Harry Potter and the Perversion of Purity
Year 2: The Erosion of Innocence
Chapter 25: The Final Straw
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Harry Potter and the Perversion of Purity
Book 2: The Erosion of Innocence
Chapter 25: The Final Straw
May 8, 1993
The Hospital Wing
There was no increase in Ron’s heartbeat as he peered down at his best friend as she lay face up in a hospital bed. Her eyes were open and unnaturally wide. Ron could only guess she had glimpsed whatever had attacked her seconds before it had happened.
He did not feel anger or sadness yet, though he knew both would come. He just felt… numb. It was like when Neville had died last June all over again. Their adventurous escapades had led to yet another tragedy, even if this one was reversible. The Mandrakes were said to be almost ready, but that did little to ease Ron’s mind.
It was seeing Hermione like this that mattered. It was seeing what had happened when they’d tried to be proactive. It was seeing once again a clear example that they were still only children. It stung, it burned, it cut so deeply that Ron could feel the blood seep out of him even though not so much as a drop hit the floor.
What could he do now? Hermione had been researching Tom Riddle and the time period that the chamber had been opened right before she had been petrified. Did this confirm her theory? Had she been attacked as a means of silencing her? If that was true, was Ron next? Did the Heir of Slytherin know Hermione had been relaying all she had learned to him?
There were too many questions and not enough answers. Did he dare continue the chase? Without the cleverest witch he knew, did he stand any chance? Had he and Hermione together ever stood a chance?
Tremors began to grip his body and Ron could do little to fend them off. It was all his fault. It had been he who had been unwilling to give up after Yule. It had been he who had seen a fire lit underneath him when he had been attacked and tortured in January. It had been he who had pushed further and further despite long since having realized that their hopes were bleak at best. He could remember all too well that crushing feeling of hopelessness he had felt the Saturday after he’d woken up unable to stand.
Yet he had pushed on and Hermione had followed his example and even taken charge. Had he not acted the way he had, perhaps she would not be in this position now. Sprawled out across a hospital bed, unable to move and dead to the world.
It was maddening.
Ron lurched forward and clutched Hermione’s hand in his. It was cold, but not so cold as to indicate death. There was still life inside of her, and that was what he had needed to feel. After Neville… no, he could not bear losing Hermione too.
Something did feel odd against his palm, though, and he stepped back and looked down. There was something clenched tightly in Hermione’s fist. A roll of parchment, by the look of it. Frowning, Ron knelt down beside her and slowly began unravelling the roll of parchment from her grasp. It was no small feat. She must have been gripping it like a vice when she had been petrified, for her frozen fingers showed no interest of parting and allowing him access to what they held.
It did come free eventually and Ron could do little more than step back and peer down at the parchment as thin beads of sweat now trickled down his forehead. There was writing; Hermione’s thin, neat scrawl. What was written was not long, but it painted a clear picture to Ron. One so mesmerizing that it created a strong spell of dizziness that slammed into him like a wall of concussive force.
Pipes… it must move through pipes. Myrtle died in the bathroom and swears the last thing she saw were big yellow eyes emerging from near one of the sinks. One of the exits for the monster is in her bathroom. It explains how it moves so stealthily and how no one has been able to pin it down.
Ron stumbled so violently he had to clutch the edge of the bed to stay on his feet.
It was so obvious! Moaning Myrtle! That must have been where Hermione had gone. They had even told him she had been found separate from Parkinson, in a scarcely used corridor on the second floor. Hermione had realized how oblivious they had been to ignore Myrtle. She must have rushed off at the break of dawn to remedy their oversight. It explained why Ron had not seen her this morning and it explained why she had been so easily caught. If she had lurked so near one of the places the monster dwelled while learning about it and its history…
What was he to do with this? Dumbledore was the only one he could think who might be capable of handling this, but how does one even find Dumbledore? Last year, McGonagall had dismissed their concerns as though they had meant nothing. Surely, Flitwick would do the same, and who else was he to go to? Snape, the new Deputy Headmaster? No, that would not do. Ron would sooner swallow one of the foul things that hung in glass jars down in the man’s office.
He would need to give the note to Dumbledore while at a meal. That was his only real course of action. The castle was locked down for today — the only reason Ron was even here was because Professor Sinistra was waiting outside the hospital wing to escort him back to the common room.
Yes, he would need to wait until the lockdown was lifted and then he would need to pass the message along to Dumbledore. And it had to be to Dumbledore directly. This was much too important to be dismissed or overlooked. It was the only way.
It had not been difficult to sneak into the hospital wing. Not with the aid of his invisibility cloak. Harry had simply slipped it on and followed Ron and Professor Sinistra. The woman was as nervous as she had looked. Harry could hear her casting Homenum Revelio under her breath every so often, but he knew the spell would not work whilst his cloak protected him. It was exactly what Voldemort had tried and failed to locate him with last June.
It had been a mere matter of following Weasley into the hospital wing before the door shut and then standing off to the side and watching as he stood over Granger.
A part of Harry could not help but feel bad for Ron Weasley. Longbottom had been a close friend of his. Harry wondered whether Weasley would ever come to know how the boy had really died. He doubted it; that was perhaps the saddest thing of all. That and the image of him, shaking and broken atop that hill at Longbottom’s funeral. A sight that had been stained onto the corners of Harry’s mind ever since.
Now, this. He could not claim to like Weasley. Not after he had tried to curse Pansy in September and not after he had snuck into the Slytherin common room under the guise of polyjuice potion, but he didn’t dislike him, either.
Weasley himself was doing something peculiar then. Prying something from Granger’s still fist, or so it appeared. Harry watched on for a number of moments before the boy straightened up, peered down at the parchment, and staggered. Harry thought he would fall for a moment before he grasped the side of the bed. His breathing had grown louder and sliced through the room’s thick and heavy silence with every heave of Weasley’s chest serving as the next powerful stab.
Harry thought upon the Yule incident once again as he watched Weasley make hastily for the door, suddenly as pale as the bed sheets his muggleborn friend lay upon. That instance could even somewhat be chalked up to Weasley wanting the same thing that Harry himself now desired.
Merlin, did he ever want it badly…
He had stayed far away from everything pertaining to the Heir of Slytherin for the better part of a year. What business of his was it if a mysterious monster had been let loose at Hogwarts? What business of his was it if muggleborns he had never met were being attacked in the dead of night?
Harry thought now that he ought to have known it was more complicated than that once he had realized the Chamber of Secrets had been what Dobby had warned him of back at Malfoy Manor. He had not known until recently what the elf had meant, but he did now.
He even now knew what Dobby had meant by vague insinuations about it not being Voldemort. If Dumbledore’s theory held true, the elf had technically not lied since it was not Voldemort himself opening the Chamber of Secrets. Harry could not see how on earth it could be, at least.
Anything orchestrated by Voldemort would place Harry in a significant amount of danger by default. Voldemort’s plan at Hogwarts meant nothing good for Harry. Not now, especially. Not with first Blaise and now Pansy being attacked. The first was an implication to Greengrass, but this was more. It would do much the same as the former, but it was more personal. Pansy was a friend; one of the very few friends Harry had left. Seeing her lying motionless in a hospital bed off to the left of Hermione’s was sending waves of tumultuous anger coursing through Harry’s body.
What was it with dark lords and using him as their chess piece? Could they not realize he was but a child and not worth their attention? And why did others have to suffer for it? He had as good as killed Longbottom in his haste to stop Voldemort and now others were suffering just by virtue of knowing him? It was not fair! None of this was fair! Nothing this year had been fair and Harry was sick and tired of all of it!
Voldemort’s preaching, the ideological uncertainty Harry still found himself gripped by, Neville’s death, the portkey on the Hogwarts Express last June, his treatment at the hands of the Dursleys — hell, the fact he’d had to go back to those filthy creatures in the first place — Draco’s betrayal, Grindelwald’s visions and the way they had broken him so badly he had begun hearing voices, Aberforth’s cruelty, Daphne’s blame and betrayal, the fact Voldemort STILL seemed to be targeting him, and now this? How could one boy deal with so much and not break beyond repair?
Fury gripped him as he looked from Pansy, to the spot Weasley had just occupied, and back again.
It would be so much easier if Voldemort did not insist on making Harry a pawn in his games. Had he not attacked Pansy, Harry would happily have continued standing back and watching. He had no stakes in any of this — it was the Dark Lord who was forcing his hand. Harry hated it! How was he to live his life with the shadow of Voldemort looming over him? He would do anything to be rid of it and the shadowy threats it posed.
“Your mother died to save you. If there is one thing Voldemort cannot understand, it is love. He didn’t realize that love as powerful as your mother’s for you leaves its own mark. Not a scar, no visible sign… to have been loved so deeply, even though the person who loved us is gone, will give us some protection forever. It is in your very skin. Voldemort, full of hatred, greed, and ambition could not touch you for this reason. It was agony to touch a person marked by something so good.”
Dumbledore’s words from the conclusion of last year replayed on repeat in Harry’s mind. A shiver ran up his spine at the memory of how agonizing it had been to touch Voldemort, but he had not been the one whose skin had melted and whose body had decayed.
He did not wish to face Voldemort again. He had no desire to fight him, but if his hand was forced…
For now, he didn’t need to fight him. Dumbledore was still in the castle and if Weasley’s dumbstruck expression had been any indication, he might have just found something that the Headmaster would be very interested in.
That night, on the seventh floor…
Harry had been waiting for so long that he feared the common room entrance may never open. The castle was on lockdown, but surely either someone would sneak out or something else would disrupt the peace and quiet?
He had fled the hospital wing quickly that morning after his plan had developed. Harry had known the Gryffindor common room was somewhere on the seventh floor. It had just been a matter of catching up to Weasley and Sinistra to figure out exactly where it was. Sneaking after them under the cloak had been easy and catching up had not been much more difficult. The secret passages of Hogwarts were familiar to him. He reckoned he knew more of them than anyone in the castle sans Filch, the Weasley twins, and perhaps a couple of older students here and there.
The problem was getting into the common room. Harry had heard the password uttered that morning and remembered it well enough. The issue was that if the entrance just opened and those inside saw no one enter, surely somebody would know that something was going on. Given the panic over the Heir of Slytherin and the full lockdown of the castle, they would all more than likely assume the worst and their inevitable cries would summon one of the professors.
That would not do.
It turned out to be one of the professors who inadvertently allowed him entrance into the common room. Sinistra returned almost an hour after Harry arrived outside the common room to perform a final check on her house before turning in for the evening. Harry waited until she had stepped inside before sliding in behind her, tuning her ramble out as he allowed his eyes to sweep over the new and unfamiliar room.
It was a strange rush to see it. One of the major rooms in the castle he had not yet seen, yet never pondered. Perhaps that ought to be a goal of his next year; to see all of the common rooms and what they were like.
This one was warmer and cosier than the Slytherin one in the dungeons. It was circular and was dominated by a large fire. The chairs around the fire were smaller than theirs, but they were plusher and more comfortable-looking. There were windows here, too. If the sun was up, light would doubtlessly stream through them and illuminate the better part of the common room. It was a nice and homely place; Harry could see its appeal and realized with a jolt that his parents had likely spent many happy days lounging in this room.
That was a jarring thought; to be standing where his parents had dwelled for seven years… it was the closest he had ever been to any of them. The first time he had truly thought of them since Voldemort’s monologue at the end of last year and, before that, while peering into that damnable mirror.
Harry shook himself from those thoughts with great difficulty. The last time he had thought about his parents had been in a situation that ended in disaster. Doing so now was not conducive. They were gone and that was all that mattered. They had given him his life and he would be forever grateful, but he could not dwell on them. Years of doing so at the Dursleys had taught him that such thoughts only led to unshakable bouts of misery.
“This mirror will give us neither knowledge nor truth, Harry. Men have wasted away before it, entranced by what they have seen, or been driven mad, not knowing if what it shows is real or even possible. The mirror will be moved to a new home tomorrow, and I ask you not to go looking for it. If you ever do come across it again, you will now be prepared. It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live. Remember that.”
It took him a moment to locate the dormitories once he returned to inspecting the room. Harry had become so accustomed to looking for stone tunnels that sloped down into the bowels of the castle. Here it was different. There were two sets of stairs that led upwards. It made sense to him that the dormitories were higher in the tower, but it was an amusing juxtaposition. The two houses really were polar opposites; their founders had even designed them as such.
He waited for one of the boys to retreat up the left of the stairs before following. The doors to each dorm were clearly indicated. Harry glanced around the lowly-lit hallway before arming himself with his wand and pointing it at his desired target from underneath the folds of his invisibility cloak.
The lock clicked not a second after his whispered incantation and Harry quietly placed a Silencing Charm on the door’s hinges before slowly pushing it open.
Everyone slept in their own four poster bed just like in the Slytherin dorms, but the hangings here were crimson red instead of emerald green.
This was going to be the difficult part. Finding Weasley’s bed without alerting the entire room to the fact he was here.
Harry listened carefully for anything that might give the boy away. If he snored like he ate, that would be easy enough to follow, but no sounds like that stood out. The only thing Harry could hear that was a bit out of the ordinary was… squeaking?
He listened more carefully. Sure enough, something was squeaking and Harry was flummoxed for a time before he remembered Draco’s mocking laughter one day in their first year when he’d learned that Ron Weasley’s treasured pet was an old and weathered rat named Scabbers.
He crept slowly towards the squeaking sound. It was coming from behind one of the sets of hangings. Very slowly and as quietly as he could, Harry pulled the hangings aside.
Weasley did not so much as flinch. He just continued lying there with his face buried in the pillow, his arm curled under him, and a thin line of drool protruding from the visible corner of his mouth.
Harry made a face before looking around. It wasn’t exactly hard to find. Weasley had learned nothing from their first year, it seemed. Had the dragon incident not taught him that leaving valuable bits of parchment out on one’s bedside table was a poor and ill thought idea?
Harry wasn’t complaining. He snatched up the bit of parchment and whirled towards the door, scanning the handwriting as he went.
His eyes nearly bulged out of his head.
Pipes… it must move through pipes. Myrtle died in the bathroom and swears the last thing she saw were big yellow eyes emerging from near one of the sinks. One of the exits for the monster is in the bathroom. It explains how it moves so stealthily and how no one has been able to pin it down
Myrtle? That whiny ghost that Pansy so often complained about? She was the one who had died? How had Dumbledore not put that much together?
“Oh, I more than believe him. I know his claim is true; I have researched it extensively and I do not believe any who were not blessed with Salazar’s gift could find the chamber.”
“You mean Parseltongue?”
“Yes, Harry, I mean Parseltongue.”
“Sir, that means if we found the Chamber, I could—“
“No. I would never have you risk yourself in such a way.”
There it was again. Dumbledore protecting him. First he had needed to wait for the reason why Voldemort had attacked his family. Surely he was owed that explanation. Who was Dumbledore to keep that from him in the first place? Then there was keeping a whole side of Occlumency from him. Still the topic of passive Occlumency had not arisen again. Then there was this. Endangering Harry and everyone else just by ‘keeping him safe’. When was Dumbledore going to realize that the last time he had tried to keep Harry safe, he had subjected him to ten years in the depths of hell, locked away with disgusting creatures whose kind was more fit to lick the grime off of Harry’s shoes than they were to rule over him?
Grindelwald had been cruel, but at least he had been honest and he had never coddled Harry. He almost missed those visions now. If he did not fear so intensely for the changes they had brought forth and the voices they had summoned, he might have asked for them back. It would have been nice to escape his own troubles no matter what he was being thrown into. It would have been nice to see that somebody at least cared not for coddling him and making him wait.
It took a titanic effort and an almighty breath for Harry to regain his composure. Dumbledore was not his enemy. He was frustrating, but well meaning. There was just so much stress, so much going on… Harry feared that he would soon snap and be unable to fit the pieces back together.
It was better for now not to think about that and simply to creep his way back out of the Gryffindor common room. There were more pressing things that needed to be attended to.
Harry took the final corridors to Dumbledore’s office at a sprint. He heard voices behind him. They might not be able to see him, but they would not fail to notice the headmaster’s gargoyle step aside and now was not the time to draw suspicion.
Harry was breathing heavily by the time he ascended into the landing outside Dumbledore’s office. He was through the door and inside before the man had time to call for him to enter.
Dumbledore himself jerked his head up from a pile of papers on his desk. Harry was struck by how tired the man looked. The lines in his face seemed deeper somehow and his blue eyes appeared sunken and a touch less vibrant.
“Harry? My goodness, what is it that brings you here at such unlawful hours of the evening? In the midst of a school wide lockdown at that?”
“I’m… sorry… sir,” Harry forced out, still breathing heavily. “Give me detention or whatever if you need to, but… sir, this is important. It’s about the Chamber of Secrets.”
Dumbledore’s postures stiffened and his demeanour shifted all at once. He no longer appeared the old man slumped and weary, but a general who had once conquered one dark lord and led the fight against a second.
“What is it you wish to tell me, Harry?” he asked, his eyes twinkling with the intensity of a thousand stars.
“Sir… the chamber. I think I’ve found it! Well… er, not me, exactly, but—“ Harry jumped when a sound came from behind him. For a moment he was unsure of what it was, then, he realized there had been a knock at the door.
Dumbledore looked from Harry to the invisibility cloak he had discarded as he stepped into the room and the Slytherin youth got the message, scrambling back under the cloak as Dumbledore turned his attention to the door.
Two men stepped into the office. Harry realized with an internal curse that they must have been the two voices he had heard while on the way.
The first man was one whom Harry recognized well. Tall and graceful, with long blonde hair, storm grey eyes was Lord Lucius Malfoy. He was swathed in a black travelling cloak and leaning leisurely on his serpentine cane as he eyed Dumbledore with an expression Harry had never seen the man wear before. It reminded him of Dudley any time he had Harry cornered in some sort of alleyway.
The other man was new to him. He was at least half a head shorter than Mr. Malfoy and he moved with none of his grace. He was a portly man with a mess of rumpled hair. There were specs of brown here and there, but it had long-since begun to grey and time had won out. The most striking feature of the man was the cap he had swept off his head upon entering the room and now held under his arm. A vivid, lime green bowler cap.
“Good evening, Lucius,” greeted Dumbledore with a passive expression before turning his eyes on the other man. “You as well, Cornelius.”
Harry jolted at the name. He couldn’t mean… but it had to be. Someone named Cornelius accompanying one of the most important men in the country to Hogwarts in the dead of night? This could be no one but the Minister for Magic. Harry had never seen him before, but the man looked underwhelming. He was the last of the three men in the room who Harry would have guessed was the minister upon a first glance.
“Dreadful thing, Dumbledore,” Mr. Malfoy said lazily, taking out a long roll of parchment, “but the Hogwarts Board of Governors feel it is time for you to step aside. This is an Order of Suspension — you’ll find all twelve signatures on it. I’m afraid we feel you’re losing your touch. How many attacks have there been now? Two more this afternoon, wasn’t it? At this rate, there will be no muggleborns left at Hogwarts, and we all know what an awful loss that would be to the school.”
Dumbledore looked to Fudge as though he expected the man to object, but he did not. Harry himself almost did, but crushed the impulse.
This could not be happening. If Voldemort was behind this, Dumbledore was the one man who stood any chance of putting an end to it. And now, of all times? Harry had the answers in his hand! Dumbledore could investigate right now if they would only allow him!
“Interesting that you come to me now,” said Dumbledore. “The attacks have been happening for quite some time. What has changed, Lucius?”
“We do not owe you our justification, Dumbledore.”
“Of course not, but if you will excuse what may be taken as arrogance, I do not plan to stay suspended long. I wish to know how I might improve my performance upon returning to the castle.”
Harry thought he could see Mr. Malfoy bite his lip to stop it from curling. “Read the paper tomorrow morning. I’m sure it will have a number of suggestions for you.”
“Ah, yes, the paper. I do hope Miss Skeeter does not slander your good intentions based on today’s events.”
Mr. Malfoy’s eyes narrowed. “And why would she do that?”
“Rita will do what Rita does. She could very easily latch onto the fact that the action came so swiftly after a friend of your son was targeted.”
The smile the Malfoy patriarch offered Dumbledore was as cold and hard as a frozen lake. “I appreciate your concern, but it is not necessary. I’m sure dear Rita would never harm my reputation in such a slanderous manner. She seems quite busy at the moment at any rate. I am quite excited to read your biography.”
“I am humbled by your interest.” Dumbledore dipped his head before casting his eyes about the room. They landed on the exact spot Harry was standing. Dumbledore seemed to stare at him for a moment before shaking his head so minutely that Harry was unsure he had seen it. Was it a signal to do nothing? How could Harry stand by and allow them to remove the only chance he had at removing what could potentially be a threat to his life?
The choice was taken away from him in that moment. There was a nearly imperceptible movement under Dumbledore’s robes and Harry felt his arms and legs snap together. He tried to open his mouth, but he couldn’t as he slumped back against the wall behind him. Dumbledore had sensed his unease and bound him against speaking before his restraint could waver.
“If the governors want my removal, Lucius, I shall of course stand aside.” His eyes were still on Harry as he spoke. “However, you will find that I will only truly have left this school when none here are loyal to me. You will also find that help will always be given at Hogwarts to those who ask for it.”
“A sentiment to be proud of,” said Mr. Malfoy with a short bow. “Now, it is late, Dumbledore. I have come to deliver the news and Cornelius was kind enough to join me as the ministry’s witness to the event. Now, please follow us, if you will.”
Harry could do little more than watch on with panic and a strong sense of helplessness as Dumbledore was led from the office that was rightfully his. Not until the men must have been some distance away from the castle did Harry feel the spell’s effects lift.
He slumped against the wall and buried his head in his hands. What was he to do now? Surely, he could not go after this Heir of Slytherin and their monster on his own. Who else would help him? Flitwick, maybe, but Harry did not trust the man with something as important as this. This was not a question about Charms or magical theory. This was a life or death situation that Harry would not be taking up with anyone he did not trust.
Eliminating Flitwick left only Snape, a thought that was even more laughable and ludicrous. The man despised him and would probably break out into song if the monster swallowed Harry whole.
No, he would have to wait. He would have to write to Dumbledore and explain things. All he could do then was hope to hear a reply before it was too late.
May 15, 1993
“I think we should head back to our common rooms,” Diana told Luna as the hour grew late.
The lockdown had reluctantly been lifted in the castle on Monday morning. The students were escorted to and from classes, but the teachers still allowed them to use the library, though few did.
Diana thought that was madness. If the teachers didn’t trust them to attend classes on their own, she didn’t understand why they were allowed in the library other than to prepare for the end-of-year exams. She had never realized how much those meant to the professors until this year, but she was not complaining. She’d had a lot on her plate this year between Luna, Draco, a social life that grew more complicated by the day, and of course, this business concerning the Chamber of Secrets and the alleged Heir of Slytherin.
“Do we have to?” asked Luna. “They’ve extended curfew by an hour until exams so we can prepare.”
“I would rather not cut it close. Not with whatever lunatic is roaming around the halls and not with how strict everything is right now. Can you imagine what one of the professors would do if they caught students out after curfew?”
Luna stared unblinkingly back at her. “They would probably be nicer than my housemates.”
There was no bitterness in her voice. No anger, not even sadness. It was just said matter of factly, as though it was a prediction about some sort of upcoming Quidditch match or something of the like.
“What about your housemates?” asked Diana with narrowed eyes. “Luna, have they been giving you trouble again?”
“Oh, yes,” she said in that dreamy way of hers. “My things keep going missing. Marietta swears that no one is stealing them, but I don’t think I believe her. Her wrackspurts act up any time she lies and there were a lot of them when she said that.” Luna paused and suddenly began drumming her finger upon the edge of the table. “Well, I suppose they also act up any time she thinks really hard about something. Maybe she was just trying to remember—“
“Oh, for Merlin’s sake,” Diana cut her off. “Luna, you have to stop letting people do things to you like that. Here, I’ll take you to your common room and get things sorted. If they don’t listen to me, I’ll go to Cassie.”
“Cassie?” asked Luna. “I don’t know a Cassie, but that’s a pretty name. Tell her I like it.”
“Her name is actually Cassandra. We all just call her Cassie and she’s one of the fifth-year prefects, but… I‘ll pass your message along.”
Luna hummed, then skipped to her feet and looked expectantly at Diana, who blinked, smiled vaguely, and followed.
“Cassandra isn’t as pretty as Cassie,” Luna said as they left the library, “I’m not quite sure I like that as much. Tell her she should get her name changed to Cassie. I like that one.”
Meanwhile, in the dungeons…
Harry had found himself walking the halls of Hogwarts often since Dumbledore had been driven from the castle. The reason why eluded him. Perhaps he was hoping that answers also frequently broke curfew and would stumble into him along the way, or perhaps he simply needed to escape other people and at least feel like he was trying to decide what to do.
There was just… nothing.
He had written to Dumbledore, but there had been no reply as of yet. Harry wondered where the man had travelled to if he had still not been able to receive and return a simple letter. The temptation to go to Snape was becoming stronger and stronger by the day, but Harry feared the man would dismiss him outright. If he did, he would watch Harry more closely and sneaking out after more harshly enforced curfews would become even more difficult.
It was the most frustrating thing in the world. Harry was terrified and had no one to turn to. It was like all those years on Privet Drive all over again. Hoping in vain for a saviour who would never come.
“Blood… I smell blood. The right blood… the demanded blood. Rip… tear… kill!”
Harry froze as all colour fled from his skin. It was the voice again; the same one that had haunted his nightmares for months and indicated what could be the beginning of a decent into insanity.
Except there was something…
“Closer… closer… come to me. Let me rip you… let me tear you… let me kill you!”
It wasn’t in his head. His eyes widened like saucers when the realization slammed into him with speed and force the likes of which Dobby’s cursed bludger could only dream of.
It was not him! He wasn’t going mad! Grindelwald had failed to drive him mad!
He laughed right there in the corridor for a moment before his mind caught up. It was a crazed, maniacal laugh that escaped him in a wild howl as his body was wracked with its intensity. This was euphoric. The lightest he had felt since escaping the Dursleys last fall.
The voice was moving! It could not possibly be in his head, for it was moving swiftly away from him.
It was growing fainter now but Harry’s heart had started beating fiercely as a new question sprang to life inside his mind.
What the hell was that voice and why could he hear it back in September when Aberforth could not?
That was when it struck him like the very same bolt of lightning that so closely resembled his world-famous scar. It struck him at the same moment that a horrible, high-pitched scream tore through the corridors with such explosive vigour Harry thought glass might shatter.
“Oh, I more than believe him. I know his claim is true; I have researched it extensively and I do not believe any who were not blessed with Salazar’s gift could find the chamber.”
“You mean Parseltongue?”
“Yes, Harry, I mean Parseltongue.”
The monster in the Chamber of Secrets — it was a snake!
It was the only thing that made sense. A mysterious voice that only Harry could hear, one that moved through piles and seemed capable only of shrewd calls for blood, mutilation, and death.
Of course it was a fucking snake! It was Salazar Slytherin’s fabled monster!
But that meant…
He remembered the night Cadmus Yaxley had sought a fight with him, remembered how the snakes upon the sofa had come alive with a single hiss, and remembered how, even now, they were loyal to him.
The answer was so simple. It was Parseltongue!
Without thinking, Harry tore off in the direction of the hissing and screaming.
A minute or so later, in Severus Snape’s office…
The last week had been the most stressful Ron could remember. Never had he felt so weighed down by everything in his life. He constantly felt on the verge of vomiting because his stomach was tied so tightly in anxious knots.
The scroll of parchment from Hermione had been stolen that first night he had slept after taking it. There was no other solution. It could not have simply been lost; Ron had scoured every inch of the dormitory not once, not twice, but thrice. He had even looked around as much of the common room as he could and it had been nowhere.
Yet not even that had been the worst occurrence of the past seven days.
Dumbledore had been removed from his position in the middle of the night and was no longer even dwelling in the castle. The one man who Ron could take his grievances to was nowhere to be found and this left him with very few viable options.
Ron had done the only thing he could think of — explore the bathroom for himself.
He had spent a frantic hour scrambling around the place before he remembered what Hermione had done and called upon Moaning Myrtle. Convincing her to speak had taken some time, but she had eventually pointed him in the right direction, and there it was — a subtle, serpentine carving upon one of the taps.
The trouble was, Ron had no idea what to do next. He had researched as many opening and revealing spells as he could, but none of them seemed to make the sink budge and last night, he had finally decided that it would take someone much more skillful than him to crack the code and hopefully put an end to this madness.
His first choice would have been Professor Flitwick, but the man had fallen ill and was not taking any visitors.
That left Ron with only one option…
“Enter,” called the newly appointed Interim Headmaster of Hogwarts when Ron knocked upon his door.
The office was as horrible as always. Sick-looking green things dangling from the ceiling and odd, misshapen objects swimming in murky liquid and thick, slimy concoctions in floating viles all around the room.
Snape himself was burdened with several rolls of parchment longer than his hair. His black eyes narrowed as his lips pulled into that trademarked sneer of his as he inspected Ron with clear disdain.
“What is so urgent that you felt the need to disturb the master of this castle, Weasley?”
“It’s important,” Ron defended, his face flushing with furious impatience.
“So important that you could not have taken it up with your standing Head of House—“
“I know where Slytherin’s monster is coming from!” Ron blurted so loudly it echoed off the walls. “It might even be the entrance to the Chamber of Secrets.”
It was the first time Ron had ever seen Snape look surprised. The expression was present on his face for only a second, but it was the most viciously satisfied Ron had been in a very long time.
“And where do you believe this to be?” Snape asked in a dangerously soft and quiveringly quiet tone of voice.
“The out of order girls’ bathroom on the second floor, it’s—“
“Idiot boy!” Snape snarled. “Is this a joke to you, Weasley?”
“You come here and interrupt my business with the illusion of presenting a real solution to a serious problem—“
“Silence! You will not interrupt me again! You come here under the guise of nobility and throw this nonsense in my face? Is this a twisted joke on the behalf of you and the dimwitted imbeciles you call brothers?”
“Sir, I’m not—“
“You come to me, the long-time Head of Slytherin House and spout off this nonsense that Slytherin’s noble founder would choose that hovel for his—“ Snape stopped talking all at once as a terrified scream tore through the dungeons.
It was of a pitch so high, a Mandrake would have been proud. It came from a meaningful distance away, but Ron could tell it had emanated from the dungeons.
So could Snape, evidently, for he took to his feet, armed himself with his wand, and stormed out his office door without even bothering to see if Ron had stayed or followed.
The redhead looked from the door, to the desk, and back again, before snarling with livid frustration and sprinting after his rapidly moving headmaster.
Elsewhere in the dungeons…
Harry’s lungs were burning by the time he reached the place from which he thought the scream had come. It had to be here, for it was a dead end with no branching corridors.
Yet there was nothing.
There was no snake and no victim, just an empty stretch of wall…
Harry’s blood turned to ice as his breath caught in his throat.
It was an empty stretch of wall splattered with familiar-looking red letters.
Their skeletons will lie in the chamber forever.
The words made no sense. Whose skeleton? What was happening? Then, Harry’s senses picked up two, equally disturbing things.
There were three pieces of jewelry strewn about the floor at his feet. The first two, he did not recognize. They appeared to be strangely-shaped earrings, but there was some sort of… something dangling off of them. It almost resembled vegetation, but it was no vegetable that Harry had ever seen.
His heaving breath caught in his throat when he saw it. A splendid, ornate ring adorned with a crest that was all too familiar — a ring the likes of which important, pureblood heirs and heiresses would wear around their fingers.
But that was not all.
Something was moving behind Harry. He could hear it approaching and approaching fast and his only thought now was whether or not he would soon be joining Diana and whoever was unfortunate enough to have been attacked alongside her.
That was a whole mess of logistics to get lined up. Probably the single hardest chapter of this story for me so far, but I am pleased with how it turned out and that we are finally ready for the book 2 climax. Trust me, there is going to be more than what you might expect. One aspect, in particular, might catch some people off guard.
I suppose you will all have to keep reading to find out.
Please read and review.
PS: The next password will be released in a week. THE NEXT SEVEN CHAPTERS ARE AVAILABLE FOR PATRONS — THAT’S THE REST OF BOOK 2 PLUS THE FIRST THREE CHAPTERS OF BOOK 3! Feel free to sign up to my Patreon page if you want to read those early.
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