Sequel to Blind Faith. Harry's second year at Hogwarts begins and something sinister stalks the halls. Muggleborns are being petrified by someting unknown, and just who could be the Heir of Slyth...
Sorry for waiting so long to write since your birthday, I promised to keep in touch but a mutual acquaintance of ours asked me to run some errands for him and it's kept me away over-long.
How are you? It must be wonderful to be back at Hogwarts. Some of my happiest memories are from my own school days there. Your father, as I've told you, was one of my first and dearest friends. I hope you find the same joy and comradeship there that I did.
You asked me about the two other people mentioned in the letter Lily left you. I couldn't answer at the time; some wounds even after many years are simply too fresh. Having had time to think it over, however, I realized that it wasn't fair to leave you in the dark about your, and your parent's past. If you insist on knowing, I will tell you in person the next time we meet. What has to be said couldn't be done justice in a letter.
I do have one request of you, though it may seem a bit odd. You told me that Neville Longbottom received an invisibility cloak Christmas last, I have an interest in it. Call it a hobby of mine, but such artefacts are extremely rare and valuable. They're usually only found in the possession of pureblood families, passed down, father-to-son. Being such, I find it interesting that anyone would give one up to the headmaster for any reason.
Most invisibility cloaks have embroidered in one corner, a maker's mark that identifies not only the craftsman, but in many cases the family crest of the family that possessed it. If the situation allows, do you think that it would be possible for you, or one of your friends to examine it and copy the makers mark for me? I know it seems silly, but I would love find out more about it.
Take care of yourself and I'll be back to visit as soon as I can.
Harry sat back feeling impressed with his father's old friend. Most wizards would have simply written the letter and cast a translation spell. From the roughness of the raised pips, he could tell that Remus had used a Braille writer. A wave of happiness went through Harry, knowing that another link to his parents existed and was becoming a part of his life.
He sat back in his chair and let Professor Binns, the ghost that taught History of Magic, Drone on while he thought about what Mooney had said in his letter. The mutual acquaintance might be Dumbledore. Remus and the headmaster had conversed at the birthday party, and obviously knew each other. Remus had also left shortly after the headmaster and had disappeared after that. It meant that there was something else he'd have to ask about when Mooney returned.
Hopefully Remus would be back before the first Quidditch match; Harry knew his father had played in his school days, and perhaps Remus would find some joy in watching Him play. Cedric had been driving them hard, even having Harry take turns as seeker to get a feel for the position. He and Draco had spent hours working on their scoring strategies - some of which bordered on the insane or illegal. The rest of their time was taken up by the study group.
The students all continued to meet in the Merlin common area, the group, in a very short time, had already doubled in size. Several first and second year students, and even the occasional third year would come three nights a week going over defence texts that had nothing to do with Professor Lockhart's curriculum.
While the defence teacher would go on for hours in his class about what he'd worn going after the Birkinghamshire Banshee, Harry and the students of his study group researched the creatures in general, learning the spells that would protect them from their deadly wail. DADA had become a joke among the students, while most of the female population was still enthralled by him, the rest of the student body was looking elsewhere. Small study groups formed in each house or among year mates, none were large or more enthusiastic as the Merlins. Anyone serious about Defence came to work with them, house was no barrier when it came to study time either.
The first to join them had been the Ravenclaws. Two of the first years had simply sat down at the table with them one day, pulled out quill and parchment, and began peppering Harry and his friends with questions about what had already been covered. Within days, Hufflepuff and Slytherin students had joined them as well. Surprisingly, it was the prideful Gryffindors that held off till the last. In the end, however, even they came, frustrated with DADA.
Noticeably absent from the study group was Hermione and Neville. After their confrontation, Hermione had been doing her best to stay out of Harry's way, almost to the point of running in the opposite direction when he noticed her. At the same time, however, she was spending much of the time they were forced to be in the same room, whether it be class or mealtimes in the Great Hall, to watch him.
According to Draco and Terry, Hermione had been using the weeks since Quidditch try-outs studying him with quick peeks and guarded glances. His friends had come to him initially, thinking that she was spying on him, possibly for Dumbledore but Harry didn't think so. He believed, hoped really, that Hermione was looking - and really seeing him for the first time.
Harry was startled from his daydreams by a bell tolling the end of class. Gathering his supplies, Harry pulled out his cane and walked with his friends toward the Great Hall for lunch. He still used the cane between classes, his excuse being that the Animadvirto de Sanus spell was too easily confused by the crowded hallways. This spared him from using his inner sight and having to deal with the inevitable headaches that would follow after a full day's use in the castle.
A smile broke over the Ravenclaw's face as he recognized his cousin's voice from down the corridor.
"Here," Harry called back as he waited for Dudley to catch up. The wait was a short one as moments later he was fairly tackled , then spun around in his cousin's overly enthusiastic embrace.
"Put me down Duds," Harry laughed. "I'm Happy to see you too but I need to breathe!"
Harry felt himself being placed promptly back on his feet. He was about to ask Dudley how his classes were going when he noticed his cousin's agitation. Dudley's breaths were quick and shallow, his voice strained, and the hands that gripped his upper arms trembled.
"Duds," Harry asked with concern as he opened his inner eye. "What's wrong? Has Thorne been after you again?"
Dudley's breath hitched a bit and his aura flared at the mention of the Slytherin's name. Damien Thorne had made it a special mission to create misery for Harry ever since their confrontation on the Quidditch pitch. After ineffectually trying to intimidate the Ravenclaw, Thorne had turned his sights on Harry's family, Dudley. Harry could tell by how his cousin was acting, that Damien had been harassing him again, but that it wasn't the real reason for his upset now.
"They won't listen to me," cried Duds inconsolably as he clutched Harry's sleeves. "I told them what the walls said but the won't believe me!"
"Wha-" Harry asked in confusion as he pulled Dudley into an unused classroom, hardly noticing as Terry Boot and Luna Lovegood followed them in. "Slow down; what do you mean about the walls talking?"
For a few moments Dudley just stood holding onto his cousin as the tried to calm down. From his cousin's hitching breaths, Harry could tell that Duds was close to tears. Harry stroked his back, murmuring reassurances as he turned his head toward Terry and Luna, acknowledging their presence. Both Ravenclaws remained a respectful distance, concerned with Dudley's agitated state but not wanting to upset him further.
When his cousin's breathing had slowed a bit, Harry asked, "What did you mean about the walls talking?"
Pulling away a bit, Dudley collected himself and replied. "It was an accident... really. I like walking around the halls at night before curfew to look at the portraits on the walls. It's just that they're only pictrures, but they talk to you and move and everything. I really like the funny one on the fifth floor that has the man getting thumped by the monsters in green tights; it's mean i guess but it makes me laugh too -"
"Duds," reminded Harry patiently. "You said the walls talked?"
"Oh-right," Dudley answered with embarrassment coming off him in waves. "I was on the second floor last night and I heard this noise coming from the wall. It sounded like somebody rubbing sandpaper on a rock. I got real close to try and hear it better and I heard it talk. The voice was all whispery and sounded mad, it kept saying 'kill' and 'rip' and 'the includers must die."
"Includers?" Harry asked uncertainly. "You're sure that's what it said?"
"Well - something like that," Dudley replied with a sullen pout. "I tried to tell the prefects but nobody believed me, not even Cedric."
"You're sure it wasn't on of the portraits playing a trick?" Terry asked. "I mean one of the fifth years told me about this time he had to see the headmaster and he got lost - a portrait gave him directions but he ended up in Filches office instead."
"It could be Scandinavian ear burrowers," Luna chimed in dreamily. "They nest in peoples ears and whisper odd things to entertain themselves."
Harry bit his lip, trying not to laugh out loud at Luna's suggestion. Some of the things she said had to be completely made up, but he didn't want to insult her in case she really believed in them. Regaining control of himself, he turned his attention back to Dudley.
"Exactly where and when did this happen?" he asked. "Where on the second floor I mean, can you guess about what time?"
A surge of happiness flooded him as Dudley crowed excitedly, "You believe me!"
"Of course," Harry replied. "You've never lied to me before, if you say you heard it, then you did. Now, where were you?"
"The picture of a mum holding her baby," Dudley answered happily. "It's by the girls wash room; I can show you.
"Not right now," Harry replied with a smile as he turned his cousin back toward the door. "It's lunchtime and you know how Aunt Petunia will get if she finds out we're missing meals."
Down in the Great Hall, Dudley sat with the Merlins, among the first years. Any anxiety he'd been feeling earlier seemed to vanish as he chattered away with his school mates and ogled the Halloween decorations.
Same as last year, the hall was decorated to mark the special occasion. Pumpkins the size of beach balls decorated every table, the ghosts floated about with great ceremony and rattling their finest chains while the bats... the bats seemed nervous this year for some reason.
"You can't be serious," Draco grumbled at Harry while stirring his creamed potatoes disinterestedly. "You're going to pass up one of the school's biggest celebrations - the best feast of the year to chase shadows in the corridors?"
"I don't think of it like chasing shadows," Harry explained. "Duds really believes that he heard a voice; after last year I don't like the idea of just ignoring something like that, especially today."
"I really doubt another troll is going to stroll into the castle," Draco said impatiently as he buttered another scone. "I mean Dumbledore has to have done something to keep that from happening again."
"If you believe him, there's no way Voldemort should have found a way into the school last year," Harry replied. "No person or protection is perfect. If somebody wants it badly enough, they'll find a way in; my family, my friends, you're all to important for me to just ignore this."
"Then tell a professor," Draco argued. "I mean you're twelve - let them take care of it."
"I will," he agreed. "Once I know it's for real, I'll go to Professor Snape myself and tell him everything. What I'm not going to do is go crying to him over nothing. That's why I'm going to check it out while everyone is at the feast. If there's anything there, I'll hear it."
"We'll hear it you mean," grumbled Draco. "You know I can't stay behind and let you have all the fun."
A bright smile broke out on Harry's face and the Merlins tucked into their meal again. Meanwhile, high above them, a bat squeaked in panic as it was snatched from the air and swallowed whole by an invisible attacker.
Hours later, Harry and Draco stood in the second floor corridor, straining futilly to pick up even the faintest sound that might verify Dudley's story. They'd been at it for more than half an hour and Draco's patience had long since worn through.
"They're having Chocolate Crawlies at the feast tonight," groaned the blond, and with a frustrated sigh, he leaned against the wall with arms crossed. "Do you know how difficult it is to enchant them all? Most of the time I can't even get mother and father to buy them for me!"
Tiredly, Harry closed his inner eye and leaned up against the wall beside his friend. "Nothing," he murmured. "Half an hour of listening and looking with my sight and all I've got is a headache."
"Told you so," said Draco with a smug tone. "Your cousin probably just imagined it. Let's get down to the Great Hall and see if there are any sweets left."
Sighing in defeat, Harry pushed himself off the wall and turned back to Draco. "Coming?" he asked.
With a grin, Draco threw an arm over his friend's shoulder and started walking toward the stairs. They hadn't taken more than a few steps when Harry heard the faint sound of stone grinding against stone. Stopping, he tilted his head slightly, trying to hear the noise better.
Frowning at the sudden stop on the way to his Chocolate Crawlies, Draco turned to Harry and asked, "Now what?"
Holding up a hand to beg for silence, the Ravenclaw eased back against the wall and put an ear to it. There was a faint scraping sound like hard leather or wood against stone. More importantly, Harry could hear a voice - low, sibilant, and in Parseltongue.
"Bite, tear, kill the intruders - eat the ones that don't belong. Rend, crush - taste the blood of the unclean."
As the voice moved down the corridor, Harry followed along the wall, trying to keep up with it. Draco, oblivious to what was behind the stones, grabbed his friend and asked, "Where are you going; what's going on?"
"It's a snake," Harry replied urgently as he tried to shrug out of Draco's grip. "I don't know what kind it is, but it's big and moving through the wall somehow."
Pulling Harry to a stop, Draco blocked his way and reminded, "You said we'd tell Professor Snape if we found anything, lets get back to the Great hall, tell him what you heard and let him deal with it."
Shaking his head impatiently, Harry pulled free and tried to explain as he pushed past Draco in the direction of the noise, "There's no time. Whatever it is, it was talking about killing somebody. If that's what it's going to do, I have to try and stop it."
"And how are you going to stop a giant snake?"
"I've got to do something," Harry replied as he ran down the corridor and opened his inner eye without care for the pain it was causing him. "Go get a professor; I'll be alright."
Draco paused for a moment, his gaze shifting from his friend's retreating back and the stairway only metres away. "Bloody Hell," he cursed as he ran as fast as his legs could carry him, trying to catch up with Harry.
The chase led down several corridors, all empty due to the Halloween feast. Even with his second sight, Harry couldn't make out what was travelling through the walls. The castle's magic was just too intense. Harry was slowly gaining on the creature with Draco hot on his heels when they turned another corner and collided with something.
"Oof," grunted the obstacle as they fell in a heap. Harry didn't need any help from his second sight to identify the other boy. Neville's distinct voice along with the cloying smell of the greenhouse readily identified him.
First and foremost a healer in training, Harry ran his senses over the Gryffindor's aura. Beyond the confusion and irritation, Neville was generating, He could sense no immediate injury. In fact, other than a mild case of magical exhaustion, Neville appeared to be wholly recovered from his ordeals of first year. If anything, he seemed stronger, more assured, and just a bit angry at the moment.
"What are you doing here?" Neville grumbled as he untangled himself from the other two boys.
"What is it to you, Longbottom?" Draco asked with a sneer as Harry futilly searched for any sign of the creature. "You haven't spared two words to us, except when Harry's tutoring you."
"Quiet, Draco," murmered Harry as he stretched all his senses to their limit.
"I was really busy," Neville answered Draco, both of them so irritated at the other that they didn't even hear Harry's plea.
Besides it's not like any of you've goe out of your way to talk to me."
"You, Weasel and Hermione left Harry in a body bind when he tried to help you, remember? Then he saves your arse from Vol - from You-Know-Who and you take credit for it!"
Unable to hear it any longer, a disappointed Harry turned his attention back to the conversation as Neville defended himself.
"We only did that to protect him!" the Gryffindor roared. "he was trying to go after a full grown wizard and he couldn't even protect himself. Besides, it wasn't Harry that stopped You-Know-Who, it was me... I mean, after all, how could he?"
Tiredly, Harry waved off Draco's angry retort before the blond could make it. "Look," he said. "I'm not going to argue with you about that, and maybe I haven't gone out of my way to talk to you. Since school started again though, you've been spending all your time with the Gryffindors, especially Ginny Weasley."
Blushing a bit, Neville hastily reminded them, "I'm a Gryffindor too," he said. "They're my housemates, I have to spend a lot of time with them."
"You're a Merlin too," Harry answered. "We share traits of all the houses. You should spend more time in our common room and be with everyone."
"Professor Dumbledore - "
"Professor Dumbledore is - " Harry took a calming breath and continued. "- isn't down here right now and you're just holding us up. Sorry, but we really have to be going."
"Wait," called Neville as Harry strode purposefully in the direction he thought the snake had been heading (and a very satisfied looking Malfoy heir right in step). "Why are you down here anyway?"
he asked as he chased after them.
"Dudley thouthg he heard something in the walls the other day that talked about killing," Harry explained vaguely. We were just checking it out."
"But that could have been anyth - "
"I heard it too," Harry interrupted. "Draco and I were following it when we ran into you. So what are you doing down here during the feast?"
"I went to a Deathday party."
"You mean a Birthday party?" Harry asked.
"No," Neville corrected. "Sir Nicholas, the Gryffindor Ghost - "
"Nearly Headless Nick, you mean," cut in Draco.
"SIR Nicholas doesn't like to be called that," the Gryffindor admonished. "Today was his 500th anniversary of his Deathday, he invited us to his party."
"Us?" asked Draco as they turned another corner. "I knew you thought a lot of yourself, Longbottom, but now you're royalty?"
"No," growled Neville, irritation coming off him in waves. "Sir Nicholas said I could bring a friend, she just had to leave early."
"It's the Weasley tart isn't it?" Draco asked gleefully. "It has to be, she hangs off you like stink to a mud - oof! - hen!" he finished as he shot a hard glance at Harry and the offending elbow. "Have you set a wedding date yet?"
"She's nice!" Neville snarled. "Don't talk about her like that."
"Why's there water on the floor?" Harry asked as their steps began making spashing sounds.
"What - "
"The chamber of Secrets has been opened," Harry said in a questioning tone. "Enemies of the heir beware."
"Harry," asked Draco. "What are you talking about?"
"it's written on the wall in something that looks like it was alive... blood maybe."
"I can see it now," answered the blond. "It's glowing."
"There's something else there, I can't quite make it out - "
"Mrs Norris!" squeaked Neville.
"Where," asked Harry "I don't sense anything."
"She's hung up by the writing," explained Draco. "Quick, we need to get out of here before - "
"No students in the halls during the feast," came Filches gravely voice from down the corridor.