"As for the stone, it has been destroyed...Nicolas and I have had a little chat and agreed it's all for the best."
- from "Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone"
"In a pig's eye, Dumbledore!"
"You arrogant little shite! Contemptible halfblood scum!"
"Now, now, Lady Flamel. No need to name-call."
"Who told the world we had the stone in the first place? How exactly, did the greatest the greatest potion secret in the wizarding world end up on a bloody Chocolate Frog card?"
"That was an unfortunate...accident."
"I'll show you an unfortunate accident with a muggle pitchfork and your shriveled virgin arse!"
"Perenelle, my love...I implore you! No violence in the parlor. I just tidied up from the nifflers!"
"No, Nicolas. I've waited nearly a century! I'm finally going to curse this wee prick-"
"Er, you had best leave, Albus. Now!"
"But the stone! I must insist-"
"Who are you to insist upon anything, you hypocritical buffoon? May your testicles wither! May your spell hand rot! May you drop dead from the highest tower of Hogwarts..."
"Ah." Flamel regarded the now quivering Headmaster. "Do hasten your departure, Albus."
"But...but the stone, Nicolas. It must be destroyed."
"I hardly think that's any of your affair. Oh, and Albus- whatever my wife just said - Obliviate!"
"They have enough Elixer stored to set their affairs in order and then, yes, they will die."
- Albus Dumbledore in "Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone."
DEVON, OCTOBER, 1996…
They were dying. It was perhaps, the cruelest of ironies to realize, in the end, Albus Dumbledore had managed to deceive them one last time.
That was the trouble with genius, Perenelle thought sadly. It simply hadn't occurred to either of them that someone with far less knowledge and experience could possibly have out-maneuvered the Great Flamels. First Albus had duped them into surrendering the Stone and placing it in the Vault at Gringotts. Neither she nor Nicky had any idea that Dumbledore intended to then remove their precious Stone to Hogwarts. Hogwarts!
By the time that duplicitous Gryffindor bothered to return their property, the Stone had been spell-damaged beyond all repair. Deliberately. When it had come time to make more Elixer, it had shattered…turned to powder.
In other words, they had been most royally played.
When Nicolas had barked out of his rare vulgar oaths, she found no comfort in smirking "I told you so!"
In truth, Perenelle had always known something darker lay beneath the benign surface of Albus Dumbledore. She could remember the first time they had met. He'd been so bright and handsome – a boy no more than twenty. Who could forget that winning smile and sparkling blue eyes. He'd come, almost worshipful…begging to be apprenticed.
Perhaps if Nicolas and she had ever been blessed with children, they wouldn't have been so vulnerable…so easily charmed. But as it was, after five centuries of yearning, she and her husband needed to nurture someone. Young Albus had at first, been a delight. Yes, in the beginning it had been a joy to watch him flower under the tutelage of her husband. Nic had become a little bored, of late. There is a price to be paid for immortality: that price is boredom.
Together, the two men had worked side by side in the potions laboratory. Perenelle had challenged them to discover all the uses of dragon's blood. Oh, honestly! She had just been kidding! What did she care about dragon's blood, anyhow? The only way to procure the substance in the first place was to either maim or murder one of the beasts. It wasn't exactly an appealing or popular enterprise to begin with.
In any case, she should have known better than to trust the smooth-talking little bastard. He had somehow discovered (through accident or rumor) that they possessed the one and only Philosopher's Stone. It hadn't been common knowledge. That enough should have made her suspicious.
Now, it was too late. She and Nicky finally understood it had been Albus' plan all along. He wanted them out of the way. He wanted the Flamels gone. And why? Because as long as they were alive, Albus Dumbledore was not the most powerful wizard in England. It had been as simple as that, after all.
For years, she had dreaded this moment, and now, here it was. Nicolas lay dying. Perenelle had always known that her precious husband would leave this world first. It was unbearable to see him in their huge bed, looking so wizened and pale. He still retained his sense of humor, though.
"So, m'dear, I shall soon shuffle off this mortal coil."
Perenelle rolled her eyes. "My love, it was a lame line the first time we heard Will Shakespeare use it. It has not become less annoying in four hundred years."
He smiled despite the pain. "Perhaps, then…it is time to consider other options."
Finally! Shite! Finally! Praise be to Merlin! Yes!
Perenelle beamed. "In other words?"
Nicolas still managed to look impish despite his greyish, mottled skin and skeletal face. "I am ready."
Ah, at last!
"So, you acknowledge that we have finally arrived at the moment."
They had planned this for six hundred years. Why else would anyone wish to live so long? On their wedding day, Nicolas Flamel had presented his bride with a jewel-encrusted Time-Turner. "There will come a day," he vowed, "that we will wish to turn about and change what the world has made."
To young Perenelle, such a day seemed to come every decade. A new war, a new blight, a new plague. A new injustice to be righted. How many times over the years, had she begged her husband to let her take them back in time and change things for the better?
"We must watch and wait, my love….watch and wait for the worst that things can be." There such infinite sadness and regret in his words, and it was enough to make her stop arguing.
When the Dark Lord Grindelwald had risen, Perenelle was convinced that the moment had come at last. But Nicolas seemed to sense that even worse things lay ahead. When Voldemort came to power, the two of them hesitated once more. Surely this was the time….but then he, too, had fallen. Fallen unexpectedly to infant child. Or so everyone thought.
But now, there was no choice. In a few more days, they would finally succumb to old age and die. This one-of-a-kind Time-Turner would take them to a point before their precious Stone had been stolen by Dumbledore. Before it had been tainted and rendered useless. They would travel back without their bodies. Just their consciousness. They would awaken in the bodies of their past selves. No one had ever used a Time Turner that measured in years…even decades. It was not an exact science. One hundred years…a dozen…who could guess? They would be where Fate took them and make the best of it. Come what may.
"Good thing, that," Perenelle snapped. "We both look like shite warmed over." She didn't hesitate before climbing into the huge bed to lay beside her husband. She wrapped her arms around his frail form.
He sighed and intertwined his shriveled thighs with hers, his breathing becoming more and more labored. "Ah! A true Philomen and Baucis moment, would you not say, love?"
They both laughed weakly, and Perenelle crushed the jeweled hourglass in her palm.
The world spun.
LONDON, MARCH, 1927…
A well-dressed young couple exited the taxi and walked up the steps of the bleak, grey building. The woman wore her shiny brown hair in a short bob, and a string of expensive pearls around her neck. She looked no older than thirty. Her husband looked every inch the distinguished ex-army officer, in his perfectly cut Saville Row suit. The typical aristocrat second son. His black hair stylishly waved back from his forehead, he carried a tightly rolled brolly. The husband glanced at his wife for a moment. She sighed and gave a tense nod. The husband reached for the bell.
A few moments later, Mr. and Mrs. Nigel Fleming were sitting in the Matron's office sipping tea.
"…so my wife and I are eager to retrieve our unfortunate nephew and be on our way."
"My unhappy little sister!" Mrs. Fleming whispered tearfully, "To be led astray and suffer such a fate!"
Mrs. Cole, clucked her tongue in sympathy. She was rather in awe of the attractive couple…obviously rich and well-bred. These were the…clients she so enjoyed. Not a cruel woman, she'd actually been quite horrified when the homely young girl had given birth practically on the orphanage steps. She had lived long enough to name the infant "Tom." Yes, it was all very sad – but that was no reason to ignore the obvious potential for personal profit.
"I would love to be able to just hand baby Tommy over to his godparents," Mrs. Cole hesitated with just the right tone of regret. "but official procedures must be followed. This will certainly take several weeks…"
Mrs. Peri Fleming bit back a pained sob. "Nigel, how can they ask us to wait even another day? I want my precious little nephew! He's all I have left of poor, dead Merope!"
Mr. Fleming patted her hand gently, and reached into his pocket. He removed an expensive leather wallet and removed a stack of fifty pound notes. He turned back to the pinch-faced matron. She was staring at the wad of bills.
"You should go upstairs now," he said in a soft voice. "Make sure the infant is warmly bundled up before you bring him to us."
His voice was mesmerizing. Mrs. Cole was suddenly filled with the urge to do everything she could to please him. "Of course," she nodded. "I'll get him right away."
As she drifted from the room, Perenelle laughed at her husband. "Why didn't you just cast the Imperius when we first arrived? Then I wouldn't have been subjected to such a dreadful cup of tea!"
"Peri," he sighed, "Just knowing the muggle is so corrupt, makes things…easier."
"You're right, of course."
"By the by, it's lovely to be back in our…healthy bodies, wouldn't you say? Looking as we should again.
Mrs. Cole came back with a dark-haired bundle. The future scourge of the wizarding world was fast asleep, its thumb stuck firmly in its tiny mouth. It yawned.
Perenelle flushed suddenly warm inside. She allowed the matron to place the baby into her arms. She gazed down at the innocent little face. What would it be like had Tom Marvolo Riddle been raised properly by a wizard and a witch? Far away from this bleak, confining muggle orphanage? If poverty wasn't even an issue? If power wasn't an issue? If immortality wasn't even an issue? If he had nothing to prove and no reason to despise the muggles?
"Peri, my love, stop thinking so hard. Let whatever shall happen, happen."
She shifted the Riddle infant in her arms and gazed down at him with some degree of fondness. It was, after all, impossible to hate a three month-old boy. "Mrs. Cole, I believe my husband has one more thing to say to you."
DEVON, JULY, 1932…
"Mummy! Did you see?" The excited five year-old burst through the doors of the library. "I talked to the red snake on the door! An' he was even more nicer than the real one by the pond!"
She stifled a smile. "How very clever of you, darling. Not even your Papa can speak to snakes!"
"I'm very clever, Mummy." His little chest swelled with pride. "When I grow up, I'll talk to other animals, too! Jus' like Doctor Doolittle!" The series of muggle books had begun just a decade ago, and little Nicky adored being read to at bedtime.
"I thought you were going to be a curse-breaker."
Green eyes narrowed. "I should think I could be both."
For just a moment, Perenelle was chillingly reminded of the grown-up Tom Marvolo Riddle.
"Mummy? Are you…mad at me?" The child's demeanor changed in an instant as he sensed her disapproval. "Did I sound…mean again?"
She put aside her charms manuscript and drew the unhappy lttle boy into the circle of her arms. "Just a little."
"I'll try not to be mean." His lower lip quivered.
"Noblesse oblige," murmured Nicolas, sailing in through the library doors. He scooped up the squealing boy with one arm. "Remember we discussed this?"
The boy scrunched his head. "Ooh! That's when you're better than everyone else, but you gotta act nice to them, anyway."
"Couldn't have put it more succinctly myself." He winked at his wife.
"And what else, darling?" she prompted. "If Mummy and Daddy are so powerful and smart, why don't we try to take over the world like tyrants and make weaker people our slaves?"
"'Cause…cause that's for lowlifes who need to be ego-stroked." Nicky beamed.
"And the other reason?"
The child squeezed his eyes shut in deep thought. "Ooh! "cause we don't have to!"
LITTLE HANGLETON, 1936…
Nicky was sobbing against a tree. He hadn't wanted to come here. He hadn't wanted to see the horrible people. But Papa said he must. He had to see. It was the only way he would ever understand deep down in his heart, Papa declared.
He was a big boy – he was nine! He had grown up with the most wonderful family in the world. But Mummy and Papa had promised to never lie to him.
They had told him all about his dead Mum. About how she had wanted to marry the man who ended up being his father. She had do were muggles. She had done a love spell on him, and that's how Nicky had been born. But she was sad and weak and had died. Mummy and Papa were distant relatives and had wanted to adopt him. They'd never been able to have children of their own, but he was of their blood.
His filthy muggle father and grandparents wouldn't even acknowledge his existence. Even though Mummy would sometimes use the words "filthy muggles," she became upset when he did so, as well. The worst, was when he'd called another boy in Diagon Alley a 'mudblood.' Not that he knew exactly what it meant. Papa had been so angry, he had taken him by the hand, right up to the door of a horrid, little shack, and introduced him to his Uncle Morfin Gaunt.
After he'd stunned the cursing, filthy beast, of course. Nicky had never seen anyone so ugly and sickening.
"This," Papa said coldly, "Is your Uncle Morfin, the purest wizarding blood in all of Britain. Yet, he is a nothing…the lowliest of squibs. For nearly two centuries, the last descendants of the great Salazar have bred all the magic from them. Purity is one great lie."
Nicky stared at the vile creature in utter terror. Papa ignored him and raged on. "Yet suddenly, after centuries of weakening magic and squibs…the Gaunts produced a beautiful, incredible child – destined to be one of the most powerful wizards in the world." There was a significant pause. "That child is you!"
"Me?" The boy's eyes grew wide.
"So let us see. A pureblood squib mates with a muggle, and produces a powerful wizard. What have we learned, Nicky?"
"Fresh new blood," came the sob, "Fresh new blood…"
Papa nodded. "Come, we shall go home now."
"And never, ever come back?"
"Never again, dear child."
Unfortunately, the little boy suffered nightmares for months afterwards. Nicolas never again dared take his son anywhere near Little Hangleton. He was far too afraid of his wife's anger.
TRACK NINE-AND-THREE-QUARTERS, SEPTEMBER 3RD, 1938…
Nicky Flamel stroked his beautiful eagle owl, Isis and waited for his Mum and Dad to select the proper compartment. Meanwhile, he was content just to bask in the stares of the other wizard families. It hadn't escaped his notice that everywhere he looked, people were staring at his parents in sheer astonishment and awe.
"Yes, it's them!"
"Can you believe it? The Flamels!"
"Upon my word! What a glorious woman!"
"Never mind her, what a gorgeous man! Six hundred years old, you say?"
"Both on the Hogwarts Board, you know."
"They won't stand for any nonsense, that's for sure!"
"That's the son! Such a handsome lad!"
"Well, you know what they say – "Blood will tell!"
Mummy and Papa set him up in an empty compartment, Isis sleeping contentedly in her cage on the opposite seat. Nicky suspected his father used a "notice-me-not" charm on the compartment door.
"Now remember, darling boy," Mummy had the suspicion of tears in her eyes, "do not argue with the Sorting Hat. It always knows best."
"Yes, Mum," he sighed. It was all a charade, of course. The three of them each knew that Slytherin was the best.
"Remember now," Papa winked, "Any house will suit you magnificently." There was a pause. "And you will rule whichever house you are placed in. Rule kindly and well."
"Noblesse oblige," Nicky gave a grand wave of his hand.
They all laughed.
THE GREAT HALL, SEPTEMBER 1st, 1938…
"Difficult, very difficult…" the voice in his head mused.
"Nonsense, Hat. I am Slytherin, like my ancestors!"
"Indeed, my young fellow…you carry in you the blood of all Four Founders."
For just a moment, Nicky's world turned upside down, and then righted itself again. "All four, you say?"
"Good gracious, lad! It's been over a thousand years! What did you expect? Fine. You say you want Slytherin? For one with such ambition, you are eminently well-suited. But you have the mind of a Ravenclaw, the boldness of a Gryffindor…"
"No need to be insulting!"
"…and the heart of a Hufflepuff…"
"Indeed, young man. You are quite loyal to those you love."
Nicky's thoughts went to his parents. It suddenly occurred to him that this would be his very first night apart from them. He felt an ache. He never thought he would miss them this much. Well, he had the best Mum and Papa in the world. Aside from the fact that they treasured him and made him feel loved every day of his life…it was no small matter that the Flamels were brilliant, famous, admired and rich.
"Yes, yes. You are quite the child of wizarding royalty, are you not? In that case, have it your way. Enjoy your reign as the Prince of…SLYTHERIN!"
OCTOBER 23rd, 1938……
Nicky Flamel never thought he would hate anyone as much as his Uncle Morfin Gaunt. He was wrong. He utterly despised the Transfiguration teacher, Albus Dumbledore. He was always trying to make him talk about his parents.(apparently, he'd once apprenticed under Papa) At one time, the auburn haired professor had been quite close to the Flamels. Then something had happened. His parents now refused to have anything but the most cool, distant relationship with the man. It was a move that had left Dumbledore bewildered and completely stunned.
Nicky was clever enough to know that the rift had occurred at precisely the same time he had been adopted into the Flamel family. Logically, the two events were related. In any case, his Mum and Papa had always been fair. Nicky knew that to cause such a break, something unforgivable must have transpired. When he went home for Christmas, he would make sure to sneak into Mum's pensieve and find out the truth.
As it was, Dumbledore showered his own house (Gryffindor!) with points and was incredibly stingy when it came to Slytherin. Worst of all, was having to put up with that incessant twinkle all day long.
Nicky abhorred phonies. He preferred the caustic wit and brutal honesty of Abraxas Malfoy (yes, he was an arrogant snot…but he never pretended to be anything else) to the superficial aura of wisdom and benevolence that the new Transfiguration Professor wore like a cloak. And, oh, my! Didn't he seem just a little overly-attentive to that perky Gryffindor second-year…what was her name? Minerva? He grinned and decided he would request a wizarding camera for his main gift this Christmas. Ah, yes. It was time to get the annoying professor axed by the end of the semester.
That would be just perfect! Nicky smirked. Come January, there would be a new Transfiguration professor at the Hogwarts School.
"I've asked you four times to pass the pumpkin juice, Flamel!" Abraxas nudged him irritably. "Honestly, what could be more important than dinner?"
Nicky snapped his eyes away from the Head Table. "What?"
"I said to pass me the damned bloody pumpkin juice! Are you quite deaf, little Firstie?"
Nicky gave a careless shrug and passed the icy pitcher. "Oh, a pox on thee, Malfoy," he shot back amiably.
DEVON, JANUARY 1st, 1939…
It had started out as a joyous Christmas reunion with his family. Papa brewed his usual wonderful holiday grog redolent with the scent of cinnamon and vanilla. Mum had decorated the manor with fairies and mistletoe. On the Eve, they had all trimmed the towering evergreen together. For every year, Mum had created the most spectacular ornaments with his name and likeness. He treasured them with each passing season. After four months apart, Nicky basked in the love and adoration of his parents.
He especially basked in the delight of his most spectacular Christmas gift – the brand new, top of the line Comet 180 racing broom. Next year, he would be able to bring his treasure to school and try out for his house team. Nothing flashy like a Seeker. No, he preferred the subtlety of a Chaser.
"You're happy in school, aren't you darling?"
He beamed at his Mum. He had never realized just how beautiful and young she was until he had returned home.
"I mean, that fool, Albus isn't giving you a hard time because of your sorting?"
Well, yes, actually."Um, not really, Mum."
"Because if he is…" added Papa with a growl.
His mother silenced him with a sharp glance. Even though it ended the discussion, the sheer vitriol in his father's tone made Nicky more curious than ever. He simply had to steal a visit to that pensieve before the holidays came to an end.
And so, in the early hours of New Year's morning, whilst his parents slept off their annual toast of centuries old brandy – Nicky was free to peruse Mum's private study.
It took nearly two hours to break through all the layers of protective spells to the ancient cabinet – but once he pulled the doors open – he was rewarded with a view of the distinctive, stone bowl.
How to do this. How to select a proper memory. He cringed at the thought of falling into one of his mother's more intimate memories with Papa. So…what to focus on.
Nicky cleared his mind and concentrated on Albus Dumbledore. He leaned over the bowl, with its swirling silver strands.
"Show me Albus Dumbledore." He stared more deeply into the undulating wisps of thought. "The last time my Mum spoke to Albus Dumbledore. Show me that" he whispered harshly. "Show me!"
And all at once, he was falling. Falling into the swirling pensieve…
"I am returning the stone, but I must insist you destroy it." This Dumbledore was much older…by at least fifty years. His hair was no longer auburn, but silver white. His robes elaborate and expensive. He wore the insignia of a Hogwarts Headmaster.
Nicky gasped at this living memory. But how was such a thing possible? The future? How could his mother have memories from the future? What kind of pensieve was this?
"How is this any of your affair, Dumbledore?" Mum practically snarled.
"No one should be allowed to possess such a power as the stone. Not in these dangerous times-"
"Well, before you managed to bloody steal the thing, might I remind you who created it in the first place, Albus." Papa looked utterly disgusted.
"Even so, the dangers of-"
Mum actually snarled this time. "In all your haste to destroy a piece of property that does not even belong to you…I notice a failure to mention the effect of such a destructive action, you manipulative little ponce."
Dumbledore bit his lip sadly. "Yes, you and Nicolas would die – but after all, to the disciplined mind, death is but the next great advent-"
"When it's somebody else's death, not yours! How the fuck do you know what death possibly is? You dare presume to lecture us?"
Nicky had never before seen such anger in his mother.
"You must trust me in what is best for the wizarding world, at large. What is best and most safe is for the Stone to cease being a temptation for those less scrupulous-"
It was Papa's turn. "In a pig's eye, Dumbledore!"
Mum resembled a banshee at this point. "You arrogant little shit! Contemptible halfblood scum!"
Nicky pulled out of the memory, cold and shaking. How dare that man try to destroy the one thing that was keeping his beloved parents alive? That self-righteous prick! How dare he!
In his rage, he leaned too close to the bowl and his consciousness fell in, once again.
This was a different scene. A horrible, chilling scene. His parents, no longer young and vital – but withered and grey-faced. They lay in their bed at the manor, arms wrapped around each other in a desperate kind of anguish.
Oh, Merlin. They were dying!
What ungodly memory could this be?
"Albus tricked us, after all," his father rasped. "The Stone he returned was tainted with dark magic."
"He never intended to let us live," Mum's whisper broke his heart. "Alive we're just another threat to his powerbase."
And then it was all so clear to Nicky. He was seeing the future. The true scope of Dumbledore's evil was before him now, in the wasted, dying bodies of his parents. Nick continued to watch in shock as his parents spoke of the jeweled Time Turner.
"I am ready," Papa was rasping out.
"So, you acknowledge that we have finally arrived at the moment?"
Nicky watched as Mum rotated the tiny jeweled Time Turner, and the room spun. The memory ended.
Abruptly, he was hurled out of the pensieve. Nicky was shivering on the cold stone floor of the study. He didn't even make it to the nearest bathroom before he was violently ill.
His parents had come back in time. They had traveled seven decades into the past! It explained so much about his life. Why Papa always seemed to know ahead of time what was about to happen in world events. Or how Mum would sometimes regard different wizards with pity, as if something dreadful was going to happen to them. Or more often – those expressions of utter contempt for seeming strangers.
It all made so much sense now. Yes, things were so clear.
Yet there was another thought – equally troubling: "What of me?" he wondered. "Why did they come to the orphanage in the first place? Why did they choose me?"
Nicky knew he didn't exist as their adopted son in the pensieve future. He had never before questioned even how his parents had known of him. After all, he was just a random child born to a dying squib. He wasn't very special or unique. Yet they had somehow known of him? How?
And another troubling thought invaded his mind. What if Mummy and Papa had never come to take him from that orphanage? Would he have remained there till he was older…even as old as seventeen? It was a horrifying possibility.
What was he in the future? What had he become? Was he even alive?
Oh, and about that almost-murderer of his beloved parents - damn Dumbledore to hell!
HOGWARTS, NOVEMBER, 1939…
Nicky shook nervously as he sneaked into the second floor girl's bathroom. All his research in Papa's dusty tomes had given hints that this must be the entrance. But did such a place as the Chamber truly exist, or was it just more endless conjecture? After all, it had been nearly a thousand years since the Founders. So many legends and silly old myths had sprung up in that space of time. None of them had ever been proven – and most of them had faded from memory.
But this one book had spoken of an ancient monster, a giant basilisk who had been brought into the school by Salazar Slytherin to watch his over his treasures.
A basilisk could kill with his eyes…deadly yellow eyes. Just one glance and the victim died instantly.
Nicky didn't really wish harm on anyone else in the school except for Dumbledore. And wouldn't it just be the worst thing if the fool professor just happened to cross paths with such a creature while on his nightly rounds?
Of course, in order to summon the giant viper, one had to speak the tongue of the snakes. In order to have it in one's power, that wizard must speak Parseltongue. Ah! How convenient!
Nicky smirked in anticipation as he approached the bank of sinks. It made sense that the entrance to the cavern be settled next to the plumbing. He smiled in delight upon discovering the tiny snake scratched into the copper fixture.
He would open the Chamber. He would summon the so-called "monster." He would command it to target only that evil, lying bastard, Albus Dumbledore. The idea that he was about to kill another human being didn't bother Nicky in the slightest. By killing Dumbledore he was putting the end to a kind of poison. He was punishing the man who almost murdered his dear Mum and Papa.
Truly, it could not be considered evil to murder a murderer, was it? No. Hardly. In any case, if there were any wisps of doubt brushing along the edges of his conscience – Nicky quickly pushed those thoughts away.
Damn Dumbledore to Hell. Yes, he had found the despicable Gryffindor guilty and had just pronounced his sentence.
Nicky ran his hand gently over the copper, gently caressing the crudely carved snake one last time.
"Open!" he hissed.
With creak and a groan, the passageway to the Chamber of Secrets lay revealed beneath him.
Nicky drew a deep breath, took a shaking step forward and descended down into the darkness.