Into the Chamber, and after
Chapter XIISaturday, February 13
Harry was restless all day Saturday, and had trouble falling asleep. Because of his sleepy state, it took Harry over a minute to realize that he was being summoned by the ankh. Once he realized what was happening, Harry fumbled for his wand and, since he had his bed curtains closed and a silencing charm up, touched it to the ankh.
Harry therefore materialized on the floor of the girls' loo in his underwear. Under the mutterings of Osiris and Jason as they materialized magical body armor and then robes, Harry thought for a moment he heard giggling, but he chose to ignore it.
In just over five minutes from the time Osiris had first sent out the signal, Harry was ready. "What?" Harry asked, seeing the three wizards looking at him.
"You're the Parselmouth, Harry," Jason chided gently. "Say 'open', if you will, towards that dusty sink."
"Open," Harry obediently said in Parseltongue. Scorpion held out brooms, somewhat shorter than racing brooms. In a few seconds, the four were floating down the shaft.
At the bottom, they set them aside. Osiris made himself and his two followers invisible, and then Harry hurried down the tunnel in the direction Osiris had indicated.
To Harry's surprise, the massive door to the Chamber of Secrets was open. He paused, and felt two of the men go past him, while the third tapped Harry on the shoulder.
Harry went cautiously into the Chamber.
At the far end, in front of a huge, primitive-looking stone face, which might have been that of a man or an ape or a monkey, a figure was standing, turning around. At his feet was a slighter form.
"Well, well, well, I must say I am surprised," the older teen said.
"Why?" Harry asked.
"I had not anticipated you showing up, Harry Potter."
"Put down Ginny's wand," Harry said.
Riddle snorted. "There is nothing a second year can do to me, Potter. If you knew who I was. . . ."
"I know who you were, and what you became. As for not being able to stop you, that's what that fakir Voldemort thought, when he attacked a toddler," Harry retorted.
"Prove it, little boy," Riddle sneered.
Harry had already silently sent a bright yellow spell at Riddle. Riddle didn't even have time to see it coming, let alone raise ashield, as it was simply an intense light spell, traveling at the speed of light. Riddle was blinded, and would be for several seconds.
Harry dove out of the way, in case the screaming Riddle sent any curses where he had been. Harry noticed the limp Ginny was being moved out of the way as well by unseen hands.
Within seconds, Riddle was disarmed, bound, and gagged. "How is she?" Harry asked one of the Druids, who was examining Ginny.
"I don't know," he admitted.
"Asclepias as well as two of your healers are prepared," Osiris said. "Jason? take the girl to them."
"Of course," Jason said. He gently cradled Ginny in his arms and disappeared.
"Sir?" Harry asked.
"I have broken the links between Riddle and Miss Weasley. If he has not taken too much from her, she will survive. The link was very strong. He drained her faster than I had thought likely, but had not yet killed her. He should be stable for at least an hour, and then will return to the Horcrux, if it is not destroyed."
"Should I. . . ?"
"Not yet. Cobra! Take your two friends and deal with the basilisk as you see fit."
"Yes, sir!" Cobra and the two Parselmouth Druids left the Chamber.
Osiris turned back to Harry. "If you destroy the Horcrux now, we can gain no information."
Harry glanced at the outraged and struggling Riddle. "I don't think he's likely to talk."
Scorpion quietly said, "What did I tell you one of my specialities was?"
Harry thought, and then said, "Pain magic?"
Scorpion nodded. "I will get him to talk, although we may not get everything." He looked at Harry. "I think it best if you were to wait on the other said of the door, Harry."
"But. . . ."
"It will not be a sight you will wish to remember," Scorpion stated coldly. "Go."
"And command the door to close," Osiris added.
Harry glanced at Scorpion, who had quickly conjured a fire, and was pulling various sharp and nasty-looking objects from his cloak. Osiris had conjured a plank, a tub of water, and some towels. Harry nodded and did as he was told.
The door to the Chamber opened some forty minutes later, and Harry was unsurprised to see Cobra on the other side. "You found it?"Harry asked.
"Found it, and was forced to kill it," Cobra said regretfully. As Harry stepped into the Chamber, he saw two groups of Druids Portkey in. "They're going to process it."
Harry nodded his basic understanding, and risked a glance over to where Riddle had been. Except for a few bloody smudges, there was no sign of him. Osiris and two Druids were still examining the diary.
Osiris motioned Harry over. "Good news and bad news. Voldemort did not interact much with this Horcrux, but he did add some memories. The last seemed to have been added in August, 1981. This confirmed that at that time, he had five Horcruxes. The other good news is that we found the location of one of the missing ones, the locket. It seems to be in a tidal pool in a cave Riddle had visited as achild. There seem to be numerous precautions, so we will have to be careful gathering it for you to destroy."
Harry merely nodded. He was sleepy.
"The bad news is, we don't know where the diadem is. Voldemort was not specific, but it seems to be somewhere here in the school. Riddle had already chosen a hiding place when he had made this Horcrux. Because it was more his own memory instead of one Voldemort added, Riddle was able to keep the secret more easily, and there does not seem to be any way to force the diary to answer."
"And it would be dangerous to allow it to feed on someone else's life forces and magic, even under controlled circumstances," one of the Druids put in.
"True. If he had not already have formed that bond with the girl, we would not have allowed this to have gone forward."
"Is there any news about Ginny?" Harry asked.
"Not yet. Why don't you try and get some sleep? Everything will be clearer in the morning."
Harry was torn, as he'd like to wait for news about Ginny, but he was asleep on his feet. "The diary?"
"We will study it a bit more, and then ask you to destroy it,"Osiris said.
Harry nodded, and Osiris transformed Harry back to the state of undress he had started off in, and then levitated him so that he was laying down. Then Harry was Portkeyed back to his bed, where he dropped about half an inch onto the soft mattress.
Despite the excitement and the worry, Harry was so exhausted he fell asleep in less than a minute.
"Harry!" Harry felt something poke his shoulder, which he ignored."Harry!!"
"Oh, Ronald! Move out of the way." Harry's nostrils were gently pressed together and two finger tips gently pressed his lips closed.
Harry snorted and opened his eyes. "What?" he asked looking up into Hermione's worried eyes, very aware of his lips moving against the fingers Hermione still held to his mouth.
"Come on," Ron whined.
"Professor McGonagall left a note, saying we could not leave Gryffindor, and . . . and Ginny is missing."
"Right," Harry said. "I'll get dressed and be down in a few minutes, Ron."
"Right," Ron replied, wandering out, a very confused boy.
The previous year, Harry would have been very concerned about Hermione seeing him in his under-vest and boxers, but he simply got out of bed, scooped up his clothes, and said, "I'll change in the bathroom."
The very worried Hermione stopped him. "I think you know something. Is it bad?"
Harry shrugged. "I think everything except Ginny is good. I don't know how she is. Don't let on."
When Harry and Hermione came down to the common room, the place was crowded and noisy. When Luna saw them, however, she came over to them with a look of combined concerned and panic. She looked into Harry's eyes, and then threw herself into Hermione's arms.
Harry hugged his two friends and looked around. Percy was in astiff chair, his elbows on his knees, his face in his hands. Fred and George were on a sofa, with Alicia, Angelina, and Katie all hovering nearby.
A buffet had apparently just been set up. Ron must have been one of the first to go through it, but he was mostly looking at nothing as he distractedly ate an entire plate of mixed sausages.
"He'll make himself sick," Hermione muttered.
"Anything that distracts him," Harry said. "I'm actually hungry, and you two should at least have some juice or something."
Since Luna, who was shivering, was still hanging on to Hermione, Harry went over to the buffet. He somehow managed to carry a tray in his left hand with three large mugs of hot cocoa on it, and aplate with a wedge of quiche and numerous scones in the other.
The three ate standing against a far wall.
After about forty-five minutes, Professor McGonagall came into the room. A glance quieted the room. "I have been given the gist of aseries of events, which I shall now relate," she said formally,"just as each Head of House should be doing at this time. To start, we must go back in times almost exactly fifty years."
She glanced around. "You see, that was the last time the Chamber is believed to have been opened." She paused in thought. "It was two years after I myself had left Hogwarts. There were several incidents, with Muggle-born children, or those from prominent families of mixed-blood, being injured, and of course similar messages left in blood. Then, a young Ravenclaw was killed. You girls all know Myrtle, the ghost in the girls' lav."
Harry realized that he might have heard some giggling the night before after all.
"A fifth year Slytherin prefect named Tom Riddle brought evidence that a Third year Gryffindor, Rubeus Hagrid, had been raising some sort of dangerous creature, which escaped. Hagrid was expelled, but there was never any direct evidence that he or whatever beast he was raising were in any way concerned with the matter, and in fact, he has now been fully exonerated."
That brought a murmur.
"It turns out that Tom Marvolo Riddle was actually responsible. While his father was a Muggle, his mother was one of the last known descendants of Salazar Slytherin." McGonagall looked at the students, took a deep breath, and said, "The letters of 'Tom Marvolo Riddle' can be used to spell the phrase 'I am Lord Voldemort'."
The gasp was loud.
McGonagall took a few moments to recover, and then went on. "At some point, You-Know-Who. . . ."
"Riddle," Harry growled, just loud enough for all to hear.
McGonagall's lips thinned for a moment, but then she nodded. "You are correct. Riddle made a very Dark object, although it resembled a Muggle day diary. This somehow came into the possession of Ginny Weasley. The diary, in turn, was possessing Miss Weasley." The gasps were louder this time, and Luna was not the only Gryffindor who found comfort through physical contact.
Glancing around, Harry saw Fred and George were slack-jawed. Ron had sat down, without checking to see if there was a chair behind him (there hadn't been). Ron was also very pale. Percy, on the other hand, was grinding his teeth, and his cheeks were bright red with fury.
"This object has slowly been taking full possession of Miss Weasley. It was Riddle, using Miss Weasley's unknowing body, which unleashed the monster. Last night, the Druid patrol followed the possessed Miss Weasley into the Chamber of Secrets. A group slew the monster, which was a basilisk."
Those few students who knew what a basilisk was were shocked.
"The connections between Miss Weasley and the diary have been broken. However, she does remain in a coma. We will let you know her condition as it changes. Now, if Miss Weasley's bothers would join me, please?"
As the dazed Ron went past Harry, Harry laid a hand on his friend's shoulder. Ron merely nodded, and followed his brothers.
"It's my fault, isn't it?" Luna asked quietly. She, Hermione, and Harry were seated in a dark corner of the very quiet common room.
"No, it's not," Hermione assured the younger girl. Luna did not look convinced.
"Once Riddle got his hooks into Ginny, there was no way to break the connection without hurting Ginny," Harry said. "I know, I've felt guilty that I didn't pass on your warnings soon enough. As soon as he controlled Ginny enough to send that basilisk out the first time, it would have ended like this to some degree. Well,"he acknowledged, "those others wouldn't have been petrified."
"She was my only friend before I came here," Luna sniffled.
Hermione hugged her. "She's still your friend, and so am I, and Harry and Neville, too."
"She could recover," Harry pointed out. "The diary drained her life force and her magical reserves, but those can build back up."
"They can," Luna agreed, "but they don't always."
Professor McGonagall and the four Weasley brothers came back just before noon. "The good news is that Miss Weasley will recover. However, it will be a long process. She is being withdrawn from school, and will return to us next year. I wish to emphasize that this was in no way Miss Weasley's fault. She was used, and abused, by this object. The buffet will be refilled momentarily. Please, stay within the House until five o'clock. Dinner will be served as usual from five-thirty, but only until six-thirty rather than until the usual seven." McGonagall glared at them. "Do not stray. I will take a head count at seven, so you had best be here."
Harry took a step towards Ron, but George, who was guiding Ron's footsteps, shook his head. Fred, however, came over. "We realized something," Fred growled.
Harry's heart rate went up, as he worried the Weasleys were going to blame him.
"We can't be totally sure of course," Fred went on, "but there was one really good time someone could have slipped Ginny that . . .that thing."
"When?" Harry asked softly.
"When we were in Diagon Alley last August, at the bookstore, Malfoy came over and gave Ron some lip about you, and generally stuck his nose in the air. George and I were about to enlarge his nose and split his lip when his father and Dad both came up, glaring. Old Man Malfoy took Ginny's used cauldron from her and pawed through the books."
Fred's face went red. "Ron had been pretty hard on his books last year. I mean, they were old. . . ."
"I understand," Harry said. "Malfoy sneered at Ginny's used books."
"And the diary seems to have been in the books, or at least we think so."
"That sounds about right," Harry agreed.
"You'll pass that on to the right people?"
That night at dinner, Malfoy walked up behind Ron on his way to his own place and softly chanted, "Five little Weasels, scrounging in the mud. One wrote in the wrong book, so now there were four little Weasels, scrounging in the mud." It took Neville and Dean to hold Ron to his chair. Seeing Fred and George start to stand, Malfoy hurried away. Harry and Hermione had been on the wrong side of the table.
"One of these days, we'll be out of school," Ron muttered. "And then I will kill him."
Lucius Malfoy looked out the grand window at the late winter estate. Whatever his Master's plan had been, it had failed. No doubt, he would be blamed, should the Master ever return.
Part of him wished the Master had never been vanquished. Part of him worried that the Master would somehow return in his lifetime.
Suddenly, Lucius was aware that there were two figures standing behind him. Casually, he gripped his cane, with its hidden wand.
Lucius spun to his right, using his momentum to pull the wand from the cane with his right hand.
Lucius' jaw ran into a fist traveling in the opposite direction, as he had been unaware of the third man, let alone the fist. The fist that had cracked his jaw, loosened two teeth, and slightly cracked three others. He was quickly disarmed.
Lucius glared at the three men, all in plain light brown robes. "I don't know who you are, or how you got in. . . ." He paused, as it should have been impossible for anyone not of the family to have gotten past the blood wards without permission.
The Brotherhood had merely drained Draco of just over a pint of blood, Obliviated him, and used that and some advanced magic to bypass the wards, not that Lucius would ever know that.
Lucius recovered. "You realize, whoever you are, you'll all be in Azkaban for this."
"Not really," Cobra said. "You will remember this visit, but you will not be able to share in the information. Even if you did, if you tried to testify under any truth potion, all we would have to do is ask you if you were ever an active Death Eater."
Lucius scowled and was about to protest when Jason spoke up, "You don't own a large section of the Ministry these days, Malfoy. Yes, there are a whole number of people there who would love to ask you some questions, given a chance."
"What do you want," Lucius snarled.
"Just a few things," Cobra said. "You are going to free a house elf, send your son a letter we already wrote, resign from the Hogwarts Board of Governors and the Wizengamot. . . ."
Scorpion waved his wand twice, and Malfoy's robe flew up and his loin cloth was removed. He next placed his wand under Malfoy's testicles and snarled, "CRUCIO!" After five seconds, Scorpion said, "Now that I've reminded you how your Master tortured you, shall I show you how a real expert does it?"
The next morning, Draco Malfoy was rereading his father's letter for the third time. Still, the letter did not change. His father had resigned from both the school's Board of Governors and the Wizengamot, and had freed one of their house elves. In addition, he and his mother were headed for Paraguay.
Draco was not certain where Paraguay was, or how he was to get there when school ended in four months.
Like many others in the school, he wished the year would hurry up and end.