Conjoining of Paragons
Chapter 9: Creeping Danger
Disclaimer: This is a work of fanfiction based on the Harry Potter universe. All recognizable characters, plots, and settings are the exclusive property of J.K Rowling. I make no claim to ownership.
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October 1, 1942
The Defence Against the Dark Arts Classroom
It was the first time Harry had found himself alone in a room with Professor Merrythought. It had happened often enough with Slughorn, but this felt different. Slughorn was someone he was at least vaguely familiar with. He thought he had an idea of how the man’s mind worked. Merrythought was still largely an unknown entity. She seemed fond of him, but he doubted that would stop her from making his life hell if she felt she had a reason. The heavy curtains pulled tight across the windows didn’t help his nerves. Rays of bright light could have lightened the feel of the room, but they were instead left in thick and heavy darkness.
Merrythought also had a very different air about her. Slughorn seemed to radiate joviality — though Harry suspected it was just an act. Merrythought was similar to McGonagall from his time in the sense that she was notoriously strict. He felt that now, wondering exactly what he had done to earn this meeting.
The most off-putting thing for Harry was that he had not been told to stay as the class’s duration dwindled. Merrythought had sent him a letter that morning requesting his presence. Never had a professor done so before. It made him tense and think he was somehow in trouble, though he could not decide what he may have done to earn himself the professor’s ire.
“Thank you for coming,” the professor said, taking a seat behind her desk and reaching for a glass of tea.
“It’s no trouble, Professor.” Harry had to resist the urge to shuffle from side to side. This did not seem like the woman to fidget in front of.
“You look nervous,” she observed.
“Just a bit confused, ma’am. I’ve never had a professor write me a letter to stay after class before.”
“I can’t say I make a habit of it. I’m not sure I’ve ever done it before now. Don’t let yourself get too smug,” she said when Harry’s lips parted. They slid into an expression of surprise rather than smugness, but the interjection was quite characteristic of the Defence Against the Dark Arts Professor.
“Just surprised again,” Harry said hastily.
“Yes, I’m sure.” She set down her mug of tea and looked up at him. Her stare was sharp. It did not seem to penetrate him so much as it tore him open and examined him via a forceful dissection. “Did Professor Slughorn tell you he was writing to me?”
This threw Harry completely for a loop. “No, ma’am. The last time I talked to Professor Slughorn was mostly about Ancient Runes.”
“I thought not,” she said, her mouth straightening into a thin line that reminded him so much of the woman who had served as his Head of House in a different world. “Do you have any guesses as to what he may have written to me about?” Harry shook his head, but the woman’s stare did not detach itself from him. “What have your thoughts been about this class so far?”
Harry’s head tilted as he stared back at his professor with narrowed eyes. Gears turned inside his head but they seemed to stall and grind painfully against one another as he tried to suss out exactly what was going on here. That last transition had clearly been planned, but it was still as jarring as a blow dealt by a speeding bludger.
“It’s… been interesting.”
The professor’s eyes narrowed. “You need to choose your words more carefully, Pavonis. I highly doubt it’s been interesting for the likes of you.”
Harry blinked several times. “I don’t understand, Professor.”
“I have no doubt you’ve enjoyed the class. You’re too gifted at it not to be at least a little bit interested. Children often enjoy what they’re good at and I can’t say I’ve ever seen a fourth year cast a Patronus Charm before now. Interesting, though. I think you’ve moved much too easily through the material for it to be interesting.” She tapped her fingers rhythmically upon the desk. “Unless you fancy yourself a narcissist. I suppose being better than your peers might be interesting to you, then. Is that it, Pavonis?”
“No,” Harry scrambled to say. “No, that’s not what I meant.”
Merrythought nodded. “I thought not. Choose your words more carefully. Simple things can have you looking like a fool.”
“I’ll… keep that in mind, Professor.”
“See that you do.” She opened one of the drawers of her desk and produced a letter scrawled on what appeared to be a pristine bit of parchment. It was smoother than any Harry had seen since arriving in the past. All manner of things seemed more weathered here. Parchment, fabrics, shops, streets — all of them and more had felt the effects of the war. Whether it was Grindelwald’s war or the one in the muggle world contributing most heavily, Harry had no idea.
“This,” said the professor, “is the letter from Professor Slughorn.” Her gaze suddenly became sterner than it had been since that first day when Harry had arrived late. “I shouldn’t let you read it. It speaks about another student. Can I trust that you won’t run your mouth to the first of your friends who asks you about its contents in the next few weeks?”
Confusion rose within Harry like billowing steam from boiling water, but he nodded nevertheless and removed the offered parchment from his professor’s grasp.
Dearest Professor Merrythought,
It has been so long since we properly caught up. Perhaps we should amend this soon. Maybe we can even talk about the subject of my letter.
I think that by now, you will have noticed that young Master Pavonis is quite the pupil and that I was not exaggerating when I wrote of him over the summer. I think you will likely have found him quite exceptional.
I would like to reopen the argument we hashed out late in the summer. Your point about Miss Riddle stands. She was an exceptional student who did not get the treatment I am proposing, but by Merlin, she should have. I asked for it then and I am asking for it now. I doubt even you can argue Emily was not advanced enough at her age to leap ahead of her peers. I personally see no way you can honestly tell me that Harry isn’t in that same position.
Do consider my proposition again. I would be happy to debate it out over a glass of wine and a box of crystallized pineapple.
Professor H. F. Slughorn
Harry blinked at the parchment a number of times. The words were there and he had no trouble reading them. He even understood them, but that didn’t mean he had the foggiest idea what any of them meant. Him and Riddle being compared? That seemed wrong from the onset and it stirred memories that caused bile to rise up his throat. Memories of the Chamber of Secrets and how Tom Riddle had dared to liken the two of them to one another.
“So,” said the professor, “what do you think?”
“I’m… not sure what it means?”
“Aren’t you? Has Professor Slughorn not run this by you already?”
“Truly?” She tapped her fingers on the edge of her desk again. “I’m not at all surprised he didn’t tell you the wheels were in motion, but I’d have thought the two of you were in this together. How very interesting.” She fixed him with a pensive stare. “Will you answer my next question honestly, Pavonis?”
“Have you found yourself bored in my class?”
“Not… bored, no.”
“Unchallenged? Unmotivated? Unfulfilled?”
“I’m motivated by the subject, just—”
“Just not by the class. Yes, that much is obvious. The amount of work you put into the subject outside of this class shows very clearly.”
“Thank you, Professor.”
“But,” Merrythought went on, “what is just as clear is that you are completely unchallenged by the course material and that you being in this class only hurts your peers.”
Harry swore his head nearly snapped back from the force of Merrythought’s words. “Professor?”
“I’m not the only one who notices your prowess. It is obvious to any with a working set of eyes. The others have noticed. I’m sure it is difficult for you to relate, but it is challenging to stay motivated when you watch others perform the tasks you’re struggling with as easily as if they were casting a Lumos Charm.”
Oh, if Merrythought only knew. It wasn’t difficult at all for Harry to imagine. It had been his reality not all that long ago. Watching Hermione breeze through each and every subject even while taking all that the school allowed had been infuriating even whilst he was proud of his bushy-haired friend. Merrythought need not explain the pains of those sitting in that position.
It was actually a very strange thought. To imagine himself as Hermione in this circumstance was… strange. A lot really had changed. Not just the gender of his parents’ murderer and the time during which he was alive. Harry had changed just as much, and the fact had never been so glaringly obvious as it was then, staring at his watchful professor.
“What are you saying exactly?”
Merrythought nodded and for the first time, Harry thought she looked pleased. “I’m saying that you have no need for this class.” She raised a hand to forestall the inevitable interjection. “Listen more closely, boy. You have need for the subject, but not the class.”
“Are you saying I should drop Defence Against the Dark Arts? It’s mandatory through fifth year, isn’t it?”
“It is and I am not. What I am saying is that you should not be taking fourth-year Defence Against the Dark Arts, but the fifth-year course .”
Shock slammed into Harry with the force of a concussive blow. He nearly staggered from its impact. If he still had need for glasses, he thought they might have shattered from the weight of the shock.
“Professor… are you saying—”
“I am saying that your time in this class is over. I have no time to waste on pupils who don’t need it. The jump in difficulty will be vital for you, I think. I doubted it in the summer, but you’ve been steadily convincing me ever since you cast that Patronus Charm. Professor Slughorn had a point, even if I’m sure his motives aren’t quite as pure as he would have you believe.”
“What do you mean by that?” asked Harry. “About Professor Slughorn, I mean?”
“I mean that Professor Slughorn exemplifies the traits your house is famous for and that he recognizes your potential more clearly than any of us. Make of that what you will, but we are not here to discuss Professor Slughorn.”
“Right… so, you want me to take the fifth-year class?”
“I do. The step up in difficulty will be good for you, as I said. If it turns out to be too difficult, we can always reverse course, though I doubt that will be an issue. What I am more interested in is seeing you work with… more advanced pupils.”
That was when it struck Harry. Riddle was a fifth year, as was much of her entourage. He was being thrown into contact with Emily Riddle once again, and he knew by the expression on Professor Merrythought’s face that this was every bit as inevitable as his much-needed extra lessons in Ancient Runes.
October 2, 1942
The Potions Classroom
Harry was beginning to just expect to be summoned by professors after class at this point. Slughorn was fond of doing it in the best of times, but it had now happened two days in a row with two different professors. He had almost sighed aloud when the professor had glanced in his general direction. It was hardly surprising anymore. It felt much like the days during his classes with Lockhart back in second year. The man would always look at him with that pearly-white smile, bright as any snowfall, before calling him to the front of the room. Harry could always tell by his expression what was going to happen before it did. He was fonder of Slughorn than he ever had been of Lockhart, but nevertheless, the feeling was much the same. Though he did appreciate the fact it was just for a conversation.
Unless that conversation pertained to Emily Riddle. Harry thought to himself that he would rather re-enact the evils of the Wagga Wagga Werewolf a hundred times rather than be forced to spend more time with Riddle.
“Professor Merrythought talked to me yesterday,” Harry started. He’d suspected that was what Slughorn was after. Sure enough, the man’s eyes lit up like a roaring flame at the mention of Merrythought.
“Ah, did she now? And tell me, how did your little chat go?”
“I’m going to be taking fifth-year Defence Against the Dark Arts. Just like you planned.”
Slughorn placed a hand on his heart and feigned a stagger, but he could not altogether hide the smile tugging at the corners of his pudgy lips. “Harry,” he said, “how could you wound me so, m’boy?”
“It was really easy, sir. All I had to do was tell the truth.”
Slughorn’s mouth opened wide and out of it escaped a billowing roar that Harry recognized as the man’s deep, booming laugh. It went on for so long that Harry feared for Slughorn. Breathing often seemed a task for the walrus-like man at the best of times. Indeed, he had devolved into a fit of wheezing and hiccuping by the time his laughter had subsided, but he warded off his troubles swiftly enough — though he was still chortling like Dudley when he had seen something mildly inappropriate in his favourite cartoon.
“Oh, you are a clever one,” Slughorn told him. “Were you playing me for a fool all along?”
Harry waited for him to go on but after a moment, it became clear it had not been a rhetorical question. “Pardon, sir?”
Slughorn wagged a finger. “Don’t play coy with me, Harry. I’ve caught you out at last. All the acting, all the monologuing. You had this poor old man so convinced you were helpless and ignorant, yet you’ve known my game all along.”
Professor Merrythought’s words from the day before swam to the forefront of his mind, even as he waited for Slughorn to continue his thought.
“I mean that Professor Slughorn exemplifies the traits your house is famous for and that he recognizes your potential more clearly than any of us. Make of that what you will…”
“Here I was spreading the word of your talents far and wide,” said Slughorn. “Here I was campaigning for you because I was sure you would never do it for yourself. Here I was expecting to sit you down and explain everything, but there’s no need!” Slughorn leant forward and clasped Harry on the shoulder. If the man felt the muscles under his hand coil tight as any vice, he didn’t show it.
“Sorry for stealing your thunder, sir,” said Harry, who by this point had decided playing along was his wisest course of action.
Slughorn laughed yet again. “There’s hope for you in the political arena still, I think. A true Slytherin you are. Between your perceptiveness and your talent mixed with my bag of connections, the sky really is the limit.”
“I”m glad you think so, sir. Thanks for all the help.”
“Of course, of course; think nothing of it. What good would all my hard-earned friendships be if I didn’t put them to good use, eh?” The man’s chins wobbled as he chortled. Harry did his best to force a smile despite the confusion that gripped him hard from the inside. He was slowly piecing together what had happened, but it wasn’t coming as quickly as he would have liked.
“Speaking of friendships,” said Slughorn, “I’m arranging another little gathering for the night of Samhain. It would be splendid if you’d join us again. There will be all sorts of people there and I’m sure they will all be very pleased to meet you.”
Dread solidified in Harry’s chest. It felt like his blood had been frozen solid and blocked the pathway to his lungs. His breath seemed to catch for a moment as he remembered the last meeting. It had resulted in him being stuck with Riddle for tutoring in Ancient Runes — something that was set to begin that very night. Harry feared to imagine what could come of the second meeting, especially since Slughorn was doing a great job of making it sound as though it would be considerably larger than the first.
It also didn’t help that this one would be taking place on the final day of October. Harry’s luck had never been anything but comically awful on that day. His parents’ death, the run-in with the troll, the opening of the Chamber of Secrets, and what he had then viewed as Sirius Black making an attempt on his life — all of these things had happened on October’s most auspicious evening. Harry had never been terribly superstitious, but he did believe in patterns and this one was obvious.
Yet how was he to decline? Perhaps if it had been any other professor, but Slughorn had forged him an identity. The man was the only reason Harry was at Hogwarts at all; turning him down just seemed wrong.
“Of course, Professor.”
“Excellent!” said Slughorn, removing his hand from Harry’s shoulder at last and rubbing it furiously against his other.
He looked like a child in that moment, Harry thought. Like Dudley yet again. Dudley on the morning of his birthday, rubbing his hands together and practically drooling at the heap of presents waiting for him on the Dursleys’ dining room table.
Harry himself felt none of that excitement as he left the room. Anxiety and dread clashed with one another inside of him. It was like they had drawn weapons and were fighting fiercely for every inch of ground. Harry swore he could hear the song of steel clashing against steel as the emotions battled for supremacy within him.
Neither of them won the battle. Something pale reached for Harry from out of the shadows before one emotion could conquer the other and suddenly, adrenaline replaced all else as Harry jumped backwards and drew his wand as swiftly as he could.
“Relax, Pavonis. If I wanted to curse you, I’d have done it while you weren’t paying attention.”
It took Harry a moment to recognize the figure. She was standing at the mouth of a secret passage Harry knew only because of the Marauder’s Map. Shadows stretched from behind her. She seemed to stand in a pool of them as their darkness surrounded her like some sort of horrid black fog. Her face became more visible when she leant forward and Harry’s adrenaline vanished all at once as a different feeling altogether rose up within him.
Dorea Black would have been among the last people he would have expected to ambush him in the dungeons, but it was definitely her. The visage of the woman who had been his grandmother in his reality was not one he was likely to forget. He had seen her in dreams often enough, always staring longingly out at him from behind the oppressive glass of that damned mirror.
The first time he had seen her, Harry had been something akin to shell-shocked. It had happened the first number of times he had seen anyone who resembled Sirius, but those days had thankfully passed. It was merciful that they had, for there were a number of Blacks at Hogwarts and Harry encountered them more often than not. What, with Dorea being his partner in Potions and everyone in her family being a Slytherin? It was impossible to not cross paths with at least one of them each day.
Dorea gestured for Harry to go ahead of her into the passage she had just appeared from. Apprehension dominated his psyche as Harry stared around the corridor. No one seemed to be in their vicinity but there was something about Dorea’s demeanour that was different. She was tenser than Harry had ever seen her and her dark eyes were darting this way and that as though she was surrounded despite the emptiness of the halls.
“Black, what is this—”
“It won’t take long; I just don’t want to be overheard.”
Harry looked at her and finally, Dorea stared back and allowed her eyes to stop bouncing from this place to that. Harry was no legilimens, but Dorea did not look like she had any desire to deceive him. His fingers clung tightly to his wand as he stepped around her into the tunnel she had emerged from. No curse came and no trap was sprung, but it somehow made Harry even more anxious.
“What do you want?” he asked.
“A few things, but let’s start with something simple for today. I wanted to warn you.”
Harry’s eyes narrowed. “Warn me about what?”
Why was everything always about Riddle? It infuriated him. No matter what he did, he could not seem to escape her. The girl’s presence was oppressive; it loomed over Hogwarts like a bank of dark and wrathful storm clouds. No matter which way Harry turned, it seemed to impede him. The harder he tried to escape, the louder the thunder seemed to boom as it followed him and the closer the lightning strikes came.
“What about her?”
“You’re no idiot. Surely you realize that she seems interested in you.”
“A lot of people seem interested in me. So what?”
“So I’m here to warn you that’s not the person you want interested in you. Especially now that I’ve heard she’ll be tutoring you.”
“That wasn’t my choice.”
“Good. You’re already smarter than most people in this castle, then.”
“What exactly does that mean?”
“Surely you’ve noticed how everyone hangs off of her? How the boys follow her around like lost dogs begging for scraps. All she has to do is give them attention every now and then. A light touch here, a brush of the hands there, sweet words everywhere.” Dorea scowled and Harry almost drew back. He had never seen an expression like that on her face.
“You don’t like her?”
“I don’t know her — I just hate what she’s done to the school. The girls are no better than the boys. It’s her words that get them. Watch out for them. She’ll talk to you like you’re friends. She’ll probably try and learn everything about you that she can. She’ll even help you with everything you need. I have no doubt she’ll be an incredible tutor in any subject, but it’s all an act.”
Dorea looked at him with a sharp expression. “Do you?”
Harry thought he knew better than she could ever imagine, but a small part of him still wondered and he hated it. It wondered about the changes in the world as he remembered the way Riddle had taught him Homenum Revelio.
But now Dorea was confirming all of his worst fears just hours before he was set to meet Riddle again and somehow, he was now feeling even worse off about their impending encounter.
Later that night…
Going over Ancient Runes with Emily Riddle was strange. Harry had been about as stiff as any of the castle’s resident suits of armour when he had entered the room, but it was… astonishingly productive. He almost forgot who it was giving him advice on the subject. Riddle spoke with a passionate intensity that pulled Harry in. She had a gift for metaphors and explaining complex topics through simplified examples. It made things a great deal easier and Harry found himself more interested in Ancient Runes than he had ever been.
He actually felt as though he had a grasp on the first few weeks of the third-year curriculum by the time they were finished. It was still miles behind where he ought to have been, but it was a noticeable improvement.
“You learn quickly,” praised Riddle. “It’s clearly not your best subject, but you listen well and seem quite sharp.”
“It’s her words that get them. Watch out for them. She’ll talk to you like you’re friends.”
“Thanks. It’s not a strong subject for me, so I’m just hoping to pass it.”
“You ought to aim higher. Passing subjects is not enough for one like you.”
“People like me?”
“Anyone with the capability to cast the Patronus Charm at your age should settle for nothing short of the best.”
“This isn’t Charms or Defence Against the Dark Arts,” Harry countered.
“And why exactly does that matter?”
“Because in those classes, it’s simple. Well, the practical bits are, anyway. You wave your wand, visualize correctly, and will things to happen. Runes is different. You need to understand it. It’s more about the theory; the magic is just kind of there in the background.”
“Which is the beauty of the subject.”
Harry frowned. She had gotten him and he knew it. He had tried to shrug her compliments aside, but he had been dragged into this conversation and she had him. The lure was far too enticing. Whatever faults Riddle might have, a lack of knowledge was not one of them. Listening to her talk about magic was as interesting as it was informative.
“What do you mean?” Harry asked, taking the plunge with a blank expression and a great deal of apprehension.
“Not anybody can make masterpieces with the wave of a wand. It takes practice, but it’s more than that. There is a natural affinity some have for magic. Without it, you can only ever get so far.”
“Affinity?” asked Harry. “Like… some people are more powerful?”
“Power is a poor word for it. What is power? How does one quantify power? What does power even mean?” She looked at Harry expectantly, but he just shook his head. How on earth was he supposed to have an answer for something like that? “It’s so much more complicated. Some take to magic like fish to water. It flows through them more readily. They cast it more efficiently, but there is subtlety to it.”
“There is a certain nuance. Masters don’t need to slave away over spells for hours in the dead of night. Magic is intuitive. They grasp it quickly and to a degree higher than most could ever hope to match. It is what separates the greatest from the rest.”
Harry had never heard of this before. None of his professors had ever spoken about what made a good witch or wizard. Just how to do the spells they were teaching. This could have been nonsense.
The Riddle from his time had supported a group who believed blood was what separated the elite from the rest of the pack, but this sounded… viable. Harry had seen people like Eloise Midgeon spend hours in the common room trying to cast spells to no avail. Even Hermione had had troubles from time to time despite her brilliance. Any time Harry had truly dedicated himself to a spell, he had mastered it.
Was this what Riddle was talking about? Was this what had separated Dumbledore and Voldemort from the rest of the world in Harry’s time? Was it what separated Riddle even now as he sat before her?
“That’s… interesting,” Harry admitted, “but what does it have to do with Ancient Runes?”
“It represents a contrast.”
“You don’t need this flare or affinity to master Ancient Runes. One can be untalented in magic but be the foremost expert on Ancient Runes our world has to offer. The only limitation in the subject is one’s commitment. Any deficiencies in the subject are entirely self-inflicted.” She smiled softly. “Except in cases like yours, of course. It’s hardly your fault that you were never properly educated, but that will fix itself in time.”
This sounded so unlike what Harry imagined Voldemort would sound like. Disregarding the praise that was surely meant to disarm him, Riddle spoke of Runes with admiration. That didn’t surprise Harry. One surely did not get as powerful as Voldemort without astonishing levels of commitment, affinities or not.
Yet all Harry knew of the man made it seem as though Voldemort had revelled in his power. Surely he would hold anything in which he did not have an advantage in great disdain? But Riddle seemed to enjoy the fact. It even seemed to be her favourite thing about the subject.
Harry opened his mouth but realized he had nothing to say. Colour surged into his cheeks and he looked away to hide his blush. Riddle was surely about to respond, but a horrible sound drew the pair’s attention before her lips had fully parted. A high, blood-curdling scream that Harry thought ought to have shattered the windows behind Riddle.
He winced and raised a hand to his ear as he drew his wand with the other. Riddle was on her feet before he had begun to rise from his chair. Her wand was already in her hand. That was odd, actually. He had been distracted, but Harry was quite observant and he certainly hadn’t seen her draw the wand. As far as he could remember, he hadn’t even seen her move her wrist.
She marched swiftly out the door without so much as a backwards glance, but Harry tailed her. Magic brushed against him; he recognized the touch — it was the Homenum Revelio Charm she had taught him. If she minded him following, she said nothing, so he continued in her wake. They marched down a corridor and through a hidden passage Harry had never used before.
Then they were back out in a crowded hallway, but it didn’t feel nearly as crowded as it really was. Half the crowd seemed to be heading in the same direction as Harry and Riddle — towards whoever was wailing so horribly. The other half of the crowd was rushing in the opposite direction. Some of them were screaming just as horribly as the one that had first startled Harry and Riddle.
Yet despite all the commotion, Harry never found his path impeded as he followed Riddle through the hall. It was like the crowds parted before her, but that seemed ridiculous. Stress had an odd way of warping one’s perception, Harry knew. He would later decide he had made the bit about parting crowds up, but he had more pressing thoughts in the moment, especially when they drew near to the front of the crowd.
A girl was curled into a ball just outside the nearest bathroom and there was a wall of students in front of her. They served as a buffer between the girl and… the thing that was trying to get at her. It was the size of a mastiff, black as night, and had eight legs.
Harry’s eyes widened. It couldn’t be… not in Hogwarts. The only time he had ever seen these creatures were in the Forbidden Forest and the colony’s master had belonged to…
Hagrid! Hagrid was at Hogwarts; he had not yet been expelled for opening the Chamber of Secrets.
Which also meant…
“Hell,” muttered Riddle, sounding surprised for the first time since Harry had met her. “An acromantula.”
The students trying to defend the helpless girl were losing ground. Their spells glanced off the monster or did little to deter it. It was snapping more fiercely than ever. Aragog might have been much smaller than Harry remembered, but he was every bit as malicious.
Riddle pushed past a tall boy in front of her and brandished her wand. Something behind the crowd seemed to groan. There was a horrible, high creaking sound that even made the mammoth spider turn its head, but by then, it was too late.
Screams tore through the corridor once again, but this time, they heralded something very different.
A suit of armour charged noisily through the masses, shoving any who impeded aside as it barreled towards the spider, brandishing its sword and shield. Every single one of the spider’s beady eyes went wide as saucers. Then it let out a horrible, high-pitched protest as a purple spell fired from Riddle’s wand penetrated its hide. Blood streamed from a gash in its side, as eerie as the blue-grey sky at dusk as it dripped down and stained the ancient stone floor. The monster retreated then, unable to bear Riddle’s assault and unwilling to face the warrior drawing near. The suit of armour pursued Aragog, but he scuttled faster and Harry instinctively knew that it would never catch him.
Riddle seemed completely unconcerned. She had already surged forward once again, but this time, she knelt over the fallen girl whose robes were stained by a coppery-smelling substance that left deep stains against her robes.
Harry thought there was something strangely familiar about the girl as he drew close. A harsh array of pimples spread across the girl’s face and her tear-filled eyes were obscured by obnoxiously thick glasses. Harry knew from his time wearing ill-fitting lenses with the Dursleys that the ones this girl wore must have been completely impractical.
“What exactly is going on here?”
Harry jumped at the voice and so did Riddle. She had been bent over the other girl just a moment ago, but at the sound of the voice, her head snapped up like somebody had fired off a Blasting Curse behind her. Harry knew the voice without needing to look, but he glanced over his shoulder nonetheless.
Albus Dumbledore was strolling towards them. His robes billowed around him as though caught in a sudden wind and Harry fought the urge to shiver as he drew near. It was like the very air around him was charged with electricity that made his hairs stand on end. Dumbledore’s auburn hair shone in the light of many torches.
He first looked to Riddle, then Harry, but then his attention fell solely upon the girl still sprawled and sobbing upon the blood-soaked floor.
“Miss Warren,” Dumbledore whispered. “Myrtle, please look at me. Whatever ailed you has passed and I need your attention. Everything is going to be alright, I promise. Can you stand? Are you hurt?”
Harry heard the words, but his brain did not process them.
Well… it had been processing until the name reached his ears.
Myrtle… MOANING MYRTLE!
Two thoughts connected inside Harry’s mind and triggered a third so horrible that he gasped aloud.
Moaning Myrtle was alive and at Hogwarts and Hagrid’s monster had been born and was now on the loose.
Which meant one thing…
If this reality mirrored his own, then very, very soon, the Chamber of Secrets would be open once more.
I actually think this chapter turned out really well. I am quite pleased with it. We are well and truly in the midst of the story’s first major arc and I am very excited to see what you all make of its climax. That will come soon, but for now, onto the next one!
To that end, please do consider joining the Discord server or supporting me on Patreon. I am now pursuing writing full-time as I work on the first novel in a high fantasy series. With that in mind, your support now would mean more than ever and there are early chapters for the generous readers who provide it.
Please read and review.
Thank you to my lovely Discord Editors Asmodeus Stahl, Idefix, and The Darkling for their corrections/contributions on this chapter.
A massive thank you is also extended to my Psychic-level patron, ShadowWolf, for his incredibly generous support on that platform!
PS: The next chapter will be posted in exactly two weeks. It will release for readers on FFN and AO3 on Wednesday, October 27th, 2021. It is available RIGHT NOW to anyone who joins my Discord server. Those who sign up to my Patreon page will gain immediate access to THE NEXT THREE CHAPTERS. I will be posting two more chapters of this story on there this week. Both of those links can be found on my profile. If you have trouble with either of them, a generic search of my pen name will bring up my website and direct links to both can be found via the home page.
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