"We need to keep an eye on him, make sure he doesn't go anywhere near the trapdoor!" said Harry. He was pacing.
"Wait, what about Quirrel? Doesn't he have his obstacle too? Professor Snape won't go in unprepared after Halloween." I reasoned.
Apparently, I missed something, because the Trio's eyes met in a weary, shared glance. I could put two and two together.
We decided to send Hermione to wait outside the teacher's lounge, while Harry and Ron tried to pry more information from Hagrid and Quirrel. Fearing an argument between Hermione and myself, Ron suggested that I "look around the library for... something", which I took as an invitation to bugger off and do my own thing.
Needless to say, I did not leave without a dramatic "Fine!" and a stomp.
What I did end up doing was walking to my dorm to take the Invisibility Cloak, so that we could use it if needed. Rushing out of the dungeons, I ended up crashing rather horribly into Snape. His smug expression was quickly clouded by anger, frustration and annoyance, as we crashed to the cold, hard tiles. He must have escaped Hermione.
Oops. Did I just say that out loud?
"One would assume a child your age to know simple manners, to apologise for this. However, yes. I did 'escape' your friend. "
"We're not friends!" I snarled. Nina, you're digging a mighty deep hole for yourself there. Why not tell him everything just to reach the very bottom? I thought to myself.
"I mean, sorry for running into you, professor."
He disappeared into his office before I managed to stumble through the words.
Forgetting all about the Stone, my brain decided it wanted to spend some time with Altair and Hedwig. These two seemed to be rather close friends, my owl's aggression cooled with Hedwig's calm wisdom, her boredom non-existent while in Altair's presence.
He was perched on a ledge some dozen metres high, surrounded by a multitude of tawny school owls that seemed to be napping. The moment I stumbled through the door, mind you, almost having not tripped up the little step, as usual, he spotted me, his yellow eyes focusing lazily.
If Altair was a man, not an owl, I'd bet that I'd've loved him just as much but in a way different to now. He was perfect: quiet, clever, prideful, strong and once attached, extremely loyal.
Alas, an owl stayed an owl. An hour or so passed when I started dozing off. Don't blame me! You would be sleepy too, surrounded by fluff and warmth of thousands of feathered owls, especially if your normal sleeping time was sacrificed to protecting a magical stone.
Even years after this day I could remember the dream I had in the dusty owlery, as clear as day and more vivid in detail than reality.
There was something sticky under me. Sticky like tree sap or the slime from the vines we use in potions. I felt disoriented, as if I had been falling mere seconds before.
Slowly, more and more details begun to settle and fill my vision with greens and a brick wall and near total darkness.
Casting 'lumos' awarded me with, although more painful, thankfully less sticky landing.
The next thing I saw was black flames that were cold, feeling like a dry ice going through me: all the chill, none of the wetness.
Immediately after the line of fire ended, a long flight of stone stairs began. Naturally I fell down them, cursing my luck and making too much noise. I was going to be seen!
My dream self must have known what, or rather who was down there. What sort of person it was. I am sure she had no idea what would happen when she saw him. And I am fairly certain Dream Nina had no clue about the consequences of this day. What fate will bring because of their actions.
As I eventually ceased rolling down the staircase, covered in bruises that only whispered of the injury, the pain blocked by some unseen power, I looked around.
A wide corridor, bright with the light stone and glistening spider webs awaited me. The dust on the floor was disturbed by a man's footprints, leaving a trail to an octagonal chamber.
A dark figure stood by the Mirror of Erised, tall and lean, slightly crouched. I kicked a stone while stepping backward. Quack.
The figure turned slowly, a pale face coming into view, a hand gripping a wand showed itself.
Before the spell hit me, I saw the face. It was-
My awakening disturbed the birds, causing them to wake, fly about in fear and snap their beaks at me.
I took a few minutes to calm down, petting Altair, who let me, probably sensing I needed that.
Sometime later, once I glanced at the cloth I held in my hand, remembering my role tonight.
"Nina, you idiot" said Altair's accusatory look. Once again, man of my dreams. He could tell what I thought instantly.
Instinctively, I knew it was moments before curfew. I ran to the Gryffindor tower, where the Golden Trio waited anxiously for the cloak.
"Finally! I thought you'd never come. Where were you?" shouted Ron.
"Sorry, I was held up. I got the Invisibility Cloak, can't believe I still had it, since Norbert. "
Harry and Hermione winced, remembering both the lost points and detention. Malfoy told me what happened in the Forbidden Forest; about the unicorn, a dark figure - 'Quirrel' my mind filled in - and the centaur. I thanked the goddess Duck for missing it.
"Are you sure you don't want to go with us?" Asked Harry, unable to understand how cowardly I truly was. Now that I had that nightmare, I was definitely NOT going.
"Thanks, I'll pass. Just... don't be sure it's Professor Snape."
"Why? Do you know something, Nina?" butted in Hermione.
"I have no proof, but I saw professor Snape marking a big pile of work. Looks like a night's worth of material." was my weak defence.
Why can I not think of a good lie?
"It's just a cover. I knew you were silly, but not that you're stupid!" shouted Harry.
The whole common room grew silent. More so than usually in my presence.
I could feel a prickle in my eye, making them moist, ready to cry.
Before any tears could be shed, I decided to act, to save my face. I was a Slytherin, after all.
"Alright, Potter. Have it your way!" my snarl made Ronald twitch. Good, I thought. Now he pays for not defending me. He'd be a useless older brother.
The portrait hole slammed shut behind me.
Great, Nina. You've gotten into a fight with the only owner of an Invisibility Cloak, after curfew and on the other side of the school to your common room. Aren't you a genius?
I moved between the secret passages that were discovered by me and the first year Slytherins. Especially Blaise, he was always the adventurer.
Footsteps. I could hear footsteps.
Freezing in place, I kept flat on the wall, eyes darting in the direction of the sound. From what I learned in a survival camp, the person had a wide stride and was probably a male teacher. I was in trouble.
It turned out to be Quirrel. My gasp of surprise was drowned out by his clicking shoes, as he turned the corner, dim light making his thin, drawn out face look even more creepy and lifeless as usual.
I could imagine him spotting me. He would turn, an evil smile twisting onto his face and his arm grabbing me.
But that didn't happen. He was too lost in his goal, he wasn't patrolling for naughty students.
Looking back, I know not what came over me. What on earth possessed me to follow that madman. Or should I say men.
Keeping a good dozen metres or so behind him and always on a lookout for possible hiding places, were he to look back, I continued after Quirrel.
Once we reached the third floor corridor, he began casting a spell that produced some sophisticated music. While Fluffy settled to sleep, the professor snuck inside the trapdoor and disappeared. The giant Cerberus had short, rough fur and impressive teeth. It also drooled and snored when asleep.
I debated with myself for a good quarter of an hour, moving slowly between Fluffy and the door.
Really, the clever choice of action would be to leave now and not speak of it again, but I generally made stupid choices.
So down I went and with me came the weird feeling of déjà vu.
I landed on slimy vines, not unlike the very ones I dreamt of earlier in the day. This really reminded me of Alice in Wonderland, only there was a creepy teacher instead of the rabbit, sticky plants and a three-headed dog. And my name really could never be Alice.
So, all in all, it wasn't like Alice in Wonderland at all.
As many things seemed very similar to my dream, I decided to follow what I remembered my dream self did.
Soon, I was on the hard ground, rubbing the limbs bruised in the process. This time, it did hurt.
I walked on, surprised to hear a flutter of wings.
The next chamber was filled with birds, silvery, sparkling birds, that clanged and twanged when they flew into each other.
Wait a moment.
Keys. Keys on wings. Big ones, small ones. All with wings.
Bird keys, beys..? No, kirds!
I tried a door, but it was locked. None of the opening spells I knew and even some experimental ones worked. This wasn't in the dream.
The dots slowly connected in my brain. Kirds, broomsticks, locked door. I had to catch a matching kird.
Fetching the broom, I tried to formulate a good plan of catching a flying key and came short.
I could just fly out of here and get Snape to deal with a rouge teacher.
The broom took me up, through the weed floor, but I hesitated to open the trapdoor. The music from before could not be heard and the distinct snoring also disappeared.
Even ignoring that, when I began lifting the wooden clap, it wouldn't budge. The Cerberus must've sat on it.
Back to the kirds it was.
I flew up to the flock, looking for any one standing out from the rest.
Suddenly, every single kird attacked me, forming a clanking cloud around, the sounds of them colliding flat and not musical at all. I was getting a headache.
Then, completely unprovoked, a kird flew right at my face. Catching it, I flew straight down to the door, jumping off once I was a few feet off the ground. It fit. The lock clicked and an entrance was opened.
When I released it from my shaking hand, its wing was bent. It wouldn't straighten at all, so I let the kird fly off awkwardly, feeling so bad for damaging the poor thing.
I barely took a few steps before witnessing a battlefield. Smoke and dust clouded in the air, particles making it hard to breathe, bits and pieces of chess figures lined the walls, while others remained stationery, frozen in place.
I saw a figure moving through the dust.
Quirrel had surely heard my surprised gasp, before I too, froze in place.
When I heard the door close behind him, I followed. Who knew when the magic chess pieces would begin to piece themselves together and once again block the way?
The sound of something heavy falling on the floor, making the tiles shake had me jump a good foot up into the air. What was behind that door? Only one way to find out.
A troll, who could've been the Halloween troll's twin for all I could tell, had fallen in battle, a huge bruise already rising on his forehead. Quirrell did know something about his subject after all.
I could hear shouts behind me, although they were really muffled. Someone was coming. I would surely get kicked out for being here.
There was a loud squeal. Ron was there!
Should I call them? I thought. My anger for Potter hadn't dissipated in the last hours, nor did feelings of betrayal.
I marched on, ignoring cries of "Here it is!", "To your left!" and "It's got a broken wing, get it!" echoing behind me.
Then came the fire. Once I stepped inside yet another small chamber, the way back and forwards was blocked by magical walls of fire.
An old wooden table, similar to the potions lab ones we use every day, stood near a dusty wall. A multitude of different sized bottles lined up, with a piece of parchment on the side.
Really, if I was doing a challenge, it'd be to herd ducks in a football field-sized room. It's so much more entertaining and difficult. These trials were wimpy.
Except for the chess, those ruled.
The riddle described which bottles not to drink from and the bottle I wanted, needed to get through the fire.
It ended up being an almost empty glass bottle. Knowing I had to leave some for the Trio, I only drank a few drops, feeling the icy liquid in my stomach.
Once again, I was disturbed by the cold black flames. And fell down the stairs. Really, I should've known to avoid it, but my shoe buckle caught onto a broken tile that stood up at an angle. This time, it did hurt.
I knew I shouldn't walk into the storm. Should avoid the professor and his actions; frankly, the old guy's stone was none of my business and it's not like I've been employed to guard it.
Honestly, it was either a madman or a heroic idiot I was going to walk to, and no way out.
The small heels of my school shoes clicked when I walked, echoing in the long, bright corridor. The dulled sounds of a pair of shoes from behind drove me on.
The octagonal chamber appeared faster than I wanted it to. My hands shook as I pried open the heavy door and my knees felt like they wouldn't hold me up for long.
A shadowed figure - Quirrell - once again stood by the pristine mirror, thankfully unaware of my presence. I watched my steps, searching the floor before taking a step. I moved behind a pillar, back close to a brick wall.
Quirrell looked angry, not that it wasn't obvious from his mutterings and pacing, or how he had to stop himself from breaking the mirror. Thanks to Harry's loud pacing, my erratic heartbeat was unheard.
Potter tried to come in quietly, but it was a futile effort after he announced his arrival way before. I guess he was as clumsy as I was after all.
"You!" gasped Harry, as he saw the truth. Told him.
Quirrell smiled. His face twisted, identical to those creepy Venetian masks.
"Me," he said calmly. "I wondered whether I'd be meeting you here, Potter."
"But I thought - Snape -"
"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 p-p-professor Q-quad?"
Harry's face showed his confusion.
"But Snape tried to kill me!"
"No, no, no. I tried to kill you. Your friend Miss Edwards somehow broke my eye contact with 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."
"Snape was trying to save me?"
"Of course," said Quirrell coolly.
The two were so into their conversation, my short gasps of disbelief at every one of Quirrell's confessions went unnoticed.
"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 from 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 Harry. I was so glad I managed to hide.
"You're too nosy to live, Potter.
Scurrying around the school on Halloween like that, for all I knew you'd seen me coming to look at what was guarding the Stone."
So he was the one who let the troll in!
"You 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 around 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, Potter. I need to examine this interesting mirror. It is the key to finding the Stone," Quirrell murmured, 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...I see the Stone... I'm presenting it to my master... but where is it?" Harry struggled against the ropes binding him, but they didn't give. I was sure he noticed me, his eyes became so wide they seemed to take up a half of his face.
"But Snape always seemed to hate me so much." He continued, obviously trying to distract the professor.
"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..."
A spasm of fear flitted across Quirrell's face. Oh oh. There was something big at play here. Stakes rose.
"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?" Harry gasped.
As did I. Good thing we did it simultaneously and the sound echoed.
"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..."
Harry was realising everything. The new knowledge now made sense to me too. How could we get the stone before Quirrell, though?
Potter's expression was once again set on heroic idiot mode. He tried to edge to the left, but he 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!"
A voice answered; it seemed to come from Quirrell himself.
"Use the boy... Use the boy..."
Quirrell rounded on Harry.
"Yes - Potter - come here."
"Come here," Quirrell repeated. "Look in the mirror and tell me what you see."
Harry walked toward him. I waited a few tense moments before daring to look again.
"Well?" said Quirrell impatiently. "What do you see?"
"I see myself shaking hands with Dumbledore," he lied. "I - I've won the house cup for Gryffindor."
As always, Potter's head tilted and his right hand clasped his thigh. Way to lie genius, I thought.
Quirrell cursed again. He bought it.
"Get out of the way," he said.
Harry hadn't walked five paces before a high voice spoke again, though Quirrell wasn't moving his lips.
"He lies... He lies..."
NO! Shouted my mind, when my mouth couldn't. My trembling hands were frozen, clasped over my lips.
"Potter, come back here!" Quirrell shouted. "Tell me the truth! What did you just see?"
Then the other voice began. I had a feeling it came from the turban.
"Let me speak to him... face-to-face..."
"Master, you are not strong enough!"
"I have strength enough... for this..."
Harry was rooted to the spot. I couldn't move a muscle. Petrified, we watched as Quirrell reached up and began to unwrap his turban. He turned slowly on the spot.
This time, I did gasp out loud. A face was on the back of Quirrell's head! It was chalk white with glaring red eyes and slits for nostrils, like a snake.
"Harry Potter..." it whispered. "See what I have become?
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... you 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. Harry suddenly stumbled backward. his eyes met mine.
"Don't be a fool," snarled the face. "Better save your own life and join me... or you'll meet the same end as your parents... They died begging me for mercy..."
"LIAR!" Harry shouted suddenly. My mind-shout joined his as I creeped further out of the shadows to have a better view and a good attack angle. My head swam with hexes.
"So we have a spectator." The voice turned to me. Suddenly, Quirrell twirled back and casted the same binding spell he used on Harry before.
"Nina!" Harry screamed, probably imagining the worst before he realised the nature of the spell.
Quirrell began walking backward at him, so that Voldemort could still see him. The evil face was now smiling.
"How touching..." it hissed. "I always value bravery... Yes, boy, your 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. Your little friend here won't want to go under yet. Give me the stone, or she dies."
Harry looked at me. He would never give that stone, not with the life Voldemort forced upon him. I shook my head slowly, then got ready to stumble over before a killing curse flew my way.
Harry sprang toward the flame door, but Voldemort screamed "SEIZE HIM!" and the next second, Harry felt Quirrell's hand close on his wrist. They had forgotten all about me in their fight for the stone. I squiggled about, trying to fish out my wand.
Quirrell was hunched in pain, looking at his fingers - they were blistering at lightning pace.
"Seize him! SEIZE HIM!" shrieked Voldemort again, and Quirrell lunged, knocking Harry clean off his feet' landing on top of him, both hands around Harry's neck. Every second made Quirrell's howling in agony louder and more painful.
"Master, I cannot hold him - my hands - my hands!"
And Quirrell, though pinning Harry to the ground with his knees, let go of his neck and stared, bewildered, at his own palms -they looked burned, raw, red, and shiny.
"Then kill him, fool, and be done!" screeched Voldemort.
But before he could raise his wand, I blasted it out of his hands with a second year spell.
"Aha!" was my clever hero catch phrase. Not very creative. It should've been something more edgy. With ducklings.
Quirrell rolled off him, his face blistering, too, as Harry grabbed his face. Quirrell couldn't touch his bare skin, not without suffering terrible
Harry jumped to his feet, caught Quirrell by the arm, and hung on as
tight as he could. Quirrell screamed and tried to throw Harry off. I could hear Quirrell's terrible shrieks and Voldemort's yells of, "KILL HIM! KILL HIM!"
Suddenly, everything was silent. The ropes around my body were undone. I was the only thing moving, as Harry fell backward and was now passed out, a blackened corpse on him. With the few moments I had before someone was bound to come, I spent trying to pry the form off Potter's torso and to settle him.
A pearly-white, screeching ghost of the snakeish face shot out of the corpse, through me and then disappeared somewhere near the ceiling of the chamber.
I might or might not have fainted.
Oops, sorry for leaving it so long before an update. I didn't want to chop it down, so here you are: a chubby chapter about thrice the usual length.
Hope you enjoyed reading and encourage commenting.