Disclaimer: Being neither British nor Japanese, it should therefore come as no surprise that I own neither Harry Potter nor Naruto, nor anything from their respective franchises.

Iruka heard a truly enormous Basilisk slithering out of the statue's mouth, like some grotesque tongue. 'I hadn't figured Salazar Slytherin for a fan of puns...' Iruka shook off the random thought, shouting "Harry, Filius, stay with Ginny - he can't risk killing her! And keep your eyes closed until I say otherwise!" The boy and professor did as they were told, not wanting to get in his way or risk meeting the Basilisk's deadly gaze.

Closing his own eyes, Iruka took note of where he could sense the Basilisk's position, tracking it as he quickly reached into one of his holsters to grab a quartet of kunai with explosive tags attached. Figuring that a direct hit, especially without clear sight, would be practically impossible for him, he went for the next best thing, aiming two for about where the Basilisk's eyes should be and using the other two to bracket the sides of its head. As he expected, the snake tried to duck below the projectiles. 'Just like Anko-san's summons,' he noted of the reaction, grinning as he detonated all four tags as they passed near their target. The echoes of the violent explosion were joined by inhuman screams from Slytherin's pet. 'Okay, maybe not exactly like Anko's summons...'

A hissing shout came from Riddle's position, and Harry called "He's telling it to track you by smell!" Iruka responded by leaping behind one of the support pillars, pulling a signal mirror from one of his vest pouches - just because it sounded like the Basilisk was blind, he wasn't taking any unnecessary chances - and confirmed through the reflection that both of the Basilisk's eyes had been ruptured by the force of the nearby explosions. He was given a much closer look moments later as the Basilisk dashed towards him, clearly still able to track him, forcing him to retreat up the column and leap off when the snake smashed through the stone pillar instead of going around it. As he went, he called back that Harry and Filius could open their eyes.

Under ordinary circumstances, Iruka would have used a quick diversion and hidden himself, erasing his presence as much as possible in hopes of creating an opening. That option wasn't available here, however, with three friendlies in the battle zone, two of which would almost certainly be targeted at the first opportunity if the Basilisk's attention wasn't kept focused elsewhere.

What followed was a bizarre (at least by non-shinobi standards) game of cat-and-mouse. The Basilisk would pursue Iruka, who would evade its attacks and try to counter with his own, never moving so far away as to make Harry a more inviting target. He stayed high whenever he could, since lifting its bulk off the ground cost the snake in both mobility and reach. Filius joined the fray and did what he could in support, trying to divert the Basilisk's attention and protect Iruka when the opportunity arose. Unfortunately, while Iruka's mobility and training kept him ahead of his pursuer, he didn't have anything that could inflict noticeable damage on it. Stories of the Basilisk's protective scales were clearly not exaggerated, as kunai failed to penetrate and Iruka's best fire jutsu left only superficial scorch marks. As fast as the Basilisk was moving, hitting its damaged eyes directly was proving difficult, and the snake was clearly smart enough to keep its mouth closed to protect the vulnerable soft tissue within. He even attempted to use a simple but relatively potent genjutsu, but his adversary was clearly resistant or immune on that front as well. Judging by the trivial scoring on the snake's tough skin, Filius wasn't faring any better.

As is often the case in battle, the stalemate was broken by a stroke of luck. When the Basilisk smashed through a third pillar, a fist-sized fragment clipped Iruka, throwing off his dodge just enough for the snake's tail to catch him with a powerful blow. The resultant aerial tumble came to an abrupt and painful halt against another of the Chamber's pillars. Unfortunately, Iruka had far less success than his opponent at smashing through, and instead slid down to rest in a sitting position against the pillar's base.

Everything hurt. After what was likely one of the worst hits he had ever suffered, it was all Iruka could manage just to hold onto consciousness, but still he tried to regain his feet. No way - NO WAY was he giving up while he had students to protect. He just needed a few minutes to recover and he'd be back in the fight. Slytherin's Basilisk, though, wasn't going to give him those minutes. It knew that the prey that had hurt it was now helpless, and it was finally time to eat. The king of serpents struck, its mouth gaping and its fangs extended, ready to kill. 'Oh,' he thought distantly, 'of course now it opens its mouth...'

The squelching crunch of flesh being pierced was, surprisingly, not accompanied by the stabbing pain of impalement or the burning of deadly venom. Instead, Iruka saw Harry standing before him, having dodged between the Basilisk's fangs and into its gaping mouth. His student had wielded the kunai he'd passed him earlier, using the Basilisk's own momentum to drive the weapon into the roof of its mouth so deeply that only part of the hilt was visible.

After a moment in which the world seemed to pause, everything surged back into motion. The Basilisk recoiled, opening its mouth as wide as its jaws would allow to try and escape the blade piercing its flesh, as Harry leapt back towards his teacher, avoiding the fangs again as they pulled away. A quick scan of the Chamber also showed Filius taking advantage of everyone else's distraction to pull his unconscious student to a less exposed position. The Basilisk continued to thrash, shrieking in pain, before slamming to the floor and going still.

Harry remained, standing between his teacher and the now-enraged shade of Tom Riddle, pointing his wand at the latter, and growled out "You already took my parents and my childhood from me, but I've found a new home and a new family, and YOU WILL NOT TOUCH THEM AGAIN!"

Suddenly, for a brief moment, Iruka was transported to another time and place. The ophidian pillar he was sat against was a tree, the shade of a budding Dark Lord replaced with a traitorous colleague and supposed friend, and the young man in between them garbed in an atrocious orange tracksuit instead of black wizarding robes. In that moment, Iruka knew that somehow, Riddle was the only one that wouldn't leave the Chamber that day.

"That's one problem solved," called Filius, "but Miss Weasley is fading rapidly! We need to get that diary to someone that can destroy it!"

"Don't waste your time," Riddle drawled angrily, "that book is layered with every protective enchantment I could cast on it. Your pathetic spells and Muggle weapons will never touch it. Did you think I would entrust a piece of my immortality to mere paper and leather?"

As the nearly-solid shade continued to boast, Iruka spotted it. Lying beside the dead Basilisk was the hilt of Harry's kunai, with nothing but pitted, smoking steel where the blade should be. It must have pierced a venom sac - no wonder the snake had died: Anko had mentioned once that many venomous snakes weren't immune to their own venom. What mattered now, though, was if venom that could obliterate steel and kill the King of Serpents would be enough to overcome the protections on that diary. "Basilisk fang, venom," he managed to gasp out to Harry.

After a moment of confusion Harry clearly understood his teacher's meaning, hurrying over to the Basilisk's corpse, calling to Filius to bring the diary. He tried prying or breaking one of the fangs out of the snake's mouth, but it remained firmly attached. "Good thinking!" Filius cried as he dashed over, "Basilisk venom is one of the most destructive substances known to wizardkind!" Meanwhile, Riddle's smug anger was rapidly morphing to shock and fear - this, more than anything else, told Iruka he'd guessed right.

"No, stop, stay away from there! Accio diary! Accio wand! Accio knife!" Riddle shouted, extending his hand first towards the three wizards. After the first two targets proved too tightly-held to Summon away, Iruka watched as one of his previously-thrown kunai flew to the shade, who grabbed it and dashed towards the two still standing, clearly intent on killing them without magic if he had to. Noticing this, Filius yelled to Harry to just hold the fang steady.

As Harry complied, Filius gripped the diary by its edges, and rammed it straight onto the fang's tip. Unlike the spells before, the Basilisk fang pierced into the diary, and the resultant hole gushed what looked to be black ink in a way disturbingly reminiscent of blood from a mortal wound. Riddle's charge was halted as the shade dropped his stolen weapon and screamed, clutching at the holes that seemed to appear throughout his form before dissipating like smoke.

The two upright wizards panted as their adrenaline began to abate, before a faint moan had Harry dashing over to where Filius had stashed Ginny. "She's waking up!" he called. Filius shot Iruka a questioning look of concern, but Iruka simply nodded and waved him away. After a couple minutes of quiet conversation that Iruka really couldn't make out in his current state, all three came over and Filius began casting over Iruka.

"Three cracked ribs, two broken, a concussion, and quite a lot of bruising. I'm afraid I don't have the skills to help more than this." At that statement, Filius's wand disgorged a mass of bandages that wrapped Iruka's torso to stabilize his rib fractures somewhat. He then cast the same messenger spell the Headmaster had used earlier, though in this case the silvery creature was some sort of small mammal, possibly a squirrel, but between its speed and his concussion Iruka couldn't be sure. "There, that should let Albus know the most vital information. He can debrief us fully when he gets us out of this miserable, albeit impressive, hole."

As if in reply, a hauntingly beautiful crooning echoed throughout the Chamber, heralding the arrival of Fawkes the phoenix in a burst of flames. The magnificent bird flew down to hover before the four of them, still singing joyously, his song lifting their spirits and easing Iruka's pain somewhat.

"Of course!" Filius crowed excitedly, "Phoenixes can carry immensely heavy loads, and can travel near-instantaneously over great distances! I had asked Albus to send help down the pipe and tunnel along with some broomsticks, but this will be much faster and more direct. Everyone, grab hold of a tail feather and don't let go."

Once they'd helped Iruka to his feet, all four grasped the phoenix's tail before they were overcome with a feeling of near-weightlessness. Fawkes flew upward, dragging them along as if they weighed nothing (which, to be fair, seemed to be the case), but just as it seemed they'd impact the stone ceiling they were engulfed in orange flames that, rather than burning, simply surrounded them in a comforting warmth. When the flames receded, they were being lowered gently towards the floor of the Hospital Wing as the Headmaster strode in, followed by Poppy Pomfrey, Minerva, Amelia Bones, and the Weasley parents.

"Ginny!" Iruka's ears, already ringing somewhat from the hit he had taken, were now doubly affected after Molly Weasley called out her youngest child's name loudly enough to be heard halfway to the Great Hall. Mother and daughter rushed towards each other and collided in a tearful embrace, joined soon after by Arthur.

While the Weasleys took comfort in family, Filius helped Iruka into the dubious comfort of the nearest hospital bed. Madam Pomfrey was soon standing over him, waving her wand and tutting angrily at the injuries her spells reported. After her diagnostics, her first response was to cast a charm that suddenly left Iruka breathing much more comfortably, suggesting that she'd mended his ribs. Several more spells followed, healing a variety of cuts and other minor injuries he'd been ignoring due to more pressing concerns. A quick trip to her potions cupboard had her returning with a tin of some sort and a goblet of something Iruka strongly suspected would make him regret having a tongue. "Concussion Remedy," she stated, "for your head. This plus a good night's rest should have that sorted. I've no doubt the Headmaster will be wanting to speak with you first, but you drink that directly after, understood?" Iruka nodded slightly at her use of the universal Medic's Glare before she continued. "Good, and while Filius keeps them all busy, you'll be changing out of those filthy clothes and I'll get some Bruise Balm on that back of yours." A wave of her wand had privacy curtains gathering around his bed. "You'll need another application in the morning, like as not, but I dare say you'll sleep more soundly with the bruises at least partly healed."

Iruka did as he was told, gingerly removing his uniform and warning the hospital matron that there were some potentially dangerous items contained in it and that it would be best to save passing it to the house-elves to launder until after he'd made sure it was safe for them. She was clearly less than pleased at this news, but gave her reluctant agreement. A strong cleaning charm later (she didn't want him trying to shower or bathe with his head injury), she was applying Bruise Balm to his abused back, shoulders, and head with the ease of long practice. Some bandages were summoned and affixed with Sticking Charms to keep the Balm from rubbing off during the night, and Iruka was finally allowed to put on some clean hospital pajamas. Meanwhile, a house-elf had changed the linens on his bed for some not befouled by whatever muck was soaked into his uniform from the day's adventure.

Once Iruka had settled into a bed the privacy screens were opened, admitting the chatter he hadn't realized they'd been heavily muffling (he hated head injuries) and several of those from whom the chatter was issuing. First in were the Weasleys, both parents and all four boys currently at Hogwarts (the boys presumably arriving while Iruka was indisposed), while he could see Ginny ensconced in another bed across from him clearly trying to process her ordeal.

Arthur was the first to speak. "I've already said this to Professor Flitwick and your students, but thank you, from the bottom of my heart, thank you. I can't-" The man choked briefly with emotion. "I can't even begin to think about losing Ginny, or any of my children. If there's ever anything the Weasley family can do for you, simply ask and it's yours." The four sons present nodded their resolute agreement, even the ever-jovial twins uncharacteristically serious.

"Our hero twice over," Molly added, "first Pandora and now our Ginny. Professor Flitwick said you'd hurt your ribs, so I'll save the hug for when you're mended." Everyone present gave the tense chuckle of people trying to stop thinking of a dark 'what-could-have-been', before they returned to the bedside of their youngest member.

The four members of S.E.N entered next, Harry still in his stained and rumpled school robes (much to the open discontent of the resident Healer who undoubtedly wanted him in a bed of his own). They were soon all attempting to talk over each other, asking if Iruka was going to be okay, if he was hurting, when would he be getting out of the Hospital Wing. "Don't worry," he told them with a chuckle once he managed to get a word in edgewise, "I should be fine and out of here tomorrow. It was a bad hit, but it's not the first time I've been injured in battle. To be honest, I'm lucky to still be in one piece - that Basilisk had me pretty thoroughly outclassed."

The four's expressions as they looked at each other said it all: 'How?'

"It was a simple case of offense and defense," he explained patiently, "I didn't have anything that could actually damage something so tough, but it had plenty of ways it could hurt me. My whole strategy boiled down to 'don't get hit and hope for an opening' - as you can see," he gestured wryly to his bandages, "that didn't exactly pan out."

Hermione, as usual, had an important question. "Then was it a bad strategy? What should you have done?"

"Given what I know of his abilities," came Filius's voice, calling attention to the Charms Professor, Headmaster, and DMLE Director standing behind the children, "it was the best strategy he had available at the time."

Madam Bones nodded seriously. "Fighting should never be your first or even second choice. You fight because you have to, not because you want to, and always with a goal in mind. It's almost always better to retreat in the face of danger rather than needlessly risk yourself or others. In this case, it sounds as if retreat wasn't an option: The objective of the three of you that went down there was to retrieve Miss Weasley and return safely, and you couldn't do that with a Basilisk attacking you. Speaking from experience, sometimes you just end up in a rotten situation, and you do the best you can to make it out alive."

Hermione's expression turned somewhat distant, and she spoke as if reciting. "It is possible to commit no mistakes and still lose. That is not weakness; that is life." At the curious expressions of those around her, she ducked her head with a slight blush. "It's a quote from a show I saw."

"I take it your mother is a fan too?" Iruka asked. At Hermione's confused nod, he elaborated, "She said the same thing to me over the summer."

Albus chuckled indulgently at the byplay. "Whatever its source, it is something we could all stand to remember at times. Now, we need to speak with Professor Umino, and I fear Madam Pomfrey is quite impatient to examine young Mister Potter here for injury, so I shall have to send you along for now. You may of course return tomorrow if you wish, presuming Poppy doesn't decide to incarcerate you all here." This last comment drew a look of irritation from the school nurse.

Once the children had been ushered out, with Harry looking somewhat fearfully at Madam Pomfrey, the Headmaster turned to Iruka. "I'm certain that Poppy will be most wroth with me if I keep you up any longer than is necessary, so I shall keep this brief: We can discuss today's events and review memories as appropriate tomorrow, when you've recovered; mental magics and head injuries mix quite poorly. For now, I ask only if you have any questions or information too urgent to wait a day."

Iruka thought for a moment. "Just some things to bring up in case you haven't already thought of them: Secure that bathroom, control the announcement of what happened and keep Ginny's name out of it, and make sure she has someone to talk with about what happened."

Albus nodded. "Your first point is well made, your second already well in hand, and the third being presently fulfilled by Molly and Arthur."

"Good," Iruka replied. "If there's nothing else, I have a probably foul-tasting potion to drink and a night of prescribed bed rest, Healer's orders." His visitors chucklingly nodded their assent and departed, closing the privacy screens as they went. Iruka reached over to his side table and, taking a deep breath, quaffed the potion as quickly as he could manage.

He was right about the taste.

A/N: And there we have it! As I mentioned last chapter, the fight in the chamber was actually written before the rest of the fic, but the development of events throughout the story left me having to rework it a bit. The most significant change was that the original version had it be Harry and Ron accompanying Iruka to the Chamber, but I just couldn't find good a way to bring Ron into things. Meanwhile, I couldn't really come up with a reason for Iruka to be the only adult present.

Now, before you go off on me for using a similar basilisk-killing method to canon, let me offer in my defense that I wrote the entire fight based upon the abilities of those involved. Basilisks are pretty much immune to all but the most powerful of magics, so Flitwick couldn't cause any serious damage (I figure he's moderately powerful but extremely skilled and knowledgeable). He also couldn't hit its eyes from where he was positioned, especially since Iruka was staying up high. Iruka simply didn't have the right kind or power of jutsu to take down an enemy that big and durable: A lightning or wind specialist would have been able to do more damage, but fire and water just don't have the same degree of penetrating/cutting power at the same level of jutsu. Most jounin wouldn't have had much trouble winning this fight, and even ninjutsu-focused chuunin with the right elemental affinity would have had a good shot, but Iruka's abilities just weren't well suited to a head-on fight against this type of opponent. That left attacking either its eye sockets or its open mouth, and the former were just moving too quickly and erratically for him to target (Tenten could do it, as again could many jounin). I figured it'd be smart enough to not let him hit its mouth with whatever he used to attack its eyes, thus keeping its mouth closed while fighting him. The only option left was to hit it in the mouth while it was striking, so I decided to mirror canon with some changes, including Harry avoiding the fangs because he's actually gotten some melee combat training (which includes avoiding counterattacks while attacking). As for how he got there in time, that's explained next chapter.

Also, I do confess to drawing some inspiration from the Chamber fight in robst's "Harry Crow".

Hermione using the same quote as her mother was originally a mistake on my part, forgetting I'd already used it before. When I noticed, rather than just removing one or the other, I decided to have Iruka mention Monica Granger's use of the quote. Unlike her mother, Hermione gets the quote word-perfect, in part because she's much more of a perfectionist.

Fic Recommendation: "Reboot" by Kallanit - An interesting twist on reptilia28's classic "Don't Fear the Reaper" challenge.

Posted 09 September, 2018
Current WIP Chapter: 64 (that's right, I finally finished 63)