Author's Note: Hey, all! Sorry it's been so long. To everyone who favorited this during the unexpected hiatus, thank you. Hopefully, this has enough in it to make up for the long wait and get you salivating for the next chapter. Sorceror's Stone is almost done! (After this one, I hope the nest books will go faster).
The Definition of Friendship
"She's not coming," Daphne hissed.
"Give her time," Harry insisted. The pair were huddled under his Cloak in front of the portrait of the (sleeping) Fat Lady.
Daphne growled slightly, but seemed to comply. Seconds ticked by. Is she coming? Harry thought. He wanted to believe she was, wanted to believe she could redeem herself. He felt his heart clench in his chest like a cold, steel vise had wrapped around it. He reached for Daphne's hand, but couldn't find it; she had crossed her arms under the Cloak.
More seconds ticked by. Harry thought he heard a thump, or some other noise, but he wasn't sure. He wasn't even sure it was important. He could feel Daphne tense beside him, imagined her opening her mouth to reassert her belief that their Gryffindor friend had abandoned them. He wasn't sure he could deny her this time.
And then, the portrait swung open, and Hermione walked out. "Harry? Daphne?" she whispered.
Harry removed the Cloak causing Hermione to jump back just a little as the couple appeared in front of her. Before he could greet her, however, Daphne asked, "What kept you?"
Hermione flushed and looked down. "Neville was waiting for me in the Commonroom. Apparently he noticed something was up and wanted to stop me from costing Gryffindor more points."
"How'd you convince him to let you out?" Harry inquired.
"I didn't," the brunet witch answered. "I hit him with a Full Body Bind Curse."
". . . Oh," Harry replied. "That works."
"Let's go," Daphne said, disappearing under the cloak again. Harry cringed and looked at Hermione again. She was looking down, unwilling to meet his gaze.
"All right," he said, "Come on, Hermione." He held his hand out to her, and—although he wasn't entirely sure how he felt about her at the moment—he felt a little better when she hesitantly took it.
The trio slowly opened the big, wooden door. It was the door to the third-floor corridor, on the right-hand side. It opened with a loud CREEEEEAAAAAKKKK!
"Merlin . . ." Daphne whispered. Laying on the ground in front of them was a giant, giant monster of a dog with three heads. All three were snoring, letting out sounds like a jet-engine.
"That isn't in FantasticK Beasts and Where to Find Them," Hermione noted.
"So we don't know anything about it," Harry said. "Other than it's really big . . . and it likes music. Look." The girls looked to the left where Harry and spotted a harp that was enchanted to play itself. "That's who Voldemort got past Fluffy," the young wizard noted. "He's already making his move."
"Or someone working for him is," Hermione noted. "Now what do we do? Harry? Harry?"
The wizard in question was quietly walking towards the trapdoor that Fluffy had been guarding; it was open.
"Harry James Potter, what are you doing?" Daphne hissed.
"Harry, you're not thinking of going in after him, are you? Are you?" Hermione asked.
"No," Harry replied, staring down in the blackness. "Of course, not." Turning to the others, he whispered. "We need to get to Professor McGonigal. She can call Uncle Severus and Dumbledore back to the school. They'll know what to . . . do . . ." Harry paused for a moment, distracted by . . . something.
"What is it?" Daphne pressed.
"Do you hear anything?" Harry asked. The girls concentrated, listening for whatever it was that had caught Harry's attention
"It's the harp," Hermione whispered. "It's stopped playing."
"How long," Daphne asked, "do you think we have until 'Fluffy' wakes up . . . ?"
The trio turned around and saw the Cerberus was wide awake, and he did not look happy about it. The students then made a very dumb mistake. Although they were unusually mature in some respects, they were still eleven-year-olds, and still had the same reaction that any eleven-year-olds would have to facing such a beast.
They screamed, which Fluffy, like any monster, interpreted as a dinner bell and crouched down, preparing to pounce. Seeing this, Harry turned and shoved Hermione and Daphne down the trapdoor.
"RAR-RAR-RAR-RAR-RAR-RAR!" Fluffy roared behind him, angry over its lost meal. A tiny little sliver in the back of his mind told Harry the monster was coming at him now, but he was too frightened to care. Taking a deep breath for courage, he leaped down into the abyss beneath him.
Harry was surprised when—instead of landing on a hard, stone floor like he was expecting, his fall was broken something soft and damp. As his eyes adjusted to the dim light, he looked around (miraculously, his glasses were still mostly on) and saw that Hermione and Daphne were all right as well. They were, apparently, lying on some sort of enormous plants.
Harry pushed against the foliage beneath him, trying to stand up to check on his friends, but he felt the plants move, actually move, beneath him. A pair of vines shot out and wrapped around his hands pulling him down. The more her jerked and tried to free himself, the tighter the vines felt, and more came out to drag him down even further. Behind him, he heard Daphne scream.
"Stop struggling, both of you!" Hermione barked. "This is Devil's Snare, the more you struggle, the more quickly it'll devour you."
"Well, we wouldn't want to die fast would we?" Daphne asked, but she wasn't screaming anymore, so Harry assumed she was doing as she was told. He did likewise, although there wasn't much else he could do; his struggles had already gotten him fairly well imprisoned. Unfortunately, however, it still pulled him down, just more slowly.
"How do we get out of this?" Daphne whispered.
"I'm trying to remember." The Gryffindor replied. "I remember a rhyme . . .
"Devil's Snare, Devil's Snare . . ."
Harry's face was barely above the "plant-line" so to speak.
"It's deadly fun . . .
But will sulk in fire and Sun!"
"That's it!" Hermione cried. "Devil's Snare hates heat and light! Oh, but there's nothing here to—"
"Hermione!" Daphne barked. "We're witches! Grab your wand!"
Harry heard shifting behind him. Then Daphne screamed. "NO! It stole my wand!" Harry wanted to scream too, now. He couldn't see anything but green, but beneath him, he was certain he heard something shifting and snapping . . .
Hermione's voice rang out like a war cry. Something roared an unbelievable of pain, and Harry felt the vines that had been holding him recoil.
The three soon found themselves on a cold, stone floor, and none of them had ever been so happy for such an experience.
". . . Good work, Hermione . . ." Harry said after a moment. Near death experiences, he had just learned were very exhausting.
"Thanks," she replied, also out of breath.
"My wand's still missing," Daphne groused. "I think the plant took it when it ran off."
"You want to go after it?" Harry asked, gesturing to the direction he'd felt the plant scramble of in.
"No," she said, shaking her head. "But it'll be harder with only two wands."
"What will be harder?" Hermione asked.
"We can't go back," Daphne explained, "but we can't stay here, either. So, we only have one direction left to go."
"Forward," Harry reasoned. "After Voldemort."
"That's incredibly dangerous!" Hermione cried. "He's the worst Dark Lord ever, and we're still First Years!"
"We don't have much of a choice, Hermione," Harry said. Privately, he was hoping the next barricade would be less hazardous, so he could leave the girls there and face the rest on his own. He felt something stirring within him, something that felt like both a lion and serpent, and it wanted to go on. It wanted to thwart Voldemort.
"Of course," Daphne said, "if you'd rather stay behind and wait for the plant to return . . ."
Hermione sighed. "All right. Let's go, then."
The group set off in the opposite direction they had seen the plant flee. This led them to a wide room with a high ceiling. Flying lazily overhead were what looked like metal birds.
"They're not birds, Harry said. "They're keys."
They were. Long and slender, they looked like old-fashioned. Not surprising, considering that they were in a wizards' castle.
"One of them must fit that door," Hermione noted pointing to the door across from them. Floating between them and the door were three broomsticks. "I guess we're supposed to fly up and grab the right one."
"What a waste of time," Daphne scoffed. She walked up to the door and reached into her pocket—only to freeze when she remembered that she no longer had a wand. "Will one of you please unlock this door?"
Hermione walked up beside her and—after a moment of awkwardness—tried Alohamora on the door.
It remained locked.
"It must have been charmed to stay locked," the brunet surmised. "I guess you can't cheat your way to the Stone."
"So, which key do we pick?" Daphne asked, looking up.
"It will be old-fashioned, more so than the rest of them, like the door," Hermione guessed.
"The handle on this door is rusty," Daphne noted, "so, it's possible the key is too."
"There!" Harry cried pointing out one key in particular. "The one with the broken wing!" Pulling out his wand, he cried out, "Accio, Key!"
Nothing happened. Hermione was right; they would have to perform the challenge as its creator wished them to.
"Let's get it, then," Daphne decreed, walking towards the brooms. Hermione followed after her.
"Wait," Harry interjected. "This is way, way too easy. There must be something else."
". . . maybe," Hermione agreed.
"The only way we could possibly find out, is if we try," Daphne said, though she was now eyeing the brooms with a touch more suspicion.
"I'll go first, then," Harry said, grabbing a broom before either of his friends could say otherwise.
Instantly, the keys began flying faster, spinning and swarming. Then they dived down and began pestering Harry, jabbing at torso and limbs, flying in his eyes. The only one not present, was the old, rusty key they needed.
The girls tried to help Harry swat the metal pests away, while grabbing brooms of their own. They partially succeeded; grabbing the brooms caused some of the keys to stop attacking Harry and begin doing so to the pair of witches. The trio took off, trying to find the key and escape from their tormentors.
"Circle around it!" Harry yelled, his Seeker's eyes finding the target before either of his friends did. The key staid just out of his reach as he flew as fast as the old broom could go, which wasn't very fast.
The girls did as instructed, although the three nearly collided with each other a few times. Up, down, twist and turn, they chased the tiny thing, trying to trap it between themselves. Up, down, twist and turn. Finally, they outsmarted it. Harry and Daphne were on a collision course with the key between them. At the last moment, Daphne veered off slightly to the side, grabbing the key as she did so. Harry and Hermione quickly changed their paths and followed after her. The other keys, meanwhile, left them and began swarming above them. Spinning around madly, as though preparing for a final assault.
The blonde jammed the key in the door and forced it to turn. Together, the trio shoved the door open, then slammed it shut, just as several dozen brass rods buried themselves in the door.
"THUD! THUD! THUD! THUD! THUD! THUD! THUD! THUD! THUD! THUD! THUD!"
"A chess board?" Hermione asked, studding the strange edifice before them. They had entered the room of the third obstacle. Before them was indeed a giant chessboard, polished rows of black and white squares and a number of giant chess pieces. Interestingly, the black side (which was closest to them) was missing a Knight, a Bishop, and a Rook.
"Maybe we should have brought Weasley," Daphne remarked.
"What do we do?" Harry asked. They obviously couldn't walk across the room; the white pieces totally blocked their way.
"I think we have to play as the missing pieces," Hermione said.
"But do we need to win or just maneuver ourselves across the room? Daphne asked.
"We'll have to try either way," Harry said. Looking at the board, he sighed. "What pieces do you guys want?"
"I'll take the Knight," Daphne said, I've got the most experience." Shooting a glance at Hermione, she said, "You take the Queen-side Castle, Hermione."
Harry's heart almost stopped at the sight of Hermione's downcast face. The Knight and the Bishop were both on the King's side; Daphne had positioned Hermione as far from them—herself in particular—as she could.
He opened his mouth to say something, but both girls were walking off in opposite directions. Sighing again, he took up the Bishop's position next to Daphne. One of the White Pawns moved forward. The game was on.
Daphne scanned the board, looking for the proper move to make. At last, she opened her mouth to give an order, but Hermione spoke first. "Daphne?" The Gryffindor wilted under the Slytherin's gaze, but she pressed on. "You don't think this will be like . . . real Wizards' Chess, do you?"
Daphne didn't respond. She and Harry shared a look, then she shouted an order. "Pawn to E3!" One of the Black Pawns moved forward until it was diagonally across from its White counterpart. Immediately, the White one drew its two swords and swung with all its might into the Black one.
The trio stared at the pile of rubble for a moment in utter, shocked silence. ". . . Yes, Hermione," Daphne replied. "I think this will be exactly like real Wizards' Chess."
The game ran. No one could tell for how long; they were all too busy trying to stay alive. It soon became apparent that the White pieces were not "programmed" to win, but to target whomever was playing as the Black ones. Time and time again, Daphne found herself sacrificing advantageous moves to protect herself and the others. Still, they made progress. They lost most of their pieces, but so did White. Eventually, the Slytherin witch had forced the White pieces to clear a path that would let Harry perform a checkmate on his next move. However, Daphne's unorthodox play style had backfired horribly.
She realized this when the White Queen moved and blocked Harry's chance. The blond swallowed, examining the board. It was still possible to win; if a piece were to check the King from a position within the Queen's range of attack, they would force it to move and let Harry complete the checkmate. Unfortunately, there was only two pieces able to do so: her or Hermione.
Daphne took a breath. It's all right, she told herself. You can do this. You need to do this.
The strangest thing was, despite how angry she was at Hermione—and she was angry—she didn't want to sacrifice her. Some part of her, buried deep within her heart still wanted the Gryffindor witch to become a part of their family. In spite of her betrayal, Daphne—"
The Slytheirn's eyes flew open, and her jaw dropped. Hermione was walking next to her, on a course to check the King. Her hand shot out like a viper, trapping the Gryffindor.
"Hermione," Daphne breathed. "What . . . ? Why?"
Hermione turned around, and Daphne's heart broke at the sight of her teary eyes. ". . . Because you're my friend, Daphne . . ." Then, she pulled her hand free and completed her move. ". . . check . . ."
The Queen made its counter-move, gliding towards Hermione on its stone base. It made a sound like a growl, like a tiger anticipating a meal. When it was directly in front of her, it swung its scepter like a baseball bat into the girl's side, sending Hermione flying off the board and into the darkness.
Author's Note: Aaaaaaaannnnnnd, Cliffhanger! How many of you think Hermione's unredeemable now?
Sorry I had to make Daphne such a jerk, but she was hurting, a lot more than Harry was. Maybe next chapter, she'll be able to make up for it. Maybe.
Also, you may have noticed I veered closer to the movie than the book. Well, the movie did a better job of making the challenges look dangerous than the book did, so I went with their version. Also, making Devil's Snare vulnerable to light makes sense from a biology perspective: It thrives in a very dim place away from the Sun, so naturally, bright light would be bad for it.
Lumos Solis translates as "Light of the Sun."