9th May 1992
"Fifty points?" Harry gasped. This would nullify the House points they'd won for the last Quidditch match.
"Fifty points each," Professor McGonagall flared. "I don't want to hear a single complaint about this. I've never been more ashamed of Gryffindor students."
Harry's heart turned to lead. There was no way they could make up for this. It had all started when they had taken Norbert to be smuggled out of the castle. They had heard Malfoy getting caught while they were on their way to the top of the tower. In their glee at Malfoy getting punished and the fact that the blasted dragon was out of their hands, they forgot the Invisibility Cloak on the top of the tower.
They were caught by Filch and Professor McGonagall on their way back. Evidently, she had already detained Malfoy, as well as Neville who seemed to have been trying to warn them. Professor McGonagall had implied immediately that they must have fed a false story about a dragon to Malfoy in order to get him in trouble, and Neville had overheard.
Harry and Hermione did not correct her, as doing so would have needed them to explain about Hagrid and the Norbert. Plus, there was no telling if it would make things better.
"Now get to bed the four of you," Professor McGonagall snapped, before walking away. Harry, Hermione, and Neville walked their way to Gryffindor Tower without sharing a single word. When they got to the dormitory, Neville didn't give Harry a chance to apologise, drawing the curtains of his four-poster bed shut.
Racked with guilt, Harry found himself unable to sleep all night. He could hear the light sobs coming from Neville's bed, but he didn't know what to say to the poor boy to make it better. And what would happen tomorrow, when the rest of the Gryffindor House found out? Surely everyone would notice a decrease of a hundred and fifty points.
In one night, all the chances of Gryffindor winning the house cup had vanished. The older students were not going to be happy.
One thing was certain. Harry pledged not to go meddling around in things that were not his business.
22nd May 1992
"So, what do we do Harry?" asked Ron, the light of adventure kindling in his eyes. Harry didn't think his pledge to himself would be challenged so soon.
He'd just told his friends about what he'd overheard. While walking back from the library, he had heard sobs coming from a classroom. When he neared it, he had heard Quirrell's voice pleading with someone.
"No - no - not again, please -"
Harry moved closer to hear to who was threatening him but evidently missed the next exchange. He finally heard Quirrell assenting softly.
"All right - all right -"
Immediately afterwards, Quirrell came rushing out of the classroom, as Harry instinctively dived in the shadows. He straightened his turban, then hurriedly walked away.
Once the footsteps had disappeared, Harry had peered into the classroom, but it was empty except for a door ajar on the other side. The other occupant must have gone the other way, and Harry could have bet his broom that it had been Snape.
Quirrell had finally given in.
"Go to Professor Dumbledore," said Hermione in reply to Ron. "We should have done that a long time ago. If we get involved ourselves, we'd be expelled next," she said with a hint of fear in her voice.
"But we have no proof," Harry retorted. "Who's going to back us up? Quirrell? Filch? Or do you think Snape will happily admit to conspiracy?" Taking a pause, he added,
"And don't forget, everyone knows that we hate him, and it's going to take a lot of explaining to cover our knowledge of things we're not even supposed to know about."
"If we just do a bit of poking around-" Ron said, drawing out every word.
"Oh no, we have done enough of poking around," Harry snapped, before taking out his notes to study.
''You've got to help me with this Neville," Mark said, frustrated with the book in front of him. Herbology was just so frustrating.
"I can't make out the difference between Anjelica and Arnica," he said to his friend. After a moment he added, "Other than one's a blonde and the other a redhead"
Neville didn't even crack a smile. 'Oh, come on,' Mark thought, 'that was a good one.' He had been trying to cheer up his friend. The whole of Gryffindor house had turned on Neville after the points fiasco; the only person who had it worse was Harry, and that was just because he was well known.
"Yeah, ok," Neville said finally, in the most dejected voice Mark had ever heard him speak in. He took the book from Mark and started explaining the difference between the two similar sounding plants.
Mark knew he should be paying attention, but he was soon lost in thought. He had been extremely angry at Harry and Hermione initially, but after gleaning the latter, he had learnt that the dragon story was actually true and that they had been trying to protect Hagrid, the kind gamekeeper.
This had dissipated Mark's anger, and he decided to chalk it off to bad luck. He didn't realise why all the Gryffindors were taking the House Points so seriously. They were there just for an incentive. Not that it was going to matter in real-life, right?
Neville had shrunk into a shell, and since it was so near the exams, they had stopped their weekly music practices too, which further made the already shy boy into a recluse.
Mark realised that he hadn't paid attention to Neville's explanation, which was now finished. Deciding to relieve his friend from giving another one, he just gleaned the information present in front of Neville's mind.
26th May 1992
"Are you all right?" the centaur standing over him asked, offering his hand to Harry. Harry took the hand and pulled himself up.
"Thank you. What - What was that?" Harry asked. referring to the figure he'd encountered just over a minute ago.
Draco Malfoy, Hermione, Neville, and he were on their detention assigned by Professor McGonagall. They were escorting Hagrid on a trip to the forbidden forest, where they were trying to find an injured unicorn.
Hagrid had arranged for the detention to be with him since it was due to his dragon that they had been in detention in the first place. At first, Malfoy and Neville were paired together alongside Fang, Hagrid's dog, but after Malfoy tried to scare Neville, Harry had been stuck with the Slytherin.
They had tried to follow the trail supposed to have been left by the unicorn: drops of silver blood. After a while, they had finally found the unicorn, but it seemed it was already dead. Before Harry could take a step further, however, a hooded figure had appeared out of the shadows.
The figure lowered its head over the silver wound on the bright white and slender figure of the unicorn and began drinking its blood.
Harry had been frozen, but Malfoy had bolted immediately. And so had Fang. This had drawn the figure's attention, and it had looked straight at Harry, silver unicorn blood dripping down its front.
White hot pain pierced Harry's head at that moment, centred around his scar, which felt as if it was on fire. He'd tried to escape, but the pain was too disorienting, and he had fallen backwards clutching his head.
The centaur now standing before him had then appeared. He had jumped clean over Harry and charged at the figure, which hastily retreated.
Harry saw the centaur studying him now; he had still not answered his question. The centaur had white-blond hair and a palomino coat. He seemed to be younger than either Bane or Ronan, the other mysterious centaurs Harry had met earlier.
"You are the Potter boy," the centaur finally spoke, his eyes on Harry's scar. "This forest is not safe for you - especially at this time of the night. Can you ride? You need to get back to Hagrid."
Harry just nodded dumbly, still shocked by the events that had happened. The centaur knelt down on his front legs and introduced himself.
"I'm Firenze," he said as Harry clambered onto his back. As he got up again, the sounds of thundering hooves came from behind them. Ronan and Bane came bursting through the trees, along with a few more centaurs.
"Have you no shame, acting like a common mule?" Bane shouted, before proceeding to speak in a language Harry couldn't understand.
Firenze retorted back in the same language, his front hooves stomping the ground in anger. Harry could make out his name being spoken, but couldn't fully follow the conversation. The centaurs were obviously proud beings, and carrying a human was some sort of a forbidden act.
"Do you not see the dead unicorn?" Firenze finally spoke in English again. "You speak of the planets, but conveniently forget what else has also been foretold."
"I do not believe it refers to one of us, Firenze," spoke Ronan in a calm tone, trying to pacify the situation. "The centaurs have sworn to never interfere, and fate would not demand us to do so."
"Then you doom us to perish, along with the rest," Firenze snapped, before turning around and galloping off with Harry still on his back.
After a while, Harry asked the immediate questions on his mind. "Why's Bane so angry? Is it because of me?" Remembering that his earlier question was also unanswered, he continued, "And what was that the thing you saved me from earlier?"
Firenze didn't talk, and the silence stayed unbroken until they reached a clearing. He stopped and motioned for Harry to get off. Once Harry dismounted, the centaur spoke.
"Harry Potter. Are you familiar with the use of Unicorn blood?"
Harry shook his head. "I've only heard of Unicorn tail hair"
"That is because the Unicorn is the most innocent of all creatures. It is a monstrous thing, a crime against nature itself to have slain something so pure." Firenze took a pause, forming the words carefully in his mouth.
"The blood of a Unicorn will keep you from death, but the cost is terrible. Only one who has nothing to lose, and everything to gain would be willing to pay it, for it will condemn you to a half-life, a cursed life."
"Who'd be that desperate?" Harry wondered aloud. "Isn't death better?"
"It is," Firenze agreed pensively, "unless all you need to do I survive. Long enough to be resurrected by something else - something that will mean you can never die"
"The Elixir of Life," Harry muttered, the pieces finally falling into place. "But who-"
"Can you think of nobody who has been waiting for over a decade to return to power?"
Harry blood ran cold as he realised who Firenze was referring to. Voldemort
4th June 1992
"Dumbledore's gone?" Harry almost shouted, "Now?"
"Professor Dumbledore is a very important wizard, Potter, and he has many responsibilities on his time-"
Harry swallowed down the lump in his throat. His worse fears were coming true. For the whole week after the incident in the forbidden forest, Harry was dreading Voldemort to walk into Hogwarts. Coupled with the still throbbing pain in his scar, he was still kind of amazed how he'd managed to give his exams through the pain and anxiety.
It was just after their last exam had ended that Harry had realised something. The only way to get to the Stone was to first go through Fluffy, and Harry knew Hagrid would never willingly betray Dumbledore.
But to get Hagrid to loosen up after some compliments was fairly easy; after all, they'd done it themselves. And if someone got his friend something he'd been wanting desperately, it would be even easier. Something like a dragon egg.
They had rushed to Hagrid, where they confirmed their suspicions. The hooded guy who gave Hagrid Norbert had seemed especially interested in Fluffy and had managed to get it out of Hagrid the manner in which to subdue the three-headed dog.
Realising that now Snape and possibly even Voldemort knew how to get through all the protections, they rushed to tell Dumbledore; but Professor McGonagall informed them right now that the Headmaster had received an urgent owl, and was gone to London.
"This is important Professor," Hermione pleaded.
"What do you have to say that is more important than the Ministry of Magic, Ms Granger?"
"Professor - it's about the Philosopher's Stone -" Harry answered to the surprise of Professor McGonagall, who dropped the books she had been carrying.
"We know that Sn- that someone is going to try and steal the stone -"
"I do not know how you found out about the stone," she interrupted, "but it is too well protected. Now I do not want to hear you tell another student some made up story as a prank, Potter."
She looked at the three students in front of her and picking up her books, left.
Once she was out of earshot, Harry turned to his friends.