Harry Potter and the Perversion of Purity
Year 2: The Erosion of Innocence
Chapter 27: The Striking of Snakes
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.
Acknowledgements: Thank you to my editor Athena, as well as my other betas 3CP, Fezzik, Luq707, Raven, Regress, and Yoshi89 for their incredible work on this story.
Self-Promotion: I have a Discord server where you can chat and read all of my chapters early. If you would like to join, simply copy the link on my profile. You can do likewise to follow the ACI100 Twitter account — @ACI_100 — for live updates and to check out my official website.
If you would like to get my chapters even earlier than Discord, read my upcoming original work before publication, and receive other, exclusive benefits whilst generously supporting me at the same time, I have a P*T*E*N page. The link to that can also be found on my profile
Harry Potter and the Perversion of Purity
Book 2: The Erosion of Innocence
May 16, 1993
Severus Snape’s Office
The room seemed to dim around him for a moment as Severus Snape’s eyes flickered. Exhaustion pulled at his eyelids but he fought it off. He would fend it off with Occlumency if that was what it took.
The letter had been sent to Dumbledore, but Merlin only knew where the old man was. He had said nothing before leaving and Snape had heard nothing since. The man felt half the world away and Snape had never needed him more than he did now.
He was not fit to rule a castle, least of all in times like these. He had always followed. Whether it had been the pureblood fanatics back at Hogwarts, the Dark Lord during the Purity War, or Dumbledore himself ever since Lily’s life had become forfeit, Snape had never known what it meant to rule. Being thrown into the position now of all times felt especially cruel.
What was he to do? There were no clues about the Heir of Slytherin and even less about the monster. It must have crept through the castle silent as a shadow and struck swift as the hand of death, but that was all Snape could say he knew. It being a snake made a degree of sense, but he knew of no serpent that could so easily overpower the likes of Minerva McGonagall.
And now a double attack — one involving Lucius Malfoy’s daughter nonetheless. The man’s wrath would rain down upon them like a hundred vengeful thunderbolts. The castle would be fortunate if it stayed open until the week’s end. Malfoy would demand the aurors investigate what had before been kept within the confines of the castle. It would stir all manner of problems and Snape knew the aurors would be of no use.
How could one fight the unknown? The Dark Arts were like that, but they were different. They were like a hydra that showed two new heads every time one was cut down. Hydra’s were ancient, powerful, and unimaginably dangerous, but at least you could see them and the heads that needed to be destroyed. Battling a hundred hydras seemed easier than dealing with the Heir of Slytherin in that moment.
Snape might have fled if things were different. What did he care if the castle was closed? His livelihood, he supposed, but he’d never wanted the post and the years of service had not swayed him. The Potter boy was here; that was all that mattered. So long as the Dark Lord made moves within the castle whether by his own hand or that of another, Lily’s son was in mortal peril. That was what Snape was fighting. This mess had to end before the Dark Lord forced yet another confrontation with Potter. Lightning had struck not once, but twice; Severus would not gamble on a third instance.
Snape’s fingers flexed. How he urged to draw his wand and end this whole charade. Even failure would be better than sitting idle whilst any number of things could be happening all around the castle.
For now, he was battling shadows and he wished only for guidance about how next to move. The shadows had crept further forward than he had expected, slithering forth like dark serpents with their tongues probing and their fangs bared.
Severus stiffened in his chair, if only for a moment. Something had moved outside his office. The halls should have been still and silent as a cemetery, yet something moved. He could feel it brushing against the wards that protected his office each night. The Interim Headmaster reached out with his Legilimency senses, but he could feel nothing.
The hairs on the back of his neck stood on end. That was even more ominous. Whoever was moving outside was a master Occlumens. That was troubling. Albus was gone and he knew of no other in the castle who could rebuff him with such ease. That could only mean one thing.
His wishes had been answered. The Heir of Slytherin had come and it was time to face them on the treacherous fields of battle.
Snape tried to stand but never made it to his feet. Pain erupted inside him. It was a red hot pain that shattered his focus, if only for a second. Not because of its brutality, but because of what it meant. Severus Snape had not felt pain like this in nearly twelve long years. Not since lightning had first struck, taking the Dark Lord away with its storm like a whisper of the wind. He knew this pain without looking, knew it without thinking.
His Dark Mark had burned — truly burned — for the first time since the Dark Lord’s downfall and that could only mean one thing.
Dumbledore was right — he really was coming back.
Snape grasped for his Occlumency and cleared his mind faster than any man could blink, but even that was too slow and too late.
The door to his office exploded inwards with the force of his assailant’s spell and Snape felt his wand torn from him as a sensation of weightlessness came over him just as he realized what had happened.
The burning of the mark had been orchestrated — likely little more than a distraction — and he had fallen right into the ambush laid out for him.
Somewhere beneath Hogwarts Castle…
Harry knew the others had followed even as he plunged into the belly of the castle. Wind whipped at his robes and sent them billowing around him as he flew down the pipe. It was not unlike soaring through the air on his broomstick save for the grime that had coated him long before he reached the place where the sloping tube ended.
He threw his head to the side to pull his hair from his eyes and look out around him. There was nothing but the tube and darkness for as far as he could see. He wondered if this was how the prey of serpents must feel. The way the pipe twisted this way and that did make it look something like a coiled snake fast asleep. That coming at you from the darkness was not a sight Harry envied, though it was perhaps more favourable than what he was charging head-long into if Grindelwald had been right.
Earlier that night…
“What is it?” Harry asked, hardly daring to believe that the ancient sorcerer had put the pieces together.
“A basilisk,” said Grindelwald with no preamble.
“A what?” asked Harry.
“A basilisk,” Grindelwald repeated. “They are massive serpents that can live hundreds and thousands of years. Their scales are said to hold up against all but the most vile of magics and they can kill with their stare alone.”
Harry’s jaw nearly clattered to the floor, but something sparked inside his mind. “Hang on,” he said, “kill? Nobody’s died.”
“Not this time, no, but I am aware that a girl was said to have died there fifty years ago when the Chamber of Secrets had allegedly been opened.”
“How do you—”
“It was where Dumbledore dwelled. Do you think I was ignorant of what my most daunting foe was doing?”
Harry shook his head; that thought had not even crossed his mind. “But… how do you explain no one having died this time?”
“I don’t need to,” said Grindelwald. “You have done that for me already.”
“All of the victims could easily have spotted reflections of the monster’s eyes. In pools of water, cameras, mirrors, or windows.”
“So… if you see the stare through something, it doesn’t kill you? Just petrifies you?”
“I don’t think that hypothesis has ever been tested. Most people believe that basilisks have never existed at all.”
“Yes, an oversight made by many. They are the creatures of myths and legends. Those who speak of Herpo the Foul tell of how he once commanded a mighty basilisk that massacred cities for its master. There are other tales of them, but none pay them the heed they deserve.” The man’s eyes sparkled with an odd sort of light as his lips curved upwards into a condescending smirk. “People have a funny way of overlooking myths and legends. It cost them dearly against me and it has cost them once again. I doubt anyone even considered a basilisk. Albus ought to have, but he was never much for tales. Only the Hallows and only because he lived so close to the family in the story.”
“So you think Dumbledore doesn’t even know about basilisks?”
“I’m sure he’s heard of them, but perhaps he has not read enough to realize they are more than the tales of legends. Who am I to say? It has been decades since I laid eyes upon my oldest friend. I can only guess at the man he has become.”
“Oldest friend?” asked Harry. It could have been a barb, but somehow, that did not seem Grindelwald’s style.
“Think nothing of it for now,” the man said. “If you must face this monster, you will do so armed with all I can give you.”
Back in the present…
Harry could hear nothing but the whistling wind as he plunged deeper and deeper into the darkness. He had given up on keeping his hair out of his eyes by now. It tickled his forehead as he thought back on the vision he’d shared with Grindelwald.
The man had not had much to offer. A spell to conjure glass, one to impair the basilisk’s eyes, and the knowledge that a rooster’s cry would kill the monster. Harry had no time to fetch a rooster, so he would need to make do with glass, the Conjunctivitis Curse, and Parseltongue. It was the latter he planned to lean on, but Grindelwald need not know that.
Finally, Harry felt the shoot level out and had only that as warning before his feet slammed so hard against a hard rock floor that his knees buckled and he was spent sprawling. His hand stung like it had been stabbed by a dozen tiny needles and he did not realize why until he lifted his arm. Small pebbles had punctured the skin on his palm and round rivulets of blood welled up like the broken shards of shattered rubies.
Harry heard Draco coming long before he saw him. The youngest Malfoy had shown courage Harry hadn’t known he possessed by following him down into the Chamber of Secrets, but that courage did not extend to plunging through empty darkness with quiet dignity.
He shot straight out of the tube in much the same manner Harry had a moment earlier. He too tumbled and was even sent rolling, but he appeared uninjured by the time he retook his feet.
Harry met his eyes for the first time that night and was surprised by what he saw. There was no regret or trepidation there; only cold, grey resolution with defiance flashing here and there like jagged streaks of lightning.
Harry contemplated saying something, but Weasley was barreling down the tube not far behind him and Harry knew there was no time to waste. His wand was in his hand a moment later and he was marching, Draco trailing in his wake and Weasley cursing in a hissing whisper not far behind them.
“Get him to shut up,” Harry whispered and Draco fell back. He paused for a moment to let both boys catch up to him. They were both mercifully silent now. “The monster is a basilisk,” Harry whispered. “The important thing is that if you look it in the eyes, you’ll die. Best avoid doing that if you can manage.”
He did not wait for a reply and noticed that their steps faltered for a moment whilst his pressed on. One after another they sounded dully against the ancient stone floor like the sound of falling rain drops in one of Hogwarts’ many courtyards.
The tunnels were wide and high-ceilinged. However long the snake was, Harry had no trouble imagining it slithering through these passages. They were clearly made for it and the fact only made Harry all the more wary. It was maddeningly dark, but Harry didn’t dare to light his wand. Anything that could draw the monster’s attention was something to be avoided at all costs.
His resolve on that front was tested a moment later when he came upon something so huge that it made him pause and shut his eyes. Harry waited there for Death’s caress, but it never came and so he realized that what he had seen must not be the monster that dwelled somewhere within these halls.
“Bloody hell,” Harry heard Weasley curse from behind him. “Look at the size of that thing!”
Harry did look and his eyes widened in the dark. He heard something behind him and turned. It was Weasley fumbling for his wand. Why he hadn’t had it out already, Harry could not imagine.
“Not now,” he hissed.
Weasley’s head snapped around to face him. “What—”
“I said not now! How thick are you, Weasley? Do you want us to send up a flare next?”
“If you light your wand, whoever and whatever is down here can follow the light right to us.”
Weasley had no response for that and Harry couldn’t see his face, but he liked to imagine the boy was blushing with embarrassment. Harry turned back to the massive shadow. It was a skin, he realized, one that must have belonged to the basilisk at one time or another. It was impossibly long — dozens of feet at least — and its colour was a green so vivid that the skin itself looked poisonous.
“How the hell are we going to fight that?” Harry heard Draco ask from behind him.
“You’re free to do whatever you like,” Harry said over his shoulder, “but I have no plans of fighting it.”
“Parseltongue,” Draco reminded Weasley with a slow and steady nod before looking back at Harry. “Do you think you can—”
“I have no idea. I won’t know until I try. Now, let’s go; quiet again.”
It was odd to lead like this, but there was no one else to do it. Cassie was back up in the castle and Diana was down here somewhere, alone and perhaps even petrified in this infernal darkness. Harry was the best of what they had. He had not asked for help, but these two were here and Harry would not begrudge them that. Taking down the Heir of Slytherin was a task so daunting, he would take all the help he could get.
They walked for some time before Harry realized that the tunnel was coming to an end. The footsteps had sounded loud before in the otherwise silent void, but the sound had drifted up and been lost in the nothingness high above them. The longer they walked, the louder their footfalls became as something seemed to throw the noise back at them.
That something eventually loomed out at them from the blackness up ahead and Harry heard Draco take a sharp inhale as it came into sight.
It was a pair of heavy stone doors weathered by the centuries that had passed since their construction. There was a pair of elaborate and interwoven serpents carved on them. Their eyes glowed in the darkness and they seemed to watch Harry’s every move.
The Boy-Who-Lived looked from Ron Weasley, to Draco Malfoy, and then back at what could only be the chamber’s main entrance before he took a final deep breath and hissed.
The sound was much too loud. Any inside the chamber would know they were coming, their arrival heralded by the rumbling of stone grinding against stone. It was like somebody trying to start a fire with flint, but a hundred — no, a thousand times louder.
The chamber was larger than Harry had ever imagined, though somewhat lacking in splendour. It was dominated by a countless number of stone pillars that stretched so high, they were lost in the canopy of darkness far above. Harry was sure that a ceiling was there, but it loomed so high that it was lost to sight. Torches flickered in brackets hung along the walls. The room was so vast that their shadows leapt around gleefully, revelling in their freedom as they played tricks on Harry’s eyes.
“Blimey,” Ron whispered from behind Harry. The raven-haired youth pulled his eyes away from the nearby architecture and immediately knew what Weasley meant.
There was a towering statue at the end of the hall. It stretched up not quite to the ceiling, but it stretched up for so long that its face lurked in shadow. What Harry could see was dark eyes, high cheekbones, and a long beard that fell most of the way to the floor.
A part of him expected Draco to take pleasure in the statue, but his former friend had seen something Harry had not and abandoned any pretence of stealth or silence.
“Damn!” Harry cursed under his breath. If anyone was waiting for them, they had just lost the potential for an ambush.
Sure enough, Diana was there at the foot of the statue lying beside another, smaller figure who Harry could only assume was Luna Lovegood. Her hair was as pale as the Malfoy heiress’s and her chest rose and fell with slow, rhythmic movements.
There was a third girl sprawled several feet closer to the trio than Diana, her skin paler than milk. She looked dead to Harry and he would even have thought so had she too not visibly been breathing. Her breaths were different. There was nothing rhythmic about them. They were deep and rasping; Harry could hear the sounds of them even from afar.
“Diana, please!” Draco was pleading. “It’s me, your brother, wake up! Diana, I’m here, just listen to me!”
“She won’t wake,” came a voice from the shadows that Harry had never heard before. His wand snapped up and took aim, but there was a moment’s pause before anyone appeared.
The form of a boy shimmered into being just off to the right of where the three girls lay. He looked young — no older than sixteen or seventeen. He was slim and very tall for his age with pale skin, dark blue eyes, and hair as dark as Harry’s own. There were three boys before him, but he seemed to have eyes only for Harry. Those dark, unnerving eyes that sent a shiver up his spine as they seemed to dissect him with simple glances.
“Who are you?” asked Weasley, his wand too raised.
The boy tilted his head to one side. “So the future students of Hogwarts don’t know me by sight. Shame. I had hoped they would.” The boy’s eyes flicked to Ron for a moment, but they landed back on Harry just as fast. “I expected only one of you.”
“What have you done with my sister!?” Draco stormed, rounding on the boy with murder in his eyes.
“Very little,” said the boy. “She’s alive and quite all right. So is her friend.”
“What about the other girl?” Ron asked, gesturing to the figure who laid a ways apart from the others.
“What have you done to her?” Weasley asked furiously.
“Well, that’s an interesting question,” said the boy. “It’s quite a long story. I suppose the real reason she’s like this is because she opened her heart and spilled all her secrets to an invisible stranger.”
“What are you talking about?” asked Harry, suddenly distracted by this third girl. She looked familiar and he was wracking his brain trying to remember where he had seen her in the past.
“The diary,” the boy said with a gesture towards something Harry had not noticed. It appeared to be a plain black book. “My diary. Her and her sister have been writing in it for months and months, telling me all their pitiful worries and woes.”
‘Her and her sister’…
It clicked all at once. This was one of the dark-haired twins who had been sorted into Slytherin at the beginning of September. Carrow, her name was, but if they had both written in what Harry could only assume was some kind of cursed diary that had once belonged to Voldemort…
“Her sister won’t be with us tonight, I’m afraid,” the boy went on. “She has… other business to attend to.”
Back in Severus Snape’s office…
Snape struggled uselessly against invisible bindings that pinned him to the wall. His wand had clattered to the floor and he cursed himself then for never learning how to summon it without a wand. It had been an experiment he’d contemplated as a youth, but he had become too preoccupied by pursuing Lily and inventing new magic.
Snape wasn’t sure what he expected to walk through his office door. The Dark Lord, perhaps, or one of his more talented underlings. He did not know, but he was certain of one thing. He had most definitely not expected the small, slight form of one of his very own first years.
“Carrow!” he snarled, fending off shock with Occlumency as he fixed the young girl with the most dignified glare he could muster. “What is the—” he felt his voice die in his throat with a lazy, dismissive wave of the girl’s hand.
His eyes widened. Wandless magic from an eleven-year-old girl? Surely that was impossible. He had never known anyone so gifted; he doubted even Dumbledore of the Dark Lord had been so advanced at such a young age.
But it mattered not, for the girl did not remain wandless for long.
Hers was in her hand a moment later and pointed directly at Snape. Not at his chest or, throat, or face, but at his left arm of all things. He wondered what on earth she thought she was doing before his blood ran cold at her next words.
Meanwhile, in the Chamber of Secrets…
The boy paused and cocked his head to the side as though listening to some sound only he could hear. “Business that has now been taken care of,” he said with a smile. “She will not be here regardless.”
“I don’t get it,” said Draco, realizing by now there was nothing he could do for his sister until the new enemy was dead. “Who are you and why did the Carrow twins write in some cursed book? They ought to have more sense!”
“You would think so, wouldn’t you?” asked the boy with a sharp smile that made Harry’s skin crawl. “I’ve always been able to charm the people I needed. They poured their souls out to me and their souls happened to be exactly what I wanted… I grew stronger and stronger on a diet of their deepest fears, their darkest secrets. I grew powerful, far more powerful than them. Powerful enough to start feeding them a few of my secrets, to start pouring a little of my soul back into them…”
“What d’you mean?” asked Weasley, whose jaw had tightened with every word this menace uttered.
“Haven’t you guessed yet?” asked the boy with mocking in his voice.
“It was the Carrows,” Harry said quietly. “They were the ones who opened the Chamber of Secrets because he convinced them to.”
“What?” sputtered Draco.
“The attack on McGonagall was set up by more than one student. We’ve known that for months. Now, we know why.”
“How clever,” said the boy with that same, twisted smile. “Perhaps the Boy-Who-Lived may live up to his lofty reputation.”
“Who are you?” Weasley asked again. “I’ve never seen you at Hogwarts.”
“That’s because he isn’t at Hogwarts,” said Harry when he noticed the style of this boy’s robes. There was the familiar serpent on his chest and beside it gleamed a shining silver badge that marked him as a prefect. Harry knew all of Slytherin’s prefects and this boy was not one of them.
It explained a lot, actually. How Voldemort had been orchestrating everything this whole year, how the Carrows had been getting into the chamber despite not being Parselmouths, why this ghost of a boy was so blurry around the edges, almost like he was not entirely human.
“You know who I am.” It was not a question the boy asked, but a statement as he met Harry’s eyes directly.
Harry did not blink. “Your name is Tom Riddle, but you won’t go by it forever. One day, you’ll grow up to take a different name and kill my parents.”
Draco staggered backwards with a hand on his chest as he gaped comically at the ghost-like figure. Weasley just stood there, dumbstruck and uncomprehending as he stared between Harry and Riddle, whose eyes gleamed.
“He’s… him?” asked Weasley. “But… how?”
A malicious light danced in Riddle’s eyes. “I see that some things went to plan,” Riddle said with a small smirk. “You may not know the name Tom Riddle, but I see that the moniker of Lord Voldemort has meaning even now. It was a name I was already using at Hogwarts, to my most intimate friends only, of course.”
Harry could see Draco glancing between him, his sister, and Riddle and almost cursed.
That was when he put it together.
“Years ago, my father was accused of something horrible. Something he never actually did. He was proven innocent by the Wizengamot and everything. Longbottom’s parents… they’re not dead, but they’re in no state to be his parents. They were attacked at the end of the last war, and they’ve been locked up in St. Mungo’s — the major wizarding hospital — ever since. They’re as good as comatose, so Longbottom has been raised by his grandmother and she’s basically run their family ever since.”
Diana’s words from so long ago floated back to Harry like the smell of a distant fire on a strong autumn breeze. Words spoken atop the balcony the two of them had so often found themselves lurking on… words that Harry intuitively now knew were lies.
There could be only one way Draco was hesitating to act despite his sister lying motionless at this monster’s hands — his father had once served a version of this man.
It explained everything.
Why the Malfoys had taken such an interest in him, why the Longbottoms and Weasleys despised them so vehemently, and now this. This hesitation that had Draco pinned to the spot.
Harry could not lose him now. The odds of three of them against Voldemort were not favourable no matter how old this version of the Dark Lord might have been. If Draco turned on Harry and Ron, it would squander the small chance they still had remaining.
There was little Harry could do to convince Draco he was better off putting faith in Harry than Voldemort. Harry could think of only one desperate plan, one born from an aimless thought he’d had often enough when thinking of Voldemort over the past two years.
“Why hide behind a mask?” he spat. “Why would the Heir of Slytherin take on a fake name? I don’t get it.”
“Don’t you,” hissed Riddle with venom in his voice. “There are some things about me that you don’t yet know after all. Let me explain it then. Do you think I was going to use my filthy muggle father’s name forever?” Harry heard Draco’s gasp from off to his side and could only pray he had taken from that comment what Harry hoped he had. “I,” continued Riddle, “in whose veins runs the blood of Salazar Slytherin himself, through my mother’s side? I, keep the name of a foul, common muggle who abandoned me before I was born just because he found out his wife was a witch? No, Harry — I fashioned myself a new name, a name I knew wizards everywhere would one day fear to speak when I had become the greatest sorcerer in the world!”
“What I don’t understand,” said Harry, “is how you’re here. You were a student fifty years ago.”
“I was,” Riddle admitted. “Fifty years… yes, I suppose that’s right. For me, it feels like no time has passed at all.”
“Are you a ghost?” asked Weasley, eyeing the odd blur around Riddle’s body. Harry heard of Weasley’s skill at chess and he could believe it now. The way his eyes scanned Riddle up and down as though they were trying to spot any signs of weakness.
“A memory,” said Riddle. “One that grows stronger as the Carrows grow weaker.” For a moment, Harry swore Riddle’s eyes had flashed scarlet but it was gone just as fast. “Now that Flora’s business up in the castle has concluded, she’s joined her sister in pouring everything she has left into the diary. When they’re done, I will be reborn again.”
Harry’s breath caught in his throat. Was this Voldemort’s master plan? Resurrect a younger version of himself so that it could help him regain his power? It made some sense, Harry supposed. If Voldemort could add a clone of himself — younger and less skillful or not — it would be an immeasurable boon to his forces.
Harry was scared now. It was one of the first times he could ever remember being scared like this. He had felt dread at the Dursleys, but scarcely ever fear. The only time he could ever remember feeling this way was when he had landed inside Nurmengard Prison and looked upon the desecrated corpses that had once served as guards.
If Riddle was telling the truth, then they had no hope. They had to somehow stop the Carrows from pouring themselves into the diary, but how were they to do that? Harry hadn’t the faintest idea how magic like this worked and there was no time now to communicate with Grindelwald and ask for help. If Riddle was reborn… the three of them would die in this chamber and Britain would be plunged into a war worse than even the last.
“You won’t get away with this!” Weasley bellowed.
“Why ever now?” asked Riddle, his stare finally falling on Ron.
“Because Dumbledore will stop you if we don’t.”
Riddle’s expression twisted into something ugly. “Dumbledore has been driven out of this castle by the mere memory of me.”
“He’s not really gone,” said Harry, taking a sudden bout of inspiration. “Not as long as people here are loyal to him.”
They were foolish, childish words and he knew it, but he could think of nothing else that might throw Riddle off his game. Dumbledore had been called the only one Voldemort had ever feared. Harry hoped that was even truer of the boy than it had been of the man.
Music was suddenly coming from somewhere, cutting Riddle off just as he made to open his mouth. He whirled around to stare down the empty chamber but was greeted only by the towering pillars and dancing shadows. The music was growing louder. It was eerie, spine-tingling, unearthly; it lifted the hair on Harry’s scalp and made his heart feel as though it was swelling to twice its normal size. As the music reached such a pitch that Harry felt it vibrating inside his own ribs, flames erupted at the top of the nearest pillar and a familiar-looking crimson bird the size of a swan was suddenly there, piping its ethereal music to the vaulted ceiling. It had a glittering golden tail as long as a peacock’s and gleaming golden talons, which were gripping a ragged bundle.
The bird let out its loudest note yet and spread its wings. Suddenly, it was flying straight at Harry, Ron, and Draco. It dropped the ragged thing it was carrying as it flew over Ron before landing heavily on Harry’s shoulder. Harry looked up and saw as it folded its wings that it had a long, sharp golden beak and a beady black eye.
The bird stopped singing. It sat still and warm next to Harry’s cheek, gazing steadily at Riddle.
“Fawkes?” Harry asked quietly as he stroked the bird’s feathers. It gave a single nod but did not look away from Riddle. Behind him, Harry could hear that Weasley had retrieved whatever the phoenix had dropped.
“This is what Dumbledore sends his defenders!” Riddle mocked with glee in his eyes. “A songbird and an old hat! Do you feel brave, Harry Potter? Do you feel safe now?”
Harry just stared back at Riddle as his two companions tensed. All of them could tell that the fight was about to start. Harry thought it was for the better. Riddle was becoming less blurry the longer they spoke.
“I grow stronger as the Carrows grow weaker” he had said. Perhaps it was best to try and finish him before he grew too strong.
“I find myself with the opportunity to crush two myths in a single night,” said Riddle, eyes gleaming. “Let’s match the powers of Lord Voldemort, Heir of Salazar Slytherin, against the famed wisdom of Albus Dumbledore and the mysterious enigma that is Harry Potter.” Riddle smiled that bone-chilling smile again. “Let us deal with the former first, shall we?”
Riddle’s stare fell momentarily back on Harry and there was a rabid sort of hunger in his eyes. But then he had whirled around to face the towering statue of Salazar Slytherin and spoke words that only Harry could understand.
“Speak to me, Slytherin, greatest of the Hogwarts four!”
For the third time that night, Harry could hear the sound of stone grinding against stone as yet another entrance opened with the gaping of Slytherin’s gigantic mouth. Harry could vaguely see the outline of something green and massive slithering about inside the founder’s maw.
“Don’t look at it!” said Harry as something immensely heavy fell against the floor. It spat and hissed, but Harry could not make out what it was saying over Riddle’s singular command.
“Leave the boy with the bird on his shoulder. Kill the others.”
“Run!” Harry shouted as the snake lunged towards Weasley and Draco. They both rolled out of the way with reflexes born of a seeker before bolting in opposite directions. The snake sputtered for a moment as it tried to decide which to kill first, but Harry could not focus on them. He had to hope they could stay alive while he did his best to deal with the Heir of Slytherin.
Outside Hogwarts Castle…
Dumbledore had known the time to return to Hogwarts had come when a flash of fire had illuminated his world and Fawkes had left him a single golden feather. He wished the phoenix could take him down into the Chamber of Secrets, but it would have been ill advised to try. Fawkes could pass through any ward but ones as potentially hostile as Slytherin’s might well do damage to those he took through it.
Getting back onto the Hogwarts grounds without Fawkes had been simple and oddly satisfying. It had been a long time since Albus had gotten to use his Deluminator. It was one of his most ingenious inventions, yet it seemed forever overlooked. A shame, really.
He appeared on the sloping front lawns in the centre of a pale halo of light. The shadowy outline of the castle appeared the brightest and most beautiful thing Albus had ever seen.
What he was going to do, he did not know, but it began with finding Severus and learning anything from the man he could. Elsewise… he would wait.
Back in the Chamber of Secrets…
Ron’s chest heaved as he ran faster than he had ever run before. He could hear Malfoy scamper off in the other direction and hear the loud thuds as the basilisk pursued him. Better Malfoy than him, but it was only an inevitability. The monster would kill him, then it would come for Ron and the youngest male Weasley had no idea what to do about any of it.
He was running so fast and irrationally that he nearly ploughed straight into the chamber’s back wall. He stopped as fast as he could but wound up toppling to the floor and sliding ribs first into a pillar anyway. A sharp pain like that of a jagged blade stuck in his chest and tore the breath from his lungs. They ached with a flaming sort of pain, but there was nothing Ron could do about that.
For a moment, he thought he had fainted as he tried to fill his lungs again. Everything had suddenly grown dark. Then, he realized what he had been carrying and that it had fallen over his head.
‘Help me,’ he thought, desperately pleading with the Sorting Hat to offer any advice it had. ‘I don’t know what to do! Please, help me!’
Something hit him so hard over the head that Ron thought the hat was scolding him. Lights danced before his eyes like miniature stars, but they began to fade quickly, leaving Ron in the darkness once again.
No… that was not right. It was no longer dark; whatever had hit him in the head had pushed the Sorting Hat off of him. Ron looked down through squinted eyes, afraid the snake had finished off Malfoy and had come to kill him next.
His eyes flew wide open with shock a second later when he saw a silver sword encrusted with rubies so splendid they looked fit for gods. There was a single name etched into the sword, one that Ron knew all too well. It was the only name Ron could think of that could have given him so much hope while all around him seemed so dire.
Slowly and with legs shaking like thin, spindly branches in the harsh winter winds, Ron clambered to his feet.
“To business, Harry,” said Riddle. Harry looked calmly back at him and ignored everything else going on in the room only with the help of months and months of practice clearing his mind and keeping it that way. “We met in your past and in my future,” said Riddle, “yet you survived. How?”
Harry blinked dumbly. “What?”
“How is that an infant with no extraordinary magical power vanquished the greatest sorcerer of all time? Tell me. The longer you talk, the longer you stay alive.”
Harry couldn’t and he knew it. If this Riddle did win the day and make it back to Voldemort, Harry could not have him knowing. Not when he was unsure if Voldemort himself even knew what had truly happened that night so long ago.
“What’s it to you?” asked Harry. “Are you afraid you might not be able to kill me now?”
“I do not fear you, I am simply interested by you. We’re similar, you know. Both halfbloods, both orphans raised by muggles unfit to lick the hems of our robes. We were both sorted into Slytherin House and quickly became prodigies in our own right. We’re probably the only two Parselmouths who have come through this school since the great Salazar Slytherin himself and we even look somewhat alike. Can you blame me for being intrigued about you? I want a measure of what you could become before I take it all away from you.”
Harry tensed. The moment was coming and he knew it. Once he refused to play Riddle’s game, the time for talking would swiftly end.
“I don’t fear you either, Riddle.”
“No,” said Harry, “I don’t think so. Not now. I’ve seen what you’ve become.” Harry watched him through bright, emerald eyes. “Do you know that Samhain 1981 wasn’t the only time we’ve crossed paths?” That hungry gleam was back in Riddle’s eyes and it spoke the answer louder than the boy himself ever could. “I saw you last year — I know what you’ve become.”
“What I have become?”
“A parasite,” spat Harry. “A bitter spirit leaching off of stronger men to stay alive. You’re pathetic, you’re broken, and I beat you again. So no, Tom Riddle, I do not fear you.”
Riddle’s eyes flashed and Harry knew the spell was coming; he could feel it building on the tip of the wand Riddle held in his hand. Harry saw his arm lift and prepared to dodge out of the way, but the phoenix spread its wings and took flight before Harry could so much as move.
It was an incantation Harry had never heard, but it sent tremors up his spine for reasons he could not identify. Something about it sounded different and the air around the jet of green light that lunged from Riddle’s wand like a hunting serpent seemed to cringe away as the vile magic hissed through the air.
Harry would not have been fast enough to dodge. Not from a stationary position, anyway. He had never seen a spell move so fast, but the phoenix was there, interposed between Harry and Riddle and directly in the path of the sickening green light.
There was a flash of the same colour so bright that the chamber faded to nothing for a moment before returning. Harry heard a horrible, pained squawk, but he paid it no heed. Fawkes was a phoenix. He could not be killed no matter what Riddle had just hit him with. He had bought Harry the time he needed; that was all that mattered.
It was the first spell that came to Harry’s mind when he tried to think of something powerful and dangerous. It was one Grindelwald had used against an older boy who had once ambushed him in one of Durmstrang’s many dark corridors.
He was almost surprised when the bolt of red light leapt from his wand. It was a powerful bit of magic and not a simple spell from what Harry knew. He had never even tried casting it before now, but the spell had come easier to him than many of the charms and transfigurations he had worked on this year whilst getting ahead in those subjects.
Riddle made no move to defend himself as the Bone-Breaker came near and Harry realized why a second before the spell sailed straight through his opponent. Riddle was still ‘a memory’. There were not yet any bones to speak of. How he could hold a wand, Harry did not know, but he supposed he had other, more troubling things to worry about.
“This is your final chance,” Riddle snarled at him. “Speak the truth or I will have it from you before you die!”
“Lacero!” Harry started his spells with the dark Cutting Curse before following it up with a Stunner, Disarming Charm, and another Lacero. They were all strong together in the way Cassie had been teaching him. Spell chaining had been one of the more difficult things he had learned so far, but it made a noticeable difference in how fast he could cast.
Yet it mattered not. Riddle allowed the Cutting Curses to pass through him as he batted away the other two before sending back a volley of his own. Harry had never seen at least half of the spells and the speed with which Riddle cast left him in awe.
“Protego!” Harry called, cornered against a pillar and unable to move.
It was like his shield had never been there. There was no indication it had even collapsed; it was just like the magic had moved right through it.
Not that he had time to ponder it. Why would he ponder anything when he felt so blissfully light? It was like nothing existed and he was floating down a noiseless river that never ended. He thought how nice it would be to just close his eyes and drift away to sleep, but a voice far from away demanded his attention before he could.
“Tell me how you survived the Killing Curse and why it was Lord Voldemort who was destroyed that night?”
Harry felt his mouth open to answer, remembering the explanation Dumbledore had given him last June, but the words stuck in his throat.
Why would he give something so important away? That made no sense and besides, he was much more comfortable this way. Why would he trouble himself answering questions when all felt so warm and peaceful?
The voice was louder this time, as if the person it belonged to had taken several steps closer. This time, Harry’s mouth didn’t open and something nudged at the corner of his mind. Something… less pleasant than how he felt right now, yet something insistent. Something that deserved his attention far more than this troublesome voice that wouldn’t leave him alone.
“I said tell me!?
The spell was broken with that single word and Harry collapsed to his knees. His legs felt like lead and his lungs felt like they had been smashed in. His chest heaved with deep, rattling breaths as though he had just run a hundred miles. His hair was damp with the moisture of sweat and several long strands of it were sticking to his forehead.
Riddle looked less angry than he had a moment ago, but Harry found this version of him far more intimidating. “No?” he asked softly. “Harry, people do not tell Lord Voldemort no.”
“Shove off!” Harry gasped, pushing himself roughly back to his feet. His legs wobbled beneath him and his body swayed as he placed a hand on a pillar for balance. It was like fighting off that last spell had taken everything he had.
Riddle’s eyes flashed scarlet again and this time, Harry was sure he had seen correctly. “That is no way to speak to your lord, Harry. You must be punished for such offences.” Harry tried to raise his wand and defend himself, but he knew he would be too slow and he could not seem to muster the energy to dive out of the way.
It was pain unlike anything Harry had ever known. The room faded away once more, but this time, it was not replaced by bliss, but by jagged spikes, roaring fires, and unimaginable pain. His scar had been nothing to this. Not even the agony he’d felt whilst destroying Quirrell’s body held a candle to this. This was monstrous, it was evil, and Harry wanted to badly for it to end. He would do anything for it to end; he hoped it killed him so he could be done with it and move on.
Air returned to Harry’s lungs with the sudden sharpness of a well-timed sword thrust. It felt like one, too. His entire body felt like it had been subjected to one brutal stab after another.
He waited for Riddle to say something, anything, but he did not. Slowly, he opened his eyes and could hardly believe what he saw.
The sword felt perfect in hands. It was not too heavy despite its size and length, but nor was it too light.
It was perfect.
Ron was jolted by a horrible crashing sound as one of the pillars further up the chamber gave way. Malfoy was running back towards Potter and Riddle. Not like he had much choice in the matter. The snake was leading him back that way, probably hoping to corner him against the statue of its one-time master.
The sword suddenly did feel just a touch heavy in Ron’s hands as he realized what he had to do.
“He chose to do what was right instead of what was easy and for that, he will be fondly remembered by all.”
Those words had stayed with Ron for almost a year now. They had been part of the ringing endorsement Dumbledore had bestowed upon Neville and his courage, and Ron knew there was truth to them. He had known long before Neville had met his end, known since he was old enough to be told what had happened to his uncles, Gideon and Fabian Prewitt.
There was honour in death defending what was right, but there was no valour in standing aside and watching others die — whether you liked them or not.
Ron squinted and prepared to close his eyes at any moment as he charged towards the basilisk, sword in hand. It must have heard him coming because it turned. Ron slammed his eyes shut and leapt forward, thrusting his sword as he did. It passed through thin air as he leapt, but it stuck in something when he came crashing back to the ground.
Ron knew something horrible had happened long before he opened his eyes. The sword had not slammed harmlessly against stone. Its end had stuck in something and Ron had felt whatever it cut through give way under its edge. His hands trembled as he opened his eyes.
It was worse than he could ever have imagined.
The sword’s end was buried in the chest of a small girl with blonde hair and silver eyes who had looked so very innocent sleeping at Salazar Slytherin’s feet. Blood spread out from the gaping wound Gryffindor’s sword had opened. It pooled, seeped through her robes and stained the floor around her. Its scent spread like poison; a coppery scene that made Ron nauseous.
Something slammed hard against his side and Ron lurched to his right just as the something much larger slammed head first into the chamber floor. The basilisk had lunged at him as he knelt over the young girl he’d just murdered, but Draco Malfoy had knocked him out of the way. Draco Malfoy of all people had spared him.
Ron glanced briefly at Malfoy, but he was already on his feet and moving away from the basilisk. Ron had no idea where he was going, but there was no time to consider it. The snake had slammed its fang so hard into the floor that it had stuck, but it was pulling itself free.
It was now or never.
Ron lunged forward and grabbed the sword before shutting his eyes tight and whirling to face the great snake, bringing the sword up and down as hard as he could and with a cry that reverberated off the chamber walls like the sounds of stones tumbling down a silent mountain in the Midwest of an almighty avalanche.
There was another sound, then. A horrible, high-pitched cry from the monster who Ron had just stabbed. He let go of the sword and leapt backwards out of the way. He knew without looking that the snake was dead; he heard its body slump loudly against the chamber floor.
So why was there still screaming?
“Weasley!” Ron opened his eyes without thinking and almost slammed them shut again before remembering what had just happened. “Weasley!” Malfoy cried again and Ron looked at him. He was standing some distance away with something small in his hands. It took Ron a moment to realize that it was Tom Riddle’s diary; the one the Carrows were allegedly pouring themselves into even as they spoke.
“The sword, Weasley! Give me the sword!”
It took Ron a moment to realize what the other boy was thinking, but then it dawned on him.
“I grow stronger as the Carrows grow weaker.”
“Catch!” called Ron, throwing Godric Gryffindor’s fabled sword with all the might he could muster. Draco stepped to the side and reached up, catching its handle with all the grace of a seeker before driving its point — still dripping with poison from the fang it had punctured — straight through the cursed book that had caused all at Hogwarts so much hardship that year.
The screaming behind them stopped… only to be replaced by a single, more horrible wail so loud and powerful that it threw both Ron and Draco to the floor.
I can already see the reviews telling me that Harry didn’t do enough in this battle. I will lay out my reasoning here and then those reviews will go largely ignored:
The basilisk was never going to be beaten by anything other than Gryffindor’s sword and Harry in this story could never have pulled it from the hat. He was never going to outduel Riddle and though some will say he should have been the one to destroy the diary, you will all see soon that it does so much more for Draco’s character than it could ever have done for Harry’s.
Also, it was extremely important for Harry to feel like he’d lost this battle for reasons that will be obvious soon enough.
Please read and review.
PS: The penultimate chapter of book 2 will release for you all next week. THE NEXT FIVE CHAPTERS ARE AVAILABLE FOR PATRONS RIGHT NOW AND THEY WILL BE GETTING AT LEAST TWO MORE THIS WEEK! THAT MEANS THEY HAVE THE REST OF BOOK 2, PLUS THE FIRST FIVE CHAPTERS OF BOOK 3. Sign up to my Patreon page to read all of those chapters early.
Get new content delivered directly to your inbox.