Chapter 13: What is worse than Death
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Chapter - 013
 
Alex and the others pressed their ears against the gate, listening.
 
"Which way did they go, Peeves?" Filch was saying. "Quick, tell me."
 
"Say 'please.' " Peeves said coquettishly.
 
"Don't mess with me, Peeves, now where did they go?" seeing Peeves acting up, Filch was getting impatient.
 
"Shan't say nothing if you don't say please," said Peeves in his annoying singsong voice.
 
"All right — please." Finally, Filch gave in.
 
"NOTHING! Haha! Told you I wouldn't say nothing if you didn't say please! Haha! Haaaaaa!" And they heard the sound of Peeves whooshing away and Filch cursing in rage.
 
After they heard the sound of Filch's footsteps growing weaker, they sighed in relief.
 
Alex grabbed Harry by his collar and pinned him against the gate.
 
"Care to explain what are you doing Potter?" Alex asked.
 
"Get your hands off of him" Ron came forward to help Harry.
 
Alex looked at Ron, grabbed him with his other hand and pinned him alongside Harry. Ron started to squirm like a fish trying to free himself.
 
"You are eager to butt in, so you explain it to me now," Alex said.
 
Ron wanted to refute, but looking at Alex's deadpan eyes, he could only swallow his words and reply.
 
"Malfoy challenged Harry to a duel at midnight, we are here for that".
 
"Which of you morons accepted the challenge?" Listening to the reason for their midnight adventure, Alex couldn't hold back.
 
Harry, Nicole and Hermione looked towards Ron.
 
"Why am I not surprised? But you could have rejected the idea of coming here at midnight". Alex has pretty much guessed it, but he was not sure why Harry was not against it.
 
"That is none of your concern. I can make my own decisions". Harry replied coldly.
 
"Well, I don't think you can say that". Alex said with a sneer.
 
"Why?" seeing the scornful smile on Alex's face, Harry asked.
 
"If you were to get caught today, Gryffindors would have lost a lot of points. These points were mostly earned by Hermione and my sister. So you don't earn a single point, but you think it's right for you to lose them?" Alex asked.
 
"That..." Harry was at a loss for words. It was true he has yet to earn a single point for Gryffindor, but he lost a lot already.
 
"If I may say if both you and this red hair were to stop doing anything, your house might have a chance to win the house cup this year". Alex continued to ridicule Harry, but it was more like a reality check.
 
"You don't get to lecture me. Now get your hands off me". Although Harry knew, what Alex said was true, but he was not going to admit it.
 
Alex released Harry and turned towards Nicole.
 
"What are you doing here? Didn't I warn you earlier?". Alex said.
 
"It's not my fault brother, it's just that one thing lead to another and we ended up here". Nicole explained vaguely.
 
Alex looked towards Hermione to which she nodded.
 
Nicole was about to ask Alex why he was in the trophy room, but Alex gestured her to keep quiet. Soon the room fell into silence, but there was a soft growling sound.
 
Harry turned around — and saw, quite clearly, what. For a moment, he was sure he'd walked into a nightmare — this was too much, on top of everything that had happened so far.
 
They weren't in a room, as he had supposed. They were in a corridor. The forbidden corridor on the third floor. And now they knew why it was forbidden.
 
They were looking straight into the eyes of a monstrous dog, a dog that filled the whole space between ceiling and floor. It had three heads. Three pairs of rolling, mad eyes; three noses, twitching and quivering in their direction; three drooling mouths, saliva hanging in slippery ropes from yellowish fangs.
 
It was standing quite still, all six eyes staring at them, and They knew that the only reason they weren't already dead was that their sudden appearance had taken it by surprise, but it was quickly getting over that, there was no mistaking what those thunderous growls meant.
 
They fell backwards — Alex slammed the door shut, and they ran, they almost flew, back down the corridor. Filch must have hurried off to look for them somewhere else because they didn't see him anywhere, but they hardly cared — all they wanted to do was put as much space as possible between them and that monster.
They didn't stop running until they reached the stairways. The stairs were constantly changing, but no one was in a position to think clearly, so they just stood there.
 
Alex looked around and calculated for a while, after that he took out his wand and a tiny speck of light emerged out of it.
 
"Follow this, it will take you to the Gryffindor tower," Alex said. "And don't even think about wandering around, believe me, I will know" Alex continued.
 
Saying this Alex left and disappeared into the shadows.
 
Nicole and the others followed the light and were soon standing in front of the fat lady's portrait. They saw Neville curled up on the floor, fast asleep, but jerked suddenly awake as they crept nearer.
 
"Thank goodness you found me! I've been out here for hours, I couldn't remember the new password to get into bed." Neville said almost on the verge of shedding tears.
 
"Keep your voice down, Neville. The password's 'Pig snout'." Ron said.
 
"How's your arm?" asked Harry.
 
"Fine," said Neville, showing them. "Madam Pomfrey mended it in about a minute."
 
Their conversation was interrupted by the fat lady.
 
"Where on earth have you all been?" she asked, looking at their bathrobes hanging off their shoulders and their flushed, sweaty faces.
 
"Never mind that — pig snout, pig snout," panted Harry, and the portrait swung forward. They scrambled into the common room and collapsed, trembling, into armchairs.
 
"What do they think they're doing, keeping a thing like that locked up in a school?" said Ron finally. "If any dog needs exercise, that one does."
 
Hermione had got both her breath and her bad temper back again.
 
"You don't use your eyes, any of you, do you?" she snapped. "Didn't you see what it was standing on?"
 
"The floor?" Harry suggested. "I wasn't looking at its feet, I was too busy with its heads."
 
"No, not the floor. It was standing on a trapdoor. It's obviously guarding something." She stood up, glaring at them.
 
"I hope you're pleased with yourselves. We could all have been killed — or worse, expelled. Now, if you don't mind, I'm going to bed." Hermione said while pulling Nicole with her.
 
Ron stared after her, his mouth open. He was thinking, was getting expelled really worse than dying.
 
"No, we don't mind," he said. "You'd think we dragged her along, wouldn't you?"
 
Nicole and Hermione entered their room.
 
"How do you think your brother appeared all of sudden?" Hermione asked. She was curious as to why Alex was there. Well, she was not the only curious one.
 
"I don't know and from what I can guess he won't tell me either". Nicole replied.
 
"Do you think he was spying on his little sister? 'The Gryffindor Bella'" Hermione asked teasingly.
 
"Shut up! I think he was there for another purpose and met us by chance" Nicole said with flushed cheeks. She has been embarrassed about the 'Bella' thing.
 
"Well thanks to him we didn't get caught otherwise we could have lost a lot of points," Hermione said. She was more scared of losing points than death itself.
 
"Leaving that aside, it sure was a breathtaking experience," Nicole said while recalling the events they just went through. Although she was scared at that time, but now it was something worth going through.
 
"What do you think the dog is guarding?" Hermione asked.
 
"Beats me, but must be something precious" Nicole replied.
 
And the girls talked all night long.
 
Here Alex, after coming back to his room sat in front of the map for quite some time, and when he was sure that the trouble makers are not going anywhere else, he went to bed.
 
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