and presto you had an easy scare for any intended target. The two Neo Marauders placed several of them in easy and not so easy to find locations, ensuring several good scares over the coming days. Their work complete, Harry and Cedric checked the map for signs of anyone nearby. Most of the castle was in their rooms for the night, minus the usual exceptions. The twins were in Snape's classroom, a few prefects were out patrolling the corridors, an odd couple or two stuffed in a broom cupboard, and so on, but the markers for Snape and Quirrell caught Harry's attention. Neither of them were in their personal quarters. Snape seemed to be chasing Quirrell. It looked like the potions professor was following a the defense teacher. Quirrell seemed to be doing his best to lose the greasy haired git. With the two most suspicious teachers occupied, and nothing but a handful of prefects guarding the halls, the third floor corridor was completely open for exploration. "Cedric, can you make it back to the common room on your own?" Harry asked.

"Probably, why?" Cedric questioned.

"There's something else I want to look into." Harry answered turning to walk in the other direction. Cedric made a move to protest, but Harry just cut him off "I'll be back later." He said, leaving Cedric to find his own way back to the common room.

Harry quietly made his way down to the third floor corridor. After his chat with the twins, he was not surprised to find a huge three headed Cerberus at the ready, upon entering the first room. Whipping out his wand Harry muttered, "Reducio," shrinking the beast down to the size of a puppy. "Much better I'd say he's a lot more bark than bite now. What do you think?" Harry asked Simon.

"Well done, simple yet effective." Simon commented, giving genuine praise for a change. "I knew you would fit well in Ravenclaw."

"Like you would ever admit to being wrong." Harry quipped as he attempted to scoot the three headed puppy off the trap door. Despite its change in stature, the dog still tried to bite his foot. Harry reached down and snatched up the Cerberus by the scruff of it's middle neck. "Bad dog! No Biting." He said, after bringing it up to face level. The Cerberus' heads drooped and it whined, shrinking in on itself in defeat. Harry smiled and gently set the dog off to the side. "Good Boy." He said, giving it a gentle pat on on the head. Harry stepped away and quickly lifted the trapdoor. He jumped down into the darkness without so much as a parting glance to the three headed dog. A soft mass of green flesh broke his fall. Despite the darkness, Harry instantly recognized the plant as Devil's Snare. A carnivorous plant that enjoyed dark and damp places. Sunlight or fire could easily do away with the plant, but Harry thought better of it. It would be best to not leave evidence of his visit. Careful to keep his wand in hand, Harry calmly allowed the plant to swallow him. The plant split him back out several feet from the actual floor. Had it not been tampered with, the Devil's Snare would have grown up from the floor, trapping anything unlucky enough to fall into its grasp. Then it would have consumed anything unable to free itself over the course of a few weeks. "What's the headmaster playing at?" Harry questioned. Devil's Snare was supposedly a horrible way to go, but it was not exactly a vicious killer. With it being a native plant to Scotland, it was a danger to the unlucky at best. "This couldn't stop a first year let alone anyone with half a brain."

"A poorly laid trap is still a trap" Simon commented vaguely. "And Dumbledore seems determined to lose a priceless artifact for the sake of one of his games." Harry stopped and arched an eyebrow, but Simon said no more.

Harry entered the next room and knew exactly who was responsible for its protections, and why the twins hadn't been able to get passed it. Flitwick had charmed hundreds of small keys to fly about the room. They darted this way and that paying him no mind. Harry guessed one of them unlocked the door opposite him, but he tried his luck anyway. Unsurprisingly he found the door locked, and well beyond magical or physical persuasion. Without the knowledge of which spells had locked the door, he could not open it. Harry turned to the broom floating in the center of the room. It seemed like a simple enough solution. Hop on the broom, find the right key, and open the door, but Harry knew better. Professor Flitwick would not make it that simple. On a whim, Harry tried summoning a few of the keys, but none of the floating pieces of metal responded to his call. "Worth a try." he mumbled as he stepped up to the broom. It was not the most appealing thing in the world. Gnarled and scratched well beyond what Harry would consider a flight worthy broom, he was genuinely concerned about its ability to support him or if it would even fly at all. Harry considered turning and leaving, but Simon's comment about something down here being able to help his mother pushed any doubt from his mind. Besides, if it truly was a trap, in a series of progressively more challenging obstacles, only the last one would be impossible. With a regretful sigh, as he knew what was coming would probably hurt, Harry threw a leg over the broom and kicked off. Nothing changed as Harry flew up and joined the flock of keys. Searching around, he floated from one group to the next searching for the one needed to open the door. After a minute of searching he found an old and tarnished key that stood out from the rest. It could have been a decoy, but Harry doubted it. The second he plucked it from the air, the rest of the keys swarmed him in a violent wave of metal. Chasing him with surprising speed, the hundreds of small keys easily drew blood every time they caught him. With one hand on the broom and one barely holding the struggling door key, there was little Harry could do to stop the onslaught. He pushed the broom as hard as he could, trying to get some distance between himself and the angry swarm, but the rickety broom simply could not outpace the keys. Simon cackled gleefully atop his head, doing nothing to help his cause. If anything, the hat encouraged the keys to attack. At least until one of them flew straight through the old rag

"You fucking worthless excuses for iron. I'll melt you down to slag and have you rammed up Dumbledore's decrepit, sagging expanse of an ass. How dare you defile my beautiful face." Apparently being the enchanted hat of Godric Gryffindor did not make Simon impervious to high velocity magical items.

A few quick turns, and a reversal, earned Harry a precious lead. Diving for the ground, he barely slowed the broom. Heading straight for the door, Harry threw himself from the broom. Performing his best imitation of a rag doll, he crashed up against the door. Thrusting his wand at the ground, Harry hastily conjured a stone wall between himself and the keys. Bruised and slightly bloody he inserted the key open the door with a heave before any keys got passed his wall. Forcing the door shut behind him, Harry sighed with relief. "I don't know if I want to commend Flitwick or curse him." Harry looked around for the next obstacle. The room was dim compared to the last one, but once his eyes adjusted, Harry saw that the entire room was a giant chess board. "Ah, chess, Minerva you're too kind." He said happily. Walking up to the black queen, Harry placed Simon atop her head. "I present you with the opportunity to vent your anger."

Simon may have been duty bound to not speak of things said inside the headmaster's office, but nothing said he could not do this. Even so the hat wanted no part of it. With a flop he turned to face Harry. "It's your damn fault I've got a hole in me. I should be taking my anger out on you."

Harry shrugged "There's some truth to that statement, but lets be honest. Who do you hate more? Me who carries you about and takes you on adventures or Dumbledore who keeps you on a dusty shelf. His is responsible for this whole mess after all."

Simon seemed to think it over for a moment. "You know me well, but you're still a little shit for getting me into this." Simon stated, still agitated. Harry wasn't about to tell the hat that he had gotten himself into this by baiting Harry with his mother's well being. He gave the hat a moment to decide. Harry nearly stepped in to play himself, but right before he stepped onto the board, Simon reversed his position. With an evil cackle he shouted to the black pieces, "Prepare for battle my minions!" Heeding his call, the chess board came alive, the room lit, and a pawn from the opposing side moved forward to start the game.

Harry watched in amazement as Simon ruthlessly crushed the opposing force. Despite the considerable skill used by McGonagall in designing the chess game, it ended relatively quickly. "Never knew you liked chess." Harry commented, as he picked up the tattered hat and returned it to his head.

"Why wouldn't I enjoy this? It's a giant game of Simon says, where I get to control every move of my minions and lay waste to a battlefield." Said Simon, his voice laced with a bloodlust of sorts.

"I'll have to challenge you to a game sometime. I'm curious as to how I stack up against the creation of the founders." Harry said, as he walked towards the next room. When he reached the door, a horrible stench reached his nose, and Harry knew exactly what he was in for. "What the hell is with the trolls. Does Quirrell have a fetish or something?" Harry grumbled, assuming Quirrell was responsible for this one as well.

"Perhaps his stutter comes being fondled by trolls." Simon cracked. "They're not known for being gentle."

Harry shuddered at the thought. He shook it from his mind as he entered the next room. For once luck was on his side as the lumbering beast was sleeping. "If I ever become a psychotic power hungry villain hiding in a castle, remind me not to use trolls as guard dogs. They smell and sleep on the job."

"Don't forget that they are moronic flesh piles." Simon added, as Harry tiptoed around the sleeping beast. Once again he was beginning to wonder exactly why it was even possible to get around these obstacles. What was Dumbledore's intention? The next room provided no answers. The second he stepped into the room, flames erupted around the two doors. "I almost miss the troll." He sighed. Harry walked over to a lone table with a piece of parchment and several vials on it. He quickly scanned over the parchment.

"Danger lies before you, while safety lies behind,

Two of us will help you, whichever you would find,

One among us seven will let you move ahead,

Another will transport the drinker back instead,

Two among our number hold only nettle wine,

Three of us are killers, waiting hidden in line.

Choose, unless you wish to stay here for evermore,

To help you in your choice, we give you these clues four:

First, however slyly the poison tries to hide

You will always find some on nettle wine's left side;

Second, different are those who stand at either end,

But if you would move onwards neither is your friend;

Third, as you see clearly, all are different size,

Neither dwarf nor giant holds death in their insides;

Fourth, the second left and the second on the right

Are twins once you taste them, though different at first sight."

"A bit too long of a riddle for entrance to the common room, but it's fairly simple." Harry said after thinking the riddle over a few times. "The third one sends me forward, and the seventh sends be back." Harry picked up the third vial. Lifting it to eye level, he swirled it as if inspecting a fine wine. "Here's to hoping they aren't all poison." He said, downing the contents of the vial in one go. Harry immediately felt like ice was pumping through his veins. Walking over to the door, he waved a hand through the flames. No burns, just a slight tingling of the skin. Satisfied he had not been poisoned, Harry stepped through the door. The next room was more of a chamber. Large and round it looked like it served as some sort of amphitheatre purpose in the past. A large depression defined the room, with steps leading down to a large, overly ornate, full sized mirror. Harry approached it cautiously. All the obstacles up to this point had an obvious solution, but this felt different. There was no door to continue on to another room, so this must be it. Letters were Inscribed along the top of the mirror's frame. Erised stra ehru oyt ube cafru oyt on wohsi was engraved in the frame. Harry recognized the backwards text, and quickly translated it. "I show not your face but your heart's desire." He read aloud. Curious to see his heart's desire, Harry stepped in front of it. Unsurprisingly it showed Harry's mother, but more specifically it showed her standing next to him healthy and awake. The Lily Potter in the mirror draped her arms over his reflection in a loose hug. "Simon what the fuck is this?" Harry growled, genuinely angry. "I don't take kindly to being tormented by a worthless piece of glass. You said this would help me cure her." Simon stayed silent. Harry readied his wand, intending to blast the mirror into oblivion for showing him something, that despite devoting his life to, he had been unable to achieve. Lily's image stopped him. Waving her finger in an admonishing way, she reached back with her other hand, and drew out a small stone like object from behind her. Harry stopped his curse and watched as Lily placed the object in his reflection's pocket. She gave it a soft pat and Harry felt a weight settle into the right side of his robe. Looking down, he saw a slight bulge in his robe's pocket. Harry looked back at the reflection of Lily. The red headed Potter nodded to him and blew him a kiss. After the loving gesture, she waved her hand in a shooing motion, as if she were saying, "Go on, get out of here." Smiling and no longer angry at Simon, Harry pulled the object out of his pocket. "And to think I was beginning to doubt you." He muttered easily identifying what had appeared in his pocket.

"You may be a crotch stain, but even a crotch stain deserves a bone here and there." Simon conceded. "Now about my reward for this. Due to grievous injuries on my part I will require five hundred galleons, a Harem of..."

"I don't want to know." Harry interrupted. "You can take it up with Sirius. I'm sure he would be happy to indulge in whatever twisted fantasy you're cooking up in that crooked mind of yours. What would you even do with money and any kind of harem anyway? You're a hat." Harry stated.

"Pansy." Simon spat. "And there are plenty of things to be done with money and a Harem, hat or not."

"I've seen a lot in my life, and it's left more than a few scars, some physical, others mental, but somehow I feel that looking too far into your mind would be the end of me." Harry said calmly. "Whatever twisted spells were used to create you. I want nothing to do with."

"Smart boy, you know better than to poke your nose into places that bite back." Simon cracked. "You've learned from mistakes over the past few years."

"Yes, now we should make ourselves scarce before someone comes prodding for answers they don't need, and I don't want to give."

(Wit Beyond Measure)

(Wit Beyond Measure)

This is another one that just didn't quite feel right. I think I got it to a place that I wanted with the update, but please let me know if anyone finds something that I missed.