As It Began

When Snape is sent to deliver Harry's Hogwarts letter on his 11th birthday, will he still be able to hate Harry after meeting the Dursleys? Harry is a first year at Hogwarts. HP & SS No slash!

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18. Chapter 18

There was a definite tension in the air over the next three days. Harry hadn’t mentioned the fact that he was dreaming of Voldemort to his friends for fear of their reaction. Nevertheless, they picked up on his agitated state.

    “Harry, is everything okay between you and Professor Snape?” Draco asked, remembering the last time. They were studying in the library with Hermione. In a place like this, Harry didn’t have to worry about Ron overhearing; he would only enter the library if sufficient force was applied.

    “Yeah, just fine,” he replied distractedly.

    “Then what’s the matter?” Hermione asked. “You seem all out of sorts.”

    “I have this... feeling that they’re going to steal the stone soon,” he admitted, skirting around the details of how he knew this.

    “Are you sure?” Draco asked. “I mean, they could’ve done it at any time, why now?”

    “I don’t know. But my scar has been prickling for days.”

    Hermione looked worried. “Please don’t do anything foolish, Harry.”

    “I’ll try,” he said with an air of resignation.

    “We’re with you, Harry,” Draco assured him. Hermione nodded in agreement.    

    “Thank you, that means a lot,” Harry said earnestly, giving them a small grin.

    From then on, talk turned to the History of Magic test that was the next day and Harry felt lighter and more confident. This feeling remained until the sun dipped down beyond the horizon.

 

 

---{}-{}-{}---

 

 

    Late that night, Harry woke abruptly, hand flying to his scar. His heart hammered against his ribs as he grabbed his wand and pulled on a set of robes. It was tonight. It was now. Harry had seen a harp playing and Fluffy asleep over an open trapdoor and he knew that it was imperative that he get there as fast as possible. 

    “Ron!” Harry hissed. Groggily, Ron opened his eyes. “Get up, now! He is stealing the stone right now!”

    Without waiting for his fear-stricken friend, Harry headed down to the common room. He turned to the girls’ dormitory to wake Hermione, aware that with every second they delayed, the stone was in increasing danger. He sprinted up the stairs. About halfway up, they suddenly melted into a smooth marble slide. Only Harry’s quick reactions from years of evading Dudley allowed him to shoot out an arm and catch the top edge, dragging himself up. Not caring about decorum, he burst into the First year room and located Hermione. She woke up much faster than Ron and he knew that she realized the urgency of what was happening.

    Harry’s mind raced as he and Hermione joined Ron in the common room.

    “Guess we’ll have to do this without Draco,” Harry commented as they flew out of the portrait hole.

    “Shouldn’t we go get Dumbledore?” Ron asked. “We can’t fight You-Know-Who!”

    Harry’s scattered mind was alarmed that he had not even considered alerting one of the professors. He recalled a casual comment that Snape had made earlier that day about Dumbledore being called away. He had grumbled about the extra duties he was asked to perform while he was gone... Snape. Harry was shocked that it had not occured to him earlier, but he pulled out the small silver disc and activated it.

    “Dumbledore’s gone, but I alerted Snape.”

    “Snape?” Ron asked. “How? He’ll probably join them!”

    Harry ignored this as they had just reached the forbidden corridor. Upon entry, Harry saw the room just as he had in his dream. Luckily, the harp continued playing, giving them enough time to slip down the trapdoor.

    Harry jumped and landed on something cushioning but not exactly soft. He felt carefully with his hands, then pulled them back quickly, as if repulsed. It seemed that they were on a pile of slimy snakes, though he thought it odd that they were not moving.

    “Devil’s Snare,” Hermione breathed.

    “What?” Harry asked, then realized that they were not snakes, but rather, Devil’s Snare. “Oh great, it’s going to suffocate us!”
    For many years afterwards, Harry would remain amazed that he had remembered that aspect of the plant but hadn’t the slightest clue of how to counter it.

    “Uh, Hermione?” Ron said, voice wavering. “I can’t move. Hermione! Do something!” he cried as his thrashing pulled the vines around his limbs tighter.

    “I’m thinking! Dark and damp right, so...” She shot blue flames at the vines that had begun to tangle around her legs. They recoiled almost immediately. 

    “Don’t shoot fire at me!” Ron cried.

    Hermione hesitated, the only parts left visible of both Harry and Ron were their heads. Though her aim was good, it was simply too risky to shoot fire at them.

    “Uh...” she thought frantically, “Lumos maxima!”

    A blindingly bright light flew from the tip of her wand. Harry futilely tried to move his arm to shield his eyes and was surprised to find it free. He still could not see, but he felt around and noticed the plant retreating, coils gone from his body.

    “Thanks, Hermione,” he said as she cancelled the spell and their eyes adjusted to the much darker chamber. 

    “Good thing I pay attention in class,” she grumbled with mock annoyance, happy that she rose to the challenge. They quietly crept along to the adjoining chamber. Harry could hear whizzing as if thousands of tiny bees were stirred into a frenzy. 

    “Harry,” Hermione said pointing upwards.

    Harry squinted, trying to see what the colorful specks were. One darted down and hovered tauntingly in front of his face. They were keys, he realized, with colorful wings. He glanced around the room. It was bare save a broom snapped in half in the corner and a heavy oaken door. Harry approached the door, confirming his suspicions that he would find it locked.
    “I think we need to catch a key to go through here,” he announced.

    Ron asked, “How are we going to do that?”

    Harry wondered the same thing, for the keys were hovering in a cloud in the dome of the ceiling. “There’s a broken broom...”

    “That’s the problem, it’s broken,” Ron pointed out impatiently. “Probably so that no one could follow him.

    “So if Quirrell or whoever came through here already, then the right key has already been caught one. It will probably be a little battered,” Hermione pointed out.

    “You’re missing the point, Hermione. How are we going to catch one?” Ron asked. Her brow furrowed as she thought.

    “How’s your levitation charm, Hermione?” Harry asked.

    “Fine,” she replied confidently.

    Harry strode over to the broken broom. “Reparo.”

    “That won’t fly, Harry,” Ron pointed out as the wood knitted itself together. “We tried it after Fred broke his first broom.”

    Harry mounted anyway, glad that Hermione at least understood. He gave her a nod.

    “Wingardium Leviosa,” she said, directing the broom to go upwards.

    “To the left,” Harry said, noticing that they gave him a wide berth, moving when he got close. “You have to go faster.”

    “You’ll smack into the wall!” she protested.

    “Just do it!” Harry snapped, knowing that they didn’t have time for this. She obeyed and Harry stretched out his arm, targeting a large silver key with a broken blue wing. The broom below him shot forward and so did Harry’s hand. He smacked it and, as Hermione predicted, ran into the wall. He could feel it trapped between his hand and the cold stone. Grasping it tightly in his fist, he called for Hermione to lower him down.

    Once on the ground, he shoved the key unceremoniously into the door and pushed it open wide. He stepped through, wondering what fresh horror was in store for them. He could feel the cold leeching up from the marble checkered floor and studied the statues that were lined in two rows. It did not take long for realization to hit him: they were standing on a giant chessboard.

    Ron had instantly picked up on that very fact. He stepped forward as if to skirt around the perimeter to the other side of the room. Within moments, every stone player on the board drew its sword. He gulped. 

    “I think we are going to have to play to get across,” Ron stated warily.

    At the moment, Harry was not feeling very favorable towards his Head of House. Nevertheless, he reminded himself that he was a Gryffindor and steeled himself for this challenge.

    “Tell me where to go,” he said confidently.

    Ron directed him to take the place of one of the bishops and Hermione to take a rook’s position.

    “And you?”

    “I’m going to be a knight,” Ron replied. Harry sensed that Ron’s reasoning was that if he were to die now, he might as well be a knight.

    Harry was almost in a daze for the majority of the game. His head pounded and his scar burned fiercely. He wondered in the back of his mind where Snape was or if he would show up at all. This thought was quickly discarded as unimportant when Ron announced that he was sacrificing himself.

    “Ron you can’t,” Hermione insisted in shock.

    “I have to! It leaves you free to take the king.”

    “Ron,” she said, staring to cry.

    Ron gave the order. His horse slid over in front of the Black Queen. Her blade came down with unyielding force and shattered his horse, sending Ron careening towards the wall. Hermione gave a shout as he crumpled into a heap. She sobbed but didn’t leave her square.

    “Rook to D3,” she managed and walked to the space she had chosen. “Check mate.”

    The sword clattered from the King’s hand as the game was ended. As soon as it hit the ground, Hermione rushed to Ron’s side.

    Harry opened his mouth to ask about him.

    “Is he okay?” A voice from behind Harry asked.

    Harry turned in surprise. “Draco! How’d you get here?”

    “I’ll explain later,” he said kneeling down next to the redheaded boy. “I think he’s just unconscious.”

    “We have to keep going, I’m sorry,” Harry told Hermione gently.

    “She can stay with him, the two of us will go on,” Draco suggested. Harry nodded and led the way to the next chamber.

    Inside lay a medium sized unconscious dragon.  Harry immediately recognized the Opaleye as Norbert.
    “I wondered what happened to-” Harry began, then stopped, his brain going foggy. For the first time he noticed the cloud of translucent fog that hung over the room.

    “Somniferous fog,” Draco said, pulling Harry to the door on the other side. Harry’s eyelids drifted closed, his bright eyes showing through small slits that were closing rapidly. Fortunately, Draco held his breath and had the awareness to drag him into the next room.

    As soon as they stepped through the doorway, flames erupted, blocking their return and also the sleep-inducing fog. In front of the pair sat a long wooden table upon which lay a scroll and several potion bottles of various sizes and substances. Beyond this table was another doorway blocked by black flames. Harry slowly came back to reality as the potion wore off. He blinked blearily before adrenaline came to his rescue and snapped his attention back to the situation at hand.

    “Potions,” Draco said with relish. “An a riddle it seems. I’m good at those.”

    He read, "Danger lies before you, while safety lies behind,

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

One among us seven will let you move ahead,

Another will transport the drinker back instead,

Two among our number hold only nettle wine,

Three of us are killers, waiting hidden in line.

Choose, unless you wish to stay here for evermore,

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

First, however slyly the poison tries to hide

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

Second, different are those who stand at either end,

But if you would move onwards neither is your friend;

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

Neither dwarf nor giant holds death in their insides;

Fourth, the second left and the second on the right

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

 

    Harry stepped back and allowed Draco to think. After a few moments, his eyes lit up.
    “Drink this,” he commanded, handing Harry the third bottle in from the left, a small blue one. He grabbed the last one, a shade of purple that matched the flames currently burning behind them.

    “Are you sure?” Harry asked hesitantly.

    “Positive,” Draco responded confidently. “There isn’t enough for both of us to go forward, so I’ll take this one and go back to help Hermione get Ron up to the Hospital wing.”

    “Good idea,” Harry said. “I really appreciate your help, but I think I need to go forward alone.”

    Draco nodded in understanding. Harry uncapped the potion and raised it to his lips. He paused.

    “Did you see Professor Snape by chance?” Harry asked.

    “I was in his office when this little silver alarm went off. He got really worried and flustered and sent me away. I’ve never seen him like that. I knew that something was up and sure enough I checked the third floor corridor... I’m glad you left that door unlocked, I wouldn’t have been able to catch one of those things by myself.”

    Harry merely nodded, wondering why Snape hadn’t shown up. Again, he raised the potion to his mouth, this time downing it in one swig. He felt as if his insides had frozen over and dearly hoped that this wasn’t poison, for it would make for a cruel and painful death. He staggered through the flames. 

    “Good luck, Harry.” he heard Draco call.

    The flames lapped around him, thawing his insides but not hurting him. He gave a sigh of relief once his muscles were freed and straightened to assess his situation. It was not good.

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