Disclaimer: This story is based on characters and situations created and owned by J.K. Rowling; various publishers including, but not limited to, Bloomsbury Books, Scholastic Books and Raincoast Books; and Warner Bros., Inc. No money is being made and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended.

A/N: And the next installment!


Chapter Fifteen: Behind a Locked Door

As the end-of-year exams approached, Hermione managed to nag the boys into studying more. Her comment about how embarrassing it would be to fail and be held back to repeat the year had her sharing a small glance of amusement with Harry. It seemed to do the trick for the other boys, though, and they began spending inordinate numbers of hours in the library. When not in the library, it wasn't all that uncommon for one, two, three, or even all of them to be found down at Hagrid's, trading amusing anecdotes of their days for stories of when Harry's, Neville's, Ron's, and Seamus' parent(s) were at school – and, in the case of Ron, tales of his older brothers' days at the school. Harry also had to contend with quidditch practice; whatever the twins had done to Oliver had worked. Instead of early-morning practice, they now practiced in the evenings, just after dinner, on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

Even on practice days, though, when Harry should have been tired enough to sleep like a log, he found his dreams plagued by disturbing images. In many of them, Professor Quirrell's turban seemed to be talking to him, trying to convince him that the professor was someone to be trusted implicitly. When not dreaming of the talking turban, Harry often found himself dreaming of hunting unicorns, and drinking their blood. After the fifth night in a row of similar dreams, he decided to look into the matter and began reading as much as he had time for – which, admittedly, wasn't much. His scar was also hurting almost constantly.

Their exams came, and, despite Hermione's fretting, they all felt they did rather well. Their last exam was in History of Magic, and when it was over, they all also felt relieved. Harry, however couldn't help but feel that their real tests hadn't come yet. "I'm goin' to go lay down for a while," he said, yawning. "I didn't sleep real well last night."

Hermione smiled at him, "Neither did I… Too keyed up, I suppose."

Harry left his friends outside and went up to the Tower. He had mentioned taking a nap only to make sure they wouldn't come looking for him. For all that he really liked his friends, he didn't want them to think he was nuts. He'd checked all the unicorn references in the library – those, at least, that he had access to – and was intent on checking the ones in his trunk next. He must have been more tired than he realized, though, as he fell asleep while scanning through a thick tome on magical creatures.

This dream was, by far, the worst one yet. It was completely dark, and smelled oddly, not quite like garlic, but not far from it. There were sounds that he couldn't quite place at first, then realized they were footsteps. Hurry, hurry, a voice said, though not out loud. The sound of the footsteps increased. There was the noise of a latch and the squeal of a door opening. Loud growling and someone muttering, "Blasted dog," followed by an incantation. Harp music started playing. There was a momentary sensation of weightlessness followed by a muted thud. "Lumos solem," said the second voice and Harry's vision was momentarily filled with brilliant purple. Then it faded. Harry knew that time had passed, but he wasn't sure how much, an unfortunate side-effect of dreaming. He just knew that time had passed. The first voice, the one that didn't talk out loud, was saying, …let me see…

The darkness of the dream lightened slowly to muted purple and then fell away completely. Ahh… The old fool has placed it within the mirror. Full marks for cunning, old man.

Another sense of passing time, again Harry didn't know how much time, only that it was now much later than it had been. Now the dream was progressing in a series of images. A bright red stone, roughly the size of Harry's fist was replaced by a goblet of translucent, glowing, amber liquid. A man in a dark robe laughed evilly. A green skull-and-snake hovered in the sky while smoke boiled up from countless houses and businesses. The laughter continued, while scene after scene of death and carnage and destruction flipped past almost faster than Harry could identify the images. The last one was an image of his home in flames, his mom lying still on blood-stained grass, a rifle not far from her hand.

Harry jerked awake slightly nauseous and sweaty. Even though he'd been laying on top of the covers on the bed, they still managed to twist around him. He fought his way out of the blankets and checked his watch. He'd only been in the room for about an hour and a half. It took several minutes for his heart to stop pounding. He grabbed his bear, Mr. Blue, and hugged him tightly, remembering just a little too much of his dream to be comforted by the stuffed animal.

"This is nuts," Harry whispered. "Completely nuts." He sat the bear to the side and climbed back up to the dorm room. He found that all his friends were waiting in the room. Neville was sitting in front of the trunk, his wand in his lap. Hermione, Ron, and Dean were sitting on Harry's bed, Seamus was sitting on the floor, leaning against the wall, and Fred, George, and Percy were sitting on Ron's bed. They were all looking at Harry expectantly.

Harry finished climbing into the room, shut the trunk, and sat down on it. "What's going on?" Percy asked.

Harry ran a hand through his hair. "That's just it, I don't know!"

"Maybe if you told us…" George said, serious for once.

"…we could help you figure it out," Fred finished, looking just as serious as his twin.

Harry took a deep breath. "I s'pose it all started the night of the welcomin' feast…" he began, then told his friends about Quirrell's odd behavior, the pain in his scar, the dreams about the unicorns, the dreams about the voice in the turban, and the dream he just had. "I know it's all linked up with what the headmaster said about the third floor bein' off-limits, but I don't know how."

Percy stood up and began pacing while Hermione, who was taking notes, read over them. Dean was staring at the canopy of Harry's bed, Ron was chewing on his lip, and Neville was staring at his hands. Seamus and the twins were watching Percy pace back and forth. "Hold up a tick," Dean said. "In the dream you said that you saw a bright red stone, right?" Harry nodded. "And a goblet of glowing potion, right?"

Harry nodded again. "So?"

Dean sat up, "Well, I did an extra-credit essay for Binns back right before Halloween, because I got that horrible grade on that first test, right? Anyway, it was a biography on Nicolas Flamel. He did a whole lot of stuff, but he made this thing called the 'Philosopher's Stone,' also known as the 'Sorcerer's Stone.'"

"So…?" Harry repeated.

"The Stone is supposed to be able to turn any metal into gold, and makes a potion known as the Elixir of Life, which gives the person who drinks it immortality."

"And?"

"Dumbledore was Flamel's apprentice a long time ago," Dean continued. "I'd bet anything that the Stone is why the third-floor corridor is out-of-bounds."

Fred and George snickered, "Why not just keep it at Gringotts?"

Percy stopped his pacing. "There was a break-in at Gringotts last summer. The goblins didn't do much more than clarify that someone tried to get into one of the high-security vaults, and they did say that nothing was taken, but that was because the vault had been emptied earlier that same day."

"There you go," Dean stuck his tongue out at the twins.

"What about the unicorns?" Ron asked.

Neville looked up, "Unicorn blood can keep you from dying no matter how badly hurt you are. It's considered to be some of the darkest magic, though, and anyone caught killing a unicorn is automatically sentenced to the Dementor's Kiss – or so Great Uncle Algie once told me."

Hermione spoke next, "I'm a bit more concerned about the fact that Harry's scar has been hurting. I researched it and found that most curse-scars are like normal scars, only they don't react well to corrective measures to remove them."

Seamus grimaced, "But if it's been hurting…"

"That can't be good," Hermione confirmed. "There's also the slight issue that there has never before been a scar quite like Harry's – no one else has survived a killing curse."

"That's right!" Ron shouted.

"Ron, volume." Hermione chided.

"Now, oh brother-of-ours…"

"…please explain what that was all about?"

Ron looked sheepish, "Well… You-Know-Who is the one who gave Harry his scar, right?"

There were a round of nods and 'yeah, so?'s. "So… If it's hurting, wouldn't that mean that You-Know-Who was doing something to make it hurt?"

"But, Ronniekins…"

"…You-Know-Who was defeated more than ten years ago."

Harry cleared his throat, "Um… I don't think so, guys."

"What makes you say that?" Percy asked.

"Well… I know that Professor Snape doesn't think Voldemort," everyone but Hermione flinched at Harry's casual use of the Dark Lord's name. Harry ignored it and continued, "fell at all. Yeah, he disappeared, but there wasn't a body. If he'd been killed, then wouldn't there have been a body?"

Percy nodded. "I guess you're right. And that would explain the reports I've gotten about why he's acting like he hates you whenever you're in class."

"Just how does that fit in?" Hermione asked.

"Well, Professor Snape was working for Dumbledore as a spy during You-Know-Who's reign of darkness. If he and Dumbledore don't think that He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named is gone for good, then they'd want to preserve his cover, don't you think? It wouldn't do for a Death Eater to be seen as being nice to the Boy-Who-Lived, especially with the children of other Death Eaters in the same class, right?"

Harry looked thoughtful, "If we assume that it is Voldemort who's makin' my scar hurt, and that Quirrell is somehow workin' for or with him, and we further assume that Dumbledore is hiding the Stone for Flamel, then it's safe to assume that Quirrell is working here ta get the Stone for Voldemort. Dumbledore prob'ly doesn't know about Quirrell – if he did, then why is he workin' here? Now, iffen I was Dumbledore, I'd make sure the Stone was protected by a whole mess of protections… But those protections would have to be put in place by people, an' people make mistakes; it's a fact of life." Harry's eyes refocused to look around the room. "So… all we need to do is make sure there's something protecting the stone that isn't manmade."

"What do you have in mind?" Dean asked.

"Lemme see… I'll need a blue candle, a white candle, and a black one. Some salt. And a sage-smudge." Harry ignored Dean's question. "Angelica would be good, too… I need to talk to Mom." He sprung to his feet and headed to the door.

"Hang on!" Dean yelled after Harry. "Just what are you planning?"

"To get Gaia in on protecting the Stone, of course!" Harry grinned. "Y'all just wait here. I'll be back shortly." Harry ducked out of the room and everyone who remained exchanged confused glances.

"Who's Gaia?" Hermione asked.

Harry ran all the way to Dumbledore's office, only to find it locked. Harry groaned, "Of all the damn times not to be here…" He raced back towards Gryffindor Tower, intent on finding McGonagall. He was disappointed to learn that Dumbledore was not in the school. He was also told by the deputy headmistress that he could wait until Albus' return before flooing his family.

Harry hurried back to the Tower and his waiting friends. "So…" Fred said.

"…Are you going to tell us what's on your mind?"

Harry growled and flopped onto one of the empty beds. "Damnit!" he growled, followed by a string of German interspersed with Spanish.

"I take it your call didn't go well?" Seamus said.

Harry shook his head, "Didn't go at all, actually. Dumbledore isn't in the school – McGonagall said he's been called to London."

"So… What were you planning, mate?" Ron asked.

Harry sighed, "I was gonna see about setting a circle around where the Stone's kept."

"Pardon?" Percy said.

"It's something Mom taught me. It draws the attention of a deity to an area and said deity then protects whatever's in the circle."

The twins let out identical whistles, "That's really old magic."

"You say your mom taught you?" asked Neville.

"Thought she was muggle?" Ron said, leaning forward.

Harry smiled a little, "'There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.'"

"What's that supposed to mean?" Ron asked.

"It means, Ronald," Hermione said, sternly, "that, yes, Harry's mom is a muggle, but some things, some magics don't seem to be limited to wizards-only. Right, Harry?"

Harry nodded. "Yeah. But back to the problem at hand… What are we going to do about the Stone? I know if we don't do anything, then what I saw in my dream will happen…"

"Do you have prophetic dreams often?" Percy asked, a little skeptically.

Harry shook his head, "No, not often. Only once in a blue moon, and all the others were about stupid stuff, like what someone was going to wear to school, or that so-an'-so was gonna get hurt at recess. But this dream felt like those, particularly at the end, when I was seein' all those images of people dyin' and whatnot…"

"You said that Dumbledore isn't here, right?" Hermione asked.

Harry nodded, "Yeah, he's in London. Why?"

"Because if I was Quirrell and bent on getting the Stone for Voldemort, then I'd want to do so if Dumbledore wasn't here."

A round of cursing – not the magic kind – was heard from all present. "So, he's likely to try tonight."

Hermione shrugged, "Or even this afternoon. Exams are over. He won't be missed."

Harry jumped to his feet, "All right, then, this is what we'll do. Percy, you go find McGonagall and tell her what we've figured out, all right? Then send an owl to the headmaster, letting him know, too." Percy nodded. "Fred, George. I need you two to find Quirrell and make sure he's kept busy. Dean, Seamus, Neville, Ron, and Hermione – you come with me." Something tingled at the back of Harry's mind. "Wait here a second, though." He slid back down the ladder in his trunk and grabbed his .22. He quickly made sure it was loaded before wrapping it up in his invisibility cloak and strapping it to his back with the laces from his snow-boots. Re-emerging in the dorm, he looked around. "Okay, I think we can go now."

Percy left first, followed by Fred and George. Harry led the first-years out of the dorm and through the least-traveled passageways to the forbidden third-floor corridor. Harry was mildly surprised they didn't come across Peeves or Filch. They reached the door signaling the start of the out-of-bounds area, only to find it locked. After some whispered squabbling, Hermione shoved her way to the front of the group and brandished her wand at the lock, "Alohomora." The latch clicked open.

All six froze when they saw a very large three-headed dog, snoring. "Merlin," Ron whispered. "It's a cerberus!"

"We've got bigger problems," Neville hissed. "It's waking up!"

Hermione's thoughts were running in overtime. "Eurydice died, Orpheus traveled to Hades to bring her back… Harry! How did Orpheus get past Cerberus?"

Harry shrugged, but Dean grinned, "Orpheus was a musician! He played the harp! Guys, on three, Blue Moon! One… Two… Three…"

A rather panicked version of Bobbie Vinton's Blue Moon – the rendition of it the Gryffindors were singing would qualify as a musical felony in most circles – followed. It did manage to put the cerberus back to sleep, though. With the immediate threat gone, Harry stopped butchering the song. "Now what?"

Neville shrugged, still singing along with Dean and Seamus. Ron pointed to the floor, "There's a trapdoor."

"Help me open it."

They pried the door open to reveal a dark tunnel through the school. "Now what?" Ron repeated Harry's earlier question. Harry shook his head and jumped through the trapdoor.

After a few moments, his voice drifted up out of the hole in the floor, "It's all right, guys. There's this plant thing here to break your fall. Come on down!"

One by one, the Gryffindors jumped through the door. Dean was last, and he made sure to grab the large, metal ring before he jumped in, so the door would close behind them. He landed almost directly on top of Hermione. "Sorry, mate," he said.

"Don't worry about it," she replied.

"Lumos." Everyone winced a little at the sudden light from Neville's wand. "Um… guys?"

"Yeah?"

"Whatever you do, don't panic."

Of course, with human psychology being what it is, and eleven-and-twelve-year-olds being what they are, the first thing they did upon hearing those words was panic. "Why?" Ron's voice was notably edgy.

"This is Devils' Snare," Neville explained. "Carnivorous."

There was a muffled shriek from Seamus as tendrils of the plant started wrapping around his legs. "How do we get past it?" he asked, kicking at the plant.

"Let me think…" Neville replied.

"Think faster!" Dean cried, the plant was almost completely wrapped around his body, and his arms were pinned to his sides.

"That's it!" Neville shouted, triumphant. "Watch your eyes. Lumos solem!" Bright artificial sunlight poured from his wand. The plant hissed and whistled and shrieked, withering in the bright light. The six Gryffindors suddenly found themselves falling another ten feet or so to a stone floor.

Seamus got up, brushing off his robes, "If we get through all this just to find Dumbledore's chocolate stash or his collection of vintage knick-knacks, I'm going to bloody well kill him!"

"What's that?" Dean asked, his head cocked to the side. Harry thought he looked quite a bit like the dogs on the RCA commercials he had seen on television the previous school year.

"What's what?" Hermione asked.

"Listen," he replied.

Everyone was silent for a while. "It sounds like birds… wings," Ron said.

They followed the noise to a room with very high ceilings. Harry squinted up to the rafters, "Yeah… birds."

"Whatever," Seamus said, striding towards the door on the opposite wall. The door proved to be locked. "Hermione? Unlock this one, would you?"

Hermione hurried over to the door and tried Alohomora. It didn't work. "Know any other unlocking charms?" Hermione shook her head. Seamus looked up to the distant fluttering birds. "One of those birds probably has it on a collar or something."

Dean was looking up, too. "I don't think those are birds, mate."

"Then what are they?" Harry asked.

"They look like keys."

"Great," Harry muttered. "Just wonderful. How do we know which one opens the door? And even if we knew, how do we get to it?"

Ron nudged Harry's shoulder. "As to getting it, I'd say use the broomstick in the corner."

"And the key is probably old and silver, like the lock," Seamus pointed out.

"Come on, Harry," Neville tugged the other boy towards the broom. "You're not the youngest seeker in a century without reason. Go get the key."

Harry chuckled, "Alrighty, back in a tic." He climbed onto the broom and shot up to where the keys were flying back and forth. It took several minutes to locate what he thought was the right key, but once he saw it, it was only a matter of heartbeats before he landed with it in his hand. "Here," he handed it to Neville, who took it over to the door. It opened easily, the key taking off to rejoin its fellows.

The six first-years carefully entered the dark chamber. Suddenly, lights sprung up revealing a massive chessboard. "Well, this one's fairly obvious," Ron said.

"How so?" Hermione asked.

"Well… we'll have to play our way across, won't we?" Ron smiled a little. "Seamus, Dean, I want both of you to take the place of the castles. Harry, Hermione… You two take the places of the king and queen. Neville, you take the king's side bishop. I'll play the queen's side knight."

"I don't know about this," Seamus grumbled as he watched the aforementioned pieces stride off the board.

"Oh, come on! It can't be that hard – it's just chess!" Ron laughed and took his place on the board. "Do you want to stop Quirrell or not?"

That got everyone into their places. "Now what?" Seamus asked the question of the day.

"White moves first," Ron said, and sure enough, a white pawn moved forward two spaces. Ron took to directing the black pieces with a will. The added challenge of keeping his friends safe from harm seemed to only spur him to higher and higher levels of play.

Harry checked his watch. It was almost dinnertime in the Great Hall. He hoped that when they finally finished what they had to do, there would be an easier way out than going back through all the traps. "Hermione, go straight forward and take their bishop," Ron said, bringing Harry's attention back to the game.

Eventually, after what had to have been the single most boring two hours Harry ever experienced – he had just stood there, after all – Ron laughed and moved into position, calling, "Checkmate!" as he did so.

The white king took off its crown and threw it to Ron's feet. The six hurried across the room to the door on the far side. "Gross," Dean said. "It smells like…"

Harry nodded, "The troll from Halloween."

"There's probably another one on the other side of the door," Seamus said, getting out his wand. The others followed suit.

"Open the door, and stunning spells on three?" Hermione asked. "If we hit it in the eye, its skin won't cause the spells to bounce off – I spent some time researching them in the library after last Halloween…"

"No time for lectures, Hermione," Ron said. "Sounds like a plan." He reached forward and opened the door.

A troll half again as large as the one on Halloween looked up in surprise. "One… two… three! Stupefy!" Six jets of crimson light hit it directly in its eyes before it could so much as blink. It slumped down and began snoring.

"Come on," Seamus said, hurrying to yet another door.

The next room was the smallest so far, and on a table were seven bottles standing in a line. As the door closed behind the six of them, purple flames shot up, barring the door. Black fire blocked the door across the room.

"Great… Just bloody great," Seamus said. "I repeat, if this is just protecting something silly, I'm going to kill Dumbledore."

Harry walked over to the row of bottles and picked up a scroll. He read it aloud.

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 hidden 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.

"Hell, it's a logic-puzzle," he muttered. "I've never been all that great at those…"

"Somehow, I doubt that," Hermione said, smiling. "Let me see that paper."

Harry handed it to her. After a couple of minutes, Hermione clapped, "I've got it! The smallest bottle will get us through the black fire, and the round one on the right end will get us through the purple fire."

Harry picked up the smallest bottle, "There's not much in here. Mayhap only enough for two or three of us."

"Just put it down, I don't think we need it." Seamus said.

"What?" Hermione asked, confused. "Why not?"

"Weren't the twins complaining the other day about that essay for Binns about Wendolyn the Weird or whatever his name was?" Seamus asked.

"Yeah, so?" Ron replied.

"So, I asked them about it. Wendolyn liked using flame-freezing charms in the Dark Ages whenever muggles tried to burn him at the stake. The twins taught me the charm." Seamus pulled out his wand once more and aimed it at each of them in turn, incanting the charm as he did so, applying the charm on himself last. "See?" he held his arms in the black fire. He squirmed a little, "Merlin, that tickles."

Harry sat the bottle of potion back on the table and followed Seamus through the door and into a large, round chamber. The only thing in it was a huge mirror with the legend 'Erised stra ehru oyt ube cafru oyt on wohsi,' across the top. Harry felt his arms break out in gooseflesh. It was the same mirror from his dream.

"Now what?" Hermione asked.

"Now… we wait," Harry replied. "If we're still here come morning, we'll leave and track down Dumbledore, tell him in person what's goin' on."

They didn't have long to wait before the door opened once more to admit Percy and the twins. "How the hell did you three find us?" Harry asked.

The twins grinned, "Remember that map we talked about during Christmas hols?"

Harry nodded, "What about it?"

"It showed us a shortcut down here," the twins grinned. Percy looked rather like he wanted to lecture them, but knew that now wasn't the time. He appeared to be repeating something to himself over and over, but Harry couldn't tell what.

Everyone took positions around the perimeter of the room, standing in the scant cover provided by a series of pillars. They didn't have long to wait before the door opened a third and final time. "That was much easier than I'd thought it would be," Quirrell muttered.

A hissing voice, one that Harry knew and had only heard in his dreams before answered. "They are weak, as I have told you before. They are weak, therefore their protections are weak. Now get me the Stone!"

Quirrell flinched and strode towards the mirror, "How do I retrieve it, Lord?"

"Fool!" the voice hissed. "Let me see."

Quirrell reached up and began unwinding his turban. When the last of the purple cloth fell away, Harry could see the majority of his friends mouth, "Gross!" There was another face on the back of Quirrell's head. A strange, malformed face, with only slits for nostrils, thin lips, and tiny, glowing red embers where its eyes should be. "Ahh… The old fool has placed it within the mirror. Full marks for cunning, old man."

Harry's arms prickled in gooseflesh once more. That had been directly out of his dream.

"Do I break the mirror, Master?" Quirrell asked.

"No," Voldemort replied. "That will destroy the stone, I want you to –"

Harry wasn't interested in what Voldemort wanted Quirrell to do and shouted, "NOW!" followed by a stunning spell aimed at the two-faced man in front of the mirror. Quirrell dove to the side, and the mirror reflected the stunner into the stonework around the door. Fred and George were casting a variety of hexes, all with the intention of stopping Quirrell from being able to retaliate. Percy was running towards the door to get a better line-of-sight to send his own stunners. Hermione seemed to prefer 'petrificus totalus,' as did Dean. Seamus and Neville were also sending stunners. Ron was trying 'expelliarmus.'

Quirrell, though, was more agile than he appeared and managed to dodge, duck, or block all their attempts. He caught Percy with a stunner of his own, and reflected one of Hermione's spells back on her. A wide-sweeping expelliarmus deprived Neville, Harry, and Ron of their wands. Another stunner got Fred, and George lost his concentration when his twin fell. In the cacophony of curses and hexes, Harry saw Dean catch a nasty cutting curse to his shoulder, and actually heard bones break when Ron got caught by a blasting curse. Though vastly outnumbered, it was obvious that Harry's group was losing to the greater experience and power of the possessed Defense professor.

"Enough of this!" Harry shouted, voicing his thoughts out loud. "If that bastard wants a Philosopher's Stone, he'll have to make his own!" He quickly unbundled his invisibility cloak and shouldered his rifle. He thumbed the safety off, chambered a round from the magazine with a simple flick of the bolt, and aimed for the center of the mirror. He fired, the flat crack of the gun startling everyone, Quirrell included.

It was as though time itself had slowed to a mere fraction of its normal speed. Harry could see the startled expression on Quirrell's face fall, replaced by fury. The mirror shattered with a deafening sound of breaking glass, and blindingly bright red light flared and died. Chips and shards of glass littered the room, landing with tiny pinging noises on the stone floor. "NOOOO!"

Time stepped back up. Harry heard George trying to rouse Fred, while Dean tried to stop the bleeding from the gash in his shoulder. Voldemort hissed to Quirrell to turn so that he could see what happened.

"Harry Potter," he whispered. "We meet again."

Harry scowled. "My name's Brewer, you moron! Or can't you listen when you're all wrapped up in that damn turban?"

Voldemort smiled. Actually smiled. Harry felt that it was the single most obscene expression he had ever seen. "Child… Don't you see what I have become? Mere shadow and vapor… We could be great together. Unstoppable. You have already proven your worth is so much more than Quirrell's. Thwarted by a group of school children…" He tutted and Quirrell screamed. "Not the best way to prove your worth, is it, Quirinus? But you, my dear boy… You are already so much more than poor Quirinus could ever aspire to be. Come here, child. Join me… We will be great."

Harry snorted, "I don't think so, compadre. You killed my parents. Just why in hell would I join you?"

The twisted, macabre smile widened. "Yes… yes, I did. Perhaps I was too hasty in attempting to be rid of you that night, as well. I see now, I would have done better to raise you myself."

"Why? So I could be an ugly, evil little scab on the face of humanity, too?"

Voldemort's laughter was worse than his smile. "No, no, young Harry. Can't you see there is no good and evil? There is only power and those too weak to take it."

"You really are an idiot, aren't you?" Harry asked. It may have not been the most intelligent thing he ever said, but he couldn't help himself. He pointed to Voldemort, "You are evil." He pointed to himself, "I am good." He pointed back to Voldemort, "You, evil," and back to himself, "Me, good."

Voldemort's smile faded, "Quirrell, SEIZE HIM!"

Harry shouldered his rifle again. "You, evil. Me, good," he repeated as Quirrell strode across the stone floor. The possessed professor was only a couple of yards away when he chambered another round from the magazine, the spent shell clattering to the floor with a metallic tinkle. "You, evil. Me, good." There was another flat crack of the gun. A hole appeared in Quirrell's chest, a little above where Harry had aimed. The bullet had caught him, not in the heart, but just between the collarbone and his rib cage. It also didn't seem to slow the man down any.

Harry dropped the rifle, fumbling for his wand before he remembered that it was on the other side of the room. Quirrell reached out and grabbed Harry's wrists, forcing the boy to the floor. Harry was pretty sure he felt something snap in his right hand, but couldn't be sure as the pain searing in his scar felt as though it were trying to cleave his head in twain. He began struggling with all his might, ignoring the pain as best he could. To his surprise, Quirrell let go. The pain from his scar receded and he saw that Quirrell's hands were blistering, as though he'd held them in a fire.

"Seize him!" Voldemort repeated the command.

"I cannot!" Quirrell objected. "My hands, they're –"

"I don't care, SEIZE HIM!" Voldemort roared.

Quirrell winced and dove forward, knocking Harry the rest of the way to the stone floor. As the professor's hands closed around his throat, Harry could see the man howling in pain, even as his own scar lit up again. He reached to his belt… Where is it… Where is it… Ah! His brain was flagging from the lack of oxygen, and stars were dancing in front of his eyes. He unsnapped the leather pouch that his pocketknife was stored in. Fumbling, he opened it, then, just before his vision blacked out entirely, he rammed the blade up, as hard as he could.

Quirrell let go of him again and pulled the knife from his stomach. "Foolish boy," Voldemort said. "We could have been great, Potter, yet you refuse…"

Harry growled, the sound making his throat ache even more than it had been. "My name is Brewer!" He leapt forward and threw a right cross that had all his strength behind it. The punch landed on Quirrell's jaw, and Harry felt something else break in his fist. The professor's head whipped around, a small stream of blood coming from his lip. Harry wasn't done, though, and grabbed the professor's head, digging the fingers of his left hand into the eyes of Voldemort on the back of Quirrell's head and began punching the face he could see.

After only a few moments, he saw smoke curling up from where his left hand was grasping the man's skull. A strange sound was coming from the combined voices of Quirrell and Voldemort – they were both screaming, the combined tones of which created an eerie reverberation in the stone chamber.

Harry watched in fascination – the same fascination that makes people look at car accidents and train wrecks – as the professor's head slowly turned to ash, followed quickly by the rest of him. With the last bit of what used to be Quirrell fading into ash, a black ghost-like presence rose from the carnage. Another time, Potter… Harry heard the voice in his head before he blacked out.


A/N2: So… How'd I do on this? I'm a little insecure about parts of it – all except Seamus' quips, actually. I fell I could do so much better… sigh. Still looking at possible band names, so suggestions are helpful.

Beta's Note: Stop being so hard on yourself – it's fine as it stands. I need the next few chapters of year two, though. And… how far into year four have you written? You never did answer that last email. Should I rally the reviewers to kick your muse into high-gear?