Taking a little trip down memory lane, or hidden tunnel, as the case may be. What ever happened to old Salazar, anyway? Elementary, my dear Granger! Voldemort drops a few hints in Bella's ear.
Say the secret word - part two
"Can I come?" asked Ginny. "After all, I've been down there before."
It was breakfast time and Dumbledore had just informed everyone of the planned trip to the Chamber of Secrets.
"So was I, just not all the way to the actual Chamber," Ron added.
"I don't see why not; it will help de-mystify the place. Make it less of an intimidating mystery and more of an extension of our castle." Dumbledore gave a nod.
"Can any of us, who wants to, come along?" Hermione spoke up. "We could learn our way around, make notes."
"That sounds like an admirable idea, Miss Granger," Albus smiled at her. "We should also, possibly, measure and map the tunnel and Chamber, for addition in a new chapter of /Hogwarts -A History/."
"Oh!" Hermione's eyes got big. "I'll volunteer to do that, sir; take notes, measurements, pictures, if I can find a camera. Too bad Colin went home for the holiday."
"Now look what you've done!" exclaimed Ron, turning to the Headmaster. "She's got a /project/!"
Hermione swatted him on the arm. "Ron!"
"Indeed, Mr. Weasley," responded Dumbledore, laughing and shaking his head. "But who better to do such a 'project' than Miss Granger, eh?"
Ron rolled his eyes and then grinned, nodding.
"Dr. Jones, welcome! Join us for some breakfast, won't you?"
"Thanks you, but I've had breakfast already. I'll not say no to another cup of coffee, though."
"Have you been up to the seventh floor?"
"Yes, just did my 'morning rounds' and am happy to report all is well and Anna and the twins can come home tomorrow." Gwen seated herself at the place where Remus was holding a chair for her. "Hi, honey." She gave him a quick kiss, which caused him to blush.
"So," Minerva turned the subject back to the proposed trip to spare Remus any more embarrassment, as he was turning beet red under the gazes of Professors Flitwick and Sprout. "We're discussing a trip to the Chamber of Secrets, Gwen, have you heard of it?"
"As a matter of fact, I have. Anna's brought me up to speed about Voldemort and everything that's been happening around Hogwarts for the last couple of years. Why would you all want to go down there?"
"Just checking to make sure there isn't a way into the castle somewhere in those tunnels and the Chamber that we've been unaware of; precautionary, checking all possibilities."
"Cool! I want to go, too"
"Gwen, it's dank and dirty and really..." Remus started to list his objections, but one look at Gwen's set jaw and he knew he was not going to win. "Ah...nasty..../so/, have you got a really old pairs of jeans you don't mind getting dirty?"
"As a matter of fact, I do. I'll pop home, tell Narcissa where I'm going and do a quick change." Turning to Albus, she cocked her head. "I can come, can't I?"
"Of course, and that's a good idea, donning old clothes as Harry and Ron did say it was fairly filthy and wet down there, didn't you?" He turned to face the two boys.
"A right mess, actually," Harry agreed.
"Yeah, dank and dark and the tunnel is all dusty." Ron added.
"So, in that case, anyone who wants to join our little expedition should go and change into suitable old clothes and meet at the entrance to the girls lavatory on the third floor in, say, half an hour?" Albus checked his watch.
"Severus is having breakfast with Anna, should I stop and tell him of our plans?" Remus asked.
"Yes, I dare say he wouldn't want to miss this," Draco acknowledged.
"Do you want me to see if your Mother would want to come, Draco?" asked Gwen, looking over at him.
"Please/...think of whom you're talking; /my Mother, down in those tunnels...I don't think so." Draco shook his head, smiling.
"Yeah, you're probably right, it's cotton gloves and a smock when she's puttering in our garden," admitted Gwen. "But I'll still give her the option. Dobby could baby-sit"
"Whatever." Draco laughed. "That is not happening," he whispered to Harry, who shook his head, agreeing.
"Well, then, let's all get a move on, shall we?" Dumbledore rose and headed out of the Great Hall.
Thirty minutes later there was assembled a group of four adults: Albus, Severus, Remus and Gwen, along with the students, at the door to the third floor girls' lavatory. It was more commonly called 'Moaning Myrtle's Bathroom' after the resident ghost of the student killed fifty years earlier, when then student Tom Riddle set a basilisk loose in the school. It was rarely used, even all these years later.
Upon entering, Harry, for whom Myrtle had developed a fondness, introduced Gwen, Remus, Severus and Draco. The others she was acquainted with for the incident with Ginny Weasley six years earlier and from the trio using the bathroom for brewing their Polyjuice Potion that year, also.
"Myrtle, we're going down to the Chamber of Secrets, want to come with us?" offered Hermione.
"No, thank you. I've been there; it's boring."
"Oh, alright then; we'll see you when we get back."
Ron was looking down the gaping opening in the floor that had been revealed after Harry had hissed at the sinks in Parseltongue to 'open'.
"You know. Harry, I don't fancy jumping down this hole again, even though I know what's down there."
"Use the stairs, silly," Myrtle whispered in his ear, as she drifted by, which made Ron jump.
"Yikes! Wait....Myrtle, what stairs?"
"The ones she used," she replied, pointing to Ginny.
Everyone swiveled to stare at her, but Ginny shook her head.
"Sorry, don't remember how I got down there; I was possessed, I don't have a clue how I did it."
"I'll try asking for them," Harry offered as he stepped over to the edge of the hole in the floor.
"Hesha Hasee Eth Kaee," he hissed.
The sound of stone rubbing on stone was heard as a set of steps started protruding from the wall of the round well in front of him. It made a narrow, descending spiral staircase.
"Well done Harry, and an excellent suggestion, dear Myrtle." Dumbledore bowed to the silvery ghost, which sent her into a fit of giggles. He leaned over and peered into the black depths. "Shall we?"
"I'll go first," volunteered Harry, hoisting a lantern and starting down the steps. Single file, the group made their way toward the lower level, to the tunnels and then, to the Chamber of Secrets.
Harry had led the way to the rock cave-in, caused by Ron's dodgy wand, when Gilderoy Lockheart had tried to do an 'Obliviate' spell on the two boys. It had backfired and the ensuing tunnel collapse had separated Harry and Ron. Fortunately, by the time Harry returned with Ginny, Ron had been able to shift enough rock for them to crawl though a small space. Now, with a few well places spells, Professor Dumbledore repositioned enough additional rock to make crawling un-necessary.
"Wow, look at this," Draco lifted the old snakeskin shed. "That must have been one bloody big snake, Harry!"
"How far have we come, do you think, Miss Granger?" Albus looked over at Hermione and the marked cord she was playing out behind them.
"A fair distance, Headmaster, about 300 yards, to this point."
"Gracious, distance is deceiving down here, isn't it?"
"And we're only about half way there, Professor," said Harry as he started down the next section of tunnel.
At the end of the main tunnel, they came to the door into the Chamber of Secrets. It was closed and bolted.
"How do we get in, Harry? Do you have to tell it to open or is there something else you have to do?"
"No, just tell it to open, like back at the sinks." Harry replied as he came to the front of the group. "It's kinda cool, too. Watch." Turning, he hissed at the door. "Hehsa Hasee Eth."
The lock seemed to literally some alive as the circling snake touched each bolt, which slid open with a clang. Slowly the door swung wide, revealing the Chamber.
"Cool!" Ron exclaimed.
"Wands at the ready!" Severus barked. The group jumped. "This isn't a fun time field trip for your amusement, this is deadly serious; a reconnaissance in wartime. So, be prepared!"
Suddenly sobered, the students took out their wands and followed Harry into the Chamber of Secrets.
Walking the length of the Chamber, huge snake heads on either side, their footsteps echoing, the group looked around; noting the side tunnels and gloomy atmosphere of the place.
"Hold on." Harry stopped so suddenly Ginny plowed right into him. He grabbed her arm to keep her from falling.
"OH! Sorry, Harry."
"That's ok, Ginny, my fault," he smiled at her. Turning around to the others, he explained his outburst, "I just noticed. It's not wet down here like it was the last time; not nearly as much. This whole walkway had a skim of water on it and water was all around those statues." He pointed to the side where only a tiny bit of water pooled around a few of the statue bases. "Why would it dry out like this?"
"Well, Harry, it is winter and most of the surface water is frozen. When you were here last, it was late spring and the snow melt and runoff might have accounted for the excess of water," Dumbledore suggested.
"Or it was enchanted to provide water for the basilisk," added Remus.
"I like it better this way; not as sloppy and dank." Ginny shivered. "It's still cold though."
"Merlin's beard! What's that?" Draco pointed to a dark shape on the floor in the distance.
"That would be what's left of the basilisk."
Harry walked the remaining distance to the main part of the Chamber. He stood looking down at the mummified remains of the giant serpent as those following him gathered around.
"Quite the specimen, isn't it?" Dumbledore walked around the dried up carcass. "Ah the broken fang."
"Ooo, look, there's the hole in its head where Harry got it with the sword," pointed out Ron, bending over, gazing at the skull.
"What a morbid bunch," growled Severus. "Dissecting the dead."
"Better dead than alive, this one." Harry laughed. "Trust me!"
"Point taken." Severus bowed slightly. "And better you, than me."
Severus leaned over and whispered in Harry's ear. "That was one bloody big snake."
Harry looked at him and winked.
"Don't touch that fang, Mr. Weasley/!" Dumbledore barked, as Ron reached out his hand. "It could /still contain poison."
Ron jerked his hand back. "Oh! Right; sorry."
"Well, to get back to our original purpose for this little subterranean jaunt; let's spread out and look around, shall we? See if, with the water gone, we can discover any openings. If you feel a breeze or smell fresh air, it might be a way in or out; a potential hazard to the school."
The side tunnels and chambers were thoroughly inspected and as the searchers returned to the main chamber, it became apparent that there were no exterior entrances.
"How about in there," asked Draco, pointing to the open mouth of the stone sculpture of Salazar Slytherin.
"That's just the nest for the basilisk," Harry informed him. "I doubt it is anything more than a hollow inside that stone skull."
"You know." Gwen had sidled up to Dumbledore and tugged on his sleeve. "I was just thinking," whispering in his ear. "Would this Slytherin have known how to make a 'Passage Door' or other hidden opening?"
She arched her eyebrow and Dumbledore glanced at her, looking slightly taken aback, and then cocked is head, thoughtfully.
"That is a possibility, but we'd have no way of knowing, unless we can find the entrance at this end. I don't think he'd have bothered to hide it; why would he have had to, as no one but Salazar, himself, ever came here."
"Hide no, but conceal, maybe. It could be like the one in your office, just blending into the surroundings, not like the regular door at our end," Gwen reasoned.
"True, that is more probable. Hmmm, where would be a good location for a door." Albus turned slowly. "Perhaps that rather flat section of wall over there." He pointed to the right of the skull. "Does anybody have their D.A. sunglasses with them, per chance?"
"Ah, I do." Ron dug in his jacket pocket, pulling out his shades.
"Come here, Mr. Weasley." Albus waved him over. "I want you to take a close look at the walls and see if you can discern any outlines of, say, a door or hidden passage. Try the heat sensing mode as there might be a temperature difference that would stand out."
Ron donned his sunglasses and tapped the corner of the frame. Turning slowly, checking the walls, he stopped, tilted his head and then he pointed.
"There. I can see a line on the wall."
He walked over, followed by the others and traced his finger across the stone.
"I don't see anything," said Harry. "Do any of you?"
"No." "Nothing." "Just the flat wall, Harry."
"Are you sure, Ron?" Remus asked.
"Yeah, it's not showing any heat difference, but I can see the horizontal top line and the sides," he replied. "It's just the vague outline of a door."
"Should I try to open it?" Harry asked.
"What if Voldemort's in there?" Ginny whispered, clinging to Harry's arm.
"We'll at least have the element of surprise on our side," Dumbledore answered. "So, let's give it a try. Harry, if you would, please."
"Wands at the ready," Severus reminded them. Remus pushed Gwen behind his back.
"Hehsa Hasee Eth."
Everyone was standing with wands out, aimed at the blank wall. Nothing happened. Arms came slowly down to their sides.
"Now what?" Hermione asked.
"Obviously Salazar Slytherin used a special phrase to open this door. That could prove a bit of a problem." The Headmaster stroked his whiskers thoughtfully.
"Try some flowery 'open sesame' type drivel, Harry," Gwen suggested, "like 'reveal thy self' or some such nonsense."
"Why would that make a difference?"
"Well, it stands to reason, this guy lived a thousand years ago, and they spoke with very different phraseology back then as compared to our way of saying things. Get it, dude? Doth thou understand?"
There were laughs and snickers at that example.
"Besides," continued Gwen, "if he just said 'open' to everything in that snake hissing you do..."
"Parseltongue." Remus injected.
"Yeah, that...everything would swing open, that mouth would drop, the place would be a bloody cuckoo clock. So this door needed a different 'open up' command, something a little different, but easy to remember."
Harry shrugged. "Makes sense to me. Ok, let's see..." He frowned. "Hehsa Hasee Ethaa." Nothing. "Hehsa Hasee Ethesha." Again, nothing.
"Hey, Harry." Ron came over, smiling. 'Try 'reveal thy hidden treasures'."
"Why not? Gwen said 'open sesame', and that's close enough and a bit flowery, too."
Nodding, Harry turned and stared at the wall, concentrating. "Sehacuth Hadeera Thasa Coosha Saeeth."
There was a slight sound of scrapping; stone against stone, as the wall split and a section moved out and swung to the side.
Advancing slowly, wands out, the group moved into the opening that had been exposed.
"Lumos," spoke half a dozen voices. What the light from their wands revealed made them gasp.
It was a long, narrow room, lined with tables, laden with row and rows and rows of neatly stacked gold and silver coins. Shelves on the walls held gold and silver objects of all sorts. On the floor, under the tables, were ornately carved boxes, brimming with jewels. It was, indeed, a treasure trove.
Suddenly, Gwen gasped and pointed further into the gloom. Spinning around, wands at the ready, they beheld a mummified body, sitting on a throne-like chair. The chair was positioned on a dais, in a small alcove, at the far end of the room. In his skeletal hand, the corpse held a wand and the other hand was clasped around a jewel encrusted gold goblet.
Walking slowly toward the regally dressed figure, Dumbledore hesitated and then turned to face the others.
"Miss Granger, this will indeed make an outstanding additional chapter to /Hogwarts - A History/. We now know, for certain, what happened to Salazar Slytherin."
"Is it really him?" Hermione came up to Dumbledore, glancing at the corpse and then back to the Headmaster.
"Yes; those are the robes he wore for his portrait and I recognize the wand and goblet, also. He was quite ill and then suddenly disappeared, leaving a will and modest fortune for his family."
"The rest, it would seem, he took with him," added Remus.
"Ok...so, does this mean there is another way in here or did this guy," Gwen pointed at the mummy, "just pop in here and sit down and die?"
"We can't be sure of the 'popping' as you so quaintly phrase it, Gwen," Severus joined the group. "But he did sit down and die...after drinking a poisonous potion from that goblet. I found the ingredient bottles and mixing instructions, there." He pointed to a small wooden table on the corner, crammed with bottles and a few pieces of parchment. "As you said, Headmaster, legend has it he was seriously ill, possibly dying, when he disappeared forever."
"Until now," said Remus.
"Do you think Voldemort knows about this chamber, Headmaster?" asked Harry.
"I do not believe so, Harry. He wouldn't be able to resist possessing Salazar Slytherin's wand as his own; as the heir. No, he doesn't know this chamber exists. This is, after all, the Chamber of Secrets/, but, /this room is one secret Tom didn't discover."
"But, technically, /as /the heir, all of /this/," Draco swept his hand to indicate the room, he continued, "belongs to him, doesn't it?"
"/Technically/, I suppose, it does. Although it wasn't, obviously, mentioned in his will or there would have been rumors of this wealth missing and generations of heirs would have been searching for it."
"Ah, well then, finders, keepers." Ron rubbed his hands together, gazing around at the room's contents.
"I think, Mr. Weasley, that with all due respect to the laws of salvage, this chamber should remain untouched, at least for the time being. Don't you agree?"
"/What/?" Ron sputtered. "But...but..."
"It would raise too many questions," Dumbledore explained, patiently. "After Voldemort is dealt with, we'll tackle the legal and moral aspects of this discovery. For now, it will remain as we found it."
"Oh, alright." Ron frowned. "But I'm putting in a claim for at least a finders fee, /right now/!"
"Fair enough, Ron." Remus patted him on the back.
"Well, I think, as we've found no other entrances, we can return to the school." The Headmaster ushered them to the door of the treasure chamber.
"So, you don't think he'll try to use this as a way in, then?" asked Gwen as they all retreated from the secret room to the main chamber.
Harry returned the stone slab to its original position and the wall looked solid once more.
"Oh, there is still that possibility. How far from the castle do you think we are, Miss Granger?"
"We're about 500 feet below the lake level and a good 2,000 yards due north, which, if my calculations are correct, puts us under the hill across the lake from the castle; the one with the stone outcrop, just to the east of the Forbidden Forest."
"That would be a tricky bit of Apparating, if you'd never been here," Remus pointed out.
"Ah, but if Tom Apparated here first, his followers could Apparate to /him/, not the Chamber. It would prove remarkably easy," Dumbledore pointed out.
"I just knew you'd say something like that," groused Ron.
"Perhaps I should try and see if I can pop up to the hilltop." Dumbledore looked up at the ceiling, brow furrowed.
"Headmaster, do you think that prudent, Miss Granger was just estimating the distance and..." Severus began.
"Oh, I think Miss Granger has made a fairly accurate estimation of our location. I can just give it a go and see exactly where we are. I'll go straight up and get my bearings and then return. If all of you concentrate, I'll be able to get back here without any difficulty."
"Are you sure, Albus?" Remus walked up to him.
"I'm sure, Remus. I shall be right back."
With a wink, he was gone; 'pop'. Gwen looked at Remus, wide-eyed.
"That's the one bit I've always had a hard time with, especially when Anna would, 'pop', be right beside me; used to scare the willies out of me."
'Pop' Gwen jumped, with a small squeak, "Eek!"
The Headmaster stood there, holding a rock in his hand.
"Well, Miss Granger, you were almost spot on; we're actually a bit behind the hill and rock outcrop, which means anyone trying to Apparate to this Chamber would not necessarily be seen from the castle."
"Damn," muttered Remus.
"But, we can guard the tunnel and entrance in Myrtle's bathroom." Hermione stated.
"With alarms or sensors, or what ever the magical equivalent is?" added Gwen, looking at Hermione and then the Headmaster.
"Yes, exactly. We can discuss that later. Right now we have a long walk and a flight of stairs ahead of us. So, come along everyone, we'll be back in plenty of time for lunch if we don't dawdle too much."
"Right; well, let's get going, shall we." Remus took Gwen's hand and led the group back along the Chamber's length and then through the door, which Harry closed and locked.
Silence and darkness returned to the Chamber of Secrets...but for how long?
Harry, Remus, Mad-Eye Moody, Severus, Minerva and Professor Dumbledore were gathered in his office later that week discussing the ramifications of the trip to the Chamber.
"He would feel the spells, Albus, even if his flunkies didn't," growled Mad-Eye. "He'd know we were on to his plans."
"Very true, Alastor." Dumbledore nodded.
Remus was sitting with a smirk on his face. Severus glanced over and did a double take.
"What are you thinking, Remus, in that Marauder mind of yours? I've come to recognize that look, and it never bodes well, for some poor soul."
"I was just remembering how Anna booby trapped Briarwood and I wonder if we shouldn't take a hint from her experience and use some unexpected Muggle tricks as warning devices. Couldn't hurt to ask; might be just the ticket."
"Oh, dear," Minerva muttered. "No offense, Severus, but your wife shouldn't be let loose on her own with a project like this. It could get downright dangerous, for us /and /the students."
"I agree, but we can at least ask for her input. Remus is right and she told me they hadn't seen half of what she and Winky had up their sleeves," chuckled Albus.
"That's what I'm afraid of, Headmaster." Severus rolled his eyes. "However, we need all the help and suggestions we can get, so Anna would be the logical person to consult."
Getting up from his chair, he walked over to Christopher's painting and whistled for Beau and Chester.
The dogs came bounding into the frame and sat down, tails wagging, waiting to see why they'd been called.
"Alright you two, go get Christopher for us, would you please; fetch Christopher." Severus pointed to the side of the frame and with a cheery bark the two dogs took off.
Harry had been silent up to this point, but the Headmaster could see he was contemplating something; brows knit and chin in hand.
"Knut for your thoughts, Harry."
"What? Oh, yes, sir. I was just trying to think of anything we may have overlooked, as far as Voldemort gaining entrance to the castle. All of the useable tunnels that are on the Map are narrow and it would take a while for a number of people to emerge from any of them. But they could gather in Myrtle's bathroom and literally explode from there in large groups."
"Very true, Harry, which is why we need to come up with a warning system."
"So you believe that is how he plans on invading the school, Albus?" Minerva asked.
"Yes, I do. For several reasons: he is the only one who can open the doors and hidden stairs, besides Harry. He'd be sneaking up behind us, so to speak. 'He will come from within.'
An invasion of the grounds and frontal attack of the building itself would be futile, and even if he thought of Flooing in, his followers would be too scattered, once in the school, to make a co-coordinated attack possible. Plus the fact that the Floo Network is warded here at Hogwarts; it would be almost impossible to pull off with any degree of certainty for success. Failure is not an option with Tom.
So, that leaves the Chamber of Secrets as the most likely portal of entry. And he's counting, no doubt, on the element of surprise."
"As Sherlock Holmes says to Dr. Watson 'When you have eliminated the /impossible/, whatever is left, no matter how /improbable/, must be the answer.' " Harry added.
"Where in the..." Remus looked at Harry.
"Birthday present for Hermione, at bit of 'light' reading," explained Harry, with a wink.
"AH, I see."
"But essentially correct, Harry." Dumbledore nodded his head.
"Evening all," called Christopher cheerily, as he entered his portrait and settled into his favorite chair, the dogs flopping down on the rug at his feet. "What can I do for you?"
"Brainstorming a bit, Christopher and we'd like Anna's input. We're thinking of various alarms we could set up, beside the spells already in place, which would give us a warning that an invasion of the castle is starting. We were thinking of possibly using some of her ideas that worked so well at Briarwood."
"Ah, I see. Yes, I can imagine that would be a bit unexpected here at Hogwarts, first because it's Muggle and second, Anna isn't here, so her ideas wouldn't be thought of having any influence on your defenses. Brilliant! Well, shall I see if she's available?"
"Actually, if she would just mull it over at bit, we're going to have another meeting when the students return and the D.A. members will be attending. So, if she could have some suggestions ready by say, Tuesday next?"
"Alright, that sounds like just the kind of challenge she'd relish."
"A sobering thought," muttered Severus, which made Harry and Remus grin.
"Exactly; if you could pass that along, we'd be grateful, Christopher."
"No problem. Are you going to enlist the help of your house elves, as Anna did with Winky?"
"Yes," answered Harry. "I've been working with them on some ideas Anna and I discussed last summer. She may not like writing letters, but if you do receive one, it's worse than Hermione; pages and pages. But, some good ideas."
"Indeed, Harry," agreed Christopher. "So, I'll just pop over to the house and let her know what's going on, then, shall I?"
"Yes, thank you, Christopher." Albus waved as Christopher left his portrait.
"Albus, I'm concerned with part of Sybil's prophesy, the bit about the dead rising. Do you suppose he'd use Inferi, as a diversion to draw our attention away from the entrance to the Chamber?"
"That is a possibility, Alastor, and we can make it a part of our plans; to deal with such a contingency. But our main concern is the alarm system for the invasion; making everyone aware, as quickly as possible and making sure everyone knows where they should go and what to do."
"Agreed," Moody growled. "That's where you and the rest of the D.A. come in, Harry."
"Yes, sir," Harry replied. "And we're ready."
"Alright, everyone, if there's nothing else, I think we can call it a night."
"Has everyone been told, Bella. Everything ready for the move?"
"Good. I'm sure you will like our new place of residence; it has a beautiful view of the sea and is quite roomy. This house was a bit crowded."
"The quarters are a bit more to my taste, also. It will make a good staging area for the attacks I have planned, and...as I promised you, Bella, one will be of special interest to you."
"Yes, Master, thank you, Master."
"Come here, Bella, and thank me properly."
"Hmmmm, Bella, my pet, you always know the right thing to say...and do."
"As do you, Master, as do you."
"Ah, Bella...ah....ah....Bella...my sweet, sweet....ah...Bella."
The students returned right after the New Year. Neville and Luna were told of Anna, Gwen, Narcissa and Lyn's visit and the surprise births. Dumbledore also lifted the memory charm about the wedding and then swore them to secrecy. They were proud to have been the witnesses at the wedding but were a bit disappointed to have missed seeing the babies.
"Well, actually, that will make it easier for us not to mention the whole event, won't it, as we never saw any of it," reasoned Luna.
Neville had to agree, although he was a little taken aback about Anna and Severus. Still, he'd not worry about it now; there'd be time later to deal with all of that. After all, he'd stood up for 'Uncle' Severus.
"And you all went down to the Chamber of Secrets, I heard." Neville looked at the Headmaster. "Was it as awful as it's been described?"
"Actually, it was rather dusty and messy, the water having receded and/or dried up. However, the actual Chamber itself was impressive. The remains of the basilisk were still lying there, also."
"Yuck! " Luna remarked. "Just as well we missed that, then, huh?"
"Right," replied Neville, nodding. "Even dead, I wouldn't fancy seeing that bloody great snake."
"We did measure the tunnel and Chamber, as Miss Granger is making an addition for Hogwarts - a History."
"Now that doesn't surprise me at all, Headmaster," laughed Neville.
"Indeed, Mr. Longbottom, indeed."
"And that's the lot," concluded Christopher, putting down the list of suggestions from Anna that he has just read to the gathered group in the Defense Against the Dark Arts classroom.
Everyone had been taking notes and were re-reading them and shaking their heads.
"She's either certifiably insane, or bloody brilliant," Ron noted.
"Both, if you ask me," Draco replied as he turned his page back over. "How does she come up with all of these ridiculous ideas? She's bonkers!"
"Movies, TV shows, books; just regulation Muggle inventiveness," said Hermione, with a bit of pride. "Harry and I and any of the other Muggleborn students know exactly what she's talking about and will be able to duplicate what she wants without any trouble."
"Plus," noted Harry, "adding magical elements to reinforce everything will only make it better." He rubbed his hands together in anticipation, a wicked smile on his face. "This is gonna be fun."
"If it wasn't so serious, it could actually be quite amusing," Remus agreed. "Which is something we're going to have to be careful about; we can't stop to see how things go. We just have to take advantage of the extra few seconds these devises and traps will give us; to get into position and or start throwing our own spells, before they can get their bearings."
"Right enough, there Remus," Moody spoke up. "This isn't for our entertainment, it's to save lives and help you get the advantage over the Death Eaters, until the Aurors can arrive to help. That could take several minutes, but they'll be here as quickly as possible, either Portkeying in to a designated location or Flooing into a selected fireplace. But they'll come, don't you worry about that."
"We know they will, Mad-Eye," Harry reassured the old Auror. "We'll be glad to have them with us, too."
"So, are there any questions you would like me to relay to Anna?" Christopher spoke up, looking around the classroom."
"No, Christopher, I believe we have quite enough to be going on with for the present. The D.A. will be discussing and implementing the suggestions they think would be most advantageous. Thank Anna very much for all her hard work and these wonderfully inventive suggestions." Dumbledore replied, smiling.
"Scary how her brain works," Remus whispered to Severus, where they stood at the side of the room.
"Tell me about it," Severus whispered back, a smile playing at the corner of his mouth.
The two men shared a knowing look, nodding solemnly.
"I'm being summoned," Severus stated, rising from the chair in front of Albus' desk.
It was the end of January and a winter storm was howling outside the leaded windows of the Headmaster's office.
"Not unexpected, Severus. Are you prepared?" Dumbledore gave him a concerned look.
"Yes, I have my spare wand, the Portkey is primed, and I have a dose of 'Felix' potion that Anna insisted I carry."
"Hopefully, you won't need them, but, better prepared than not," the Headmaster pointed out.
Turning, Severus left Dumbledore's office. The old Wizard watched with worried eyes.
"God speed, Severus, my boy."
Severus materialized in a totally unfamiliar place. He'd been wondering when Voldemort would move his headquarters, paranoid as he was about one of his followers betraying his whereabouts. Unscrewing the top of the small plastic bottle, Severus swallowed his dose of "Felix' potion. Tapping the bottle with his wand, it vanished. Wand in hand, he walked down the path to the sprawling house before him.
Laying his wand on the hall table, as all Death Eaters were required to do before coming into the presence of their Master, he heard footsteps. Turning, he saw Bellatrix Lestrange walking toward him.
"You're looking well. Recovered from your appendicitis incident?"
"Fully...months ago, Bella. And how are you and Rodolphus?"
"Eagerly anticipating finding my sister and her daughter. I'm looking forward to seeing the newest member my family."
"But not your sister." It wasn't a question.
"No." Bella watched Severus closely. "The Dark Lord is busy at the moment; why don't you join me on the terrace?"
Bowing her through the adjacent door, they emerged onto a flagstone floored, covered overlook. A low wall ran along three sides, enclosing the area. Walking to the front wall, Severus looked out on a vast expanse of water, the setting wintry sun shining on the tossing waves. Hearing the surf below, he glanced down to see spray arching into the air, as the waves crashed against the base of the high cliff upon which the Dark Lord's hideout was perched.
Bella lit a cigarette. The smoke swirled around her as she slowly exhaled.
"Well, have you found out where my sister is hiding?"
"If I have, my obligation is to report that information to our Master, Bella, not to you."
"You /bastard/! Our Master promised me..."
"Then he will tell you, if and when he sees fit. You'll have your chance to exact your revenge and vent your anger and frustrations eventually, Bella. Be patient," replied Severus in a calm, smooth voice.
"Patience! /Patience/! I've waited and /waited/! I WANT WHAT WAS PROMISED TO ME!"
Severus stood, regarding her with raised eyebrow.
"Temper, temper, Bella," Severus smirked.
Severus froze and then he tilted his head.
"Ah, I see. Narcissa meets with a tragic end and you, being the dutiful, doting aunt, take the poor tyke as your own. What selflessness. What a loving, devoted, maternal instinct you have, Bella. I would never
"But, Bella, how will you ever explain to the little darling that you killed her mother, which, /I assume/, is your plan?"
"That's my business, Severus."
Bella turned away from him, taking another drag on her cigarette, tapping her foot angrily.
"I don't think you'll succeed with your plans, Bella."
"What!?" She spun around. "And why wouldn't our Master's plan work? You doubt the Dark Lord?"
"Never. It would be your execution of his orders that I'm questioning. You're too brash, too reckless. And there's one thing you, in your eagerness to possess the child, have not taken into consideration."
"Really? And that would be...?"
"If you insist on proceeding under the illusion that you can just walk in and take the child, then you truly don't understand motherhood. Narcissa won't willingly hand that baby to you and you're beyond foolish if you think she won't put up a fight."
"To the death, I assume," Bella replied in a calm, cold voice. "Oh, I'm not only aware of that, but am looking forward to punishing my dear Sister for her actions, before I kill her. And I will kill her, Severus. Have no doubt, /what-so-ever/!"
Just then, Rodolphus Lestrange opened the door and walked out onto the terrace.
"Am I interrupting anything?"
"Just a discussion, about your wife's impending motherhood. I suppose I should congratulate you, also, Rodolphus, on becoming a father in the near future." He extended and shook hands with the tall Wizard. "I understand from Draco that his sister is quite a little bundle of joy."
"Yes, we are looking forward to the responsibilities of bringing our daughter up as a faithful Pure Blood."
Bella was seething, but said nothing. Severus turned and made a sweeping gesture with his hand.
"An impressive view, isn't it?"
"Indeed. It's quite a romantic place for watching the moon rise, isn't that right, Bella, darling?"
Rodolphus had walked over to his wife to put a possessive arm around her, but when he felt how tense she was, he looked at her, questioningly.
"Yes, quite romantic, dearest," she answered, through clenched teeth, giving him a weak smile.
Just then Wormtail stuck his head out of the door.
"Bella, the Dark Lord would speak with you, /now/." He disappeared back into the hallway.
"I'll return as soon as I can, Rodolphus; you two talk. Severus."
Rodolphus held the door for her and then turned to face Severus.
"What did you say to upset her?"
"Only a cautionary phrase or two about Narcissa. She won't relinquish the child willingly or without a fight."
"That much we assumed."
"Than I won't mention it again." Severus bowed slightly.
"Perhaps that would be best." Rodolphus shivered, not having a cloak.
"Let's go in, it's getting raw out here," suggested Severus.
"Yes, I fancy a drink of fire whiskey. Could I persuade you to join me, Severus?"
After the two wizards returned to the warmth of the hallway, the sound of the crashing waves could be heard, pounding against the sharp rocks below.
Voldemort glanced at Bella as she entered the room and knelt before him. He could clearly see she was agitated.
"Something vexes thee?"
"Ah...and...that would be...?"
"Severus. He thinks I'll not be able to best Narcissa and claim my daughter!"
"Really/? He was /defending Narcissa?"
"Yes. He said I wasn't prepared for or capable of doing the job of killing my own sister properly. I was underestimating her 'maternal instinct'. Bah!"
Voldemort studied Bella for a few moments.
"Severus always was close to Narcissa. Perhaps his personal feelings are clouding his perspective. After all, who was the /first /to reach her side when poor Lucius was murdered?"
Voldemort paced the room.
"It's curious: Lucius reportedly questioned Narcissa's fidelity when he was told of her pregnancy. He wanted her to dispense of the fetus...he didn't seem to think it was his...I wonder..."
Bella looked up, astonished.
"Master, are you saying...?"
"Lucius was in Azkaban for a very long time, perhaps Narcissa was.../lonely/. Severus doesn't spend /all /of his time at Hogwarts."
Voldemort waved his hand dismissively.
"That could explain his defense of Narcissa, his concern for a child he's never even seen. Or has he? Did he say if he knows the location of her hiding place?"
"He refused to tell me, Master."
"Really? My, my...isn't he /protective/."
Voldemort could see that Bella was getting more and more incensed. He inwardly smiled.
'Perhaps it would be best to unleash her on Severus. A warm up for the coming retributions.' He thought, relishing the idea of Bella venting her anger and ridding him of his traitorous Potion Master.
"Well, I'll have the answer for you momentarily, Bella, my sweet. He will tell me all he knows."
"If not, perhaps /you /can persuade him...have a private chat...on the /terrace/."
"Be careful, though, my pet, it will be dark soon. We wouldn't want anyone to have an /accident/, now would we?"
Voldemort motioned her to her feet, and then pulled her close to his side. Whispering in her ear, he sealed Severus' fate.
"It's a long drop, Bella."
"He should have a few seconds to regret his betrayal, don't you agree?"
Voldemort looked deep into Bella's eyes.
"My sweet Bella, my pet."