AN:As I mentioned before the text in bold is borrowed directly from Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone by JK Rowling.
4th June 1992
A bloody chessboard.
Mark groaned inwardly at the sight before him. If there was a game he hated, it was chess. Everyone had always assumed that because he got good grades, chess would be a game he liked. The truth was the exact opposite.
Firstly, chess required patience- something he didn't like spending staring at marble pieces. Secondly, the thrill that other players got in trying to predict the moves of their opponent was non-existent for him; no use predicting when you are able to pluck the answer from the guy in front of you.
"What now?" Neville whispered
"We have to play across the board," said Ron. "Look, there's the door behind the white pieces."
"How exactly do we do that?" Hermione asked.
"We're going to have to be chessmen," Mark answered, locking eyes with Ron. Giving him a slight nod, he proceeded to the black bishop in front of him. "You're the best at this, Ron. Your call"
"What happens if we lose?" Neville asked the question hanging in the air. It was Harry who answered.
"Ron, you should take the King, that way you can direct everyone else," Mark supplied.
"We may need to sacrifice the Queen," Ron added, nodding to Mark's observation. Looking at the others, he continued, "Harry, you take the place of that Bishop, Hermione you take the place of that Rook. Neville, you're the other Rook, and Mark you're that Knight"
At these words, the corresponding black pieces turned their back and walked off the board. The five of them took their positions. Once they were on their squares, a white pawn moved forward two squares.
Ron swallowed the lump in his throat and started to direct his pieces.
As the game progressed, they got a demonstration of what would happen if they failed, when the white knight smashed a black pawn with her club. Ron got even more nervous at that and took his time considering his moves.
"Who do you think made this challenge?" Mark asked Hermione, who was a couple of squares beside him.
"Professor McGonagall, obviously. These pieces are all examples of animation." She whispered confidently.
"Huh, you're right. Didn't strike me." Mark turned his attention back to the chessboard to see Ron ordering a black pawn to move. The white Queen moved immediately in response.
"What in the bloody-" Ron said to himself. Mark also noticed the odd move.
"Did that move make any sense to you?"
"No," Ron answered, exasperated. "It's actually confusing me. It just forced the same situation in five moves instead of three. It's just not making sense."
"It's stalling," Neville and Hermione answered simultaneously, surprising the other.
"Its meant to be a trap!" Harry exclaimed, coming to a realisation. "So whoever tries to play gets stuck in the game!"
"Wait - you mean the board isn't trying to win, but lengthen the game?" Ron asked, and Hermione nodded vigorously. "Okay then. Let's try this. E4!"
The White Queen moved three squares in response. Ron laughed in delight.
"Oh yes! Now, I've got you"
"You're a real genius, Ron!"
"It was nothing," the boy in question replied, his cheeks flushed.
Ron wasn't used to compliments. He certainly hadn't received many at home, other than the usual 'Oh look, you've grown.' His mother always had some complaint about him. Sometimes it was how untidy he was, while at others it had to do with his impolite table manners. Not that he remembered anyone taking out the time to teach him any.
"It was not nothing!" Hermione argued passionately. "Do you realise that you just beat Professor McGonagall at chess, with a handicap of not being able to sacrifice five pieces?"
Ron gaped like a fish, turning redder by the moment. Harry seemed alarmed, while the others were holding their laughs. Finally, he managed to splutter a response.
"I - I wouldn't have been able to win without - without Mark and your help. Eh, how about that?"
"We may have helped, but you played the game. You are even unable to take a simple compliment!"
"Trust Granger to insult someone while complimenting them," Mark whispered to Neville; Hermione heard and turned to him. Before she could say anything further, Harry interrupted.
"The next door then?"
Everyone was jolted back to the reality of what they were doing here. All sobered up, they proceeded to the door. Mark voiced the question on his mind.
"What do you reckon is next?"
"Well Professor McGonagall put in the chess set, and Flitwick must have charmed the keys. Sprout must have put in the plant-" Harry thought aloud
"Devils Snare," supplied Neville.
"Right, Devil's Snare, and whatever Dumbledore's protection is will be last. So that leaves Quirrell and Snape," he finished with a distaste.
Looking at the others who had their wands drawn, he nodded before slowly opening the door. It was pitch dark inside. The first thing that hit them was the smell- smell which Harry recognised immediately.
"Troll," he hissed violently. "Its another troll!" They could make out the Troll's silhouette in the faint light.
"What do you mean another troll?" Mark asked. "Do you mean the one at the Halloween feast?"
"Yes, we fought that one in the bathroom," Ron said. "Should've gotten more than fifteen points for that."
"And how did you beat that troll?" Mark asked, curious about the events.
"Guys," Neville said softly, but no one paid any attention.
"They threw rocks at the troll to confuse it, and Harry climbed onto its back and put his wand up the troll's nose. Ron levitated the troll's club in the air and dropped it right onto its head. They were very brave" Hermione finished with a hint of pride.
"Uh, Guys," Neville spoke again, a little louder this time.
"So that's how we do it? Go for the club?" Mark asked, preparing himself for a fight.
"Guys!" Neville now hissed with enough force to draw their attention. "It's been put to sleep already. Listen!"
The four quieted down and paid attention. Surely enough they could make out the soft snores.
"That's a relief," Ron said, breaking the silence. "You reckon Snape did it?" he asked more seriously.
"Must be. Let's go," Harry said, his voice betraying his nervousness. They proceeded towards Neville who had managed to find the door to the next chamber.
Pulling the door open, the sight that met their eyes was pretty anticlimactic. Just a table with seven differently shaped bottles.
"Snape's," remarked Harry.
"Seems tame for the greasy git," Ron observed. Mark nodded in agreement.
Slightly relaxed, they crossed over the threshold. As soon as they all were inside the room, a fire sprang up in the doorway behind them. It was a sickly purple in colour. At the same time, black flames shot up in the doorway leading forward.
"This seems more like it," Mark said to no one in particular.
"Look at this!" Hermione whispered, her attention drawn to a rolled parchment beside the bottle. Flattening it on the table, the five of them read its contents.
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 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.
To say Ron was flabbergasted would be an understatement. A poem? Since when did Snape start writing poetry? He looked at the others; Neville face held the same confusion as his, while Harry's also had a sense of fear mixed in. Mark seemed to be looking at the bottles and muttering, and to Ron's amazement, Hermione's face held a hint of a smile.
"It's a puzzle - a logic puzzle," Hermione said, her eyebrows now furrowing and her mind clearly racing to solve it. She began pacing down the length of the table, muttering to herself. Ron took a step back to let her work in peace; Harry and Neville followed his cue. Mark, on the other hand, moved closer and peered at the bottles.
"Seven bottles: three poison, two wine-" Hermione said
"-one to go forward, one to go back," Mark finished. "It can't be that simple."
"You've figured it out?" Hermione asked pointedly. Mark shook his head before replying,
"No, but it's solvable." Hermione nodded at that before turning her attention back to the parchment. After a few minutes, she spoke again, drawing out her words.
"The smallest bottle will let us go forward - through the black fire." Her voice, however, showed no sign of solving the puzzle. She picked up the bottle in question and showed it to the others. It held enough for only a single swallow.
"Which one will let you back through the purple flames?" asked Harry. Hermione pointed at another rounded bottle at the right end of the line.
"Good, you guys drink that and go back-" He couldn't finish his words as both Ron and Neville began to object loudly. Mark who was still examining the other bottles, suddenly moved to Hermione and snatched the small bottle from her hand.
"No!" Harry shouted as he saw Mark move the bottle towards his mouth; it stopped just near his nose. They watched as he sniffed it, seemingly searching for something.
"Hermione," Mark spoke slowly, "isn't Nettle wine a diluting agent?"
"Yes, in certain cases. It allows certain potions to be diluted without reducing their effectiveness. The most common use would be for- for antidotes," she answered, her face lighting up at each word she spoke. "Of course! That's what we can do!"
"What do you mean?" asked Neville.
"We can dilute the potion in the smallest bottle-" Hermione answered
"-and have enough for all of us to go through! See, we can all go through!" Ron said triumphantly to Harry.
"But-" Harry tried to argue, but Neville interrupted.
"No Harry, we won't be abandoning you now." Harry looked at his friends who had the same determination on their face. Realising he was outvoted, he sighed and nodded.
Mark immediately went to the table and poured the contents of the smallest bottle into the largest, and mixed it around. One by one they all took a gulp and shuddered.
"Eeeugh, it's like drinking ice," Ron remarked.
"Like bad ice," Mark supplied.
"Ready then?" Harry said drawing his wand from his robes.
AN: Another chapter done! Onto the final confrontation of year one with you-know-who. As you can see there are further deviations from canon in this chapter.
Firstly the chess match in PS was one of the best parts of the book, especially since it showcases Ron's strengths. However, from a story point of view having a chessboard as a trap doesn't make sense; unless McGonagall wanted to keep the player occupied in a pointless match. I wanted to showcase that in some way and make sure all five of them end up in the final chamber- which has repercussions on the characters and the story later.
As for Snape's test, I like to think that a man so full of himself will not use just a moderately difficult logic puzzle. Its purpose is brilliant since it forces just one person through, breaking up a possible team of intruders (exactly what happens in PS). But he is a Potions master, and this is something he would likely do. Most fics that show someone else going in with Harry that I've read go for the self-filling bottle or something similar, which is a little too convenient.
It might seem that I'm making Mark steal some of Hermione and Ron's credit by having him offer alternative paths. We don't see Harry interfering in either the chess match or the puzzle in PS. But PS Harry is an underconfident guy who has experienced years of abuse, so he keeps to himself whenever someone else takes charge confidently (mostly Hermione), something that's still a part of him by the end of DH. Mark is a pampered and curious kid, so he'll never completely stand in the sidelines.
I hope you enjoyed this chapter. Please Review and look out for the next one.