Dumbledore had convinced Harry not to go looking for the Mirrorof Erised again, and for the rest of the Christmas holidays theinvisibility cloak stayed folded at the bottom of his trunk. Harrywished he could forget what he'd seen in the mirror as easily, buthe couldn't. He started having nightmares. Over and over again hedreamed about his parents disappearing in a flash of green light,while a high voice cackled with laughter. "You see, Dumbledore was right, that mirror could drive you mad,"said Ron, when Harry told him about these drearns. Hermione, who came back the day before term started, took adifferent view of things. She was torn between horror at the ideaof Harry being out of bed, roaming the school three nights in a row("If Filch had caught you!"), and disappointment that he hadn't atleast found out who Nicolas Flamel was. They had almost given up hope of ever finding Flamel in a li-brary book, even though Harry was still sure he'd read the namesomewhere. Once term had started, they were back to skimming throughbooks for ten minutes during their breaks. Harry had even less timethan the other two, because Quidditch practice had started again. Wood was working the team harder than ever. Even the endlessrain that had replaced the snow couldn't dampen his spirits. TheWeasleys complained that Wood was becoming a fanatic, but Harry wason Wood's side. If they won their next match, against Hufflepuff,they would overtake Slytherin in the house championship for the firsttime in seven years. Quite apart from wanting to win, Harry foundthat he had fewer nightmares when he was tired out after training. Then, during one particularly wet and muddy practice session,Wood gave the team a bit of bad news. He'd just gotten very angrywith the Weasleys, who kept dive-bombing each other and pretendingto fall off their brooms. "Will you stop messing around!" he yelled. "That's exactlythe sort of thing that'll lose us the match! Snape's refereeingthis time, and he'll be looking for any excuse to knock pointsoff Gryffindor!" George Weasley really did fall off his broom at these words. "Snape's refereeing?" he spluttered through a mouthful ofmud. "When's he ever refereed a Quidditch match? He's not going tobe fair if we might overtake Slytherin." The rest of the team landed next to George to complain, too. "It's not my fault," said Wood. "We've just got to make surewe play a clean game, so Snape hasn't got an excuse to pick on us." Which was all very well, thought Harry, but he had another reasonfor not wanting Snape near him while he was playing Quidditch.... The rest of the team hung back to talk to one another as usualat the end of practice, but Harry headed straight back to theGryffindor common room, where he found Ron and Hermione playingchess. Chess was the only thing Hermione ever lost at, somethingHarry and Ron thought was very good for her. "Don't talk to me for a moment," said Ron when Harry sat downnext to him, "I need to concen --" He caught sight of Harry'sface. "What's the matter with you? You look terrible." Speaking quietly so that no one else would hear, Harry told theother two about Snape's sudden, sinister desire to be a Quidditchreferee. "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 backout, Gryffindor can't play at all." At that moment Neville toppled into the common room. How hehad managed to climb through the portrait hole was anyone's guess,because his legs had been stuck together with what they recognizedat once as the Leg-Locker Curse. He must have had to bunny hop allthe way up to Gryffindor tower. Everyone fell over laughing except Hermione, who leapt up andperformed the countercurse. Neville's legs sprang apart and hegot to his feet, trembling. "What happened?" Hermione asked him,leading him over to sit with Harry and Ron. "Malfoy," said Neville shakily. "I met him outside thelibrary. He said he'd been looking for someone to practice that on." "Go to Professor McGonagall!" Hermione urged Neville. "Reporthim!" Neville shook his head. "I don't want more trouble," he mumbled. "You've got to stand up to him, Neville!" said Ron. "He's usedto walking all over people, but that's no reason to lie down infront of him and make it easier." "There's no need to tell me I'm not brave enough to be inGryffindor, Malfoy's already done that," Neville choked out. Harry felt in the pocket of his robes and pulled out a ChocolateFrog, the very last one from the box Hermione had given him forChristmas. He gave it to Neville, who looked as though he might cry. "You're worth twelve of Malfoy," Harry said. "The SortingHat chose you for Gryffindor, didn't it? And where's Malfoy? Instinking Slytherin." Neville's lips twitched in a weak smile as he unwrapped the frog. "Thanks, Harry... I think I'll go to bed.... D'you want the card,you collect them, don't you?" As Neville walked away, 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 lookedup at Ron and Hermione. "I've found him!" he whispered. "I've found Flamel! I told youI'd read the name somewhere before, I read it on the train cominghere -- listen to this: 'Dumbledore is particularly famous for hisdefeat of the dark wizard Grindelwald in 1945, for the discoveryof the twelve uses of dragon's blood, and his work on alchemy withhis partner, Nicolas Flamel'!" Hermione jumped to her feet. She hadn't looked so excited sincethey'd gotten back the marks for their very first piece of homework. "Stay there!" she said, and she sprinted up the stairs tothe girls' dormitories. Harry and Ron barely had time to exchangemystified looks before she was dashing back, an enormous old bookin her arms. "I never thought to look in here!" she whispered excitedly. "Igot this out of the library weeks ago for a bit of light reading." "Light?" said Ron, but Hermione told him to be quiet until she'dlooked something up, and started flicking frantically through thepages, 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. Hermioneignored him. "Nicolas Flamel," she whispered dramatically, "is the onlyknown maker of the Sorcerer's Stone!" This didn't have quite the effect she'd expected. "The what?" said Harry and Ron. "Oh, honestly, don't you two read? Look -- read that, there." She pushed the book toward them, and Harry and Ron read: Theancient study of alchemy is concerned with making the Sorcerer'sStone, a legendary substance with astonishing powers. The stone willtransform any metal into pure gold. It also produces the Elixir ofLife, which will make the drinker immortal. There have been many reports of the Sorcerer's Stone over thecenturies, but the only Stone currently in existence belongs toMr. 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 hundredand fifty-eight). "See?" said Hermione, when Harry and Ron had finished. "The dogmust be guarding Flamel's Sorcerer's Stone! I bet he asked Dumbledoreto keep it safe for him, because they're friends and he knew someonewas after it, that's why he wanted the Stone moved out of Gringotts!" "A stone that makes gold and stops you from ever dying!" saidHarry. "No wonder Snape's after it! Anyone would want it." "And no wonder we couldn't find Flamel in that Study of RecentDevelopments in Wizardry," said Ron. "He's not exactly recent ifhe's six hundred and sixty-five, is he?" The next morning in Defense Against the Dark Arts, while copyingdown different ways of treating werewolf bites, Harry and Ron werestill discussing what they'd do with a Sorcerer's Stone if they hadone. It wasn't until Ron said he'd buy his own Quidditch team thatHarry remembered about Snape and the coming match. "I'm going to play," he told Ron and Hermione. "If I don't, allthe Slytherins will think I'm just too scared to face Snape. I'llshow 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," saidHermione. As the match drew nearer, however, Harry became more and morenervous, whatever he told Ron and Hermione. The rest of the teamwasn't too calm, either. The idea of overtaking Slytherin in thehouse 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, buthe seemed to keep running into Snape wherever he went. At times,he even wondered whether Snape was following him, trying to catchhim on his own. Potions lessons were turning into a sort of weeklytorture, Snape was so horrible to Harry. Could Snape possibly knowthey'd found out about the Sorcerer's Stone? Harry didn't see howhe could -- yet he sometimes had the horrible feeling that Snapecould read minds. Harry knew, when they wished him good luck outside the lockerrooms the next afternoon, that Ron and Hermione were wonderingwhether they'd ever see him alive again. This wasn't what you'dcall comforting. Harry hardly heard a word of Wood's pep talk as hepulled on his Quidditch robes and picked up his Nimbus Two Thousand. Ron and Hermione, meanwhile, had found a place in the standsnext to Neville, who couldn't understand why they looked sogrim and worried, or why they had both brought their wands to thematch. Little did Harry know that Ron and Hermione had been secretlypracticing the Leg-Locker Curse. They'd gotten the idea from Malfoyusing it on Neville, and were ready to use it on Snape if he showedany sign of wanting to hurt Harry. "Now, don't forget, it's Locomotor Mortis," Hermione mutteredas 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 anearly capture of the Snitch it's now. Finish the game before Snapecan favor Hufflepuff too much." "The whole school's out there!" said Fred Weasley, peering outof the door. "Even -- blimey -- Dumbledore's come to watch!" Harry's heart did a somersault. "Dumbledore?" he said, dashing to the door to make sure. Fredwas right. There was no mistaking that silver beard. Harry could have laughed out loud with relief He was safe. Therewas simply no way that Snape would dare to try to hurt him ifDumbledore was watching. Perhaps that was why Snape was looking so angry as the teamsmarched onto the field, something that Ron noticed, too. "I've never seen Snape look so mean," he told Hermione. "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 thistime? Anyone want a bet? What about you, Weasley?" Ron didn't answer; Snape had just awarded Hufflepuff a penaltybecause George Weasley had hit a Bludger at him. Hermione, who hadall her fingers crossed in her lap, was squinting fixedly at Harry,who was circling the game like a hawk, looking for the Snitch. "You know how I think they choose people for the Gryffindorteam?" said Malfoy loudly a few minutes later, as Snape awardedHufflepuff another penalty for no reason at all. "It's peoplethey 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 onthe 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 Ron, stillnot daring to take his eyes from the game, 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 withanxiety about Harry. "I'm warning you, Malfoy -- one more word "Ron!" said Hermione suddenly, "Harry --" "What? Where?" Harry had suddenly gone into a spectacular dive, which drew gaspsand cheers from the crowd. Hermione stood up, her crossed fingersin her mouth, as Harry streaked toward the ground like a bullet. "You're in luck, Weasley, Potter's obviously spotted some moneyon the ground!" said Malfoy. Ron snapped. Before Malfoy knew what was happening, Ron wason top of him, wrestling him to the ground. Neville hesitated,then clambered over the back of his seat to help. "Come on, Harry!" Hermione screamed, leaping onto her seat towatch as Harry sped straight at Snape -- she didn't even noticeMalfoy and Ron rolling around under her seat, or the scuffles andyelps coming from the whirl of fists that was Neville, Crabbe,and Goyle. Up in the air, Snape turned on his broomstick just in timeto see something scarlet shoot past him, missing him by inches --the next second, Harry had pulled out of the dive, his arm raisedin triumph, the Snitch clasped in his hand. The stands erupted; it had to be a record, no one could everremember the Snitch being caught so quickly. "Ron! Ron! Where are you? The game's over! Harry's won! We'vewon! Gryffindor is in the lead!" shrieked Hermione, dancing up anddown on her seat and hugging Parvati Patil in the row in front. Harry jumped off his broom, a foot from the ground. He couldn'tbelieve it. He'd done it -- the game was over; it had barely lastedfive minutes. As Gryffindors came spilling onto the field, he sawSnape land nearby, white-faced and tight-lipped -- then Harry felta hand on his shoulder and looked up into Dumbledore's smiling face. "Well done," said Dumbledore quietly, so that only Harrycould hear. "Nice to see you haven't been brooding about thatmirror... been keeping busy... excellent..." Snape spat bitterly on the ground. Harry left the locker room alone some time later, to take hisNimbus Two Thousand back to the broomshed. He couldn't ever rememberfeeling happier. He'd really done something to be proud of now -- noone could say he was just a famous name any more. The evening air hadnever smelled so sweet. He walked over the damp grass, reliving thelast hour in his head, which was a happy blur: Gryffindors runningto lift him onto their shoulders; Ron and Hermione in the distance,jumping up and down, Ron cheering through a heavy nosebleed. Harry had reached the shed. He leaned against the wooden door andlooked up at Hogwarts, with its windows glowing red in the settingsun. Gryffindor in the lead. He'd done it, he'd shown Snape.... And speaking of Snape... A hooded figure came swiftly down the front steps of thecastle. Clearly not wanting to be seen, it walked as fast as possibletoward the forbidden forest. Harry's victory faded from his mindas 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 tookoff. Gliding silently over the castle he saw Snape enter the forestat a run. He followed. The trees were so thick he couldn't see where Snape had gone. Heflew in circles, lower and lower, brushing the top branches of treesuntil he heard voices. He glided toward them and landed noiselesslyin a towering beech tree. He climbed carefully along one of the branches, holding tightto his broomstick, trying to see through the leaves. Below, in ashadowy clearing, stood Snape, but he wasn't alone. Quirrell wasthere, too. Harry couldn't make out the look on his face, but hewas stuttering worse than ever. Harry strained to catch what theywere saying. "... d-don't know why you wanted t-t-to meet here of allp-places, Severus..." "Oh, I thought we'd keep this private," said Snape, his voiceicy. "Students aren't supposed to know about the Sorcerer's Stone,after all." Harry leaned forward. Quirrell was mumbling something. Snapeinterrupted 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, takinga 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. Hesteadied himself in time to hear Snape say, "-- your little bit ofhocus-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 yourloyalties lie." He threw his cloak over his head and strode out of theclearing. 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 theback. "And I gave Malfoy a black eye, and Neville tried to take onCrabbe and Goyle single-handed! He's still out cold but Madam Pomfteysays he'll be all right - talk about showing Slytherin! Everyone'swaiting for you in the common room, we're having a party, Fred andGeorge stole some cakes and stuff from the kitchens." "Never mind that now," said Harry breathlessly. "Let's find anempty room, you wait 'til you hear this...." He made sure Peeves wasn't inside before shutting the doorbehind them, then he told them what he'd seen and heard. "So we were right, it is the Sorcerer's Stone, and Snape's tryingto force Quirrell to help him get it. He asked if he knew how to getpast Fluffy - and he said something about Quirrell's 'hocus pocuss--I reckon there are other things guarding the stone apart from Fluffy,loads of enchantments, probably, and Quirrell would have done someanti-Dark Arts spell that Snape needs to break through --" "So you mean the Stone's only safe as long as Quirrell standsup to Snape?" said Hermione in alarm. "It'll be gone by next Tuesday," said Ron.