The first Quidditch game is played, and both Harry and Ron make errors of judgement
The story of the Chamber of Secrets quickly circulated throughout the castle. Speculation ran rampant over what the monster might be and who the Heir was. Both the Brothers and the Druids were certain that they knew who the last Heir had been -- Tom Riddle. They, and Dumbledore, were agreed that Voldemort had to be behind this.
Harry, knowing that Lucius Malfoy had been plotting against the school, reminded his mentors of that, and was rewarded by the discomforting information that Voldemort would somehow be behind Malfoy. However, Lucius Malfoy was still hiding from the public, staying on his estates. While there were ways of drawing him out or forcing the information out of those who might know, those methods were too Dark to justify themselves -- yet. Instead, the Brotherhood started to study the wards on Malfoy Manor.
A number of the younger students, especially those of Muggle or mostly-Muggle background, were especially nervous. Since Harry was the only Head of House or Clan currently a student at Hogwarts, Luna quietly suggested that he offer his protection to those without House, like he had for Hermione.
Harry considered it, but after talking with Tutmoses and Jason, he decided that doing so would bring up the worry that he was building a counter-army, not against the Dark, but against the general wizarding culture. When Harry had explained that to Luna, worried that she might be hurt he wasn't following her suggestion, she had merely thought the matter through.
Finally, Luna said, "You know, Harry, considering how complaisant and bigoted wizarding society in Britain is, that might not be such a bad thing."
That made Harry rethink his position. Still, "You might be right. Don't say anything, but if you hear of anyone Houseless saying they wish they could be under my protection, you might hint they should ask."
"You don't want to make the offer, because it could seem like empire-building, but you'll consider it for anyone who asks, because you want to protect us all," Luna judged.
"You are a good person, Harry Potter." Luna hesitated, but said,"People think me odd, don't they?"
"They think your father's paper is odd," Harry carefully countered.
"I have a Gift," Luna said. "I can often See, not the future, but auras and even emotions. It is not consistent, it is a Gift which will either slowly die off or become stronger when I start menstruating." Harry blushed. "I sometimes blurt out truths people don't want to hear. You, however, listen to me. Thank you."
"You're welcome." Harry looked into Luna's wide gray eyes. "We both value truth. That's one reason why we're friends."
"So we are. Thank you for being my friend. I don't think they would have been so nice to me in Ravenclaw or Slytherin, the other Houses the Hat suggested for me."
"Probably not Slytherin, although they aren't as nasty this year as last year. I don't know enough about Ravenclaw to say."
"Be that as it may, you do believe me?"
"Of course," Harry answered.
"Then I also thought I should tell someone. . . . Ginny's aura is acting oddly."
Harry frowned. "In what way?"
"I'm not sure yet, but I don't think it's good." Luna made a face."There's very little in the library about aura reading, and none about this sort of thing."
Harry again understood why the Hat had suggested Ravenclaw. "Why me? Why not, well. . . ."
"One of her brothers? Percy would merely ignore me, Ron already refuses to even see I exist, and I would hate to think what the twins might do about anything they don't immediately perceive as athreat." Harry could hardly disagree with any of that. "Professor McGonagall discounted it already, saying that such gifts are very erratic, and not to be trusted until the Gifted have years of training and experience, and I think the Divination professor had a bit too much sherry."
"But you think there is a problem, right?" Harry asked.
"I do, but I am not certain."
"Then why don't you keep an eye on it, and let me know if anything more happens."
Luna smiled with grateful relief, "Sharing a burden more than halves it," she said.
Harry smiled back, and his mind went back to thinking about the upcoming Quidditch game.
Harry went into the first Quidditch game (against Slytherin), confident that he could have out flown Malfoy even without another year of practice under his belt. With that extra year, flying the entire time other than the two weeks he had spent in Antarctica, and even having been tutored in flying by a few who enjoyed flying brooms and two whose Animagi forms were birds of prey, Harry was more than ready. Unless the Snitch appeared right in front of Draco's nose, Harry was sure he could win.
Fortunately, the Snitch did not even appear for the first twenty-five minutes of the game. In that time, Harry had managed to get Malfoy, who had been shadowing him, to crash into the stands twice, although unfortunately not too hard.
After the second crash, a pale Luna had turned to the very pale Hermione and asked, "Does he always fly like that?"
"Just about," Hermione had answered wanly, as Harry went into apower dive/barrel role which caused Malfoy to crash into one of the Beaters and Flint to fall off his broom.
From then on, the two friends merely hugged each other and held on, because it appeared as if Harry wasn't. For connoisseurs of fine flying, it was equal to all but the very best professional Quidditch flying. The several ex-professionals in the stands, when polled later by The Daily Prophet, declared that Harry, as far as pure flying skill went, was probably one of the top fifty flyers in Europe.
Harry managed to plow Malfoy into the ground at just past the forty-five minute mark, and caught the Snitch before Flint could call for a medical time out, since this time Malfoy was more than just bruised and humiliated. Gryffindor had won, 270-30.
Harry was not the only one who laughed when Lockhart removed all the bones in Malfoy's shattered left leg. Many of the girls were not happy when Snape stunned the Defense teacher when he tried to repeat the miscast spell on Draco's left arm, shoulder, and ribs.
Although it was not at all within the rules, after Harry had gotten cleaned up, Jason escorted Harry not back to the castle but to the Druid camp.
When Harry saw which members of the Brotherhood were waiting along with the Druids, he forgot himself for a moment and hugged one of the Brothers.
In life, he had been born into a minor noble family on what was now the border of Egypt and Sudan. A number of his family had been magical, and his magic, and great power, had clearly manifested itself when he became a cobra Animagus without formal training in his early teens. He had become the third member of the Brotherhood, and had been known simply as Cobra ever since.
He had also been the first to leave the temple to become a hermit in the desert, some three hundred years later. Nearly three hundred years after that, he had become an explorer, first of Africa south of the desert. Then he had sailed the east coast of Africa and beyond, to India, Indonesia, China, and Japan. He had explored the west coast of the Americas nearly 4000 years before the Spanish.
He had discovered Antarctica some 3500 years before the present, and after another 1000 years of exploring the interiors of the Americas and Siberia, he had returned for a short time to the temple. When Ptolemy laid claim to Egypt, he had again left, going to the most remote place he knew of -- the Antarctic. None save the First Acolyte, who had brought him into the Brotherhood and who had known him slightly before hand, had ever seen Cobra display astrong emotion, except perhaps disdain.
To see this stern being not only allow Harry to hug him, but to hug Harry back, to kiss the top of Harry's head as a son, moved the Brothers, although they took care not to display it. The look Cobra had given them immediately afterwards reminded them that of those present, only Osiris had a right to comment.
The six Druids present wondered at the by-play, but said nothing. They merely brought the group into a magical tent where they could eat in warmth. "You flew very well today, Mister Potter," was all the elderly head of the Tuatha said, before they sat down to dinner, where conversation stayed light.
Towards the end of dinner, the Druids tried to sound Harry's out about his beliefs. They of course espoused a form of pantheism as well as human reincarnation. Harry was well able to sympathize with the pantheism, although having now met several individuals who had been proclaimed divinities at some point made it difficult for him to believe in any set of religious stories, as opposed to their underlying dogma.
He was less enthused about reincarnation, since he rather hoped he might meet his parents in whatever afterlife there might be. When told that the reincarnations were not likely to be immediate, he was happier with their system.
"Ask him what you really mean," Cobra growled. He was not as bulky as Jason, although he was well-muscled. No one who saw him, however, mistook him for anything but dangerous.
"What do you mean?" one of the younger Druids asked.
Cobra turned to Harry. "They hope you will convert to their beliefs, so that you will inspire others to join. Failing that, they hope you will not oppose their becoming more active in Britain, if not all of western Europe."
"Why would anyone care what I think or believe?" Harry asked, confused.
"You are a nexus," the senior member of the Tuatha said simply. Seeing Harry's confused look, he added, "As your Greek friend would say, the tentacles of fate surround your life. Where you move will move others, even if you dislike it."
Harry made a face, and after a moment's thought, he asked, "How strict a church are you?"
"We are not a church as such," another Druid said. "If you mean how strictly do we enforce our rules, that depends on the sect. There numerous sects within the Faith, running from the very strict to the rather liberal. For those who break our most basic beliefs, we might remove them from our group and prevent them from calling themselves Members of the Faithful."
Harry frowned in confusion. Cobra broke in. "As with any group of believers, including our Brotherhood, there may be fanatics, but they are not as a whole by any means. Some groups are, but they do not control the Faithful."
"Oh. Then I would hardly oppose you," Harry said. Then he smiled."It might even do wizarding Britain some good to hear about older traditions than the pure-bloods'."
Everyone at the table smiled at that, for if there was one thing they all agreed on, it was that they did not like the establishment which ran wizarding Britain and a few of the other European ministries.
"Why are you here, Cobra?" Harry asked as the pair walked back to Hogwarts.
"The brothers believe it is possible that the so-called monster of Slytherin is a basilisk."
Harry frowned. "What's that?"
"A magical snake, which can be killed, but which otherwise will not die. Its venom is one of the most toxic poisons known. However, to look into its eyes means death for nearly every living creature, even some of the most magical."
"But Mrs. Norris was petrified, not killed," Harry pointed out.
"True. If it is a basilisk, then that means it's very young, as in newly hatched, or there was something which either reflected or interfered with the direct line of sight. Was there any such thing?"
Harry thought, and then said, "There were puddles of water."
"So, it is possible, but not proven," Cobra said. "The good news is, if it is true, that there are just two types of wizards immune to the stare of a basilisk."
"Snake Animagi and Parselmouths?" Harry hazarded.
"Exactly. However, neither of us is immune to its venom. And if this creature really was Slytherin's, and is therefore about athousand years old, then it could be anywhere up to a hundred feet long and easily able to swallow your friend Hagrid, let alone you."
"That big?" Harry asked nervously.
"If it has been awake and hunting all that time, yes. More likely it has been hibernating for at least part of that time. Still, afour foot basilisk could kill Hagrid with its venom."
Harry nearly shuddered. "And?"
"And so, did you know there has been a mysterious decrease in the number of roosters at Hogwarts?"
"I didn't know there were any," Harry admitted.
"Hogwarts is also something of a working farm. Three of the six roosters have been killed. The crowing of a rooster will kill abasilisk, although I would prefer not to think of approaching ahundred foot specimen with just a crowing rooster. Now, I want you to keep a look out for spiders."
"Spiders fear basilisks, and can sense then when they are within range. Inside of Hogwarts, that could be very close. Keep an eye out. Until the weather warms next spring, they will be fleeing to whatever the further reaches of Hogwarts are."
With that, Cobra put his arm around Harry's shoulders and hugged the first person who had touched his heart since his younger brother had died millennia earlier. Harry would be his protege, his heir, if he desired it. And if he didn't, he would still be Cobra's connection to this new time. "I am sorry I missed the game, Harry. Tell me about it."
Harry happily talked Quidditch for the rest of the walk to the castle.
Harry rolled over and buried his head under his pillow.
The pillow disappeared. "Harry!"
Harry jerked awake. "Hermione?" He rolled over and squinted in the light. "What are you doing here?"
"Oh, Harry!" Hermione hugged him.
Harry hugged her back, confused. "You know I like you, too, Hermione, but what's going on?"
"Professor McGonagall sent me to check on you. You were the only one who didn't come done."
"Something awful's happened. Throw your robe on, and come on."
Harry shrugged and did as he was told, adding his slippers and astop in the lavatory.
"Mister Potter! May I ask why you ignored the call I sent to all the rooms?" Professor McGonagall demanded.
"I was tired and Ron was snoring," Harry said. "I had a silencing charm up."
"Very good. Mister Weasley, either cease snoring or make certain Potter is awake should there be another alarm."
"Yes, Professor," Ron said, his face red.
"Now, the reason why I called you here. There was another attack last night. This time, a student was petrified." There was not even the slightest movement now. "It would appear that Mister Crabbe was out last night, perhaps trying to visit Mister Malfoy. If so, he became lost, as the location he was found, near that large mirror at the end of the corridor on the third floor, was not on any direct path between the Slytherin common room and the Infirmary. In any case, from now on, you are not to go outside of the common area alone. The penalty for the first offense will be points, but for the second it will be total confinement to the common area outside of class time."
That brought a slight stir. "In addition, some of the Druids camped nearby will be patrolling the corridors from sunset to sunrise. This morning, however, there will be a buffet set up from now until one. No one is to leave Gryffindor until I return. Understand?"
The group muttered their shocked agreement, while Percy puffed up proudly. He decided he would move a chair to in front of the exit.
"Very well. I shall be back this afternoon."
That evening at dinner, something odd started to happen. Tracey and Daphne were waiting near the Gryffindor table, and made some friendly small talk with Harry and Hermione, despite the glares from Ron. A few Ravenclaws and the Slytherin Keeper did the same. It was only after Ernie Macmillan dragged Justin over "Just so we're properly introduced" that George hit on what was happening.
"Hey, Harry, are you the Heir of the Chamber of Secrets, no matter if that's Slytherin or some other bloke?"
Fred caught on immediately. "Yeah, Harry, if you have some monster which goes around petrifying people, can I make a few suggestions for who's next?"
Harry turned to Ron, Hermione, Luna, and Ginny. "They can't be serious, can they?"
"They rarely have been before, but they could be correct," Luna pointed out.
"Crabbe is Malfoy's friend, and, no offense, you and Malfoy don't get along," Seamus pointed out from up the table.
"Well, I have witnesses to where I was when Mrs. Norris was petrified," Harry pointed out in turn. "Besides, the Chamber is supposed to be Slytherin's, who hated the Muggle-born, and Crabbe is supposed to be a Pure-blood."
"Maybe Crabbe was doing something with the monster for Malfoy?"Hermione suggested.
"Crabbe would be dumb enough to make a mistake," Ron said gleefully.
Ginny, who had seemed on the verge of tears all day, left the table in a hurry.
"Something serious is bothering her, but she won't say what," Luna pointed out.
"Ginny has always talked a lot, at least before term started," Ron said, reaching past two first year students and taking Ginny's barely touched roast beef onto his plate, "but she's never talked about anything that really bothers her before she's ready. Leave her alone, and she'll either get over it, or tell someone when she's ready."
"We hate to say it. . . ." George said.
". . . but Ronnikins is right," Fred concluded.
"Poorly but accurately put," Percy said from further up the table.
And with that, the group let the matter drop.