Alex flashed back to King's Cross, and she saw Hermione struggling to lift her trunk. She shook her head, laughing. With a flick of her wand, her luggage floated of its own accord into the train. Hermione looked up, startled, and when she saw Alex, she ran to Alex, arms outstretched. "Alex! Thank you for helping me with my luggage by the way, I bought a whole lot more books over the summer, and I can't wait to read them!" she gushed as she squeezed Alex in a hug.
Alex scoffed, "Books. Ugh. I hate them. I mean, it's not like they benefit you. Who ever learned anything from a book?" Hermione looked at her incredulously. She lectured, "Alex, books are only the most effective and enthralling learning tool that anyone who ever lived has come across! A good book can leave you filled with different emotions both during and after you read it! Reading books can even help you understand, dare I say, the meaning of life!"
Throughout her ranting, Alex was inspecting her nails, and she looked up after Hermione stopped. "Hmm? Oh yeah, you lost me at Alex," she commented lightly. Before Hermione could go off on another rant, she dragged Hermione by the hand and they went into the train, chatting about their christmas breaks. As expected, Alex taunted Justin about Hogwarts, and he only put up with it because of the fact that he was going Hogwarts in a few months.
Max was, as usual, as confusing as he was confused. Before Alex flashed out, Max even asked her to bring back the 'pig with warts' (Inspired by rosetrang628, thanks for reviewing and supporting!) the next time she went home.
"So," she continued telling Hermione, "then I duplicated myself, and might I just say, I looked great!" Hermione made a strangling noise at the back of her throat at that, and Alex asked, "What? I did look great!" Hermione sighed, "No, no, it's not about that, it's just that… you can duplicate yourself, and practise magic outside of school, and you don't even need to say the official spell, you just need the words to rhyme, and I guess I'm just a bit… jealous… that you have such great and… flexible powers."
Alex stared at Hermione for a moment more, before continuing. "Anyways…" she continued. "Then, I convinced Max, my confused little brother to help cover for me during wizards' lesson. But something went wrong, and I discovered my double barked, because my brother charmed a rabbit to bark earlier, and I was thinking about that stupid barking rabbit when I cast the spell, so I just told double Alex to sit there and pout, ignoring dad."
Hermione furrowed her eyebrows, and asked, "Your double pouted throughout your wizards' lesson? Did your father actually believe that?" Alex looked at her, a little annoyed. "Let me continue my story, and maybe you'll find out! So anyways, me and Harper, my mortal best friend sneaked off to the sale, and my rival, Gigi, was already in front, so we fought our way to the front and after a bit of arguing, turns out she hid the jacket in the store beforehand, but the staff already kept it, so basically we had sort of a battle for the jacket. Then, my brother got his wand, and made my double do some stupid stuff, so I had to do it in real life, and my dad and mum caught me anyways, but I got my revenge by telling everyone in the store Gigi's real name, Gertrude Hollingsworth." Hermione looked really confused by the end of the story, and Alex laughed at her confused face. Soon enough, they had reached Hogwarts.
When Alex and Hermione heard about the Mirror of Erised that showed Harry's family, and Harry's new invisibility cloak, they had quite different emotions. Hermione was horrified at the idea of Harry being out of bed, roaming the school three nights in a row ("If Filch had caught you!"), while Alex thumped him on the back and said, "Good for you! Man, I should have been here. Can I see the invisibility cloak?". But, both were still disappointed when Harry and Ron didn't find out who Nicholas Flamel was.
They had almost given up hope of ever finding Flamel in a library book, even though Harry was still sure he'd read the name somewhere. Once term had started, they were back to skimming through books for ten minutes during their breaks. (Which Alex complained about throughout) Harry had even less time than the other three, because Quidditch practice had started again. Wood was working the team harder than ever.
Even the endless rain that had replaced the snow couldn't dampen his spirits. The Weasleys complained that Wood was becoming a fanatic, to which Alex agreed, but Harry was on Wood's side. If they won their next match, against Hufflepuff, they would overtake Slytherin in the house championship for the first time in seven years.
During one particularly wet and muddy practice session, Wood gave the team a bit of bad news. According to Harry, Snape was refereeing the next match! When Harry came back from practice, Ron and Hermione were playing chess, which was the only thing that Hermione would lose to Ron at.
When he broke the news to the two of them, "Don't play," said Hermione at once. "Say you're ill," said Ron. "Pretend to break your leg," Hermione suggested. "Really break your leg," said Ron. "I can't," said Harry. "There isn't a reserve Seeker. If I back out, Gryffindor can't play at all. Also, where is Alex?" Alex walked in, eating a chocolate frog. "Hey guys, I just saved Neville from Draco's Leg-Locker curse and he gave me this Chocolate Frog. Here," she threw Harry the Chocolate Frog card, and Harry caught it. "You collect this stuff, right?" Alex confirmed.
As Alex walked towards Ron and Hermione, Harry looked at the Famous Wizard card. "Dumbledore again," he said, "He was the first one I ever - " He gasped. He stared at the back of the card. Then he looked up at Ron, Hermione and Alex. "I've found him!" he whispered. "I've found Flamel! I told you I'd read the name somewhere before, I read it on the train coming here - listen to this: 'Dumbledore is particularly famous for his defeat of the dark wizard Grindelwald in 1945, for the discovery of the twelve uses of dragon's blood, and his work on alchemy with his partner, Nicolas Flamel'!"
Hermione jumped to her feet. She hadn't looked so excited since they'd gotten back the marks for their very first piece of homework. "Stay there!" she said, and she sprinted up the stairs to the girls' dormitories. Harry, Ron and Alex barely had time to exchange mystified looks before she was dashing back, an enormous old book in her arms. "I never thought to look in here!" she whispered excitedly. "I got this out of the library weeks ago for a bit of light reading."
"Light?" said Ron, "Reading?" Alex asked incredulously, but Hermione told him to be quiet until she'd looked something up, and started flicking frantically through the pages, muttering to herself. At last she found what she was looking for. "I knew it! I knew it!" "Are we allowed to speak yet?" said Ron grumpily.
Hermione ignored him. "Nicolas Flamel," she whispered dramatically, "is the only known maker of the Sorcerer's Stone!" This didn't have quite the effect she'd expected. "The what?" said Harry and Ron. Alex just looked up for a second and continued eating her Chocolate Frog. "Oh, honestly, don't you two read? Look - read that, there."
She pushed the book toward them, and Harry and Ron read (only Harry and Ron read, because Alex was too lazy to): The ancient study of alchemy is concerned with making the Sorcerer's Stone, a legendary substance with astonishing powers. The stone will transform any metal into pure gold. It also produces the Elixir of Life, which will make the drinker immortal.
There have been many reports of the Sorcerer's Stone over the centuries, but the only Stone currently in existence belongs to Mr. Nicolas Flamel, the noted alchemist and opera lover. Mr. Flamel, who celebrated his six hundred and sixty-fifth birthday last year, enjoys a quiet life in Devon with his wife, Perenelle (six hundred and fifty-eight).
"See?" said Hermione, when Harry and Ron had finished. "The dog must be guarding Flamel's Sorcerer's Stone! I bet he asked Dumbledore to keep it safe for him, because they're friends and he knew someone was after it, that's why he wanted the Stone moved out of Gringotts!"
"A stone that makes gold and stops you from ever dying!" said Harry. "No wonder Snape's after it! Anyone would want it." "And no wonder we couldn't find Flamel in that Study of Recent Developments in Wizardry," said Ron. "He's not exactly recent if he's six hundred and sixty-five, is he?" The next morning in Defense Against the Dark Arts, while copying down different ways of treating werewolf bites, Harry and Ron were still discussing what they'd do with a Sorcerer's Stone if they had one.
It wasn't until Ron said he'd buy his own Quidditch team that Harry remembered about Snape and the coming match. "I'm going to play," he told Ron and Hermione. "If I don't, all the Slytherins will think I'm just too scared to face Snape. I'll show them... It'll really wipe the smiles off their faces if we win." "Just as long as we're not wiping you off the field," said Hermione.
As the match drew nearer, however, Harry became more and more nervous, whatever he told Ron and Hermione. The rest of the team wasn't too calm, either. The idea of overtaking Slytherin in the house championship was wonderful, no one had done it for seven years, but would they be allowed to, with such a biased referee? Harry didn't know whether he was imagining it or not, but he seemed to keep running into Snape wherever he went.
At times, he even wondered whether Snape was following him, trying to catch him on his own. Potions lessons were turning into a sort of weekly torture, Snape was so horrible to Harry. Could Snape possibly know they'd found out about the Sorcerer's Stone? Harry didn't see how he could - yet he sometimes had the horrible feeling that Snape could read minds.
Harry knew, when they wished him good luck outside the locker rooms the next afternoon, that Ron and Hermione were wondering whether they'd ever see him alive again. Alex just thumped him on the back and said, "You're dead. No pressure!" while Hermione looked at her disapprovingly for her bluntness. This wasn't what you'd call comforting. Harry hardly heard a word of Wood's pep talk as he pulled on his Quidditch robes and picked up his Nimbus Two Thousand.
Ron and Hermione, meanwhile, had found a place in the stands next to Neville, who couldn't understand why they looked so grim and worried, or why they had both brought their wands to the match. Little did Harry know that Ron and Hermione had been secretly practicing the Leg-Locker Curse. Alex just lazily waved a pretzel at them when they asked her to join in and said, "If I have to, I'll turn him into a rabbit."
They'd gotten the idea from Malfoy using it on Neville, and were ready to use it on Snape if he showed any sign of wanting to hurt Harry. "Now, don't forget, it's Locomotor Mortis," Hermione muttered as Ron slipped his wand up his sleeve. "I know," Ron snapped. "Don't nag."
Back in the locker room, Wood had taken Harry aside. "Don't want to pressure you, Potter, but if we ever need an early capture of the Snitch it's now. Finish the game before Snape can favor Hufflepuff too much." "The whole school's out there!" said Fred Weasley, peering out of the door. "Even - blimey -Dumbledore's come to watch!" Harry seemed thrilled at this, he was safe.
Perhaps that was why Snape was looking so angry as the teams marched onto the field, something that Ron noticed, too. "I've never seen Snape look so mean," he told Hermione and Alex. "Look -they're off- Ouch!"
Someone had poked Ron in the back of the head. It was Malfoy. "Oh, sorry, Weasley, didn't see you there." Malfoy grinned broadly at Crabbe and Goyle. "Wonder how long Potter's going to stay on his broom this time? Anyone want a bet? What about you, Weasley?"
Ron didn't answer; Snape had just awarded Hufflepuff a penalty because George Weasley had hit a Bludger at him. Hermione, who had all her fingers crossed in her lap, was squinting fixedly at Harry, who was circling the game like a hawk, looking for the Snitch. Alex was trying to hide from Malfoy, but he caught her eye, unfortunately, and winked, causing her to gag.
"You know how I think they choose people for the Gryffindor team?" said Malfoy loudly a few minutes later, as Snape awarded Hufflepuff another penalty for no reason at all. "It's people they feel sorry for. See, there's Potter, who's got no parents, then there's the Weasleys, who've got no money - you should be on the team, Longbottom, you've got no brains."
Neville went bright red but turned in his seat to face Malfoy. "I'm worth twelve of you, Malfoy," he stammered. Malfoy, Crabbe, and Goyle howled with laughter, but Alex, still trying to hide from Malfoy, said, "You tell him, Neville." "Longbottom, if brains were gold you'd be poorer than Weasley, and that's saying something."
Ron's nerves were already stretched to the breaking point with anxiety about Harry. "I'm warning you, Malfoy - one more word" "Ron! Alex!" gasped Hermione suddenly, "Harry -" "What? Where?" Harry had suddenly gone into a spectacular dive, which drew gasps and cheers from the crowd. Hermione stood up, her crossed fingers in her mouth, as Harry streaked toward the ground like a bullet. "Come on! You can catch the stupid thing!" Alex shouted, "And I'm actually being encouraging! Don't waste it! Catch it!"
"You're in luck, Weasley, Potter's obviously spotted some money on the ground!" said Malfoy. Ron snapped. Before Malfoy knew what was happening, Ron was on top of him, wrestling him to the ground. Neville hesitated, then clambered over the back of his seat to help. "Come on, Harry!" Hermione and Alex screamed, leaping onto their seats to watch as Harry sped straight at Snape - they didn't even notice Malfoy and Ron rolling around under Hermione's seat, or the scuffles and yelps coming from the whirl of fists that was Neville, Crabbe, and Goyle.
Up in the air, Snape turned in his seat just in time to see something scarlet shoot past him, missing him by inches - the next second, Harry had pulled out of the dive, his arm raised in triumph, the Snitch clasped in his hand. The stands erupted; it had to be a record, no one could ever remember the Snitch being caught so quickly. "Ron! Ron! Where are you? The game's over! Harry's won! We've won! Gryffindor is in the lead!" shrieked Hermione, dancing up and down on her seat and hugging Parvati Patil in the row in front. Alex shouted incoherently, jumping up and down, shrieking.
Harry jumped off his broom, a foot from the ground. He couldn't believe it. He'd done it - the game was over; it had barely lasted five minutes. As Gryffindors came spilling onto the field, he saw Snape land nearby, white-faced and tight-lipped - then Harry felt a hand on his shoulder and looked up into Dumbledore's smiling face. "Well done," said Dumbledore quietly, so that only Harry could hear. "Nice to see you haven't been brooding about that mirror... been keeping busy... excellent..."
Snape spat bitterly on the ground. Harry left the locker room alone some time later, to take his Nimbus Two Thousand back to the broomshed. He couldn't ever remember feeling happier. He'd really done something to be proud of now - no one could say he was just a famous name any more.
The evening air had never smelled so sweet. He walked over the damp grass, reliving the last hour in his head, which was a happy blur: Gryffindors running to lift him onto their shoulders; Ron, Hermione and Alex in the distance, jumping up and down, Ron cheering through a heavy nosebleed.
Harry had reached the shed. He leaned against the wooden door and looked up at Hogwarts, with its windows glowing red in the setting sun. Gryffindor in the lead. He'd done it, he'd shown Snape...
A hooded figure came swiftly down the front steps of the castle. Clearly not wanting to be seen, it walked as fast as possible toward the forbidden forest. Harry's victory faded from his mind as he watched. He recognized the figure's prowling walk. Snape, sneaking into the forest while everyone else was at dinner - what was going on?
Harry jumped back on his Nimbus Two Thousand and took off. Gliding silently over the castle he saw Snape enter the forest at a run. He followed. The trees were so thick he couldn't see where Snape had gone.
He flew in circles, lower and lower, brushing the top branches of trees until he heard voices. He glided toward them and landed noiselessly in a towering beech tree. He climbed carefully along one of the branches, holding tight to his broomstick, trying to see through the leaves. Below, in a shadowy clearing, stood Snape, but he wasn't alone. Quirrell was there, too. Harry couldn't make out the look on his face, but he was stuttering worse than ever. Harry strained to catch what they were saying. "... d-don't know why you wanted t-t-to meet here of all p-places, Severus..."
"Oh, I thought we'd keep this private," said Snape, his voice icy. "Students aren't supposed to know about the Sorcerer's Stone, after all." Harry leaned forward. Quirrell was mumbling something. Snape interrupted him. "Have you found out how to get past that beast of Hagrid's yet?"
"B-b-but Severus, I -" "You don't want me as your enemy, Quirrell," said Snape, taking a step toward him. "I-I don't know what you" "You know perfectly well what I mean." An owl hooted loudly, and Harry nearly fell out of the tree. He steadied himself in time to hear Snape say, "- your little bit of hocus-pocus. I'm waiting."
"B-but I d-d-don't -" "Very well," Snape cut in. "We'll have another little chat soon, when you've had time to think things over and decided where your loyalties lie."
He threw his cloak over his head and strode out of the clearing. It was almost dark now, but Harry could see Quirrell, standing quite still as though he was petrified. "Harry, where have you been?" Hermione squeaked. "We won! You won! We won!" shouted Ron, thumping Harry on the back. "And I gave Malfoy a black eye, and Neville tried to take on Crabbe and Goyle single-handed! He's still out cold but Madam Pomfrey says he'll be all right - talk about showing Slytherin! Everyone's waiting for you in the common room, we're having a party, Fred, George and Alex stole some cakes and stuff from the kitchens."
Alex smiled at him, "Congrats! By the way, I'm gonna need five bucks for all the walking I did. The kitchens are far!" "Never mind that now," said Harry breathlessly. "Let's find an empty room, you wait 'til you hear this..." He made sure Peeves wasn't inside before shutting the door behind them, then he told them what he'd seen and heard. "So we were right, it is the Sorcerer's Stone, and Snape's trying to force Quirrell to help him get it. He asked if he knew how to get past Fluffy - and he said something about Quirrell's 'hocus pocus - I reckon there are other things guarding the stone apart from Fluffy, loads of enchantments, probably, and Quirrell would have done some anti-Dark Arts spell that Snape needs to break through -"
"So you mean the Stone's only safe as long as Quirrell stands up to Snape?" said Hermione in alarm. "It'll be gone by next Tuesday," said Ron. "It'll be gone by tomorrow, Ron," Alex corrected.