Chapter 10: Year's End

They reached the end of the passageway and saw before them a brilliantly lit chamber, its ceiling arching high above them. It was full of small, jewel-bright birds, fluttering and tumbling all around the room. On the opposite side of the chamber was a heavy wooden door.

"Do you think they'll attack us if we cross the room?" said Ron.

"Probably," said Harry, "They don't look very vicious, but I suppose if they all swooped down at once… well, there's no other choice… I'll run."

He took a deep breath, covered his face with his arms, and sprinted across the room. He expected to feel sharp beaks and claws tearing at him any second, but nothing happened. He reached the door untouched. He pulled the handle, but it was locked.

The other two followed him. They tugged and heaved at the door, but it wouldn't budge, not even when Hermione tried her Alohomora charm.

"Now what?" said Ron.

"These birds… they can't be here just for decoration," said Hermione.

They watched the birds soaring overhead, glittering… glittering?

"They're not birds!" Harry said suddenly, "They're keys! Winged keys… look carefully. So that must mean…" He looked around the chamber while the other two squinted up at the flock of keys, "… yes… look! Broomsticks! We've got to catch the key to the door!"

"But there are hundreds of them!"

Ron examined the lock on the door.

"We're looking for a big, old-fashioned one… probably silver, like the handle."

They each seized a broomstick and kicked off into the air, soaring into the midst of the cloud of keys. They grabbed and snatched, but the bewitched keys darted and dived so quickly it was almost impossible to catch one.

Not for nothing, though, was Harry the youngest Seeker in a century. He had a knack for spotting things other people didn't. After a minute's weaving about through the whirl of rainbow feathers, he noticed a large silver key that had a bent wing, as if it had already been caught and stuffed roughly into the keyhole.

"That one!" he called to the others, "That big one… there… no, there… with bright blue wings… the feathers are all crumpled on one side."

Ron went speeding in the direction that Harry was pointing, crashed into the ceiling, and nearly fell off his broom.

"We've got to close in on it!" Harry called, not taking his eyes off the key with the damaged wing, "Ron, you come at it from above… Hermione, stay below and stop it from going down and I'll try and catch it. Right, NOW!"

Ron dived, Hermione rocketed upward, the key dodged them both, and Harry streaked after it; it sped toward the wall, Harry leaned forward and with a nasty, crunching noise, pinned it against the stone with one hand. Ron and Hermione's cheers echoed around the high chamber.

They landed quickly, and Harry ran to the door, the key struggling in his hand. He rammed it into the lock and turned… it worked. The moment the lock had clicked open, the key took flight again, looking very battered now that it had been caught twice.

"Ready?" Harry asked the other two, his hand on the door handle. They nodded. He pulled the door open.

Meanwhile, with John…

John Constantine walked slowly without even paying attention as he thought over his confrontation with his sister. He didn't even notice Anne Marie walking around the corner, so he bumped into her.

"Ow," Anne said as she stumbled back holding her nose while John did the same, "Watch where you're going?"

"Sorry," John said slowly, "I just saw my sister…"

"You did?" Anne asked, "That's good, isn't it?"

"No," John said slowly still, "she tried to get me to join her in taking over the world…"

"You said no," Anne asked concerned, "right?"

"Yes," John said slowly again, "I rejected her offer. I was tempted though."

"She's your sister," Anne said consolingly, "Of course you were, but the important thing is that you didn't give in. Now, where is the Owlery? I've never actually been there."

"Right," John said shaking the feelings he had away, "Follow me."

He then led them down a corridor.

Back with Harry…

The next chamber was so dark they couldn't see anything at all. But as they stepped into it, light suddenly flooded the room to reveal an astonishing sight.

They were standing on the edge of a huge chessboard, behind the black chessmen, which were all taller than they were and carved from what looked like black stone. Facing them, way across the chamber, were the white pieces. Harry, Ron and Hermione shivered slightly… the towering white chessmen had no faces.

"Now what do we do?" Harry whispered.

"It's obvious, isn't it?" said Ron, "We've got to play our way across the room."

Behind the white pieces they could see another door.

"How?" said Hermione nervously.

"I think," said Ron, "we're going to have to be chessmen."

He walked up to a black knight and put his hand out to touch the knight's horse. At once, the stone sprang to life. The horse pawed the ground and the knight turned his helmeted head to look down at Ron.

"Do we… er… have to join you to get across?" The black knight
nodded. Ron turned to the other two.

"This needs thinking about," he said, "I suppose we've got to take the place of three of the black pieces…"

Harry and Hermione stayed quiet, watching Ron think. Finally he said, "Now, don't be offended or anything, but neither of you are that good at chess-"

"We're not offended," said Harry quickly, "Just tell us what to do."

"Well, Harry, you take the place of that bishop, and Hermione, you stand next to him instead of that castle."

"What about you?"

"I'm going to be a knight," said Ron.

The chessmen seemed to have been listening, because at these words a knight, a bishop, and a castle turned their backs on the white pieces and walked off the board, leaving three empty squares that Harry, Ron, and Hermione took.

"White always plays first in chess," said Ron, peering across the board, "Yes… look…"

A white pawn had moved forward two squares.

Ron started to direct the black pieces. They moved silently wherever he sent them. Harry's knees were trembling. What if they lost?

"Harry… move diagonally four squares to the right."

Their first real shock came when their other knight was taken. The white queen smashed him to the floor and dragged him off the board, where he lay quite still, facedown.

"Had to let that happen," said Ron, looking shaken, "Leaves you free to take that bishop, Hermione, go on."

Every time one of their men was lost, the white pieces showed no mercy. Soon there was a huddle of limp black players slumped along the wall. Twice, Ron only just noticed in time that Harry and Hermione were in danger. He himself darted around the board, taking almost as many white pieces as they had lost black ones.

"We're nearly there," he muttered suddenly, "Let me think let me think…"

The white queen turned her blank face toward him.

"Yes…" said Ron softly, "It's the only way… I've got to be taken."

"NO!" Harry and Hermione shouted.

"That's chess!" snapped Ron, "You've got to make some sacrifices! I take one step forward and she'll take me… that leaves you free to checkmate the king, Harry!"

"But…"

"Do you want to stop Snape or not?"

"Ron…"

"Look, if you don't hurry up, he'll already have the Stone!"

There was no alternative.

"Ready?" Ron called, his face pale but determined, "Here I go… now, don't hang around once you've won."

He stepped forward, and the white queen pounced. She struck Ron hard across the head with her stone arm, and he crashed to the floor, Hermione screamed but stayed on her square, the white queen dragged Ron to one side. He looked as if he'd been knocked out.

Shaking, Harry moved three spaces to the left.

"Checkmate," Harry said.

The white king took off his crown and threw it at Harry's feet. They had won. The chessmen parted and bowed, leaving the door ahead clear. With one last desperate look back at Ron, Harry and Hermione charged through the door and up the next passageway.

"What if he's…?"

"He'll be all right," said Harry, trying to convince himself, "What do you reckon's next?"

"We've had Sprout's, that was the Devil's Snare; Flitwick must've put charms on the keys; McGonagall transfigured the chessmen to make them alive; that leaves Quirrell's spell, and Snape's."

They had reached another door.

"Alright?" Harry whispered.

"Go on."

Harry pushed it open.

A disgusting smell filled their nostrils, making both of them pull their robes up over their noses. Eyes watering, they saw, flat on the floor in front of them, a troll even larger than the one they had tackled, out cold with a bloody lump on its head.

"I'm glad we didn't have to fight that one," Harry whispered as they stepped carefully over one of its massive legs, "Come on, I can't breathe."

He pulled open the next door, both of them hardly daring to look at what came next, but there was nothing very frightening in here, just a table with seven differently shaped bottles standing on it in a line.

"Snape's," said Harry, "What do we have to do?"

They stepped over the threshold, and immediately a fire sprang up behind them in the doorway. It wasn't ordinary fire either; it was purple. At the same instant, black flames shot up in the doorway leading onward. They were trapped.

"Look!" Hermione seized a roll of paper lying next to the bottles. Harry looked over her shoulder to read it:

Danger lies before you,

while safety lies behind,

Two of us will help you,

which ever 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 bidden in line.

Choose, unless you wish to stay here forevermore,

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 onward, 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.

Hermione let out a great sigh and Harry, amazed, saw that she was smiling, the very last thing he felt like doing.

"Brilliant," said Hermione, "This isn't magic… it's logic… a puzzle. A lot of the greatest wizards haven't got an ounce of logic, they'd be stuck in here forever."

"But so will we, won't we?"

"Of course not," said Hermione, "Everything we need is here on this paper. Seven bottles: three are poison; two are wine; one will get us safely through the black fire, and one will get us back through the purple."

"But how do we know which to drink?"

"Give me a minute."

Hermione read the paper several times. Then she walked up and down the line of bottles, muttering to herself and pointing at them. At last, she clapped her hands.

"Got it," she said, "The smallest bottle will get us through the black fire… toward the Stone."

Harry looked at the tiny bottle.

"There's only enough there for one of us," he said, "That's hardly one swallow."

They looked at each other.

"Which one will get you back through the purple flames?"

Hermione pointed at a rounded bottle at the right end of the line.

"You drink that," said Harry.

"No, listen," Harry said when Hermione began to protest, "get back and get Ron. Grab brooms from the flying- key room, they'll get you out of the trapdoor and past Fluffy… go straight to the owlery and send Hedwig to Dumbledore, we need him. I might be able to hold Snape off for a while, but I'm no match for him, really."

"I thought John and Anne were going to do that," Hermione frowned.

"They might've gotten caught by filch," reasoned Harry, "Now go."

"But Harry… what if You-Know-Who's with him?"

"Well… I was lucky once, wasn't I?" said Harry, pointing at his scar, "I might get lucky again."

Hermione's lip trembled, and she suddenly dashed at Harry and threw her arms around him.

"Hermione!"

"Harry… you're a great wizard, you know."

"I'm not as good as you," said Harry, very embarrassed, as she let go of him.

"Me!" said Hermione, "Books! And cleverness! There are more important things… friendship and bravery and… oh Harry… be careful!"

"You drink first," said Harry, "You are sure which is which, aren't you?"

"Positive," said Hermione. She took a long drink from the round bottle at the end, and shuddered.

"It's not poison?" said Harry anxiously.

"No… but it's like ice."

"Quick, go, before it wears off."

"Good luck… take care."

"GO!"

Hermione turned and walked straight through the purple fire.

With John…

John and Anne had gone to the owlery and were now on their way back to the 3rd corridor. Thankfully, John's enchanted necklaces still kept them unnoticeable so they were ignored by Filch who had just picked up Mrs. Norris who was still rubbing herself in the catnip. When they got to the door to the 3rd corridor, they just stood there and waited for either the trio to come up or for Dumbledore to show up. However, not a second later Dumbledore appeared and immediately saw them.

"Interesting enchantment John," Dumbledore said, "However, to be truly unnoticeable you need to update the technique."

"We had just sent a-" Anne began.

"An owl to me?" Dumbldore finished, "Yes, I know."

"Ah," Anne said simply.

"Harry's gone after him," Dumbledore asked, "hasn't he?"

"Aye," John confirmed.

Dumbledore then hurried into the 3rd floor corridor.

"Harry's in good hands," John said as he stood up straight, "come on."

"You called him Harry," Anne said as she did the same.

"Aye," John said, "But don't tell him I did."

They had just taken a few steps when Ron and Hermione rushed out of the 3rd floor corridor.

"John!" Hermione panted, "Anne! Dumbledore just-"

"We know," John said, "Dumbledore's on his way to Potter."

"What happened to you guys?" Anne asked.

"Devil's snare," Ron said quickly, "flying keys, and a gigantic chessboard."

"Also an unconscious troll," Hermione added, "and a room with potions and flames on either side. There was only enough potion for Harry to go onward alone."

"Well then," John said, "I'd say its best that we get Ron to the hospital wing, and then get to our common rooms before we get into any further trouble. Anne and I will accompany you under the invisibility cloak, and we'll head to our common room via floo powder. I don't feel like answering any questions from a bloody raven headed knocker tonight."

"Fair enough," Hermione said, "But I'd rather we wait outside the door for Harry and Dumbledore. I don't feel right leaving them."

"Fine," John muttered as he rolled his eyes, "Let's just sleep out on the cold stone, why don't we."

They then sat against the wall on either side of the door and Ron conked out. Fortunately, they were smart enough to do so in a way that they wouldn't be seen by anyone they don't want to see them.

An hour later…

They had all been sitting outside the door for half an hour now. Ron was snoring softly but everyone else sat alert, too worried to do anything otherwise. Suddenly, the door banged open and Dumbledore appeared, carrying and unconscious Harry in his arms. They heard a faint sound of a harp playing before the door was slammed shut again. Hermione and Anne jumped up, but Dumbledore whooshed past them, his silver hair whipping behind him. John then shook Ron awake.

"Ron," John said, "Let's go. Dumbledore got Potter out of that place."

"Where do you think he's taking him?" Hermione asked.

"The hospital wing," John said while Ron slowly stood up, "if his appearance is anything to go by, that is."

They slowly headed their way down to the hall as they yawned. The windows showed daylight shining, but nobody cared enough to look at it. They just spent their time stumbling to the hospital wing, and just as they got there Dumbledore exited the room closing the door behind him. He had a grim expression.

"Sir?" Ron asked in concern.

"Harry is in a bad condition," Dumbledore said, "You may visit him in a few hours if you wish. Look at you all."

He then turned his attention entirely on John and Anne.

"I give you two permission to sleep Gryffindor Tower tonight. It's closer. You've all been very brave, but now you need some rest."

"What about Ron?" John asked tiredly.

"He looks fine to me," Dumbledore said, "A few scrapes and bruises, but nothing fatal. He'll be okay to go a night without going to the hospital wing. Besides, Madam Pomfrey has her hands full with Harry right now."

"Yes, sir," they all mumbled. Dumbledore then smiled and rushed off. All of them, would have demanded to know what was going on with Harry, but they were too tired to do so. In which case, they all trudged up to the Gryffindor common room and as soon as they were inside they said their good nights. Hermione went to the girl's dorm, Ron went up to the boys, but both John and Anne just collapsed on one of the couches next to each other and slept.

They slept for as long as they could, but soon it became unbearable to ignore the noise of the Gryffindors as they moved about in the common room. As John and Anne woke up, they both realized that they were sleeping right next to each other, and that Anne had her head rested on John's chest. Their faces reddened as they got up and straightened their clothes. They quickly followed the Gryffindors down to breakfast, so they wouldn't have time to even talk about how they woke up. When they arrived, they automatically sat down at the Gryffindor table without even thinking. They also happened to be sitting next to Ron and Chas and across from Hermione.

"Is it true you took on McGonagall's gigantic chess set?" asked Fred or George as he sat down next to Ron.

"What?" Ron coughed, "I don't know what you're talking about."

"Come on," the Weasley twin said, "no use hiding it. The whole school knows by now."

"Oh," Ron said.

"Apparently you were really good," the Weasley twin added making Ron grow red a bit at the praise.

"So," said the other twin as he sat down, "what happened to Harry?"

"I dunno," Ron said.

"We're going down to visit him later," Hermione put in.

Two days later…

Harry slowly woke up, and as he did so he noticed Albus Dumbledore staring at him from a chair located next to the hospital bed he lay on.

"Good afternoon, Harry," said Dumbledore. Harry stared at him. Then he remembered: "Sir! The Stone! It was Quirrell! He's got the Stone! Sir, quick-"

"Calm yourself, dear boy, you are a little behind the times," said Dumbledore, "Quirrell does not have the Stone."

"Then who does? Sir, I-"

"Harry, please relax, or Madam Pomfrey will have me thrown out."

Harry swallowed and looked around him. He realized he must be in the hospital wing. He was lying in a bed with white linen sheets, and next to him was a table piled high with what looked like half the candy shop.

"Tokens from your friends and admirers," said Dumbledore, beaming, "What happened down in the dungeons between you and Professor Quirrell is a complete secret, so, naturally, the whole school knows. I believe your friends Misters Fred and George Weasley were responsible for trying to send you a toilet seat. No doubt they thought it would amuse you. Madam Pomfrey, however, felt it might not be very hygienic, and confiscated it. John Constantine even dropped this off."

Dumbledore then held up a lighter, and Harry recognized it immediately. It was John's lucky lighter. He was confused as to why john would give him that.

"Apparently, this is your friend John Constantine's lucky charm. He clearly figured you'd need all the luck in the world," Dumbledore said, "Especially now that Voldemort's spirit is still out there."

"Why do you have it, sir?" Harry asked.

"John gave it to me knowing Madam Pomfrey would confiscate it," Albus explained as he gave it to Harry.

"How long have I been in here?"

"Three days. Mr. Ronald Weasley and Miss Granger will be most relieved you have come round, they have been extremely worried."

"But sir, the Stone-"

I see you are not to be distracted. Very well, the Stone. Professor Quirrell did not manage to take it from you. I arrived in time to prevent that, although you were doing very well on your own, I must say.

"You got there? You got Hermione's owl?"

"Actually," Albus said, "She never sent it. No sooner had I reached London than it became clear to me that the place I should be was the one I had just left. I arrived just in time to pull Quirrell off you."

"It was you."

"I feared I might be too late."

"You nearly were, I couldn't have kept him off the Stone much longer…"

"Not the Stone, boy, you… the effort involved nearly killed you. For one terrible moment there, I was afraid it had. As for the Stone, it has been encased in a special box and sent to John's secret society."

"You know about that?" Harry asked.

"Oh yes," Albus nodded.

"John had to explain it to me before I gave him the stone," Albus continued.

"But your friend… Nicolas Flamel…" Harry said.

"Oh, you know about Nicolas?" said Dumbledore, sounding quite delighted, "You did do the thing properly, didn't you? Well, Nicolas and I have had a little chat, and agreed it's all for the best."

"But that means he and his wife will die, won't they?"

"They have enough Elixir stored to set their affairs in order and then, yes, they will die."

Dumbledore smiled at the look of amazement on Harry's face.

"To one as young as you, I'm sure it seems incredible, but to Nicolas and Perenelle, it really is like going to bed after a very, very long day. After all, to the well-organized mind, death is but the next great adventure. You know, the Stone was really not such a wonderful thing. As much money and life as you could want! The two things most human beings would choose above all… the trouble is, humans do have a knack of choosing precisely those things that are worst for them." Harry lay there, lost for words. Dumbledore hummed a little and smiled at the ceiling.

"Sir?" said Harry, "I've been thinking… sir… even if the Stone's gone, Vol-, I mean, You-Know-Who…"

"Call him Voldemort, Harry. Always use the proper name for things. Fear of a name increases fear of the thing itself."

"Yes, sir. Well, Voldemort's going to try other ways of coming back, isn't he?"

"He is still out there somewhere, perhaps looking for another body to share… not being truly alive, he cannot be killed. He left Quirrell to die; he shows just as little mercy to his followers as his enemies. Nevertheless, Harry, while you may only have delayed his return to power, it will merely take someone else who is prepared to fight what seems a losing battle next time… and if he is delayed again, and again, why, he may never return to power."

Harry nodded, but stopped quickly, because it made his head hurt. Then he said, "Sir, there are some other things I'd like to know, if you can tell me... things I want to know the truth about…"

"The truth." Dumbledore sighed, "It is a beautiful and terrible thing, and should therefore be treated with great caution. However, I shall answer your questions unless I have a very good reason not to, in which case I beg you'll forgive me. I shall not, of course, lie."

"Well… Voldemort said that he only killed my mother because she tried to stop him from killing me. But why would he want to kill me in the first place?"

Dumbledore sighed very deeply this time.

"Alas, the first thing you ask me, I cannot tell you. Not today. Not now. You will know, one day… put it from your mind for now, Harry. When you are older… I know you hate to hear this… when you are ready, you will know."

And Harry knew it would be no good to argue.

"But why couldn't Quirrell touch me?"

"Your mother died to save you. If there is one thing Voldemort cannot understand, it is love. He didn't realize that love as powerful as your mother's for you leaves its own mark. Not a scar, no visible sign… to have been loved so deeply, even though the person who loved us is gone, will give us some protection forever. It is in your very skin. Quirrell, full of hatred, greed, and ambition, sharing his soul with Voldemort, could not touch you for this reason. It was agony to touch a person marked by something so good."

Dumbledore now became very interested in a bird out on the windowsill, which gave Harry time to dry his eyes on the sheet. When he had found his voice again, Harry said, "And the invisibility cloak, do you know who sent it to me?"

"Ah, your father happened to leave it in my possession, and I thought you might like it," Dumbledore's eyes twinkled, "Useful things… your father used it mainly for sneaking off to the kitchens to steal food when he was here."

"And there's something else…"

"Fire away."

"Quirrell said Snape…"

"Professor Snape, Harry."

"Yes, him… Quirrell said he hates me because he hated my father. Is that true?"

"Well, they did rather detest each other. Not unlike yourself and Mr. Malfoy. And then, your father did something Snape could never forgive."

"What?"

"He saved his life."

"What?"

"Yes…" said Dumbledore dreamily, "Funny, the way people's minds work, isn't it? Professor Snape couldn't bear being in your father's debt… I do believe he worked so hard to protect you this year because he felt that would make him and your father even. Then he could go back to hating your father's memory in peace…"

Harry tried to understand this but it made his head pound, so he stopped.

"And sir, there's one more thing…"

"Just the one?"

"How did I get the Stone out of the mirror?"

"Ah, now, I'm glad you asked me that. It was one of my more brilliant ideas, and between you and me, that's saying something. You see, only one who wanted to find the Stone… find it, but not use it… would be able to get it, otherwise they'd just see themselves making gold or drinking Elixir of Life. My brain surprises even me sometimes… Now, enough questions. I suggest you make a start on these sweets. Ah! Bertie Bott's Every Flavor Beans! I was unfortunate enough in my youth to come across a vomit flavored one, and since then I'm afraid I've rather lost my liking for them… but I think I'll be safe with a nice toffee, don't you?"

He smiled and popped the golden-brown bean into his mouth. Then he choked and said, "Alas! Ear wax!"

Later…

Madam Pomfrey, the nurse, was a nice woman, but very strict.

"Just five minutes," Harry pleaded.

"Absolutely not."

"You let Professor Dumbledore in…"

"Well, of course, that was the headmaster, quite different. You need rest."

"I am resting, look, lying down and everything. Oh, go on, Madam Pomfrey…"

"Oh, very well," she said, "But five minutes only."

And she let Ron and Hermione in.

"Harry!"

Hermione looked ready to fling her arms around him again, but Harry was glad she held herself in as his head was still very sore.

"Oh, Harry, we were sure you were going to… Dumbledore was so worried…"

"The whole school's talking about it," said Ron, "What really happened?"

It was one of those rare occasions when the true story is even more strange and exciting than the wild rumors. Harry told them everything: Quirrell; the mirror; the Stone; and Voldemort. Ron and Hermione were a very good audience; they gasped in all the right places, and when Harry told them what was under Quirrell's turban, Hermione screamed out loud.

"So the Stone's gone?" said Ron finally, "Flamel's just going to die?"

"That's what I said, but Dumbledore thinks that… what was it? … 'to the well-organized mind, death is but the next great adventure."

"I always said he was off his rocker," said Ron, looking quite impressed at how crazy his hero was.

"So what happened to you two?" said Harry.

"Well, I got back all right," said Hermione, "I brought Ron round… that took a while… and we came across John and Anne outside the 3rd floor corridor. They said that they had already contacted Dumbledore, but they met him in the entrance hall not too long after… apparently he already knew… I don't know what he said, but I do know he hurried to your location cause we bumped into him as Ron and I were leaving the Devil's Snare area."

"D'you think he meant you to do it?" said Ron, "Sending you your father's cloak and everything?"

"Well," Hermione exploded, "if he did… I mean to say that's terrible… you could have been killed."

"No, it isn't," said Harry thoughtfully, "He's a funny man, Dumbledore. I think he sort of wanted to give me a chance. I think he knows more or less everything that goes on here, you know. I reckon he had a pretty good idea we were going to try, and instead of stopping us, he just taught us enough to help. I don't think it was an accident he let me find out how the mirror worked. It's almost like he thought I had the right to face Voldemort if I could…"

"Yeah, Dumbledore's off his rocker, all right," said Ron proudly, "Listen, you've got to be up for the end-of-year feast tomorrow. The points are all in and Slytherin won, of course… you missed the last Quidditch match, we were steamrollered by Ravenclaw without you… but the food'll be good."

"Hey," Harry said realizing something, "Where's John?"

At that moment, Madam Pomfrey bustled over.

"You've had nearly fifteen minutes, now OUT," she said firmly.

After a good night's sleep, Harry felt nearly back to normal.

"I want to go to the feast," he told Madam Pomfrey as she straightened his many candy boxes, "I can, can't I?"

"Professor Dumbledore says you are to be allowed to go," she said stiffly, as though in her opinion Professor Dumbledore didn't realize how risky feasts could be, "And you have another visitor."

"Oh, good," said Harry, "Who is it?"

Hagrid sidled through the door as he spoke. As usual when he was indoors, Hagrid looked too big to be allowed. He sat down next to Harry, took one look at him, and burst into tears.

"It's… all… my… ruddy… fault!" he sobbed, his face in his hands, "I told the evil git how ter get past Fluffy! I told him! It was the only thing he didn't know, an' I told him! Yeh could've died! All fer a dragon egg! I'll never drink again! I should be chucked out an' made ter live as a Muggle!"

"Hagrid!" said Harry, shocked to see Hagrid shaking with grief and
remorse, great tears leaking down into his beard, "Hagrid, he'd have
found out somehow, this is Voldemort we're talking about, he'd have
found out even if you hadn't told him."

"Yeh could've died!" sobbed Hagrid, "An' don' say the name!"

"VOLDEMORT!" Harry bellowed, and Hagrid was so shocked, he stopped crying, "I've met him and I'm calling him by his name. Please cheer up, Hagrid, we saved the Stone, it's gone, he can't use it. Have a Chocolate Frog, I've got loads…"

Hagrid wiped his nose on the back of his hand and said, "That reminds me. I've got yeh a present."

"It's not a stoat sandwich, is it?" said Harry anxiously, and at last Hagrid gave a weak chuckle, "Nah. Dumbledore gave me the day off yesterday ter fix it. 'Course, he shoulda sacked me instead… anyway, got yeh this…"

It seemed to be a handsome, leather-covered book. Harry opened it curiously. It was full of wizard photographs. Smiling and waving at him from every page were his mother and father.

"Sent owls off ter all yer parents' old school friends, askin' fer photos... knew yeh didn' have any... d'yeh like it?"

Harry couldn't speak, but Hagrid understood.

Later…

Harry made his way down to the end-of-year feast alone that night. He had been held up by Madam Pomfrey's fussing about, insisting on giving him one last checkup, so the Great Hall was already full. It was decked out in the Slytherin colors of green and silver to celebrate Slytherin's winning the house cup for the seventh year in a row. A huge banner showing the Slytherin serpent covered the wall behind the High Table.

When Harry walked in there was a sudden hush, and then everybody started talking loudly at once. He slipped into a seat between Ron and Hermione at the Gryffindor table and tried to ignore the fact that people were standing up to look at him.

Fortunately, Dumbledore arrived moments later. The babble died away.

"Another year gone!" Dumbledore said cheerfully, "And I must trouble you with an old man's wheezing waffle before we sink our teeth into our delicious feast. What a year it has been! Hopefully your heads are all a little fuller than they were… you have the whole summer ahead to get them nice and empty before next year starts…"

"Now, as I understand it, the house cup here needs awarding, and the points stand thus: In fourth place, Gryffindor, with three hundred and twelve points; in third, Hufflepuff, with three hundred and fifty-two; Ravenclaw has four hundred and twenty-six and Slytherin, four hundred and seventy- two."

A storm of cheering and stamping broke out from the Slytherin table. Harry could see Draco Malfoy banging his goblet on the table. It was a sickening sight.

"Yes, Yes, well done, Slytherin," said Dumbledore, "However, recent events must be taken into account."

The room went very still. The Slytherins' smiles faded a little.

"Ahem," said Dumbledore, "I have a few last-minute points to dish out. Let me see. Yes…"

"First… to Mr. Ronald Weasley…"

Ron went purple in the face; he looked like a radish with a bad sunburn.

"… for the best-played game of chess Hogwarts has seen in many years, I award Gryffindor house fifty points."

Gryffindor cheers nearly raised the bewitched ceiling; the stars overhead seemed to quiver. Percy could be heard telling the other prefects, "My brother, you know! My youngest brother! Got past McGonagall's giant chess set!"

At last there was silence again.

"Second… to Miss Hermione Granger… for the use of cool logic in the face of fire, I award Gryffindor house fifty points."

Hermione buried her face in her arms; Harry strongly suspected she had burst into tears. Gryffindors up and down the table were beside themselves… they were a hundred points up. "Third… to Mr. Harry Potter…" said Dumbledore. The room went deadly quiet for pure nerve and outstanding courage, I award Gryffindor house sixty points."

The din was deafening. Those who could add up while yelling themselves hoarse knew that Gryffindor now had four hundred and seventy-two points… exactly the same as Slytherin. They had tied for the house cup… if only Dumbledore had given Harry just one more point.

"Fourth… to Mr. John Constantine," Albus Dumbledore continued, "For investigating former Defense Against the Dark Arts Professor Quirrell an entire year, and rejecting the offer to turn dark and join his sister in ruling the world after uncovering a spy within this school. I award Ravenclaw house… seventy points."

"Fifth… to Ms. Anne Marie," Albus continued, "for continuing to work alongside John Constantine even after his colossal screw up during the year. I award Ravenclaw house… ten points."

The Ravenclaw house all congratulated John and Anne both even though what they did pales in comparison to stopping Voldemort from returning.

Dumbledore raised his hand. The room gradually fell silent.

"There are all kinds of courage," said Dumbledore, smiling, "It takes a great deal of bravery to stand up to our enemies, but just as much to stand up to our friends. I therefore award ten points to Mr. Neville Longbottom."

Someone standing outside the Great Hall might well have thought some sort of explosion had taken place, so loud was the noise that erupted from the Gryffindor table. Harry, Ron, and Hermione stood up to yell and cheer as Neville, white with shock, disappeared under a pile of people hugging him. He had never won so much as a point for Gryffindor before. Harry, still cheering, nudged Ron in the ribs and pointed at Malfoy, who couldn't have looked more stunned and horrified if he'd just had the Body-Bind Curse put on him. They may not have made first place, but they beat Malfoy.

An even louder roar came from the Ravenclaw table as they had reached first place and won the house cup. However, Gryffindor didn't care as Slytherin had been beaten.

"Which means," Dumbledore called over the storm of applause, for even Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff were celebrating the downfall of Slytherin, "We need a little change of decoration."

He clapped his hands. In an instant, the green hangings became blue and the silver became bronze; the huge Slytherin serpent vanished and a towering Ravenclaw Eagle took its place. Snape was shaking Professor Flitwick's hand, with a horrible, forced smile. He caught Harry's eye and Harry knew at once that Snape's feelings toward him hadn't changed one jot. This didn't worry Harry. It seemed as though life would be back to normal next year, or as normal as it ever was at Hogwarts.

It was the best evening of Harry's life, better than winning at Quidditch, or Christmas, or knocking out mountain trolls… he would never, ever forget tonight.

Harry had almost forgotten that the exam results were still to come, but come they did. To their great surprise, both he and Ron passed with good marks; Hermione and John, of course, had the best grades of the first years. Even Neville scraped through, his good Herbology mark making up for his abysmal Potions one. They had hoped that Goyle, who was almost as stupid as he was mean, might be thrown out, but he had passed, too. It was a shame, but as Ron said, you couldn't have everything in life.

And suddenly, their wardrobes were empty, their trunks were packed, Neville's toad was found lurking in a corner of the toilets; notes were handed out to all students, warning them not to use magic over the holidays ("I always hope they'll forget to give us these," said Fred Weasley sadly). John was given a license to use his muggle-magic for exorcisms, but that's it; Hagrid was there to take them down to the fleet of boats that sailed across the lake; they were boarding the Hogwarts Express; talking and laughing as the countryside became greener and tidier; eating Bertie Bott's Every Flavor Beans as they sped past Muggle towns; pulling off their wizard robes and putting on jackets and coats; pulling into platform nine and three-quarters at King's Cross Station.

It took quite a while for them all to get off the platform. A wizened old guard was up by the ticket barrier, letting them go through the gate in twos and threes so they didn't attract attention by all bursting out of a solid wall at once and alarming the Muggles.

"You must come and stay this summer," said Ron, "all of you… I'll send you an owl."

"Thanks," said Harry, "I'll need something to look forward to." People jostled them as they moved forward toward the gateway back to the Muggle world. Some of them called:

"Bye, Harry!"

"See you, Potter!"

"Still famous," said Ron, grinning at him.

"Not where I'm going, I promise you," said Harry.

"Can't say the same for me," John grunted, "Since, I refused to return to my drunk of a Dad, I was practically adopted by the Weasleys. I'd rather not be all that famous, and knowing the twins they'll tell everyone they know about what I can do and have done."

"Looks like Firenze was right about you," Harry smiled, "You are going to be as well remembered as me."

"Brilliant," John said sarcastically.

He, Ron, Hermione, and John passed through the gateway together. Ritchie, Chas, and Anne all followed suit as they were next in line. "There he is, Mom, there he is, look!"

It was Ginny Weasley, Ron's younger sister, but she wasn't pointing at Ron.

"Harry Potter!" she squealed, "Look, Mom! I can see-"

"Be quiet, Ginny, and it's rude to point."

Mrs. Weasley smiled down at them.

"Busy year?" she said.

"Very," said Harry, "Thanks for the fudge and the sweater, Mrs. Weasley."

"Oh, it was nothing, dear."

"Ready, are you?"

It was Uncle Vernon, still purple-faced, still mustached, still looking furious at the nerve of Harry, carrying an owl in a cage in a station full of ordinary people. Behind him stood Aunt Petunia and Dudley, looking terrified at the very sight of Harry. John scowled at the sight of them and itched to pull out his wand and hex them, but he didn't.

"You must be Harry's family!" said Mrs. Weasley.

"In a manner of speaking," said Uncle Vernon, "Hurry up, boy, we haven't got all day." He walked away.

Harry hung back for a last word with Ron, Hermione, John, Chas, and Anne. Ritchie just stood there awkwardly.

"See you over the summer, then."

"Hope you have… er… a good holiday," said Hermione, looking uncertain after Uncle Vernon, shocked that anyone could be so unpleasant.

"Oh, I will," said Harry, and they were surprised at the grin that was spreading over his face, "They don't know we're not allowed to use magic at home. I'm going to have a lot of fun with Dudley this summer…"

"Listen mate," John said, "If you ever need someone to exorcise your family, send an owl. Also, look after my lighter. Once you-know-who is permanently dealt with, I'll be wanting it back. One more thing, as long as you have that lighter with you, your good luck will never go bad."

"Thanks," Harry said, "and I will, but I'm not sure the Dursleys have demons in them. I just think they have rotten souls."

"Fair enough," John nodded.

"Before I go," Harry said remembering something, "where were you the day I woke up after the fight with Quirrell?"

"I was giving the Professors a briefing on everything I learned over the year that wasn't school related," John said, "Also, I don't do the mushy stuff and that includes going to hospitals to visit people."

"Ah," Harry said, "Well, take care. All of you."

Chas, Anne, John, Hermione, and Ron all nodded at him before he left. That was when John reluctantly went over to Mrs. Weasley and held out his hand.

"I'm John constantine," John said, "Demonologist, exorcist in training, and wizard. I also happen… to be… your new… housemate? Whatever its called."

"And we're glad to have you," Mrs. Weasley said, "My name is Molly, you met my sons, my husband's name is Arthur, and this is Ginny."

"Are you Scottish or Irish?" John asked bluntly.

"Excuse me?" Molly said.

"Your family…" John said, "They all have ginger hair, and that seems to be an Irish or Scottish thing.

"Ah," Molly said nodding, "We do have some Irish genes in us, but we live in Britain."

"Oh," John said, "right then, let's just get out of this place. I'd like to have some quiet after this year. Besides, I need quiet to perfect my muggle-magic."

"Oh," Molly said brightening up, "The boys have sent owls that talked about your… muggle-magic, and I am absolutely intrigued by it."

"Though," Molly sighed, "Arthur just hasn't shut up about it… not even at work. That's how much he loves muggles."

"Let's go!" Molly then called to Percy and the twins who had just showed up, as well as Ron.

With that, the Weasley's and John left the station with Chas, Ritchie, and Anne watching them go. John stopped once and looked back before waving a good bye to them as Hermione had already gone. Then, he resumed his way alongside the Weasleys.

John Constantine will return


i will do Chamber of Secrets eventually, but not yet. I'm going to keep each story spaced apart. besides, i want to work on something else for a while.