Disclaimer: I don't own anything you recognise; you know the drill by now

Feedback: Of course

AN: A couple of movie elements here, but I think they're appropriate; hope you like the result

Harry Potter/Granger and the Chamber of Secrets

As they walked into the girl's bathroom, Harry was relieved to see Myrtle sitting on one of the end toilets as they shrugged off the cloak, Hermione putting it back into her bag as the ghost looked up; at least she wasn't having another sobbing fit.

"Oh, it's you," she said, in her usual tone of bleak resignation. "What do you want this time?"

"Well... if you don't mind telling us, we were wondering how you died," Harry asked, hoping that she would appreciate a direct approach; Nearly Headless Nick might not like discussing his death if he had the chance not to, but that didn't mean that every ghost would feel the same.

"Oooh, it was dreadful," Myrtle said, her voice clearly relishing the opportunity to discuss such a topic; it was as though it was the most flattering question anyone had ever asked her. "It happened right in here. I died in this very stall. I remember it so well. I'd hidden because Olive Hornby was teasing me about my glasses. The door was locked, and I was crying, and then I heard somebody come in. They said something funny. A different language, I think it must have been. Anyway, what really got me was that it was a boy speaking. So I unlocked the door, to tell him to go and use his own toilet, and then…" Myrtle swelled importantly, her face shining, "I died."

"How?" Harry asked.

"No idea," Myrtle said, her tone hushed as though conveying a great secret. "I just remember seeing a pair of great, big yellow eyes; my whole body sort of seized up, and then I was drifting away..." She paused and looked dreamily at Harry. "And then I came back again. I was determined to haunt Olive Hornby, you see. Oh, she was sorry she'd ever laughed at my glasses..."

"Where did you see the eyes?" Hermione asked.

"Somewhere there," Myrtle said, pointing vaguely at the sink in front of her toilet. Walking over to examine it, Harry's eyes quickly fell on a tiny snake scratched into the side of one of the copper taps; it wasn't obvious unless you were looking for something, and even then it could probably be mistaken as minor vandalism...

"Stand back," he said, glancing over at his friend and his sister before he turned to address the tap, squinting his eyes and moving his head slightly so that the candlelight created just the right impression of movement...

"Open up," he said, the slight start from Hermione just out of the corner of his eye making it clear that he'd successfully spoken in Parseltongue even before the tap glowed a brilliant white and the sink sank down out of sight, leaving a large pipe-like hole large enough for them to go down.

"I'm not sure if that's cool or weird," Ron said, looking over at his friends after they'd spent a moment taking in what had just happened. "I mean, who puts the entrance to their secret chamber and the ancient monster within it in a toilet?"

"Maybe it was Slytherin's private bathroom or something like that back in the old days; it's not like it's that important," Harry said, shrugging slightly as he turned his attention back to the pipe before them. "Right now, we've got to get down there-"

"Uh... we do?" Hermione asked, holding up her hands defensively as Ron and Harry turned to glare at her. "I'm not saying I don't want to help, I just meant that this could be a situation where a teacher would be-"

"We don't know where they'll be now if they're looking around the castle to round up all 'free-roaming' students, we don't have time to go back and get help even if anyone would believe us before coming here, and the longer we stay here the less chance there is that we'll..." Harry began, before he stopped as the implication of what he was about to say virtually choked him.

The thought of Ginny being dead... after all his intentions to spend with her kept on getting interrupted by his attempts to investigate this bloody mess...

"The point is," he said, shaking his head as he looked firmly back at his sister and his friend, "we know where she is now, but we don't know how long she's been there or what's happening to her; if we move quickly, we might have a chance..."

He paused for a moment as he looked down the pipe in front of him once again, swallowing slightly at the black depth of it, before he looked back at Ron and Hermione. "If you don't want to come, I'll understand-"

"Are you mental?" Ron asked, glaring in frustration at Harry. "I'm not leaving my sister down there!"

"And if you think I'd ever let you go into danger alone when I could go with you, you're not nearly as intelligent as I think you are, Harry Potter," Hermione said, folding her arms and staring intently at him (Harry knew that she was serious; even if it was part of his current name, she only ever used his original surname when she was really annoyed with him).

"Uh... thanks," Harry said, smiling at his sister's affirmation of her faith in him before he turned to address the ghost still floating alongside them, his gaze narrowing as he glared pointedly at Myrtle to ensure that she understood his next words. "Myrtle, if we're not out in a couple of hours, go and find one of the teachers and tell them where we are and that we think we're dealing with a basilisk; if you don't, I will come back to personally ensure that your afterlife is whatever kind of Hell I can create, clear?"

"Of... of course," Myrtle said, her usual emotional state of constant depression apparently forgotten in the face of the sheer intensity of Harry's stare.

"Good," Harry said, before he turned back to the pipe, took a deep breath, and jumped in. He immediately found himself going down what felt like an endless, slimy, dark slide, smaller pipes just visible around him as he hurtled downwards at an increasingly steep rate; he was fairly sure that he was already far further underground than he could ever have reached if he simply stayed in the school dungeons or other public parts of the building...

After a few moments of descent through what had to be the most disgusting 'ride' he had ever experienced, Harry finally shot out of the pipe to land on the damp floor of a large stone tunnel, quickly rolling out of the way as Hermione and Ron emerged from the pipe shortly after him.

"Well," Hermione said, looking over at Harry with a slight smile, "that was... exhilarating."

"Quite," Harry said, glancing back up the pipe- he wasn't sure how they'd get back out after this was over, but he'd worry about that later- before he turned around and studied the dark tunnel before them. "Well, come on, then; Lumos!"

His illuminated wand held up in front of him, Harry began to walk along the corridor, Ron and Hermione close behind him as they advanced along the dark passage with slimy walls.

"Remember, close your eyes at the first sign of movement and start firing anything that you can think of," Hermione said, looking anxiously over at the two boys as they walked.

"Close eyes if something moves; got it," Ron said, nodding even as he swallowed anxiously at that fresh reminder of what they were potentially dealing with. As they continued to walk, the wand's light still only illuminated a short distance ahead of them, leaving their shadows to cast monstrous impressions on the slimy walls as they moved along the wet floor. A sudden crunch as Ron stepped on something hard brought them to a halt, but it was quickly identified as nothing but a rat's skull, even if the anxious look Harry exchanged with Hermione was enough to confirm that she didn't want to think about the implications of that discovery for Ginny any more than he did.

"Harry..." Ron said, his voice hoarse as he grabbed Harry's shoulder after they walked around a bend in the tunnel. "There's... there's something there..."

Halting in their progress, Harry raised his wand to examine the huge, curved outline lying on the ground in front of them, momentarily tensing in preparation for any sign of movement before he realised that what was before them was far too still and flat to be the basilisk itself.

"Blimey..." Ron said, his eyes widening in horror as they took in the vivid green snakeskin. "Whatever shed this would have to be thirty feet long... at least."

"Come on," Harry said, trying not to think about how long the snake in question would have to be now, depending on how long it had been since it shed this skin.

As they continued along the increasingly-turning tunnel, the three of them gathered closer together as they kept their wands raised, anxiously prepared for whatever was about to happen even if there was relatively little that they could do. Finally, after a series of nerve-tingling walks, they crept around another bend and found themselves staring at a solid wall with two entwined emerald-eyed serpents carved on it.

"Uh..." Ron said, swallowing anxiously as he looked over at his friends. "Is it too late to look for help?"

"We don't have time," Harry said, swallowing as he stepped forward to stare at the emerald-eyed snakes. "Open."

With that command, the serpents parted as the wall cracked open, with the snakes smoothly moving out of sight, leaving the three students to tentatively enter the chamber.

Once inside the chamber, Harry quickly confirmed his earlier thoughts on Slytherin; even for a Parselmouth, this guy was seriously fixated on snakes. Serpents were winding around the stone pillars that reached up as far as the eye could see, the walls were illuminated with a soft greenish glow that only added to the snake-like impression the current environment, their hollow eyes seemingly staring at him, and a statue stood at the end of the Chamber, depicting an ancient wizard with a long beard and a monkeyish face-

Ron let out a sudden sob and ran towards the statue when a small figure came into view lying at the bottom, close to the statue's feet, red hair fanning out around it as it lay still.

"Ginny!" Harry yelled, caution forgotten as he and Hermione joined Ron in hurrying forward to crouch down around the smaller girl, her skin practically white against her dark uniform even as her closed eyes made it clear that she hadn't been petrified, a black leather-bound book tucked under one arm.

"Wh-what's wrong...?" Ron began, looking at Hermione as she quickly attempted a couple of charms over the younger girl, only to be met with nothing but frustrated shakes of the head.

"I don't know..." Hermione said, sighing in frustration. "We're just too limited down here and I don't know enough healing charms; we have to get her back to the castle..."

"She won't wake," a voice suddenly said from off to the side.

Quickly getting to their feet, Harry, Ron and Hermione aimed their wands at the source of the voice as a tall, dark-haired young man walked out of the shadows, slightly blurred around the edges, but otherwise instantly familiar to Harry.

"Tom Riddle?" he said, looking at the figure in confusion.

"Tom Riddle?" Hermione repeated, looking incredulously at Harry. "As in, that student who left some strange diary that told you that Hagrid opened the Chamber?"

"You told them that?" Riddle said, his initial apparent confidence faltering at this news.

"I didn't believe that Hagrid was responsible, but it did help us learn a few essential details," Harry said, looking grimly at Riddle; he didn't know what was going on here, but there was enough confusion going around right now without them trying to lie about how much they knew or didn't know. "And what do you mean, she won't wake? She's not-"

"She's still alive," Riddle said, his tone of voice worryingly calm for the current situation. "But only just."

"Uh... hold on, I thought you said that Tom Riddle was a student when Hagrid was a kid?" Ron said, looking in confusion between his friend and the new arrival. "How can he be here now, looking like... well, that? What is he? A ghost?"

"Actually, I'm a memory," Riddle said, looking slightly scathingly at Ron. "Preserved in a diary for fifty years."

"What?" Hermione said, looking at him in confusion, even as her gaze shifted to the diary that was clutched in Ginny's hand; they'd been so focused on her condition that they almost hadn't paid attention to what she was holding.

"Hold on a minute..." Harry said, his eyes narrowing as his gaze shifted from the diary to Riddle. "You've been in the diary for fifty years... you were there when the Chamber was opened last time... you don't seem to care about the fact that we're in the Chamber of Secrets with a legendary monster inside it... you were the one who told everyone that Hagrid opened it, even though he'd never do something like that..."

His eyes widened in horrified revelation. "You opened it?"

"What?" Ron said, looking sharply at Harry.

"It makes sense," Harry said, still staring coldly at Riddle as he tightened his grip on his wand. "Hagrid couldn't have done it himself- he's definitely not the Heir of Slytherin, for one thing-, but if he was anything like he is now back then, he would have had an interest in magical creatures that would have made it difficult for anyone to really accept the idea that he was innocent if someone pointed the finger at him; get a large group of people panicky enough and they'll go along with anyone who can give them a solution, even if it doesn't make total sense..."

"Quite," Riddle said, smiling in a mocking manner at Harry; evidently, now that Harry had seen through his deception, he saw no point in being as polite as he had been earlier. "And, given my own academic record, it was really far easier for Dippet to accept that Hagrid was responsible when faced with a choice between me or him on who to believe; as though Hagrid would have had the brains, or the power, to open the Chamber of Secrets!"

"But Dumbledore saw through you, didn't he?" Harry said, recalling the pointed stare that Dumbledore had given Riddle in the memory he'd seen earlier.

"He certainly kept an annoyingly close watch on me after Hagrid was expelled," Riddle said, shrugging dismissively at the recollection, before he smiled as he looked down at Ginny. "Of course, I had taken certain precautions to ensure that I would be able to complete my work later; that was where the diary came in."

"The diary?" Hermione repeated, looking at Riddle in confusion despite her obvious fear. "What does a diary have to do with anything?"

"Oh, a great deal, Miss Granger," Riddle said, practically spitting out Hermione's surname as he glared at her before he turned his attention back to Harry; Harry was getting the uncomfortable impression that Riddle was more interested in him than the other two. "Ginny has been writing in it for the last year, using it to vent all of her pitiful little woes and secrets to an invisible friend; how her brothers tease her, how she had to come to school with secondhand robes and books, how she didn't think famous, good, great Harry Potter would ever like her..."

Harry had to grab hold of Ron's arm to stop him lunging for Riddle; if they were going to have any chance of working out what had happened to Ginny, they had to keep Riddle talking long enough to trick him into giving up something useful...

"It's very boring, having to listen to the silly little troubles of an eleven-year-old girl," Riddle continued, evidently unaware or unconcerned about the obvious anger on Ron's face and the increasingly-cold hatred that Harry knew was on his face. "But I was patient. I wrote back. I was sympathetic, I was kind. Ginny simply loved me. No one's ever understood me like you, Tom… I'm so glad I've got this diary to confide in… It's like having a friend I can carry around in my pocket..."

"Just get to the point," Harry said, staring directly at Riddle as the older student began to chuckle, trying to maintain control; yelling at Riddle about something that he was clearly proud of doing wouldn't help them. "So you basically spied on her; how does that explain this?"

"Oh, writing in my diary was a two-way-street," Riddle said, smiling in a manner that left Harry thinking of a vampire about to go for your neck. "As Ginny poured out her soul to me, I grew stronger and stronger on a diet of her deepest fears, her darkest secrets. I grew powerful, far more powerful than little Miss Weasley. Powerful enough to start feeding Miss Weasley a few of my secrets, to start pouring a little of my soul back into her..."

"Hold on..." Harry said, his eyes widening in horror as he looked back at Ginny, the simple-looking leather book he'd seen earlier taking on a horrifying new purpose. "You mean-?"

"Yes," Riddle said, smirking at Harry. "It was Ginny Weasley who opened the Chamber-"

"You opened it," Ron spat, glaring at Riddle with clenched fists. "You did all that stuff, and Ginny was just... just the person who accidentally gave you the chance to get to the sodding door; she'd never have helped you do this if she'd had a choice!"

"Well, she didn't know what she was doing at first, I admit," Riddle said, smiling as though what he was discussing was just a good joke rather than something that affected a living person. "It was very amusing, seeing what she made of my initial brief periods of control while I was dealing with the roosters and writing threatening messages. I wish you could have seen her new diary entries; they were really far more interesting… 'Dear Tom, I think I'm losing my memory. There are rooster feathers all over my robes and 1 don't know how they got there. Dear Tom, l can't remember what 1 did on the night of Halloween, but a cat was attacked and I've got paint all down my front. Dear Tom, Percy keeps telling me I'm pale and I'm not myself. I think he suspects me... There was another attack today and I don't know where I was. Tom, what am I going to do? I think I'm going mad... I think I'm the one attacking everyone, Tom!'"

"You..." Harry practically growled, staring in contempt at Riddle; only the need for more information stopped him attacking the older boy.

"It took a very long time for stupid little Ginny to stop trusting her diary," Riddle said, clearly unconcerned about Harry's glare. "But she finally became suspicious and tried to dispose of it. And that's where you came in, Harry. You found it, and I couldn't have been more delighted. Of all the people who could have picked it up, it was you, the very person I was most anxious to meet..."

"And why did you want to meet my brother?" Hermione asked, glaring at him.

"Your broth- oh, yes, you're the sister, aren't you?" Riddle said, looking at her with a dismissive snort before he looked back at Harry. "Honestly, why you like having such a pathetic family, I really don't know..."

"I'm not interested in your opinion of my family history, you prat," Harry said, staring resolutely at him. "What about me drew your attention? Was that why you tried to tell me that Hagrid was responsible; because you wanted to find out more about me?"

"It was the most direct route to take," Riddle said, shrugging slightly. "Of course, then you wouldn't come back to write in me again after you didn't believe me about Hagrid-"

"He told me that you were always one of the students that the teachers like but the other kids didn't really care about," Harry said, staring firmly at their enemy, his mind racing as he tried to think of some way out of this mess; the diary was a possible target, but what could they use against it without Riddle stopping them?

"Well, anyway," Riddle said, waving a dismissive hand, clearly not considering Harry's comment worth responding to, "with Dumbledore keeping a close eye on me after Hagrid's expulsion, I created the diary to ensure that I would, one day, have the chance to lead another to follow in my footsteps and finish Salazar Slytherin's noble work-"

"Hold on a minute; you've been active for months and all you've done is petrify two students, a cat and a ghost, and you call that continuing a 'noble work'?" Harry said, looking at Riddle with a slight smirk; if he tried to appear more confident than he was, maybe they could put Riddle off-balance or something. "I mean, what you did to Nick did scare a lot of people who wondered how you pulled that off, but it's not like you've done anything permanent; everyone will be awake once the Mandrakes are prepared-"

"Haven't I already told you that killing Mudbloods doesn't matter to me any more?" Riddle said, his voice quiet as he stared at Harry. "For many months now, my new target has been you... you and your fascinating history..."

He sighed. "It was one reason I was so frustrated when Ginny Weasley was the next person to write to me; when I took possession of her again- it was easy to do, given her panic that I'd spill her secrets-, it wasn't hard to find out that you were not only showing a lack of suspicion towards the oaf, but you were also still on the trail of Slytherin's heir. Considering that my original plan wasn't working, I decided that it was time to 'raise the stakes' and give you a reason to come to my territory, so I made Ginny write her own farewell on the wall and come down here to wait. She struggled and cried and became very boring... but there isn't really much life left in her; she put too much of herself into the diary, enough to let me leave its pages at last..."

"And you went to all this effort for me, huh?" Harry asked, looking at Riddle while trying to appear in control; after facing the spirit of Voldemort himself, what could Riddle do to him that Voldemort couldn't? "Why?"

"I have questions," Riddle said, smiling pleasantly at Harry. "Questions that only you can answer."

"Such as?" Harry asked (He briefly thought about pointing out that Hermione was the more intellectual of the two, but quickly repressed the urge; they needed answers more than anything right now, and if Riddle had spent enough time talking to Ginny he probably knew that anyway).

"Well," Riddle said, his tone nonchalant despite the hungry gleam in his eyes - was it Harry's imagination or was there a slightly reddish tint to his eyes?-, "how is it that you, a skinny boy with no extraordinary magical talent, managed to defeat the greatest wizard of all time? How did you escape with nothing but a scar, while Lord Voldemort's powers were destroyed?"

"Why do you care about that?" Harry asked, staring in frustration at Riddle. "Voldemort was after your time."

"Voldemort," Riddle said, his voice suddenly softening in a wistful manner, "is my past, present, and future, Harry Potter..."

Pulling a wand from his pocket- Ron's brief start was enough to confirm Harry's guess that it was Ginny's-, Riddle began to trace it through the air, writing three shimmering words;


Then he waved the wand once, and the letters rearranged themselves into a chilling message;


Ron let out a sudden terrified yelp, while Harry and Hermione were left to stare in terror and rage at the sight of the boy who'd just identified himself as the cause of the suffering that Harry and so many others had endured long before their family had known magic even existed.

"You?" Harry said, his eyes widening in horror as the initial shock passed, Hermione providing him with strength by her presence behind him (He would have liked to include Ron in that list, but his other friend was still trembling slightly after this latest revelation). "You're Lord Voldemort?"

"It was a name I was already using at Hogwarts, to my most intimate friends only, of course," Riddle said (Harry doubted that Riddle had any actual friends back then, but this wasn't the time to worry about things like that), scathingly staring at them as thought he was judging them for making an assumption about him when they didn't even know there'd been an alternative. "You think I was going to use my filthy Muggle father's name forever? I, 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 even 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!"

It was as though that statement was the cue that Harry needed to regain his ability to think; where he'd been briefly petrified at the revelation of what he was actually up against, he was now left with a cold resolve to continue his defiance of his reborn foe.

"You're not," he said simply.

"Not what?" Riddle asked.

"Not the greatest sorcerer in the world," Harry clarified. "You're good, I'll give you that, but given that you never even tried to take over Hogwarts when you were at your peak, I think it's safe to say that Dumbledore's better than you; wherever you are now, you'd rather live in hiding and use someone else to do your dirty work than try to do something that would result in you facing him again."

"Yeah!" Ron said, glaring at Riddle, his shock at learning the future identity of their foe pushed aside by his anger at the reminder of what their opponent had done to Ginny. "I mean, you didn't even try to face him now; you're just running around trying to take out a bunch of random students using someone else! You wouldn't stand a chance against Dumbledore in a straight fight; that's why you had to do this!"

Glaring at the group around him, Riddle opened his mouth to speak, only to halt as music suddenly filled the chamber from an unknown source. Spinning around, Riddle's eyes scanned the chamber for the source of the music even as Harry felt himself filled with a new source of strength, as though the terror of what they were up against had suddenly ceased to matter in the face of this new turn of events...

Suddenly, flame erupted at the top of the nearest pillar, fading away to reveal a brilliant red bird the size of a swan but with the build of a hawk or eagle, clutching a ragged bundle in its golden talons as it dived towards Harry, landing on his shoulder as it dropped the bundle in Hermione's arms.

"That's a phoenix," Riddle said, staring shrewdly at the bird.

"Fawkes?" Harry breathed, the bird's golden claws squeezing his shoulder gently as though to confirm his guess.

"And that..." Riddle said, eyeing the ragged thing that Hermione was now examining, "that's the old school Sorting Hat."

Harry had no idea how to feel about this turn of events- if he'd had to pick additional resources to use in a situation like this, a phoenix and a talking hat weren't exactly of obvious use-, but at least it was something that Riddle didn't have aside from the numerical advantage, and Harry doubted that three second-years would be dangerous enough to put the younger version of Voldemort on edge, even if Riddle hadn't started laughing at this turn of events.

"So this is what Dumbledore sends his defender; a songbird and an old hat?" Riddle said, laughing mockingly at Harry; it was as though Ron and Hermione were just something that was there rather than a serious threat. "Do you feel brave, Harry Potter? Do you feel safe now?"

"Considering that I blew you out of your body the first time we met and didn't even know what I was doing, I'm fairly confident," Harry said, glaring firmly at Riddle (He remembered Dumbledore's explanation that his mother's sacrifice had somehow protected him, but this wasn't the time to discuss that; if nothing else, he had learned long ago from his books that you never give the bad guy the full truth). "What about you, Tom? Do you really think you're good enough to stop me now when the older you was left a miserable spirit when he tried to kill me the first time?"

"We shall see about that," Riddle said, a suddenly malevolent grin on his face that left Harry suddenly worried that he might have pushed their opponent too far too fast- Riddle was already looking too solid for comfort, but if they didn't act fast Ginny would probably be dead-, as he turned to face the large statue behind him, looking upwards at the large head near the top of the chamber. "Speak to me, Slytherin, greatest of the Hogwarts Four!"

Harry almost didn't need to look at Ron and Hermione's reactions to know that Riddle had just spoken in Parseltongue; somehow, he was starting to register the difference between that and English even if it still sounded the same to him, and that last command had definitely not been in English.

"Now then," Riddle said, turning to stare at Harry with a self-satisfied smirk, "let's match the power of Lord Voldemort, heir of Salazar Slytherin, against the famous Harry Potter, the best allies that he can find in the school of blood-traitors and mudblood-lovers, and the best weapons that Albus Dumbledore can give him."

Unable to do anything more than stare in horror, Harry, Ron and Hermione watched as Slytherin's gigantic face began to move, the mouth opening wider and wider to leave a huge black hole that something was emerging from, something long and green...

"Close your eyes!" Hermione practically screamed, grabbing Ron and Harry's arms and yanking them back towards the nearest wall, Harry squeezing his eyes shut as his back hit the stonework. Just as they hit the wall, he felt Fawkes flying away, but his attention was soon focused on the sound of something slithering towards them...

"Reducto!" he yelled, firing his wand at the source of the sound- this was definitely one of those occasions where the Grangers' advice to read ahead was a good thing-, Ron and Hermione quickly following his cue; he definitely heard the spell hit something, but it didn't sound like they'd really made any kind of impact...

"Kill them," Riddle hissed, the basilisk advancing further towards them before a sudden explosive hiss filled the room, followed by a bird's screech as something heavy hit Harry and threw him into the wall in a heap, Harry only briefly registering that Ron and Hermione had taken some of the impact themselves before he took a gambit and opened his eyes in a squint to see what was happening.

The massive green serpent, about as thick as an oak tree and reaching to near the ceiling of the chamber even without reaching its full height, was weaving around in the air, snapping its jaws at the barely-visible form of Fawkes as the phoenix flapped around its head. Suddenly, Fawkes dived towards the basilisk, releasing a sudden shower of dark blood. Before Harry could close his eyes, the basilisk had lowered its head, only to reveal gaping bloody wounds where its eyes had been; Fawkes had deprived the snake of its most dangerous weapon.

"It's blind!" Harry yelled, looking eagerly over at Ron and Hermione as they blindly got back to their feet. "Fawkes tore its eyes out!"

"Brilliant!" Ron said, grinning as he opened his eyes, only for the grin to falter as he took in the size of the monster they were up against; even with blood streaming from its eyes and spitting in obvious agony, the basilisk was clearly not going to go down easily...

"Harry, look!" Hermione said, pointing at the small form of the Sorting Hat lying a short distance away; glancing over at the Hat, Harry's eyes were immediately drawn to a strange silver gleam that had emerged from the bottom of the hat.

"Leave the bird!" Riddle hissed, the blinded serpent jerking around in confusion as Harry impulsively ran towards the hat as Ron and Hermione kept their wands trained on the blinded snake, grabbing the silver object to discover that it was a sword that was far too long to have simply been hidden in the hat from the beginning.

"Wow..." Harry whispered to himself, the darkness of the current situation forgotten in the face of every boy's instinctive awe in the presence of a sword; a brilliant silver blade, with elaborate engravings around the handle and a gleaming ruby the size of an egg at the tip of the hilt, along with a couple of smaller rubies at either end of the hand-guard.

"Kill the boy!" Riddle yelled, drawing Harry's focus back to the current crisis. "Leave the bird! The boy is behind you!"

As the basilisk advanced towards him, Harry had already turned around to raise the sword in his right hand- his wand was in his left in case he needed it, but he knew that this sword was what he really needed right now-, thrusting the blade upwards into the basilisk's mouth as it lunged down towards him, its jaws spread as though it was going to swallow him whole...

Even as he felt the basilisk's hot breath on his face growing ever stronger, Harry allowed himself a grim smile as he felt the sword's blade penetrate bone and flesh as it slid into the basilisk's skull, only for the smile to falter and be replaced by a scream as he felt something strike his arm just above the elbow. As the basilisk drew backwards, Harry heard something crack, shifting his gaze to the source of the pain as he registered, with only vague surprise, the unmistakeable form of a basilisk fang in his arm.

"Harry!" Hermione screamed, only able to stare in horror at the sight of her brother standing where the basilisk had fallen, the sword and wand slipping from his hands as he stared at the fang in his arm in what Hermione could only describe as numb shock.

Hermione's knowledge of poisons were relatively limited even with everything she'd learned at Hogwarts- Snape was naturally forbidden to show them anything too dangerous given their youth, after all-, but she didn't need to be an expert to know that what Harry had just 'received' from the basilisk was almost certainly fatal.

"Pathetic, really," Riddle said, looking mockingly at Harry as he walked around the basilisk towards where Ginny lay in the middle of the chamber, the sword and wand slipping from her brother's fingers as he clutched at his damaged arm.

"You know," Riddle said, apparently completely unconcerned about her and Ron's presence as he looked at Harry, "for a time, I did think that there might be a connection between us beyond the obvious- half-bloods raised by muggles, each possessing the gift of Parseltongue, a certain physical resemblance-, but looking at you now, I realise how foolish that was-"

"Shut UP!" Hermione yelled, charging towards Riddle and ramming her foot into a part of his anatomy that nobody liked to be hit in such a violent manner as he turned to look at her, grabbing Ginny's wand as he released his grip on it in instinctual agony. "Flippendo!"

As she fired the double-wanded spell at Riddle- knocking him back might not stop him, but until she could work out something better the important thing was to keep Riddle off-balance so he couldn't focus on attacking them-, Hermione briefly noted a sense of difficult in using Ginny's wand compared to her own, but that was ignored in favour of the pleasure she felt as Riddle was sent flying backwards, giving her time to turn around and crouch down beside Harry, who had already fallen to the ground alongside Ginny.

"Is... is he...?" Ron asked, looking between Harry and his sister in ever-increasing fear, clearly uncertain who he should be more worried about.

"I don't know..." Hermione said, her mind racing as she tried to figure out what they could do about this mess; she recalled something she'd read once recommending removing a poisoned limb before the damage could spread too far, but even if that would work for something as dangerous as basilisk venom, she didn't want to actually cut her brother's arm off...

She was saved from making the choice when the brilliant red-and-gold form of Fawkes suddenly flew down to land alongside Harry, the bird's eyes gleaming with tears as it tilted its head from one side to the other, allowing the tears to trickle over the bloody wound in Harry's arm. For a moment, the tears shimmered around the wound like liquid diamonds, and then they faded into the wound and vanished, leaving Harry with a hole in his sleeve but otherwise unharmed.

"What...?" Harry said, already looking a lot healthier as he sat up, looking over at Hermione in bemusement. "Hermione-"

"You're alive!" Hermione yelled, grabbing her brother in an enthusiastic hug; Ginny might still need help, but if Harry could survive a basilisk attack, she was certain they could deal with that. "Fawkes cried on your wound and you're alive-!"

"CRUCIO!" a voice yelled from behind her, as Hermione's whole body was suddenly consumed with agony, prompting her to release Harry as she fell backwards with a scream.

"Nobody," Riddle said, advancing towards Hermione with an expression of rage and loathing on his face that would have terrified Hermione even if she hadn't known who the boy would grow up to be- the fact that he had one hand over the part she'd kicked earlier didn't even give her the comfort of knowing she'd hurt him already-, "does that... to me!"

"Then you're going to hate this," Harry's voice said, prompting Hermione to turn her head just as her brother grabbed the leather-bound diary from the unmoving form of Ginny Weasley and rammed the basilisk fang that had previously been in his arm into the book.

As the fang penetrated the cover, Riddle screamed as a golden scar suddenly appeared across his body, as though he was a damaged statue and someone was shining a torch from inside him, black ink erupting from the diary like blood from a blow to the heart, before Riddle explored in a burst of golden light and vanished.

Despite the slight twinges in her limbs from whatever that last curse had just done to her as she sat up, Hermione had to admit that she felt pretty good; they'd saved Ron's sister, defeated a teenage 'clone' of Voldemort (There was probably some mystical term for whatever you called a memory acting for itself like that, but she'd worry about that later), and vanquished an ancient monster into the bargain.

Oh, God, she thought to herself, the smile fading as she thought about what had just happened. Mum's going to kill us...

So much for any hope that they would have a quieter year this year.