Harry took a winding path to the second floor bathrooms. Whatever was up with Ginny, he had bigger concerns. Harry had had a lot of spells pulling him in a lot of directions. Beyond the compulsion magic there were a number of spells regulating his health. Most were aimed at inhibiting drastic changes in his body, ensuring that two and a half months of poor and infrequent meals didn't severely alter his physic. There were also spells that kept him from growing too quickly, which were oddly self-cast. His magic had apparently decided he should stay small, which suited Harry just fine. The possible impending growth spurt, assuming his body had simply delayed getting taller instead of scrapping the notion altogether, wasn't exactly a welcome thought. He'd learned to use his size as an advantage, and losing that might mean re-evaluating his standard tactics.
The other surprising self-enchantment was a complex set of memory charms. He was very proud of himself for not mentioning them, but also wondered if some of the self-cast magic had been left behind by the spell. Originally, there was a certain set of memories he was inhibited from accessing while talking to someone else, during the daylight hours, when not alone, when near a professor, and a host of other triggers. The overlap in those conditions made it almost impossible to think about this certain thing unless he was by himself at night with his invisibility cloak. There was also a self-cast compulsion to restlessly roam the hallways on the nights with a half-moon. This meant that he would wake up and go out at least twice a month in the wee hours of the morning, remember this particular set of memories, and act on them.
Now that the majority of the spells working on Harry were gone, he could remember this set of thoughts and experiences even while with his friends at breakfast, though they fluttered to the back of his mind. It was frustrating, because he had spent two or three days a week time-turned in a room on the opposite end of the castle from the triggers that would have helped him immensely. The right trigger would allow Harry to remember that there was a Chamber of Secrets that out of everyone in Hogwarts only he could enter. He'd realize that the Chamber of Secrets is a plural title, something that had occurred to him during his phoenix time, that he could act on that, and that he had been acting on that for some time.
Most months, he wouldn't hit all the triggers. Most months, he'd wander into the Chamber of Secrets out of curiosity and insomnia rather than full intention. Some nights he did, and he knew exactly what awaited him. On those nights he ran to the chamber, eagerly anticipating what was inside. Right now, he could remember all those nights with great clarity up until he stepped into the mouth of the Slytherin statue. He remembered clearly leaving in the early morning as well, feeling energized, sneaking into the tower, feigning sleep for an hour, and forgetting the whole thing the moment he heard his roommates waking. He had no clear idea of what was in the Chamber, but he very much wanted to find out. He felt like it would be incredibly useful.
The trip down to the Chamber was made easier by knowing that stepping to the edge and saying 'catch me' in parseltongue activated cleaning and cushioning charms in the pipe. All of the magic used to blur his memory had been done by his own hand, so he walked into the damp cathedral-like main room confidently, but cautiously. There was something down here he'd been hiding so thoroughly that he was even keeping it from himself, and he didn't want to miss anything important or stumble into some stray security. As he walked past the carved pillars the binding on his memory loosened.
He didn't think he had been skilled enough to cast such magic by himself, but there was no hint that anyone else had a hand in it. He headed into the mouth of the statue and remembered the next step: a loose stone in the circular chamber could be pushed in. This opened a door that Harry cautiously walked through.
The remaining limits on his memory evaporated; Harry sagged against the wall as he took in the Slytherin Sanctuary. It wasn't a rough shock as the ritual had been, but a gentle lifting of a curtain obscuring certain things. There were rows of books on charmed shelves: copies of the current restricted section of the Library and a cache of knowledge selected by previous Heirs to be kept safe from possible removal. Work tables held various instruments, some too outdated for anything but historical reference, others more modern and standard. The ceiling had a motif of rounded and angular designs that to the uninitiated would look like old or ill-done knotwork, but was in fact the language of snakes written down in a script invented by Salazar himself.
"Ambition is foolishness without preparation. Knowledge is a power and a tool not to be wasted. History hates facts, is written by the hands of powerful men, and destroyed by the hands of more powerful men," Harry read. "Be unafraid to be wrong until you have the talent to be right. Strive ever for greater things." The inscriptions went on, the room wasn't small and the ceiling was literally covered in carvings, but they tended to repeat themselves with different wording. He'd once challenged himself to find all the unique statements, but had fallen asleep while laying on the floor reading.
Harry approached the center of the room. A white basin big enough for a grown man to lay down in was inset into the dark stone. Above it was suspended a wide bowl, like a saucer with a spout on one end, that Harry recognized as an altered pensive. To the side there was a platform to get above the pensive with a funnel-like apparatus hanging over into the pensive.
It was simple enough to use that a first year could do it, and magic carved into the chamber ensured that it had to be used in order to leave. When an Heir entered they would pour the memories into their head, and when they left they would take them out. This ensured that the secrets stayed secret. There were ways to earn the right to keep the knowledge. One of those ways was to become a strong enough Occlumens that the chamber's security recognized Harry's head as a safe place to keep secrets. As Harry pulled the chain that sent the memories tumbling into him, he hoped that he was up to standard.
Dueling lessons taught by masters, long speeches detailing tactics both military and political, ramblings on the theory of the nature of magic itself from heirs-turned-professor, several short warnings from the dying about horrible mistakes, and several conflicting arguments both for and against certain ideals poured into Harry along with his own memories of his time in the chamber. The memories of past heirs weren't all useful by a long shot, but everyone had to leave something behind for the next in line.
Harry first remembered the few times he had come last year, and the violent anger he had over his inability to come more often. With all the watching and mucking around with his mind, it hadn't been safe to come according to the Chamber's security, so no matter how desperately he needed this place he hadn't come. He'd wasted time being angry, which made him all the more volatile. With all the muck and Voldemort's influence on his mind he ended up in a vicious cycle of anger, though he was able to somewhat counterbalance his inability to come with the D.A. Still, he hadn't been calm enough to put what he'd learned in the chamber about Occlumency to use, which frustrated him endlessly as mastering that art had suddenly become essential both in and out of the chamber.
Harry then remembered many long nights of feverish preparation during the Triwizard Tournament, desperately trying to instill enough muscle memory that he could act instinctively in a duel against the other champions. That had been a common enough finale for the Tournament in the past, one Hermione largely discounted based on the body count and the promises that these challenges would be safer. Here in the History Chamber, surrounded by a thousand years of proof that people largely don't learn from past generations' mistakes, Harry hadn't trusted that for a moment. In the end, it was likely the only reason he'd held his own against Voldemort. Prior to Christmas that year, he'd also been doing some serious Transfiguration research as an escape from having to think about his personal problems.
Third year, Harry had studied Dementors and puzzled over his Godfather's betrayal. Being a Godfather, properly and according to the old traditions, meant that such a thing should have been impossible. Sirius should have been sworn to protect him or risk losing his magic. The work ethic Harry had during his 'Phoenix Time' was present in the chamber as well. During his last visit to the chamber that year, just before the end of term, Harry set out all the books about Animaji he could find. He'd been working on that on and off ever since, though he was still fairly certain he'd never actually finished the process with his changing priorities bumping that project to the side all the time.
Before that, during his second year, Harry had visited very rarely. During that time he layered himself in compulsions to never be alone with Lockhart. Outside the chamber, naive Harry Potter, Savior of the Wizarding World, thought it was weird how the older man kept trying to get close to him. Inside the chamber, the boy who'd been compelled to read sex ed materials via a shelf kept updated from the infirmary had a fresh layer of 'hell no' to add to the situation. Thankfully, that hadn't actually been necessary, but it was a bit of paranoia he didn't regret. He also remembered trying desperately to get the chamber's guardian to tell him what was going on, but she was incapable of betraying secrets. She'd nearly been forced to eat him once, when he pressed too hard. She'd only ever admitted that she was sorry and had not wanted to do what she did. Later, Harry would recognize it as the Imperious curse, with his infrequent visits likely having to do with the chamber being unsafe for him to visit.
First year, he wandered into the chamber on one of his first sleepless nights. He'd been malnourished and bruised, and the spells placed on the castle recognized him as a child in danger. Whether or not those spells were still connected to other parts of the castle Harry didn't know, but they had been lain down into the stones of Hogwarts when it was first founded. The chamber didn't care where he had been sorted. It cared only that he was of Slytherin blood and not safe in his home life. There were other reasons for the chamber to reach out and call to a student, but the vast majority of those who came before him were called down this way. Tom Riddle had been called down after enduring the Blitz according to the ledger etched into the back wall of the room and the single memory he left behind. He knew from his own frustration and embarrassment that it wasn't possible to change the etching labeling Harry 'targeted by non-magical family violence, curse scar present at age eleven: Compelled Entrance' without causing the place to collapse onto his own head. Tom's listing of 'child in war zone: traumatic, endangered' was much cooler.
The first things Harry had learned here were, hilariously, some of the most recent things he'd helped his friends learn. Compulsion magic on children was terribly taboo and dangerous even a thousand years ago, but Salazar Slytherin felt it was safe enough as long as the spells were limited in scope and time, removed and re-applied often, and constantly evaluated for necessity. The Chamber was a clockwork mechanism to that end, doing the very least needed to ensure a given result. Its goals were very limited: Identify students in need and call them down, keep its own existence secret, and keep every trace of its own magic limited to within the halls of Hogwarts. Given the nature of the place, he couldn't perform any cleansing magic down here, but he'd made sure that if he ever heard of it on the outside he'd jump on it. That it had taken so long for him to encounter the right triggers spoke volumes about the information bubble he was in.
Harry couldn't say he agreed with the method, but as the basin glowed green and silver around him to indicate he had passed the test, he found he couldn't argue with the results. He was now capable of keeping secrets. Becoming an Animagus provided a lot of mental protection on its own, and spending time as a bird had certainly torn into or deactivated the many spells and compulsions placed on him. That was why he'd changed so much since last June, and probably why he came up with the whole 'Phoenix Time' idea. In a way, he'd been recreating the Chamber! The Occlumency was icing on the cake, allowing him to compartmentalize his thoughts in a way that made his mind indecipherable to others. Harry sat down at a desk littered with transfiguration research, wondering how he'd managed to finish the work with accidental magic of all things. It didn't seem possible, but then much of his life made little sense until well after the fact. He'd been working toward this goal for years now and finally he'd managed it.
Harry's memories were intact, his mind his own, and all outside influence on his magic was gone for the first time. The chamber had released him from its rules, something Tom Riddle hadn't managed. Tom had meant harm to his fellow students and probably his squib family, and for that he wouldn't have been allowed to keep knowledge of the History Chamber. Heck, he probably wasn't allowed back in at all after he murdered Moaning Myrtle. Harry wasn't completely certain he'd remember this place clearly either, but at least the things he learned here would stay in his head for once. It was little wonder he was better at practical tests than theoretical ones. No matter how much quicker Harry learned something in class after working through it the hard way in the chamber, he was still doing double work and that was frustrating. The Sorting Hat's comments about hard work floated through his mind, but he wouldn't have been good in Hufflepuff because he didn't like hard work for its own sake. It wasn't the satisfaction that he'd done his best that drove him, it was the sweet taste of conquest. It was only when he achieved something new that he felt good about it, and if he worked his tail off just to do something he'd already done… even when he didn't remember it… well, he was so glad that was over!
Now what? He thought to himself. He grabbed a scrap of parchment and quickly scratched out:
2. My friend's minds
3. The D.A.
4. The Nagas, if they exist
5. My Finances
6. Malfoy and other Junior D.E.s
7. Religion (Maybe part of item 1 or 6)
That about summed up his problems, but it didn't point him toward any solutions the way such lists had in the past. Harry's knowledge of history had been given a boost in a rather fragmented and anecdotal way, like reading random pages from different history books, but neither of his parents nor anyone in their generation had come down here. Given the huge influence Voldemort had on his life, he had reached the point where he needed more information about the madman and his followers than he was allowed to have in his bubble of 'happy ignorance.' Out of malice or kindness, there were many who had kept Harry in the dark. Top of the list was the Headmaster, with the Weasleys not far behind, but it was staggering the number of people who had a hand in controlling him. Even if some of them were having their strings pulled as well, there was a web of group-think and compulsion that was well established among the light, no matter what purists on the other side had written into law.
Did purists get their name from magical purity or blood purity, in the beginning? Harry wrote that down. That was something he might be able to research. Other than that he had the excruciating wait for the afternoon, and he'd probably have to do a lot of thinking and planning then.
He was done with thinking for now - there had been plenty of that recently, and plenty of study with very little to show from either. Harry abandoned the History Room. He pulled on a book twelfth from the end of the seventh row, fifth column and an archway blurred into being on the far wall. He raced over to it before it faded back into solid stone and passed into the Training Room. Giant gears started to turn along the walls and ceiling as the room got going. Round clay targets shot into the air at seemingly random angles and Harry shot them down with a variety of spells. There had been precious little instruction as to how anything down here worked, it seemed like the discovery was part of it all, but the more Harry repeated a spell the faster everything would go. More powerful magic caused more complex formations of targets to appear, and eventually the room started to try and hit him with the clay balls. Cursed Bludgers they were not, but they were close enough. If there was a win condition Harry hadn't seen it, but learning to fire chaotically and accurately was something he didn't have to remember to keep. Muscle memory built up from hours of hard work in here had served him well.
Not all the spells he cast were meant for battle, but it didn't matter. He just kept trying to come up with something new to keep the speed down, but he'd lost track somewhere and repeated enough that the gears were spinning faster than he could see. It was as frantic an experience as the Department of Mysteries fiasco from last year as he dodged one set of clay spheres while shooting at others. Sweat poured off him as he transfigured a tightly grouped bunch of them into birds, which then flew into the paths of other clay balls. Another hit a conjured shield, but the shield didn't hold beyond the first volley. Harry gulped air, straining to cast silently so his lungs could keep providing oxygen to his limbs. A twist, a jet of water, a missed beat, and Harry was flat on the ground from the high-speed impact of five soft clay balls on his chest and legs. The room spun down, the constantly moving runic apparatus doing nothing for his spinning head.
A/N: Miss me? Well, my life has been a chaotic mess for the last decade. As much as I love to write and participated in NaNoWriMo as much as I could, this story was always getting pushed off the end of my desk. Part of that is the original outline, which I lost for a good two years, was written while I was in High school. I am now a 31 year old married woman with an internet based business. To say that I have changed as a writer from when I wrote the first chapter of DP to now is a grand understatement! At one point I decided I wouldn't put anything more up online until I had finished a story... and then I basically stopped writing. Putting that ultimatum on myself just stifled everything. Thank you to Badgerlady for catching my "it's" vs "its" mistakes in this chapter. They were rampant, and I apologize. I am already writing the next chapter, so expect a much shorter wait time. (Considering that was two years, I think I can stick to that promise.)
(BTW: I sell Motives Cosmetics, if you are interested. ShopVDragon at Gmail sent you.)