Playing Chess, Final: Cheating

The room after the one adjoining the chess room (which had revealed nothing ofinterest after the Fiendfyre bird had flown through) contained Potionsequipment and ingredients, but Professor Quirrell produced a flask from hisrobes and poured it over the flames that had sprung up in the oppositedoorway. He flicked his wand, and a number of ingredients vanished.

A wall of solid blackness had appeared in the doorway.

“Mr. Potter, when I dispel this barrier, you must remain beneath the TrueCloak of Invisibility until I say so. That is a categorical order. Do youunderstand?”

Harry nodded, taking the Cloak from his pouch and pulling it over hisshoulders.

Ansswer in Parsseltongue.

Sshall remain beneath Cloak until otherwisse ordered.”

Professor Quirrell stooped down and pulled the corner of the Cloak overhimself, standing as far away from Harry as possible. The sense of doom wasmore bearable now that Harry knew its provenance, but it was stilluncomfortable.

Harry looked incredulously at Professor Quirrell. “Two people can wear theCloak at once?!”

“It would appear so, yes. You already knew that it was not necessary for theCloak to cover your entire body, did you not?”

Harry smacked the side of his own head, none too gently. That had been rathera lot of wasted effort in Azkaban.

The black barrier melted away.

The mirror in the centre of the room looked less like a mirror and more like aportal to a copy of the rooms behind Harry. It was framed in ornate gold, withwrought golden feet. The mirror did not look balanced, nor did it appear fixedto the floor. It was simply there, more solid by far than the walls and floorsurrounding it, like a singular fixed and determined point relative to Earth’smotion, no more moveable than the universe itself.

The Defence Professor gestured Harry around to the back of the mirror, whichwas plain gold, then hissed “It iss ssafe.”

Harry stowed away the Cloak.

“This, Mr. Potter,” said Professor Quirrell, taking on once more the tones ofa lecturer, “is the last known surviving relic of Atlantis. Merlin called itthe Mirror of Erised; Olga Xenda, supposed tutor of Baba Yaga, named it theMirror of Vec; some scholars name it the Mirror of Noitilov; and a fewscattered ancient records refer to it simply as Nillits.”

“I take it you can’t brute-force this one, Professor?”

Professor Quirrell smirked. “It is said that the Mirror of Noitilov perfectlyreflects itself. It is the safest, most secure object in existence, havingsurvived the Flood of Atlantis that wiped our forebears out of Time. It can beused to hide and trap objects and people, and it is where Dumbledore hashidden the Philosopher’s Stone. No, Mr. Potter, I rather doubt Fiendfyre willhave much of an effect upon it.”

“What does it actually do?”

“It has perfect, unchallengeable power over all that it reflects, and cancreate alternate worlds, though only those as large as what it can reflect.Its power is supposedly based on the innermost feelings and desires of itsviewer.”

That didn’t sound like a very satisfying explanation, and Harry said so.

The head tilted. “Hmm. Tell me, student of Muggle arts, what do the runes nearthe top of the Mirror say?”

The runes were simple, bold black lines and dots, curving gracefully andcoming to abrupt, straight stops, looking quite unlike any writing systemHarry had ever seen. Harry had had trouble enough with Latin. “I’m sorry,Professor, I don’t recognise-”

“Read them anyway. Not dangerouss.

Harry looked once more at the runes, and opened his mouth. “Noitilov detalopartxe tnere hoc ruoy tu becafruoy ton wohsi.” Harry looked away, blinking.That first rune was noitilov, and it meant what you detalo partxe so thatit was tnere hoc -

It was almost impossible to describe: the runes didn’t seem to relate to anyother concepts, didn’t form words in his head… Harry couldn’t visualise therunes when he looked away, let alone transliterate them…

Harry shook his head and reinforced his Occlumency barriers, but felt the sameeffect.

“I take it you do not understand, then? A pity.”

Harry had a sudden thought. “Voice recorder,” he said to his pouch. Muggletechnology didn’t work very well at all in Hogwarts, as Harry’s experimentshad shown, but the pouch seemed to block or escape the magical field, andsomething this simple would take at least a few minutes to be severelyaffected - especially with Harry’s own additions.

He read the runes aloud once more.

Harry turned his back on the Mirror and took a Quotes Quill from his pouch,then pressed the “play” button. The Quill scratched mechanically over a scrapof parchment.

Noitilov detalo partxe tnere hoc ruoy tu becafruoy ton wohsi.

“Um… ‘I show not your face, but your coherent extrapolated volition.’”

Professor Quirrell was staring at him.

And then he began to laugh.

Harry had seen Professor Quirrell smile before, and give short, sardonicchuckles, but this was wild, genuine laughter, almost like Dumbledore had donewhen Harry had blackmailed him. Harry had never once expected to see thedignified and mysterious Defence Professor double over, clutching at hissides, but there he was.

Professor Quirrell collected himself with visible effort. “Ah, Mr. Potter,”another chuckle, “I was about to say that it is known that even the greatestartefact can be defeated by a lesser, yet specialised counter-artefact,”another burst of laughter, “and yet I never expected the last legacy ofAtlantis to be brought low by a Muggle cassette tape.”

Harry felt he was entirely justified in grinning smugly. Modern Muggles one,ancient Atlanteans zero.

“Well. That alone was worth the visit, and reaffirms what I suspected. TheMirror is a device intended to grant wishes, and to prevent the end of theworld in such a way by showing a coherent extrapolation of the user’sdesire. Perhaps the Mirror transports those reflected therein to alternativeuniverses… Or perhaps it simply traps people and objects in a point of time,as some tales describe. Now, Mr. Potter, to the task of retrieving the Stone.”

The Defence Professor rolled up his sleeves, flicked his wand and said“Kulyok.” A translucent, silvery-looking pouch appeared in the palm of hishand. “This pouc- pardon me, this pouch should collect anything the Mirrordisgorges, and block any curse or contact poison applied.” Quirrell grinned.“You see, there is a rather nasty potion known as Bahl’s Stupefaction, ofwhich Alastor Moody is fond. When contacted or imbibed, it has interestingeffects on the cunning. The Dark Lady who called herself Lethae, dosed withsuch a potion, once kidnapped and attempted to interrogate one of her enemiesin exchange for the lives of his friends. Her enemy was known to be clever andunderhanded, so she confiscated all of his belongings down to the clothes onhis back, abducted him to a graveyard of all places, went so far as to forcehim to make an Unbreakable Vow, made vivid and terrifying threats against allhe loved, and raised wards against any conceivable intervention.Unfortunately, due to the Stupefaction she neglected to take his wand, and heshot her whilst she was busy monologuing.”

Harry made a mental note to see if he could get Fred and George to slip someof that stuff into Draco’s cornflakes.

Hidden beneath the Cloak, the two circled round to confront the Mirror ofErised.

OoOoO

The Mirror of Noitilov stood, solidly anchored - although, in fact, it lookedmore like the Mirror was anchoring the rest of the Universe. If Harry hadn’tknown that the Earth was in fact moving through space at enormous speeds, andmore to the point that all motion was relative, he might have thought that allreality was centred on the Mirror.

“Do you have any ideas, Mr. Potter?”

Harry thought.

“Why is the Stone in the Mirror in the first place, Professor?” It would makesome sense, and be exactly Dumbledore’s style, to set up a vast system ofincredibly easy traps guarding a Mirror that could show the viewer’s heart’sdesire (which could be an excellent motivator for a student) and just sohappened to also be the last legacy of Atlantis, the obvious and mostsecure hiding place for anything, and then actually keep the Philosopher’sStone in his sock drawer. Or, in fact, his pocket, so the would-be thief wouldhave to duel Dumbledore…

“Do you know the history of Baba Yaga, child?”

“Only vaguely.” After the school’s reaction to her name at the beginning ofthe year, Harry had looked up the “undying” witch, and found standard fairy-tale fare. She had supposedly been a shapeshifting, immortal Dark Witch whohad lived for centuries and vanished some time after teaching Battle Magic atHogwarts. It was said that she devoured naughty children, which was used as athreat by parents of children too young to wonder what possible motive animmortal Dark Lady would have to enforce childhood discipline withcannibalism.

“Baba Yaga lived far longer than any other recorded witch or wizard, and thereis evidence of her shifting forms at will, though she was never said to be aMetamorphmagus in her youth. She held the Stone of Permanence, obviously.”

Actually, there was something more important…

“Professor, sorry to interrupt, but how is the Stone made? I saw an alchemicalrecipe-”

“A lie. Simple misdirection, intended to frame possession of the Stone as someearned right, to soften the blow.” He scowled. “Magic is not permanent, as ageneral rule. One of the greatest feats of Merlin himself was the permanentConjuration of the Most Ancient Hall of the Wizengamot, and he made no habitof such magic.”

Professor Quirrell gave Harry a calculating look.

“The Stone was clearly intended as a healing device. In addition to itsprimary power, it can perform with a touch feats of healing beyond Muggles orwizards, delicate and obscenely complex and powerful healing magic. TheStone’s abilities are eldritch even by my standards. Therefore, the Stone mustbe unique, and_ very_ old indeed.”

“Oh.” That was objectively the worst news Harry had heard in quite a while. Hehad entertained the prospect of some sort of mass-manufacture of Philosopher’sStones to provide immortality to the masses, and before learning what theStone did, he’d even briefly wondered if anyone had ever actually tried toturn the Atlantic into Elixir of Life.

“Disappointing, I quite agree. Still, what magic has made, magic may yet makeagain. Regardless, some six centuries ago, Baba Yaga taught at Hogwarts. Lestshe do any harm to the students or faculty, or they to her, an ancient devicecalled the Goblet of Fire was used: Baba Yaga would spill none of thestudents’ or faculty’s blood, and take nothing of theirs, and they wouldextend her the same courtesy.”

Professor Quirrell looked speculatively at the ornate edges of the Mirror.

“In her sixth year of Hogwarts was a beautiful, clever, horrifically evilwitch named Perenelle. She seduced the Dark Lady over the months, and exhortedher to use her power of transformation to take the form of a man. The Gobletcounted what followed as the shedding of Perenelle’s blood and the taking ofher virginity, and so Perenelle murdered the forsworn Dark Witch, and took forherself the Stone.”

Professor Quirrell paused. “Of course, one does not survive six centurieswithout achieving at least a little cunning. Perhaps the entire story wasconcocted such that Baba Yaga could start a new life. It is entirely possiblethat that story, which took quite some effort to uncover, is merely anotherlayer of misdirection, and that “Nicholas and Perenelle Flamel” are reallyBaba Yaga and Perenelle pretending to be Perenelle pretending to be bothherself and her husband, and beyond that I cannot predict at what level she orthey play.”

“And the Mirror?”

“Ah, yes.” Quirrell withdrew from his robes a golden sceptre, which shouldhave been too large to fit. “I arranged for an inscription to be uncovered,claiming that this device could track the Stone wherever it lay, then carriedout an ostentatious theft bearing the mark of Voldemort’s hand. I believe theStone’s holder, whom I shall call Perenelle for the sake of brevity, insistedthat the Mirror be used, which alone might evade even the greatest scrying.”

“So Dumbledore hid it in the Mirror. What if only he can retrieve it?”

“The Mirror must be fair. It cannot be set to distinguish an individual. Itcan act only upon its viewer’s hopes and dreams.”

“How about, ‘the individual must know that the password is- ’ wait, no, it hasto involve the viewer’s wishes… Could the Mirror be set to only respond if theviewer’s wishes perfectly align with Dumbledore’s?”

Quirrell tapped his cheek. “Possibly. It seems unlikely, however, that theMirror would be so exclusive…”

“Could you Confund yourself into being like Dumbledore?”

“Even if I could do so convincingly, the Mirror sees through such lessereffects. It is claimed that even Obliviation will not fool the Mirror. Itwould be utterly impossible to trick the Mirror by simply assumingDumbledore’s persona.”

“Well, in what circumstances would Dumbledore want the Stone to beretrievable?

Quirrell looked as though he wanted to start pacing. “Mere circumstances willnot matter to the Mirror - I begin to worry that this puzzle is insoluble. TheMirror must respond to a genuine volition, a true and heartfelt aspect of theviewer’s real wishes, hopes, dreams, intentions… Ah. Ah.”

The Defence Professor smiled unnervingly. He stepped out from under the Cloakand held out the translucent pouch in his left hand, gazing directly into theMirror.

In the pouch, visible as though nothing were surrounding it, was a small chunkof shining scarlet stone, smooth and glassy and irregular. The pouch’sappearance did not change upon contact with the Stone, but it somehow seemedmore decisively real, fixed and solid.

That’s not fair, complained Ravenclaw. How did he-

Then the Professor vanished, but his reflection in the Mirror remained,alongside another one.

“Hello, David,” said Albus Dumbledore.

Author’s Note:

Seemss to me that__ ssubreddit’ss collective intelligencce sshould be ssufficcient to guess meanss of taking Sstone from Mirror with cluess given. Yess, Parsseltongue hass word for “ssubreddit”.


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