The Brightest of Their Age
Harry sighed as he departed the Hospital Wing. It was the end of Christmas Holidays and Hermione’s Furry Little Problem looked like it would be with her for several more weeks. Madam Pomfrey had agreed to allow Harry to sleep in the infirmary until the new term began, and now it had arrived.
Harry had given Hermione one last lingering hug and stroked her furry ears as tears had dripped from the tips of her quivering whiskers.
“I’ll see you after classes Hermione. I’ll be sure to take lots of notes and bring you your homework.”
“Th...thanks Harry. I’ll miss you,” Hermione had sniffled, dabbing at her wet furry face with a hanky.
Harry looked back one last time at the curtain which had been pulled around Hermione’s hospital bed and made his way to his first lesson of the new term. Over the next few days Harry took copious notes and studied with Hermione after classes. Ron thought that perhaps he should stop by and say hello after making such a fuss the last time he’d visited Hermione in the Hospital Wing, and he was more careful to leave Scabbers in the dormitory when he decided to join Harry one evening.
“Can we visit Hermione too?” Parvati asked anxiously, glancing at Lavender and Neville. “We can all study together.”
“Well... you know how Madam Pomfrey gets,” said Harry. “But I don’t think Hermione will mind as long as you don’t tease her. You won’t will you?”
“Of course not Harry,” Lavender replied quickly, looking a bit hurt that Harry might think that she would. “But maybe it’s best not to make Madam Pomfrey cross with too many people - she can be a bit scary at times.”
“Er... yeah!” Neville gulped, glad that Lavender had said it first. “Tell Hermione we said hello though... and that we all miss her.”
In the end Harry brought Hermione her books and homework with only Ron and Parvati in tow. Harry asked Hermione if it was alright for Parvati to say hello, and she nervously agreed. But she needn’t have worried.
“Ooooh.... you’re adorable! ” squealed Parvati gleefully when she saw Hermione’s tail, whiskers, ears, and furry features. “Can I stroke your tail?”
Hermione relaxed and nodded. She began to purr when Parvati gave her a hug and petted her furry black tail. Ron felt a bit awkward, and he really didn’t want to stay and study anyway. His ears turned slightly red as he plonked Hermione’s books down on her bedside table which he had been carrying to help Harry.
“I think I’d take a break from work if I’d grown whiskers,” Ron said with a bit of a smirk.
“Don’t be silly Ron,” Hermione retorted, rolling her eyes as Parvati giggled and Harry snorted mirthfully. “I can’t let myself fall behind.”
“Er... right! See you lot later then,” said Ron with a sheepish grin as he hurried out of the infirmary.
It was only much later while Ron was struggling to scribble a few hasty lines for a potions essay that he remembered he’d forgotten to ask Hermione how many rat-tails you were supposed to add to a Hair-Raising Potion. Then Ron peered at Scabbers and decided it was for the best. Hermione was part-cat at the moment, and she might have taken it the wrong way.
Hermione was delighted that Harry and Parvati had spent the last few hours studying with her, and she hugged them both when they left the Hospital Wing. She began to wonder if she was being silly hiding behind a curtain. Parvati seemed alright with Hermione being part-cat temporarily, maybe the others would be too. Then Hermione remembered Draco Malfoy and shivered.
He was awful enough just about Hermione being a Muggleborn. She knew instinctively that he and the Slytherins would be even more dreadful about her being half-cat.
A ghastly shriek of rage caught Harry’s and Parvati’s ears as they made their way back to the Gryffindor Common Room. They peered around the corner and saw a flood of water in the corridor, and Filch storming off furiously to complain to the Headmaster. It was the hallway where Mrs Norris had been petrified, and Harry recalled that there had been water on the floor that night too, spilling out from Moaning Myrtle’s bathroom.
Harry felt another pang of sympathy for Filch, and he wondered again if there wasn’t something that could be done so that Filch didn’t have to clean without magic. Sobs and wails could be heard echoing from the tiled walls of the lavatory.
“Is that Myrtle crying again I hear?” asked Parvati sadly.
“Sounds like it. Let’s go have a look then shall we?” said Harry.
Parvati nodded in agreement and they both tiptoed carefully through puddles as they lifted their robes above their ankles. Harry pushed open the door cautiously, and they both entered the bathroom.
“What’s wrong Myrtle?” Harry sympathetically asked.
“Someone chucked something at me,” Myrtle sobbed mournfully. “Just because I can’t feel it doesn’t mean it doesn’t still hurt when people are mean to me.
“I’m sorry,” said Parvati sincerely. “That’s not very nice. What did they throw at you?”
“Some sort of book,” Myrtle sniffled, her sobs subsiding. “It’s right over there.”
Myrtle pointed under a sink where the water was pooling, and Harry spotted a soggy book with a black leather binding. He strode across the puddles on the tiled floor and reached down for it.
“Be careful Harry,” squeaked Parvati. “It might be dangerous.”
“She’s right you know,” said Myrtle. “People don’t usually chuck things down toilets unless they’re trying to get rid of them.”
“Well... I’ve got to look to see what it’s all about,” said Harry reasonably as picked up the saturated book. “If anything happens, just get a professor - they’ll sort me out!”
As Harry peered at it, he realised that it looked more like a diary or a journal than anything, and he felt an ominous burning sensation in his scar. Swallowing nervously, suddenly certain that it had something to do with the Heir of Slytherin and Voldemort, he peeled apart the wet pages and saw that they were all blank except for the name on the inside of the black leather cover.
“T. M. Riddle,” Harry muttered. “I wonder who that is? I don’t think...”
“Tom Riddle?” squealed Myrtle in fright, startling Parvati.
“What? You know him?” gasped Harry.
“He went to school with me. He was here the year I died... right here in this bathroom.” Myrtle replied. “He was really handsome - but his eyes, they were so cold. He frightened me.”
“Wait...” said Harry, his heart thumping loudly against the wall of his chest as light dawned on him, “...are you the one that died 50 years ago then? The year that the Chamber of Secrets was first opened?”
Parvati let out a little squeak as Myrtle replied.
“Yes... right here in the lavatory. All I remember is hearing someone talking a very funny hissy language. Then I saw big yellow eyes... right over there by that sink! And then I... I d...d...died! That’s it... that’s all I know!”
Harry was breathing rapidly now; he shared a dark look with Parvati and turned back to Myrtle who was still trembling.
“I’m sorry I had to ask you about that... Thanks Myrtle!” said Harry after a moment. “Thanks for telling me! That was very brave of you!”
“You’re very sweet Harry!” Myrtle said shyly, blushing before she dove into a toilet.
“So what do we do now Harry?” asked Parvati as they left Myrtle’s bathroom.
“I... I’m going to dry it out and then tell Hermione about it tomorrow,” Harry said after thinking for a minute. “We’ll work out what to do then.”
For Harry it had been another night of fitful sleep as his scar throbbed and burned, tossing and turning and dreaming of hissing voices. He had a hard time concentrating in classes all the next day, and Ernie MacMillan’s continued prattling didn’t help. Harry considered waiting until Hermione was out of the Hospital Wing, but this was much too important to wait two more weeks, and he didn’t think he could take much more of people going on about him being the Heir of Slytherin.
Filch’s cat, Colin Creevey, Sir Nicholas, and even that Pompous Prat - Justin Finch-Fletchley... they were all petrified because of whatever resided in the Chamber of Secrets, and for all Harry knew, Hermione could be next. By the time lessons were over, Harry decided that the diary was dry enough and he put it in his pocket.
Ron looked up from the wizard chess game he had coaxed Seamus into playing with him when he heard Parvati and Harry talking in excited whispers.
“What’s going on?” asked Ron.
“Er...” Harry glanced at Seamus who was struggling to think of his next move. “We’re going to see Hermione - but you might want to join us this time!” Harry said, putting as much meaning into his intonation as he could without rousing Seamus’s attention, hoping that Ron would get it.
Fortunately Ron seemed to catch on.
“Erm... sorry Seamus, d’you mind if I go and visit Hermione with Harry and Parvati? We can finish this later.”
Seamus actually appeared relieved and he shook his head, “Nah, go on mate... I’ll see ye later then. Maybe we can do somethin’ else when ye get back.”
Fortunately, Madam Pomfrey seemed to be out of her office when Harry, Parvati, and Ron arrived in the Hospital Wing. Hermione and Ron were both astonished to hear that Myrtle had been the one who had died the last time the Chamber had been opened. Ron gasped when Harry mentioned Tom Riddle.
“Blimey Harry, Tom Riddle? I must’ve polished his award a hundred times during detention - something about performing a service to the school.”
“Well, I dunno what sort of service that could be,” Harry muttered darkly. “Myrtle said he was kind of a creep!”
“Yeah... well it’s Moaning Myrtle! What else would you expect from her?” Ron grunted, earning himself a reproachful look from Parvati and Harry.
“If you’d just try to think of someone else’s feelings for a change, you’d find out that she’s not so bad!” Parvati snapped. “She’s actually rather sweet if you’re nice to her.”
Ron flushed slightly and looked away. Hermione’s furry ears twitched thoughtfully as she peered at the diary.
“I wonder why there’s nothing written in it?” she mused, biting her lower lip. “You say your scar is hurting again? Maybe it has something to do with Voldemort.” Hermione rolled her eyes when Ron gave a start of fright at hearing his name.
“Yeah! that’s what I was thinking too. There’s something about the diary that’s connected to Voldemort... I can just feel it!” said Harry, his heart starting to beat faster as he grinned. He knew that Hermione would understand. “And, obviously Tom Riddle’s diary is connected to the Chamber of Secrets and this Heir of Slytherin business!” Harry continued.
“And according to you, Myrtle said she heard someone speaking a hissy language before she saw the big yellow eyes...” Hermione murmured as things started to click together in her mind. “And only you can hear the monster...”
“...And I’m a Parselmouth...” Harry went on excitedly as Hermione still seemed to be on the same wavelength, “Hermione... what if the monster is some sort of big snake?”
“I think you’re right Harry,” agreed Hermione, her eyes gleaming as her furry black cat-tail flicked. “It must be slithering behind the walls...”
“...through the water pipes,” said Harry breathlessly, on a roll, “...and for all anyone else would hear...”
“...they might think the hissing sound was just water rushing through the pipes. That’s what I thought it was, the times I was with you when you heard the voice...” Hermione said as her furry tail whisked back and forth eagerly.
Ron’s and Parvati’s mouths both gaped slightly as they watched the electrifying exchange between Hermione and Harry. “Blimey, they’re carrying on like Fred and George,” Ron whispered. Parvati nodded in silent agreement.
“Exactly! ” exclaimed Harry, clasping Hermione’s furry hands. “But how could it petrify people? That’s the only thing I don’t get. Nobody was bitten - It must be a magical sort of snake...”
“I think I know what it is Harry,” said Hermione gleefully as the puzzle pieces finally came together. “I think it’s a Basilisk! That’s why whoever is opening the Chamber has been killing Hagrid’s roosters. And the only reason nobody’s died yet is because...”
“...nobody’s seen it’s eyes directly. That’s it Hermione...” Harry felt like dancing for joy. “It must be! Mrs Norris saw the reflection in the water...”
“...Colin saw its eyes through his camera...” Hermione giddily bounced on her bed.
“...Justin saw them through Sir Nicholas...” Harry squeezed Hermione’s hands.
“...and Sir Nicholas can’t die because he’s already dead. Oh Harry... we’ve done it!” Hermione squealed, “Now all we need to do is find the entrance to the Chamber of Secrets!”
“And I think I know where that is,” Harry beamed. “It must be in Myrtle’s bathrooms near the sinks... some sort of secret entrance...”
“Harry... we’ve got to tell Dumbledore...”
“...before anyone else gets hurt. Of course, Hermione!”
“Bring the diary Harry... he’ll know what to do with it.”
Harry pulled his Invisibility Cloak out of his book bag and flung it over Hermione as he turned to face Parvati and Ron.
“We’re going to Dumbledore’s office. Can you two please stay here and tell Madam Pomfrey where we’ve gone when she gets back so that she doesn’t worry about Hermione?”
“Er...” Ron began awkwardly.
“Of course Harry!” Parvati quickly agreed.
Dumbledore was astonished by the story that he’d just heard, and he couldn’t believe what he was holding in his hand - Tom Riddle’s diary. He peered at it intently over the top of his half-moon spectacles as Fawkes ruffled his scarlet feathers.
“I know it’s connected to Voldemort too sir... I can feel it!” Harry stated firmly. “My scar keeps hurting when it’s near.”
The Headmaster nodded slowly. “That’s because Tom Riddle is Voldemort, Harry. It is my considered view that he adopted the name Voldemort because he did not want people to readily discover that he had some muggle parentage. I originally found him in a muggle orphanage...”
Dumbledore was distracted by Hermione’s gasp and quivering furry tail.
“In any case, if my own senses tell me anything,” the Headmaster continued, “It is that there is a dark enchantment on this diary, not unlike that obtained by yourself when you acquired your scar.”
“D’you mean the diary may contain a piece of Voldemort... Sir?”
“I believe that may be the case. It would need to be to possess the holder of the diary and cause them to open the Chamber of Secrets...”
“But sir,” squeaked Hermione, with a concerned look at Harry, “...couldn’t Harry also be possessed by the piece in him then?”
“I think not Miss Granger! For one thing, the Charm placed on Harry by his mother when she gave her life for him protects him from Voldemort's possession. But in any case, the diary likely also contains Tom Riddle’s memories at the time. It was probably made with the intent of containing a fully formed echo of himself. The piece in Harry was inadvertent... a mistake.
“It was enough to transfer some of Riddle’s abilities - such as Parseltongue, but not enough to transfer his complete Persona - his Identity and his Memories at the time of separation. If what I suspect is true - it means that the diary is what is known as a horcrux, and that Harry is partially one as well.
“A horcrux is a means of binding someone to life - an earthly container for a piece of soul - which is why Voldemort himself is still alive after a fashion. This is both good and bad news for Harry. The bad is that as long as the horcruxes exist, including the one in Harry - and we do not as yet know how many Voldemort created - Voldemort cannot die.
“The good news is that the piece in Harry is unstable and not firmly attached - as it is not a completed transfer - and that it may one day yet be possible to remove without killing Harry.
“However, the further bad news is that horcruxes are extremely difficult to destroy! We will need to kill the Basilisk first before dealing with the diary. Then there is the matter of uncovering who is being possessed, and who planted the diary to begin with...”
The unearthly musical voice grew louder; there was a beating of wings and a blurry vision of gold and scarlet lit upon Harry’s shoulder. As the tears of the Phoenix dripped into the wound on his arm, Harry smiled at the blurry girl with tawny brown tresses, whose tears were soaking his robes, and whose arms were wrapped tightly around him as she sobbed.
Dumbledore was right; it had been a very dangerous and risky plan. But Harry had been willing to do whatever it took to end the Basilisk and create a weapon which would destroy horcruxes. Harry peered at the Basilisk-venom-imbued Sword of Gryffindor, glinting in the flickering of the torches which lit the Chamber of Secrets.
“Only a true Gryffindor...” Harry murmured as he began to regain his lucidity. “That was you Hermione - you pulled it out of the Sorting Hat...”
“And you Harry - you’re the one who killed the Basilisk with it!” Hermione sniffled as she wiped her tears on the sleeves of her robes.
“And you both saved the life of young Miss Weasley, and freed Hagrid from a long-standing injustice,” said Dumbledore as he picked up the weeping red-haired girl with freckles in his arms, handing her to a glowering Madam Pomfrey before picking up the diary, still dripping black ink from the hole where Harry had pierced it with a Basilisk fang.
“But at what cost Albus?” snapped Professor McGonagall who appeared to be as distressed as the school nurse. “Harry was very nearly killed by the Basilisk’s venom. And Miss Granger and Miss Weasley’s lives...”
“...were already at grave risk Minerva!” said Professor Flitwick gently. “This was the only way to obtain a controllable means to destroy that blasted horcrux, and any more that Voldemort might have created, and to release Miss Weasley from the hold it had over her...”
“We were all here to help duel the Basilisk if absolutely necessary, and young Mr Potter lives, thanks to Fawkes. And in any case, I believe you have a vial of phoenix tears on hand - in your pocket - just for such an emergency, do you not, Poppy? ”
“Of course I do!” said Madam Pomfrey sharply. “But that’s not the point...”
As Harry listened to the Professors bickering, he felt Hermione’s lips press against his cheek, and the warmth of her embrace had as much to do with relieving the chill brought on by the Basilisk venom as had Fawkes’s tears.
The past few months since the meeting in Dumbledore’s office came into focus as Hermione cuddled him. Harry and Hermione had returned to the Hospital Wing with her under his Invisibility Cloak, and a note for Madam Pomfrey from the Headmaster to explain things. Harry was glad that Dumbledore had revealed the entire set of circumstances surrounding the previous opening of the Chamber of Secrets. Now he and Hermione knew that Hagrid and his pet acromantula had been unfairly blamed for Myrtle's death.
Harry had spent a bit of time looking at the diary in the Common Room that evening after curfew, then he had hidden Tom Riddle’s diary in his trunk and tried to get on with things despite his prickling, burning scar and the continuing tension in Hogwarts. Two weeks later, February had begun and Hermione was finally fur free. Harry had been very pleased for her, and happy to see her face properly again, but he found himself missing her furry tail and ears - not to mention the cute whiskers.
Then Valentine’s Day had arrived in a frenzy of Festivity inspired by the ever-preening Lockhart. He had managed to convince the School Board of Governors to make the day a full holiday, and the entire castle had been garishly decorated in red hearts and pastel pink flowers. The suits of armour had been festooned with hot pink bows and gaudy crimson ribbons, and a team of surly looking dwarves had been hired to run around dressed as Cupids.
The rest of the professors had fled to their offices shortly after breakfast to escape the travesty. Ron had been as disgusted as Harry by the whole affair, but for quite different reasons.
“Urgh! What a load of girly rubbish!” Ron had moaned when they spotted Lockhart gallivanting around in lurid pink robes.
“If you ask me, Lockhart seems entirely too pleased to be getting loads of Valentines from young girls,” Harry had muttered darkly when he spied Lockhart disappearing into an empty classroom with a number of giggling First and Second Year girls.
Out of sheer morbid curiosity, Harry had tried the door and found it locked. As panic set in, he had looked wildly around for a moment, then sighed with relief when Hermione appeared behind him with Parvati.
“I’m right here Harry,” Hermione had said brightly, giving him a hug and a kiss on the cheek. “Happy Valentine’s Day!”
“What about Lavender? Is she safe?”
“What do you mean, ‘safe,’ Harry?” Parvati had asked, looking very puzzled.
“Lockhart - he’s in there with a few First and Second Year girls, and he’s locked the door.”
Parvati’s features had changed to one of appalled understanding. Hermione had frowned and tried an Alohomora Charm on the lock, to no effect.
“I think Lavender’s still in the Great Hall with Fay,” Parvati had replied as she bit her lip in consternation.
“What’s the big deal?” Ron had an utterly bewildered expression on his face. “Who cares what Lockhart’s doing as long as we don’t have to see him prancing around in that stupid pink outfit?”
“Where’s Percy?” Harry had asked, deciding that he wasn’t up to explaining things to Ron.
“I dunno, snogging his girlfriend somewhere... I think,” Ron had replied with a revolted look.
“Maybe we should just go to Dumbledore ourselves,” Hermione had said anxiously.
“I suppose we’d better...” Harry had sighed.
The following day, the DADA class had been canceled, much to most students’ perplex, and a week later, classes had resumed with a shabbily dressed teacher who had introduced himself as Professor Lupin. Despite grumbles from many of the girls, everyone had noted a marked improvement in the quality of the lessons. Harry had taken an immediate liking to the new professor.
The snow had melted and Spring had brought with it cheerful weather and a ray of hope. By the time Easter Holidays had arrived, things had seemed to be looking up. There had been no attacks, and Harry had eagerly pored over the roster of electives that they were supposed to be choosing from for Third Year, with Hermione and Ron.
“Wish I could ditch Potions,” Ron had grumbled, “but we’ve got to keep all our old subjects.”
“Of course you have to Ron,” Hermione had said reprovingly. “Your entire future depends on getting a good education.”
“I’ve got loads of time for that,” Ron had snorted, before mumbling something about eventually becoming a famous Quidditch player. After they had all agreed on taking Care of Magical Creatures and Divination together, Hermione and Harry had left Ron to it with Seamus and Dean.
“You’re never going to have enough time to take ALL the electives Hermione,” Harry had chuckled.
“Time... hmmm!” she had muttered mysteriously.
“You don’t need Muggle Studies for one thing! We both grew up with muggles,” Harry had incredulously retorted.
“Yes, but it will be very interesting to get a wizards perspective...” Hermione had responded breezily.
“Well... we already know that really. There’s the Malfoy/Voldemort perspective, and then there’s the Dumbledore/Mr Weasley perspective, and except for those like us, everyone else just doesn’t really seem to care one way or the other at all...” Harry had argued. Then he’d grown worried. “Seriously Hermione, don’t overload yourself. That’s too much for anyone...”
“Maybe you’re right Harry.” Hermione had frowned indecisively, and then she moved on to check the next boxes.
“I think I’m going to give Ancient Runes a go too,” Harry had asserted after some more rumination. “I dunno if I’ll be any good at translating things, but it looks really interesting.”
“Oh that’s lovely Harry,” Hermione had brightened considerably and given Harry an excited hug. “I was hoping you’d take some more classes with me. You should try Arithmancy too.”
“Er... I’m horrible at maths. I think I’ll just stick with Divination. I still don’t know where you’ll find the time though... even without Muggle Studies, it looks like you’ve still got too many classes.”
Hermione had reddened, peering around the common room to make sure nobody was listening. Then she had leaned forward and whispered in Harry’s ear. His eyes had nearly popped out of his head.
“You can’t tell anyone! ” Hermione had hissed. “Not even Ron.”
During the week after Easter, Oliver Wood had been pushing for extra Quidditch practices every night after dinner to prepare for the upcoming Quidditch match against Hufflepuff, and Harry had politely reminded him that he had loads of studying to do. However, Harry had gone to several extra practices, and the evening before Saturday’s match he had returned to his dormitory to find a frantic Neville - the moment had arrived.
This was what Dumbledore had been expecting. Harry had been surprised that it had taken so long though. All of his things had been ransacked, and his trunk turned inside out. The diary had been stolen. Whoever was being possessed by Riddle’s memories was a Gryffindor. Harry had gone straight to Dumbledore and the plan had been set in motion.
The next morning had been bright and sunny with a cool breeze, and Oliver Wood had been delighted with the “Perfect Quidditch Conditions.” But Harry had ignored him and sat with Hermione, waiting in trepidation for the other shoe to drop.
Professor McGonagall had glanced anxiously at all of the Weasley boys, and announced that the Quidditch game had been canceled, warning all of the students to return to their dormitories immediately.
“Not you two,” she had told Harry and Hermione with a stricken expression. “You’re coming with me to the staff-room...”
As Harry had taken one last look around the Great Hall, he had noted Draco Malfoy’s smug features, knowing that Malfoy’s only disappointment was that Hermione was still alive.
Harry and Hermione had been horrified to learn that Ginny was the one who was being possessed, and that she had been taken into the Chamber of Secrets by Slytherin's Monster.
Gaining entrance to the Chamber of Secrets with Hermione, the Headmaster, Flitwick, McGonagall, and Pomfrey, had been a relatively simple matter, but the battle with the Basilisk had been arduous, as the professors had stayed out of sight, so as not to tip off Riddle’s Shade that they were onto him.
“Well, well, well... Harry Potter!” the handsome looking boy had sneered before the fight with the Basilisk had begun, after disarming Harry and Hermione with Ginny’s wand. “It’s good to meet you at long last. I’ve heard so much about you... you and your Mudblood girlfriend.”
“Right!” Harry had nodded, giving the all too opaque Shade a steely glare. “I’ve heard all about you too - Voldemort! ”
Tom Riddle had looked disconcerted momentarily; then he had snorted derisively.
“Of course you have! No doubt that Old Fool Dumbledore told you my real name. So what? None of that matters now. Once the silly little girl told me how you had defeated me twice, I knew I had to bring you to me. I knew that for me to rise again, I would have to kill you - getting your pet Mudblood too is just a bonus for me at this point.”
“What have you done to Ginny?” Hermione had shouted tearfully as she examined the unconscious younger girl.
“Oh, me? Nothing really - it’s what she has done to herself. By pouring out her heart and soul into my diary, she has given me her life.” Tom Riddle’s eyes had gleamed.
“I was her best friend - her confidante. Little Ginny told me everything... how she’d always been infatuated with the famous Harry Potter...” Tom had turned to address Harry again, peering at his scar and eyeing him hungrily.
“She told me how unfair it was that she had already lost you to another girl before she’d even had a chance to get to know you...” Riddle had rolled his eyes and laughed.
“It was pathetic really - rather boring to me! Still, I was sympathetic, and told Ginny everything she wanted to hear... How deserving of True Love she was, and she came to love me... and once she did, I grew stronger, draining her of her life, making it my own... ”
“You’re pathetic,” Harry had responded furiously, “You’re an evil coward... preying on an innocent little girl. But you still had trouble holding onto her... she tried to get rid of you...”
“Too little, too late!” Tom Riddle had chortled gleefully. “By then I was too strong in her mind. I reached out into her dreams - called to her, and eventually she sought me out once more. And why would she not seek me out? When I have become the Greatest Sorcerer who has ever lived...”
“No you’re not!” Hermione had said quietly - before Harry had had a chance to retort - angry tears burning her cheeks. “Albus Dumbledore is... and one day Harry will be too - they’re both better wizards than you have ever been, or ever will be!” she had vehemently snarled.
“The Mudblood dares...?” Tom had sputtered, “That Old Fool...? And this... this... child? They know nothing... they are less than nothing! ”
Harry had been astonished by Hermione’s adamant proclamation, and enraged by Tom Riddle’s repeated aspersions against her.
“This child has defeated you twice already!” Harry had spat back, “Dumbledore IS the greatest wizard alive today... And NOBODYcalls Hermione a Mudblood!”
Harry had wished again that he and Hermione had their wands, but they had been lost somewhere in the Chamber when Tom Riddle had disarmed them both. A soft, ethereal musical cry had caught their ears; a great scarlet and gold bird had soared above and dropped a tatty, rumpled old hat in front of Hermione’s feet - the Sorting Hat.
“Hahahaha...!” Riddle’s laughter had echoed through the Chamber of Secrets. “This is what Dumbledore sends his champions? A hat and a songbird?” Tom Riddle’s face had twisted into a malevolent grin. “Let me show you what sort of weapons that I, Lord Voldemort, the Heir of Slytherin has at his disposal...”
Riddle’s mouth had continued moving. Hermione had only heard the hissing, but Harry had understood every word. To Harry's and Hermione’s horror, the enormous stone face of Slytherin behind Voldemort had begun moving, and the Basilisk had slithered up from the depths.
“Kill them both!” Riddle had hissed in Parseltongue,
Hermione had picked up the Sorting Hat hopefully, and the glittering, jewel emblazoned hilt of a long silver Sword fell into her hands. She had thrown it to Harry, and the battle had begun.
“Can you walk Mr Potter?” Professor McGonagall asked gently, returning to addressing Harry as a pupil now that it was evident that he would make a full recovery from his third brush with death.
“Er... yeah! I think so,” Harry nodded and grinned at Hermione as she took him by the arm. “Between Fawkes’s tears and Hermione’s hugs, I think I’m well on the mend...”
Hermione giggled and gave Harry another kiss on the cheek causing Professor’s Flitwick and McGonagall to flush and look away in discomfort.
“Good!” said a new voice in the Chamber of Secrets, “Because no doubt Cornelius Fudge will wish to confer with Potter himself.”
Everyone turned to look at Snape in surprise - even Dumbledore.
“He is waiting in your office for a report on the latest attack by Slytherin’s Monster - with Lucius Malfoy I might add. And they are preparing to arrest Hagrid...” explained Professor Snape. “And Lucius has apparently convinced the Board of School Governors to sack you. Though I admit - Cornelius seems to be quite... reluctant!”
“But how did they find out so quickly?” gasped Professor McGonagall as she glanced at Madam Pomfrey and Ginny. “It’s been barely more than a few hours since Miss Weasley was taken.”
“Draco Malfoy!” Harry said adamantly. “He must have got a message to his father. He’s been a part of this all along - I know it! I bet his father gave Ginny the diary the day he fought with Mr Weasley in Flourish and Blotts...”
“Are you certain of this Potter? You can’t just go around making... accusations.” Professor Snape raised his eyebrows and peered at Harry with glittering dark eyes.
Harry met the Potion Master’s penetrating gaze head on and swallowed awkwardly. Despite feeling extremely anxious, Harry was angry, and he wasn’t about to back down. Draco Malfoy had known too much about the Chamber of Secrets, and Malfoy wanted Hermione to be killed by Slytherin's Monster. Sensing Harry’s agitation, Hermione gave his hand a comforting squeeze.
It almost felt to Harry like Snape could see what he was thinking. Slowly Harry nodded as he recalled everything that had happened since he had fallen out of the Floo in Borgin and Burkes, keeping his eyes on Snape’s. After a moment Snape blinked and turned to Dumbledore, breaking contact.
“I believe Mr Potter’s information is accurate Headmaster...” Snape began. Harry let out a sigh of relief as Hermione gave him another hug and let out her own breath.
“...unfortunately, we have no proof!” Snape concluded.
Dumbledore nodded. “Very well. Be that as it may, perhaps it would be best if we showed Cornelius the Chamber, the Diary, and the Basilisk. At the very least, we can obtain a clean slate for Hagrid, and impress upon Cornelius again, the dangers that Harry continues to face from Voldemort - however, Lucius can remain in my office to await my arrival.
“Perhaps you should also remind Cornelius that Mr Potter is responsible for putting Lockhart in Azkaban where he belongs,” Madam Pomfrey said stiffly, her nostrils flaring.
“Hear, hear...” squeaked Professor Flitwick.
“Yes Albus,” McGonagall interjected. “A healthy reminder of Mr Potter’s and Miss Granger’s moral rectitude and courage would be fitting as well.”
“Of course I shall!” agreed Dumbledore as his eyes twinkled proudly at the brightest witch and wizard of their Age.
Sign up to rate and review this story