Hogwarts in Uproar
By Artie Schaeffer
It has been nearly three months since the announcement of Robert Owen to the temporary position at Hogwarts where he has been tasked with overseeing the safety of Hogwarts and her students. "The recent attack on another pureblood student has finally laid rest the silly rumors of this 'Chamber of Secrets'" a prominent pureblood within the ministry comments, "While the student body has not been fighting a fairy tale, they have been devastated by something much more sinister. One the ministry has trusted the DMLE Councilor, Robert Owen, to eliminate." While the ministry places no blame, this humble reporter cannot help but notice the off the record disappointment shown towards the councilor in… (Cont. in Appendix C)
Hermione sat on her plain brown bed. Her parents had always wanted her to be more girly, buying her a constant stream of pink, or fluffy things. They had been rather disappointed when none of it took. Her mother had tried to engage her in the latest gossip about the Princess of Wales, or of some other person of merit. Hermione's insistence that they were a figurehead of a monarch ended these conversations quickly.
Hermione's pensive mood was interrupted by a nervous knock on her door, "Hermione dear, your father would like you to join us for dinner this evening." She heard her mother's nervous voice through the door.
"I'm not hungry mother, but thank you very much." Hermione managed to keep all emotion out of her voice, her former transfiguration teacher would have been proud of her professional tone.
She heard her mother sigh from through the door. Hermione was honestly to hurt to feel empathetic. Her greatest fear had been failure, and here she was in her bedroom, the one thing she never wanted to be. She had allowed Ginny and Luna to be petrified, and had left the chamber completely unsolved. An owl had arrived shortly after she had gotten home. Harry had opened an even more extensive credit with Flourish and Blotts. She had both thanked him and promised to pay him back someday. She had already ordered three reasonably priced books to supplement her studies that Professor Dumbledore would allow her to take at the end of the semester.
Harry felt himself sleepwalking his way down to the Quidditch pitch for practice. Should Oliver say anything about being down a chaser… He was glad he left his wand in his trunk. He couldn't trust himself not to curse the boy if he said the wrong thing. Luckily it seemed that Fred and George had had the same sentiment, sitting stone faced on the bench as he walked into practice. They already knew that Angelina hadn't been able to fly since her injury, and they didn't have a reserve.
Oliver had enough tact not to mention tryouts, which had been posted in the tower shortly after the news hit the school. Harry listened to the stinted speech before walking outside and climbing his broom without a word for practice. He lazily looped about the pitch, even the freedom of flying was unable to make him forget the weight in his chest. He landed, thinking himself to be hallucinating when he saw a large black dog sitting in the stands, as if watching him.
Harry shook the cobwebs free and walked back to his dormitory without saying a word to his teammates, trying to ignore their knowing glances.
Days had passed, Harry saying the absolute bare minimum he could. He could tell some of his friends were getting worried, but he couldn't bring himself to care.
"Harry, you look like a bad teen novel." Devon picked one day.
"What?" Harry turned to him, trying to contain his anger at his crassness.
"You are the walking embodiment of a badly written angst novel." Devon continued, unabated by the warning in Harry's voice.
"You have absolutely no right to say that to me, Creed! Do you realize the month I've had!?" Harry began to blow steam from his ears.
"Oh- uh, time for the surprise emotional outburst that's never actually a surprise!"
Devon hardly finished before Harry lunged at him, uncoordinatedly trying to take him down to the ground and pummel him. Surprisingly, it seemed Devon had expected it and was grappling Harry for all he was worth. They rolled around for a minute or two, both getting a shot in. Harry finally rolled off him, breathing heavy as he allowed Devon to sit up next to him.
"So Harry," Devon coughed out, "You do feel something?"
"Of course I feel something you prat." Harry spat back between breaths.
Devon nodded, "You've been a bit caught in yourself mate. I didn't know how to knock you out of it."
"You picked a fight with me on purpose?" Harry said disbelievingly.
Devon shrugged, "You were like a balloon that just needed some air out. Sometimes it takes a needle or two."
Harry nodded in understanding, feelings he had bottled up floating at the surface of his consciousness.
"Besides, you've been so into yourself that you don't realize that others have lost friends too."
Harry felt immediately horrible. "Ron…"
Harry stood, offering his hand to Devon, who took it with a smile. He turned towards the door and walked towards the common room to see a redhead playing chess alone.
"Mind if I sit down?" Harry asked as he pointed to the seat across the board.
Ron shrugged, "You're side is four moves from checkmating me."
Harry grinned as he sat to play, losing his king in ten turns.
Harry struck up a conversation that actually had a laugh or two, lasting well into the day.
"These are the mandrakes," Harry motioned as he pulled out his earmuffs, "In another month, Professor Sprout says they can be harvested to cure the people in the Hospital Wing."
Ron nodded as he pulled out his own earmuffs. "Then will Hermione be allowed to come back?"
"I don't know," Harry admitted, "I doubt she'll be able to come back until the Chamber thing goes away."
"If it goes away…" Ron muttered, clasping his earmuffs on tight. He followed Harry's lead, planting the mandrakes into fresh pots of dirt. Ron tore off his earmuffs, "Those things are hideous."
Harry nodded in agreement, "They are, Professor Sprout says the more often the soil is changed, the faster they mature. She only has time to do it once a week."
"So you've been coming down here to do it?" Ron filled in.
Harry sighed with a nod, "I'm sorry I didn't tell you. I guess I wanted to suffer alone."
"I get that, I guess." Ron shrugged a bit insecurely, "I wouldn't have been much help anyway."
Harry saw through the insecurity. As long as they were friends he may as well help the boy work on it. "Have I ever showed you the kitchens, or the room of requirement?"
Harry spent the rest of the day showing Ron all the secret passageways and hidden spots.
"These are wicked!" Ron finally said after finding the slide to the dungeons. "I'll never be late for class again!"
Harry chucked, "I wouldn't imagine so. If you want, we can start going out and exploring at night. Me and Ginny had been trying to find the chamber. We never did find it though…."
Ron's face set, determined, "We won't stop until we do."
Returning to the common room, Harry felt an odd comfort. The awkwardness had faded between the boys, and they seemed to be growing into closer mates. The happiness of his new found friendship was put on hold as he walked into the common room and saw Devon.
"Oh, hey Harry. You have a minute?" Devon nervously got out.
"Um, sure." Harry saw the concern on his friend's face, "What is wrong Devon?"
"It's uh, the mandrakes." Devon cringed at the look of pain of Harry's face.
"What happened to the mandrakes?" Harry finally asked.
"They were burned Harry. Someone set fire to them." Devon bit his lip and looked away, afraid to see the emotions play across Harry's face.
"But… This is there season of maturity." Ron cut in, "That means it won't happen again for…"
"Another year." Harry finished breathlessly, before slowly walking back into the corridor, shutting the portrait hole behind him.
"Should we follow him?" He heard Ron ask as he left.
"It's after curfew…"
Whatever Devon was saying was shut off by the portrait hole closing. Harry walked slowly towards his destination, lead footed.
Finally reaching the hospital wing, he sat down next to the bed of his best friend. He examined her beautiful red hair as it fell flat around her face. Her eyes were frozen in the same way she had been when looking into his eyes, almost searchingly.
"I'm so sorry Ginny, I thought I could be strong until you came back, but…" Harry chocked up, spying the necklace on her chest still. He reached forward, taking it off of her delicate neck, trying not to move her. He tenderly laid her head back down before slipping the necklace over his neck as a reminder of her, something to carry around with him over the next year.
Unable to fight it anymore, Harry laid his head down next to hers, still in his chair. For the first time in years, he fell asleep crying.
Searching the corridor had become a habit for Harry, more than for any other reason. When he and Ginny had walked these halls together it had been under the pretense of finding a secret chamber that he didn't believe existed. Now, all alone he walked, trying to find the silver bullet to solve the horrible last month he had. The destruction of the mandrakes had sapped him of much of the hope he possessed. Ginny, Luna, Hermione, each name was a weight he unknowingly carried. The beginning of the year he was a child, but the events he had gone through had hardened him, he felt himself preparing for a war he believed would come soon. Ron tagging along to practice with him had been one thing to keep him from going over the deep end, and he was thankful for it.
Harry shook his head as he passed by a picture frame of a boat tossing about in the current, shaking his head, just another silly painting in this castle. He wore the necklace that he had given Ginny for Christmas, held it for her he reminded himself. Having a piece of his friend near him helped him look forward to when she woke up.
A soft rustle awoke him from his musing, quiet at first but definitely out there. His footsteps muted by the pendent, he took off down the corridor, sharply tuning a corner to see a black cloak billowing around the corner. His first thought was a teacher, but it was a traveling cloak unlike one worn by Snape. He took off down the corridor, wand in hand. When he finally reached the end he turned to see an empty hall, flanked by ancient statues.
Harry cursed lightly, a word Fred had seemed fond of, and began to slowly walk down the corridor, forgetting to wear his cloak.
"For someone with silent footsteps, you should aim to control your breathing," a cloaked figure appeared from behind a suit of armor, casually swiping his wand causing Harry to lose his before he could bring it up.
"I've seen you before." Harry accused, unperturbed at the loss of his wand. "You're opening the chamber aren't you?"
"I suggest you silence yourself, Harry." The cloaked figure stepped forward and lowered his hood, revealing the DMLE Councilor to the Wizengamot Robert Owen, "I have every right by order of the board to be here."
"You…" Harry mouthed absentmindedly as he bent to pick up his wand and pocketed it, "What are you doing here?"
"My job," Robert tilted his head towards an empty classroom to the right, inviting Harry in after him, "Dumbledore doesn't trust me to walk the halls alone, so I use my clearance to come past the wards unannounced to try and search for clues on this whole chamber mess."
"You call this a mess! My friends-"
"I have seen your friends," Robert interrupted, "I have prayed over and anguished over every student in that Hospital Wing. Senseless violence, if the rumors are true, based on ignorant propaganda and bigotry."
Harry cocked his head as he finally came into the empty classroom, "I've never heard anyone in the ministry talk like that, even you in the papers."
"The press will take every word you can and use it to crucify you, if only because it's a slow news day." Robert griped, "We haven't brought everyone around to an enlightened viewpoint, and until we do we have to make all sides happy if we want progress."
Harry grimaced, "You were a Slytherin, weren't you."
Robert's stern face actually cracked a small smile, "I was raised in a different country, if you read the prophet. I have no house affiliation. I rather think I would have been a Hufflepuff though."
'Agree to disagree', Harry thought as he eyed the man, "Have you found anything?"
"Nothing except the ghost on the second floor girl's bathroom is the only casualty last time the chamber was opened." Robert shook his head, "But getting her to talk to me has been less than easy. I'm beginning to smell something far more sinister about."
"You mean war!" Harry blurted, "I've been preparing…"
"Preparing for war? What would give you that idea?" Harry sensed a great deal of heat in the quiet voice, "You cannot prepare for war."
"I don't know if Dumbledore has told you, but Blackthorn escaped, as well as Voldemort trying to return to a full form. Something bad is going to happen someday." Harry confessed.
"Something bad happens every day." Robert scowled, "30 dead in Buenos Aires on an attack on the Israeli Embassy, the beginnings of ethnic cleansing in Bosnia, of which of these two things are you responsible?"
"Neither, but…" Harry blinked in both embarrassment and confusion.
"Neither." Robert shook his head, "Just because you have survived once against great evil doesn't mean you will do so again. You should leave the adults to deal with these things. They aren't your fight."
"No, sir." Harry finally said, causing Robert to turn slowly and face him.
"No?" Robert hid an edge of warning.
"Voldemort killed my parents, I carried around the Obsidian Jar without knowing what it was." Harry set his jaw and refused to break eye contact with the older politician. "They are both my fights."
Robert bit his lip, and finally smiled, "That is exactly what I wanted to hear. I see something special in you. Don't be too overzealous though. You will one day encounter fear, Harry. Fear like you've never felt before." Robert pulled his cloak tightly around him, "I see something in your aura, you are destined for… something."
"My aura?" Harry shook his head in confusion. He sounded more like Luna, then a politician.
"It's a form of magic that England hasn't practiced in a long time." Robert revealed, "Where I was raised, it was a normal form of taught magic. All mind magic was taught."
"Mind magic?" Harry definitely thought the man was addled now.
"Have you ever been curious how your potions professor always seems to know more than he should?" Robert leaned in suggestively, seeing the questions swirl undefended in Harry's mind, "You believe that I am loony. I remind you of your friend Luna, do I?"
"Wh-what? How could you-"
"Mind magic has many forms, Harry. I'm surprised Dumbledore hasn't begun to teach you. Yours is a mind that need not be so open."
Harry began to grow suspicious at the man's sudden knowledge. "How do you know so much about me?"
"I have toured the ministry as part of my job description. One of these places is the Department of Mysteries, place you wouldn't have heard of." Robert poked his head in the corridor and put up his hood to conceal his face. "Inside was a prophecy with your name on it, yours and Tom Riddle, or Voldemort as he grew up to call himself."
"A prophecy about me and Voldemort?" Harry drew in a breath of surprise.
"That's all I know, only you can take it off the shelf." Robert took one last look into the hallway before turning back to Harry. "Until next time."
"Wait!" Harry tried to keep his voice down, "You are the only one that doesn't hide things from me. Will I see you again?"
"It's my job to be here, Harry."
Harry nodded his understanding, watching the man starting to leave again, "Have you heard about the mandrakes?"
"What happened to the mandrakes…?"
"They were all burned. It will take another year to grow another mature batch." Harry dropped his head, "And Ginny…"
"Yes, I remember her from Christmas time." Robert seemed to consider, "There is a different growing season in China. Their border is still mostly closed, but for the right price we may be able to acquire some."
Harry's voice lit up with hope, "You promise?"
Robert Owen looked down into the young man's eyes. He would need the loyalty and support of someone as influential as him one day. That was secondary, he reminded himself. His goal was to limit human suffering with every breathe he had, "I promise."
With a swish of his black cloak, Harry watched the older man leave, disappearing down the hallway. Harry slowly followed, cursing himself for not wearing his invisibility cloak in the corridor. After a long walk, much thinking, and a helping of worrying, Harry's head finally met the pillow after scratching a short reply to Hermione and asking about prophecies.
Harry woke as sunlight hit his tired eyes, a small weight on his chest. Harry rubbed the sleep from his eyes and reached for his glasses before examining his chest. 'Who would send me a letter?' he mouthed as he slowly opened it. He had yet to send his note to Hermione asking about prophecies. As he opened it, a messily scrawled note fell from the envelope.
Dear Harry Potter
I have been trying to see you for quite some time, ruddy headmaster won't let me in the school until my guardianship is passed through. Don't blame him, but just a few rules would be great to break once in a while. I hear you look just like your dad, except your mother's eyes, course. I know it's odd to get a letter from a stranger, but I was your dad's best mate in Hogwarts. If you're cool with it, I'd love to meet you at King's Cross.
"Godfather-" Harry unknowingly said aloud as he began to read the letter again.
"Isn't that a muggle movie?" Devon sleepily asked from his bed.
"My uncle was always on about that," Dean muttered as though his mouth was full of cotton.
"Um, I don't know about all that." Harry admitted as he finished his letter again, tucking it in his pajama bottoms to show Ron, "Apparently I have a godfather though."
"Good for ya, mate" Seamus yawned, a bit sour to have been awake at sunrise. "How about we celebrate with a lie in?"
Harry snorted as he gather his things for a quick shower before walking to the first year's room. He fought the loud snores as he gave his friend Ron a quick shake. "Ron, wake up."
"Sod off..." Ron mumbled as he rolled back over.
"Okay, but I guess when we're out of bacon…" Harry trailed off as he started to walk towards the door.
"Wait." Ron's sleepy voice panicked as he tried to put clothes on while still lying down.
Harry chuckled as he walked slowly towards the portrait hole, knowing that Ron would beat him to it. Ron joined him halfway down the stairs, unshowered and disheveled. They walked in companionable silence until Ron finally spoke up.
"It's early." Ron cast a suspicious glance at Harry as they walked.
"Maybe a little." Harry admitted.
"It's also a Saturday." Ron followed Harry to the left, clearly walking towards the kitchens and not the Great Hall, "So what happened?"
"Something had to happen for you to lie to me about bacon."
Harry nodded as he reached into his school robes and pulled out his letter, which Ron swiped and began to read. "Apparently I have a godfath…"
"Sirius Black!" Ron nearly dropped the letter in excitement. "Sirius Black is your Godfather!"
"Um, yeah?" Harry swiped the letter back and pocketed it. "I think Ginny mentioned him once."
"He was a fairy tale just like you were. He was captured by You-Know-Who before the war. Took down nearly a dozen men before they got him. Everyone assumed he died." Ron almost skipped as he told the story, reaching forward to tickle the pear and open the kitchens. "I can't believe he knew your parents."
"Yeah, him and Pettigrew." Harry vaguely remembered hearing Pettigrew mention Sirius as well. He would need to dig through his old letters. "I was thinking of writing back, maybe asking him for stories about my mum and dad."
"Wow." Ron said jealously as he sat down at a table in the kitchen, "Er, Mumsy?"
"Mimsy." Harry corrected absent mindedly.
"Yes, Mimsy. Would you have any bacon done already?"
Mimsy giggled as she brought out a small platter for the boys to share.
"Than's." Ron said through his first mouthful.
"You'll never guess who I met last night." Harry brought up, remembering the conversation from the night before, "Robert Owen."
"That politician ponce?" Ron gave Harry a skeptical look, "What was he doing about?"
"I don't think he's a ponce." Harry defended a bit more harshly then he intended, "He actually trusts me enough to tell me things."
"Like what?" Ron poorly hid his curiosity.
"Like the search for the chamber, and the fact that Voldemort and I share some sort of prophecy."
Ron spit out the pumpkin juice he had been sipping. "You and You-Know-Who have a prophecy!"
"Oh you know about them too?" Harry grinned, "I owled Hermione about them this morning."
"That's dark stuff Harry." Ron's face began to drain of color, "What if you're the only one who can defeat him?"
Harry shook his head, "I doubt it, but even if I could that would be okay with me. He's the reason I grew up with the Dursley's. I may as well be the one to stop Tom Riddle."
Ron's face lost every bit of color it possessed, "R-Riddle?"
"Yeah," Harry bit into a piece of bacon, "It's Voldemort's real name from when he was younger."
"Um, I have something that…" Ron began to shake and continue his slow degradation to the color white. "Remember when I told you I had a friend at the beginning of the semester?"
Harry thought back, "On the walk to the Owlery, yeah. You said you found out something about him that you didn't like."
"I found out he was a Slytherin, so I binned him." Ron admitted.
"Found out? Binned?" Harry tried to puzzle through the lingo, "It has his crest on his robe?"
Ron sighed, "At the beginning of the semester I found a diary in my cauldron and I didn't think anything of it. I wrote in it and it wrote back, but he boy was a Slytherin, so I threw it somewhere. The boy's name was Tom Riddle."
"You wrote in Voldemort's old diary!" Harry gasped as he rose from the table. "That's got to be connected, where did you leave it?"
"I- I don't remember," Ron thought as he tapped his hand on the table, "I think I saw Neville writing in it at one point."
Without thinking, Harry ran from the room towards the common room, skipping stairs and using secret passage ways. They had done a little exploring together, so Ron was barely able to keep up. Harry pushed through the cliques of students as he saw the familiar boy walking alone towards the Great Hall. He and Ron pulled him gently to the side by the elbows, and into the room he was passing.
"Um, hello fellas…" Neville nervously looked back and forth. Between the two, "Care to go to breakfast with me?"
"Neville, do you still have that book?" Harry blurted without much thought.
"B-book?" Neville squeaked.
"The diary, Tom Riddle's Diary." Ron nearly shouted. "We need it."
"I don't have it anymore." Neville admitted.
"Don't lie Neville," Ron took a small step forward. "Tom Riddle grew up to be Voldemort."
Neville broke down before their eyes. "I had no idea! I swear, he told me he could make me more powerful, more confident. I never knew."
"It's just one of Riddle's old school things…" Harry had no idea why Neville was getting so out of shape, as long as nothing happened. "Do you know who was attacking students?"
"N-o…" Neville sagged into all fours. "I knew it was doing something to me, so I got rid of it. I was blacking out, upsetting my friends. It didn't make me feel right."
"Do you know who has it?" Ron seemed barely effected by Neville's tears, possibly desensitized long ago by the twins.
"Damn." Ron groaned.
"Hagrid went to school with him, maybe he knows more." Harry suggested.
"Shouldn't we tell Dumbledore?" Neville sniffled.
Harry thought about it, "Not until we have enough evidence."
"I'm going to find Dumbledore." Neville protested, eyes set and determined.
Harry nodded, "And Ron and I are going to find Hagrid."
Neville reluctantly nodded as they parted ways. Harry led Ron, by nature of having slightly longer legs, in the race to Hagrid's hut. Harry bound down the last few steps as he reached the front door and ran towards the hut.
"Wait," Ron grabbed the back of Harry's robes. "That's the minister."
Harry looked in the distance as he saw a man with a flamboyant bowler hat, Councilor Owen, and Dumbledore, all standing outside Hagrid's hut.
Harry reached into his robes, having a habit of carrying the cloak around with him wherever he went. "Here Ron, duck."
Ron ducked under the cloak with him as they crept to the open window of the hut.
"…telling you Minister, I had nothin' to do wit it!" They heard Hagrid's voice boom, pleading.
"Of course, of course." Fudge's voice came through the window, "But the parents are getting cautious. They want blood."
"Hagrid, this is a clearly political move." Harry cheered when he heard Robert's voice sticking up for his friend. "I have fought it for months, using every measure of the law I could. However when presented with the facts of the law, the majority sought to change it instead of head it."
"The law is not changed," Dumbledore sadly reasoned, "They have simply suspended rights."
"As we had precedent to do," A voice unknown to Harry spoke, "Safety is the biggest concern."
Harry laughed at Robert's biting response, "Those who will give up liberty for safety, deserve neither."
"As much as I enjoy muggle philosophers," Dumbledore sounded his age, Harry thought. "There is nothing we could do. You must go with these men. I promise you will not be there long. I will follow you to the ministry."
"Be thankful I talked the barbarians out of Azkaban."
"Who are you calling a barbarian?" the smooth voice dripped in warning.
Harry could hear Robert's glare. "I have a package I'm expecting today, I wish to not be delayed by the lawlessness further."
"Do not throw your glove at me, Owen." the silky voice continued.
"Lucius, you've smeared me in all the rags, don't test my patience." Robert quipped.
"Master has thrown me a glove. Master has feed me!"
Ron pulled Harry's sleeve away, leading him back up to the castle. "Why are they taking Hagrid?" Ron asked once they arrived back to the castle door, standing away from the throngs of students heading towards the pitch.
Harry groaned as they hid in the shadows, watching Dumbledore lead a sobbing Hagrid towards the edge of the ward to apparate to the ministry. "He was accused of opening the Chamber fifty years ago."
"How do you know that?"
"He told me, months ago." Harry remembered offhandedly as he threw off the cloak and led Ron back to the kitchens to finish their breakfast. "I have a Quidditch game to get ready for. I imagine everyone is in the stands by now."
"Attention Students. All students return to their common room. Quidditch is cancelled."
"What's going on?" Ron asked, slightly confused.
Harry shrugged as he turned a corner, "I have no idea, it must be because of Hagrid."
Ron nodded as they walked up the stairs, going surprised as the floor began to flood from under a door. Harry's breathe caught as he read the wall. "Her Body will lie in the chamber forever."
"Oh no…" Harry mouthed as he read the inscription. All his skulking about the castle, trying to be an adult had proved nothing more than playing pretend, or dress up. An entire term of searching for the chamber with everything he had, and he was unable to find it.
"Who do you think was taken?" Ron's voice was panicked as he examined the fresh blood on the wall.
"I dunno Ron." Harry admitted defeated, "Let's head back to the-"
"Head back? Can't you read?" Ron asked affronted, "Someone has been taken. We have to rescue them."
Harry rounded in protest, "I've tried all term to do something about it. We failed Ron, it's time to let the adults be the adults."
Ron watched Harry in disbelief as his friend began to stomp away, "You don't believe that do you?"
Harry caught on his last step, "I don't know what to believe anymore Ron. Hermione was the smart one, she figured things out for us. Without her here I want to do something, but there's nowhere to run off to."
"She helped me out a lot too," Ron admitted a bit heavily, "The last few weeks have been hard, but we can't give up. We'll have to be the smart ones. Just this once."
Harry felt his anger an insecurity melt at the resolve he saw in his friend's eyes. He straightened his shoulder and nodded.
"Good," Ron scowled, what Harry believed he meant to be a smile. "So let's go over what we know. Tom Riddle opened it last time and framed Hagrid."
Harry nodded, "Fifty years ago. He was stopped after a student died and they threatened to close the school. Then-"
"Wait," Ron stopped him, "Someone died?"
"Councilor Owen mentioned someone named Myrtle." Harry supplied as he began to pace in thought.
"You can't mean Moaning Myrtle!" Ron asked excitedly, "This is her bathroom!"
"Er- and you know this because…?"
Harry's response was cut off as Ron rushed inside the flooding bathroom, Harry followed him into the out of order bathroom. It was just as normal as any bathroom, with a giant singular sink in the middle.
"Myrtle?" Harry asked the wailing ghost as he walked in. "My name is Harry Potter, do you have a moment?"
"A moment?" the ghost floated in front of him, no older than sixteen at the oldest, and gazed at him through her thick glass, "Come to make fun of me? Think my glasses are funny do you!?"
"Um, I have glasses too Myrtle." Harry trailed off at her closeness, trying to find a gentle way to broach the subject without insulting her.
"How did you die?" Ron blurted tactlessly, earning a glare from Harry.
"Oh," Myrtle brightened, her crying coming to a halt, "I was in that u-bend right there. I heard an odd hissing noise and opened the door." Myrtle continued to explain, "I was going to tell Olive Hornby off for making fun of my glasses, but it wasn't her."
"Was it a boy?" Harry needled.
Myrtle lazily nodded, "to think a boy in the girl's bathroom…" She began to glare at the two boys, "Much like you two."
"Yes, horrible." Harry sarcastically batted away her reply, "Where was he standing?"
"I see, not coming in here to make conversation with stupid Moaning Myrtle are you? I know what they say about me!"
Harry absentmindedly heard Ron trying to pick up the pieces of the conversation behind him as he turned to examine the sink. He was nearly certain that the entrance was close, if not here. Harry heard Ron fail spectacularly at calming down Myrtle before they were both drenched by her flying down the U-bend.
"How is a ghost able to move things like that?" Ron asked as he began to look over the sink with Harry.
"Dunno Ron." Harry couldn't see any sort of secret switch around the sink, "Look for a lever, mate."
Ron halted, "Isn't it obvious?"
"Yeah Ron, I can't believe we didn't look behind this sink ages ago." Harry bit as he redoubled his efforts.
"No need to be shirty." Ron griped, "The chamber can only be opened by the Heir of Slytherin."
"Unless you have an admission to make-"
"Harry, shut up and think. Myrtle said she heard hissing."
Harry suddenly stopped, he felt as if he was a small animal being led to water. "I'm so stupid, of course. I need to use Parseltongue. No wonder no one has found it before! Suppose you haven't got a snake with you?"
Ron shook his head, "Maybe I can draw one, or…"
"No," Harry held up his hand as he looked on one of the pipes, "I think I've found it."
"Well," Ron asked after a lull, "Open it."
Harry shook his head, "I can't speak it on command, it's just a picture."
"Maybe you need to pretend it's real." Ron suggested, "Hermione is always going on about 'intent' and what-not."
Harry listened to Ron trail off, he was right. Harry took a deep breath before saying 'Open up'.
Ron cringed, "I still haven't gotten used to that."
Harry grit his teeth as he gazed into the grimy tube that appeared beneath the lowered sink. "It looks like I wasted that shower today."
Ron tried to put on a front of bravado and grinned, "Speak for yourself. I may be cleaner after this."
Robert Owen walked through the castle gates, returning from his meeting. The Chinese Government had been reticent to part with a single drop of Mandrake Restorative, but a promise to Harry, and the lives of those children forced him into negotiating. He had not given up much in a new trade agreement he had submitted to the Wizengamot, but any favorable terms given to other countries was seen as an act of anti-patriotism. The English Government had gotten rather swotty about their history, forgetting to realize that other countries had great wizards of their own. Ancient Greek wizards had actually convinced some muggles they were divine.
Robert strode into the castle, holding his vial of restorative, pausing when he saw a familiar face. "Gilderoy, what are you doing?"
Lockhart gave a hearty, nervous chuckle, "What do you mean?"
"The luggage," Robert pointed warily at the luggage that the teacher was pulling behind him, "It is too early for holiday, is it not."
"Um, yes well…" Lockhart began to shift his eyes from side to side, looking for an escape. "My, what kind of vial do you have there?!"
"Mandrake Restorative, properly brewed and ready to use." Robert answered suspiciously, reading the surface emotions with passive Legilimency.
Lockhart pulled his wand out, "Sorry old boy, but…"
Robert shook his head as the man fell to the ground from a quick stunner, "Rita is going to have a heyday with this." He paused in consideration, "Actually, I think the Quibbler deserves a break on this one. Xeno asks the best questions at the press conferences."
Robert chuckled to himself as he walked down the hallways, vial in hand.
"So…" Ron tried to strike up a conversation to hide his nerves, "Slytherin hid the chamber under those sinks."
"So the story goes," Harry tried to keep his eyes peeled ahead in the darkness. He thought they might be somewhere under the lake in places.
"Did they have running water back then?" Ron continued.
Harry stopped, taken aback, "I dunno Ron, they were wizards. Maybe they got things early."
Ron shrugged, "Just odd is all. What is that?!"
Harry crept forward, wand in front of him. "It's a giant snake skin."
"It's huge." Ron examined the massive snakeskin, "It's gotta be at least five yards."
"More than that I'd say," Harry tried to ignore the sickness in his stomach, "Let's keep moving."
They walked in silence for a few minutes before Ron jumped, "Did you hear that?"
"No," Harry concealed his aggravation as he silently crept forward. "It was probably nothing."
"I heard something…" Ron's eyes sharpened as he used a spell that he and Harry had been practicing. "Stupefy!"
Harry turned sharply, watching Ron's spell hit the wall, barely missing a rat that scurried away. "Are you done?"
Ron nodded impishly as he stowed his wand. A rumbling caught the boys off guard as they both dove away just as a pile of rubble fell between the two.
Harry felt his head smack sharply against the wall, causing his vision to swim as he lay on the ground clutching the crown of his head.
"Harry!" Ron called, "Can you hear me?"
"Yeah Ron, calm down." Harry slowly sat up, trying to push the pain in his head away.
"Calm down! I've been digging forever. You passed out." Ron's face was visible, but not much else.
"Oh," Harry fought the fog as he stood, "How long?"
"I dunno, Harry." Ron admitted, "But you need to move on and save whoever is in there. I'll be through shortly."
Harry nodded, too wracked by pain to argue as he stumbled down the tunnel. Ron had been right, he was losing sight of saving whoever was stolen away by Riddle. He stomped through rat skeletons as he reached the end. His Lumos lit up an ornate door, decorated by two snakes wrapped around each other.
'Open,' Harry hissed as the door responded. He wade into the room, finally able to see clearly. Under different circumstances, he may have taken time to examine the ornateness of the room. It was life or death though, and he wasn't here on holiday. He smirked at the giant statue of a man with a long beard, who must have been Slytherin himself. He pulled his wand from his robe as he ran forward to the still form of a girl clutching a diary.
"Lavender." Harry called as he shook her, wand still in his hand. "Wake up Lavender!"
"She won't wake, I'm afraid." A soft voice said from the shadows behind him.
Harry turned quickly. Before him stood a tall, young boy with back hair. "You must be Riddle."
Tom Riddle nodded, glaring into Harry's eyes.
"What have you done to her?" Harry accused as he moved his body between Tom and Lavender, wand extended.
"She's still alive," Tom explained, "For now."
Harry examined the ghostly form in front of him. He knew he was no ghost, Voldemort was still out there. "What are you?"
"A memory, preserved for fifty years in the diary." Tom's eyes flicked to Harry's wand.
"You're stealing her life!" Harry accused.
"You can't steal something freely given," Tom scoffed, "Even now she isn't fighting me. She began writing in the diary, pouring all her little girl insecurities after a silly breakup. The little boy she is pining after is a philanderer in the making from what I understand. She never even suspected that it was I making her open the chamber, setting the serpent of Slytherin on those students."
"That doesn't make sense, you can't steal someone's life through a book." Harry grimaced, plotting some way to take Tom unaware.
Tom laughed a chilling laugh, "You are so naive. I have discovered horrible, powerful magic that you can't even begin to imagine. More than you, who defeated a great wizard. Tell me, how did you defeat Voldemort?"
"What do you care?" Harry spat, "I'd defeat you again if I had to, and I will today."
Riddle chuckled, an eerie sound, "So you are more clever than I gave you credit for, no matter. It will all be over soon. You will finally fall to the greatest wizard in history."
"You're not." Harry protested angrily, feeling his opportunity to attack lessening. "Albus Dumbledore is."
Tom scoffed. "Do you know what a basilisk is? Able to kill by looking at its prey. Nothing you have learned can prepare you for-"
Both men turned as Fawkes burst into the room in a plume of flame, dropping the sorting hat on Harry's lap.
"A song bird and an old hat, this is rich." Tom arrogantly stepped towards the giant statue. "So much for the great Harry Potter. Do you feel safe now with that silly hat?"
Harry bent down to pick up the sorting hat from the ground, unfolding it and examining it. He heard Riddle call out in Parseltongue to the Slytherin statue. Harry watched in horror as it opened, averting his eyes from the monstrosity, knowing that a look could kill him. Harry ran behind a pillar, trying to think up a plan. Fawkes song gave him a strange sense of strong courage. Maybe he was supposed to put on the sorting hat to cover his eyes as he fought. It made no sense, but Fawkes must have known a strange magic he didn't. As he slipped the hat over his eyes, he felt a strong weight drop on the same injured place he had finally forgotten. He saw stars as he fell to his knees.
'What the hell is this?' Harry thought as he examined the ruby encrusted sword that had fallen.
'You idiot, you can smell! You don't need your eyes!' He heard Riddle yell from around the pillar.
Harry tucked the hat in his belt, held the sword in his hand, and charged around the corner, a plan forming. As he watched the snake writhe blinded in front of him, he began to climb a snake statue, not wanting to be smelled. Harry thanked everything holy he had worn the pendent he gave to Ginny, making him silent as he climbed.
Riddle had spotted him and was about to shout out a warning before noticing the sword Harry had slung under his belt. "Where did you get that sword Potter, I searched everywhere for that damn sword."
Harry ignored him, waiting for the Basilisk to slither beneath him. He pulled the sword into his hand, pointing downward, and jumped. Harry fell ten feet onto the head, firmly embedding the sword between the eyes of the snake. Harry took the sword out, preparing to stab again before the snake threw its head forward. He involuntarily threw out his arm as he fell, his brains attempt to catch him. Unfortunately, his arm shot into the basilisk's mouth, slicing his left forearm across a giant fang as he fell.
Pain. Harry writhed as blood began to drip from his wound. He reached his good arm towards the sword that had fallen to his side, but it was apparent the basilisk was dead.
Riddle's steadily corporeal form walked towards him, holding Lavenders wand. "That feeling is death coming Potter. I am going to enjoy watching it claim you."
The chamber began to darken and spin as he felt his stomach about to lose itself. He felt Fawkes land on his arm and smiled, "You were awesome Fawkes, I couldn't have done it without you. The muggleborns… are safe…"
"Even Dumbledore's phoenix knows your dead Potter, it's crying. So much for the great Harry Potter."
Harry felt the room begin to stop spinning as his head became clearer. He has heard that before you die things became still, it was peaceful. Harry smiled, at least he could see his parents…
"Get away from him bird!" Riddle called, pointing Lavenders wand at Fawkes before a loud bang drove the phoenix away.
Harry watched as Fawkes flew towards the diary, picking it up. 'Of course', Harry thought as he reached for the sword.
"… should have remembered the healing powers. No matter, Potter, it's how it should be now."
Harry watched with a smiled as he stood, taking a breathe and raising his sword, "Sorry to interrupt you Tom, but…" Fawkes dropped the diary from the sky and Harry swung, cleaving the diary in two as it fell. "Goodbye, Tom."
Tom's face twisted in horror for a split second, before Harry realized he wasn't disappearing.
"That's right Potter," Tom suddenly realized, "The silly girl is dead, I am back."
Riddle raised his wand, rust from not having cast a spell in years pushed his arm down. A massively powered blasting hex hit feet in front of Harry, throwing up smoke. Riddle sent another hex into the mist, and one towards Lavenders body. Riddle walked forward and picked up the fallen Gryffindor Sword. "This would make a pretty Horocrux."
Riddle saw the dust had not settled and took off towards the door. His use of his motor functions was slowly returning, but was not fully useful. He couldn't risk Potter getting lucky.
Riddle burst through the door, stopping to close the door behind him and continuing down the tunnel.
"Stop!" a young voice called from ahead.
Riddle sneered at the redhead climbing through the rubble. "Move kid, you need not die."
Riddle flicked his new wand, catching the place where the neck met the shoulder with a powerful cutting curse, throwing the boy to the side as he blasted the rubble in front of him out of the way.
Tom rose through the tunnel as fast as his magic could carry him, desperate to seal the exit before Potter learned that damned bird could fly. Tom reached the top, clutching his leg from where Potter had sent an errant curse. He quickly closed the sink before casting a quick healing spell on his leg. He felt an immense amount of power behind the spell, realizing why after little thought. He had taken his original magic, combined it with the murder that created his Horocrux, and added the foolish girl's power to his. A plan quickly formed in his head, and he would need the element of surprise if he had a hope of pulling it off. No doubt the muggle loving headmaster had sealed the wards to the school. Now was the time that Tom Riddle had dreamed of, he was going to kill Albus Dumbledore.
Riddle took off down the hallway, weaving through the hallways he had known so well, towards the headmaster's office. Reaching the gargoyle, he flung it aside and ascended the stairs. He sent a quick expulso at the door, shattering fragments into the office.
"What in the name of…" The man whom he assumed was the foolish girl's father, quickly fell to his curse. He noticed the mother had taken a chunk of the door into her throat. A desk nearly launched into him, and he rolled backwards through the doorway and erected a shield. The volume of follow-up curses astounded him, as he put all the magic he could spare into the shield.
"Tom." Dumbledore saw him for the first time, obviously flabbergasted, "How is this possible."
"Men like you can't…" Tom scowled as he blocked Dumbledore's silent reducto. "Nice try old man."
Tom felt the power course through his veins as he circled into the office, fighting for the high ground at the top of the stairs. His gambit failed as his lack of offensive had given Dumbledore the upper hand. He silently cursed as he rolled behind a pillar, an odd purple light barely missing his head.
Harry coughed as he regained consciousness, taking a quick look around. The chamber had been blown into chunks around him as he got up. Harry refused to look to where Lavenders body had been blown, choosing to remember her for the life she had. He grimaced as he began limping to the exit, a piece of stone encased in his upper thigh. He heard a trill. Understanding what Fawkes wanted, Harry painfully yanked the stone from his leg as Fawkes flew next to him and shed a tear. Straightening himself up, he took off in a sprint. How could he be so stupid and let Riddle escape like this?
"Harry!" Ron's voice called weakly from the side of the tunnel. Harry stopped, seeing Ron clutching his neck, trying to hold in the blood. "I couldn't stop him."
Harry grimaced, Ron thought he was going to die, "Fawkes."
Not waiting for Harry's word, the Phoenix had already perched himself on Ron's shoulder, dropping glistening tears onto the boys gaping wound.
Ron moved his hand to his neck in surprise as he felt his wound disappear. "How? Oh, Phoenix. Obviously."
"Come on." Harry felt his feet leave the ground as Fawkes grabbed him from behind, claws extended under his and Ron's shoulders, lifting them down the tunnel and up the pipe back to Hogwarts. Light began to emanate from Fawkes himself as they flew up, allowing Harry to see the blocked tunnel. Seeing the snake carving, he hissed a quick 'open'. Fawkes sat him on his feet as he sang, giving Harry the strength to press on, following Fawkes to wherever he led. After three turns and a staircase, Harry ran into a familiar face.
"Harry Potter, we meet again." Robert Owen smiled, holding the vial of Mandrake Restoration he had finally procured. His smile disappeared as he noticed Harry's disheveled appearance. "What happened, were you attacked by Slytherin's Monster?"
"Yes," Harry huffed out an unbelievable answer, "Voldemort is back."
Robert's eyes grew to saucers, "Dear God… You must warn Dumbledore this instant. The staff room is down the hall, I will bring them along. Have Dumbledore lock down the wards!"
"What about me?" Ron asked quickly.
"Take this," he handed Ron the vial he had been carrying, "Madame Pomfrey will know what to do."
They took off in opposite directions as Harry climbed the last few staircases to Dumbledore's office. Panic gripped him as he saw the broken gargoyle at the foot of the entrance to the headmaster's office. Common sense would dictate him to find an experienced wizard, but Harry was not particularly given to common sense at the moment. He rushed up the stairs with no pretense for stealth or safety.
Albus Dumbledore's worst dreams were before his eyes as he did battle with the younger Tom Riddle. Some dark magic had made him powerful beyond the ordinary, but Dumbledore could tell the wand he had stolen was not a shadow of a match for him. Combined with the hallow that Albus held in his hand, it was only a matter of time.
Tom barely deflected another sickly curse, "Are you not going to try to reason with me old man? Maybe I am willing to change, you could save my soul."
"There is no soul left to save, I'm afraid." Dumbledore pressed, throwing two nearly simultaneous spells. One spell finally broke the column, one was to do irreparable damage. The second one barely missed. Tom had rolled into the middle of the rising, he had no cover.
Tom prepared his strongest shield, knowing full well that it would be no use. Albus Dumbledore was going for the kill.
Harry finally burst to the top of the stairs, seeing the dead couple that must have been Lavender's parents. He chocked at the sight of the mangled bodies, barely noticing the battle in front of him. Tom Riddle took his chance.
"REDUCTO!" Tom shouted, wand pointed firmly at Harry.
Harry's eyes went wide as he realized his mistake, and trying to throw a shield up in time before the curse hit him. He was not on time.
Albus Dumbledore's body flew into the wall behind him, as he dived in front of Harry. Dumbledore did not move as his limbs settled in a sickly position.
Harry stood in shock as he saw the defeat of the greatest wizard of his generation. Sorrow, guilt, brokenness, all three emotions hit Harry in a singular moment as he dropped to his knees in front of his mentor.
Tom riddle cackled in disbelief, "So falls the great Albus Dumbledore." He smiled as he walked forward to claim his prize. Picking up the wand of his fallen foe. No sooner had he picked up the wand, it was blasted from his hands. Tom's face screwed up into a feral smirk as he pulled out Laender's wand. "You dare attack me!"
Robert Owen strode confidently into the room, "So I finally get to meet one of the most powerful dark wizard of this age."
"I am the greatest wizard of this age, you fool." Tom was hesitant to attack this man. Besides Dumbledore, no one had ever faced him without fear.
Robert smiled, "There are some that would disagree with you, I'm afraid. They would point to Morgana LeFay, or maybe even Blackthorn."
Riddle scoffed, "Both fairy tales. I am the greater Merlin."
Robert snorted as he launched an odd purple spell Harry had never seen, "You Tom, are no Merlin."
Fireworks ensued in a way that pushed Harry back into the wall. He felt a blue cocoon of energy encase him against the wall, simultaneously freezing and protecting him. He watched in amazement as the men dueled. Voldemort swinging curse after curse, some of which Harry could identify. Councilor Owen, however, did not use a single curse Harry knew as familiar. Once, Riddle had taken a break from his casting to send a strong bludgeoning hex at Harry. It bounced harmlessly off the shield, throwing dust in front of his eyes.
Blinded, Tom Riddle spun on the spot and disappeared. The wards must have collapsed when Dumbledore has fallen. Harry felt the cocoon around him dissipate as he fell back to his knees, crawling over the Dumbledore's body.
"Oh God, no" Harry cried as he began to shake Dumbledore's shoulders. "You have to wake up. Voldemort is back, we need you. Headmaster."
"Let him go Potter," Robert came and knelt next to Harry, putting a comforting hand on his shoulder. "He understood one thing well, we can't control when we go."
"We've lost…" Harry said dejectedly, dropping his head and trying to stop the tears. "I've messed everything up."
"You mustn't think that way." Robert consoled. "We all have our time, and we all have our purpose. If Albus has passed, then you can be assured that his role in the great play has come to an end. We all have a plan, a destiny."
"How can you say that?!" Harry cried, looking the man in the face for daring to be positive. "He was the only one that Tom ever feared, now we are alone. How can you be so damn positive?"
"You can't react this way Harry, you have to be strong." Robert said with a bit more edge to his voice, "You must realize that the same sun that hardens clay, melts the ice. It's how we react to things that make us strong."
Minerva McGonagall nearly shrieked as she ran into the room. Albus Dumbledore lay broken against the wall, the office torn into pieces. Snape was only another step behind, jaw dropping in open amazement. Snape raised his wand towards Harry in rage before Minerva slapped it out of his hand.
"What is the meaning of this Severus?!"
"Potter," Snape breathed, "He has finally lost it, like I knew he would."
"This was Riddle, Severus." Robert stood, placing his body between Snape and the boy, guessing that Voldemort must have made a Horocrux "He hid his soul inside an object. Someone must have found it and given in to possession. It's the only way."
"Lavender." Harry choked, "I wasn't in time to save her either. Luna, Ginny, Lavender, and now…"
"He's going into shock, you two should take him to the hospital." Robert addressed Minerva, explaining that he had sent ahead a vial of Mandrake Restorative. "It sounds like he needs his friends, anyways.
"How did you…?"
Robert grimaced, "The Chinese wizards didn't give it up without significant political capital. I'm afraid I may have made some deals that have ended my political career."
Minerva nodded, 'If only every politician was like this…' "Please do survive the politics, we will need you soon, I feel."
Minerva led a speechless Harry down the stairs, finally moving when she promised him they would be reviving Ginny. Snape watched them go as he picked his wand back up.
"Why don't you go help Severus? I'm sure they could use a Potions Master. I will clean all of this up."
Snape shook his head sadly, "This man was as close to family as I ever had. I wish to bury him."
Robert nodded, "As you wish."
It was almost inaudible at first. A breath.
Snape's eyes grew wide, "Albus is breathing!"
Robert shook his head, "I'm sorry Severus. I wish it to be true, but the man has passed."
"I heard him breathe, you fool!" Snape raged, "We must get him help."
"Too much damage has been done, he will never make it." Robert reasoned with an odd tone in his voice.
"Damn you! I will do this myself." Snape shouted as he brandished his wand.
"Obliviate!" Robert Owen muttered reluctantly. He couldn't allow Snape to ruin this moment. Albus Dumbledore was a great wizard, and a better man, but he lacked the fortitude to do what was necessary. Robert sighed as he filled Snape's head with a memory of burying Albus, and then going back to his quarters to sleep until morning. "Confundus, Imperio"
He sent Snape walking as he watched Dumbledore crack open his eyes, wheezing. "I'm sorry, my friend." Robert fought back a sniffle as he raised his wand. Out of the corner of his eye he watched with empathy as Fawkes swooped onto Dumbledore, flaming him away from the room. Robert knew that Phoenix tears could not heal internal organ injuries without direct contact. Phoenix's loved their masters, and would prefer them die in peace. No one knew where Phoenix's originated from, but it was long theorized that they took their masters home, before one final burning that they didn't resurrect from.
Robert turned from the sad scene to the true object of his eye. Tom Riddle had defeated Dumbledore, and he had disarmed Tom Riddle. Slowly he reached forward and picked up the long piece of wood.
He was now the owner of the Elder Wand. The man once known as Blackthorn pocketed the wand as he searched the room for any notes, diaries, or journals.
Harry rushed into the hospital wing and straight to the side of his best friend's bed. "Madame Pomfrey!" He saw the matron coming through the door from her office, "Is it ready?"
Madame Pomfrey bristled at the yelling in her ward, but chose to have sympathy. "It was ready the moment it arrived, but there are other potions that must be given when they wake. Severus is not answering my floo calls, so I have had to brew them myself."
"He was in the…" Harry felt sick as he remembered what just happened. "He's busy."
Madame Pomfrey fought her curiosity about the boy's reaction, "Yes, well the Strengthening Solution does not take long to mix together, and I have plenty of the various nutritional and atrophyl potions I have plenty on hand."
Harry nodded, finally spotting Ron sitting across Ginny's bed. They watched in silence as Madame Pomfrey administered the potions to the students in the beds. Light returned slowly to Luna's eyes, followed by Colin and Justin. Harry moved to the side to allow Pomfrey access to Ginny. The matron softly parted her lips, and poured three different potions down the Ginny's throat. As the matron walked away, Harry retook his spot next to her bed, awaiting for the potions to take effect. Slowly her eyes fluttered open, deep brown meeting green.
"Harry…" Ginny groaned as she blinked, "Why is it light outsi…" Her voice cut off as she looked at Harry in front of her, covered in grime and blood, a scar present on his forearm, under a torn sleeve. "What-" She looked over to the side and saw her brother, blood stained over his neck, but no scar.
"Ginny, you were petrified." Harry explained as she tried to get up from her bed.
"I haven't given you your atrophy potion yet, dear." Madame Pomfrey explained as she handed Ginny her potion, "This should numb the muscles and, Luna, get back to your bed!"
Luna walked over and sat in a chair next to Ron, "I feel fine, thank you ma'am. I believe Harry was about to explain some things."
Harry nodded, "Remember that diary that Ron wrote in in the beginning of the year?"
Dumbledore's death had shaken the school into a grim silence. Harry had tried to avoid all meals in the Great Hall, somehow it had slipped out that he had been there when Dumbledore died. He would have avoided the streams of stares for longer if today's breakfast had not been mandatory. Harry sat in his once usual spot, across from Devon and Ron and next to Ginny. Dumbledore's spectacular seat had been replaced by one matching the rest of the teachers and was filled by Councilor Owen.
"How long has he been here?" Harry asked Devon from across the table.
"This is his first day." Devon replied shortly, Harry had heard he was shaken that his break-up with Lavender had led her to pour her soul into the diary. Harry nodded, he understood blame all too well.
"Greetings and good morning, students." Robert Owen stood before them all, commanding silence. "I am sorry to be here under such circumstances, but the Board of Governors deemed it best I address you. I have been here since my appointment, and have met a few of you. Hogwarts is gifted with wonderful teachers, incredible students, and a thirst for knowledge and equality that gives me hope. As you know, I am no longer your consultant from the board, so this is as a favor."
He paused as the tables began to murmur, looking back and forth.
"I can see," Robert continued, "The beginnings of unity, and you will need that. The ministry has finally made public that a memory of Tom Riddle has stolen the life of a classmate, and has returned to this life. The ministry wants me to tell you that he is harmless, a child with no time to build an army and easily taken care of. This is false, I am afraid."
Harry saw Devon's eyes darken as he began to look down.
"Riddle is cunning, brilliant, and will build upon the network that his other self has made. His other self which is also striving to get back to power as we speak. Nothing you will ever do, can be more important than your studies these next few years. You have been born into war, children, it is not your choosing and is no one's fault. It is the nature of evil. In an age with less morality, it is bound to happen."
Harry thought he saw Snape's eyes darken at the man. Harry himself felt as if he was speaking straight to him. He nodded along with the speech.
"One final word," Robert turned towards the Slytherins, "Only the weak let labels define them. Don't follow a path of foolishness simply because of expectations. You are smarter and more cunning than that." He addressed the school as a whole. "Bless you all. Stay strong and we will triumph."
Harry ducked out as he heard tears and clapping, and noticed more than a few speculative glances. Ginny followed him as they left the doors. "Harry, I need to go see Madame Pomfrey before we take the train."
"We have hours before then," Harry complained.
Ginny shrugged, "It's my last potion. I'll find you in the kitchen?"
Harry shook his head, "I'm going to take a walk, meet you there in an hour."
Ginny nodded to him as they parted ways after the first staircase. Harry didn't know to where he was walking, letting his feet guide him to a random classroom. He sighed as he walked inside to think. Inside he saw a large ornate mirror with clawed feet, recognizing it as the joke mirror that Fred and George had seen last year.
Curious, Harry walked forward and read the inscription. 'The Mirror of Erised'. Baffled, Harry took a look into the mirror. He was gazing at himself, but he wasn't alone. An older version of him was standing next to him, holding the hand of a beautiful red head.
Harry reached forward, touching the mirror with his fingers, "Mum, Dad…"
Closer inspection showed they weren't the only ones. He was surrounded by more people he didn't know, but also his friends stood by his side. Ginny, Ron, Hermione all smiled back as Ginny slipped her hand into his. He couldn't believe this mirror was showing him his family and friends.
"Strange thing isn't it?" Councilor Owen said softly as he walked in behind him. I read many of Dumbledore's notes, trying to find anything I could to save him. This was one thing he wrote about."
"What is it?" Harry asked, unsurprised by the man showing up. Owen had taken an interest in him long ago, it was only natural he'd come find him.
"It is called the Mirror of Erised, desire spelled backwards. Its real name is rather long. It is a trinket an old professor found in Greece. Greek witches and wizards have a rather twisted sense of humor."
"Is it dangerous?" Harry asked.
"Only to those with a weak mind." Councilor Owen revealed, "Something neither of us have to worry about, I assure you."
Harry nodded, "So it shows us our desire?"
"It shows us everything we wish we had," Robert stepped up next to him in front of the mirror.
Harry stepped away, "What do you see?"
Robert took a long look into the frame, emotions playing across his face as if watching a movie. "I see a world with no war, no hatred, and no evil. A world at peace"
"Oh," Harry shifted nervously, "I saw my family."
"Perfectly noble, Harry." Robert smiled as he threw a conjured blanket over the mirror, "Let's leave this here, so no one gets entrapped."
Harry nodded as he was about to leave.
"You've tasted battle Harry. Still looking forward to war?" Robert asked.
"I can't believe that's something I ever wished for, it was horrible." Harry grimaced as he thought. "But now that it's here, I can't run from it, or someone else would have to face it for me. I won't have anyone die in my place."
Robert smiled, "I can see why Dumbledore loved you so much, Harry."
Harry subtlety felt his throat close as he nodded, turning to leave without a goodbye.
Ginny sighed as she drifted between sleep and awareness. The train ride had caught both her and Luna up on everything that had happened, including Riddle.
"What is a Horocrux?" Harry asked randomly as the redhead took her head sleepily off his shoulder.
"What?" Ginny mumbled, looking around the train car. Neither Ron nor Luna seemed to know what he was talking about.
"Something Riddle said when he ran." Harry mused, "He took that sword that appeared, said it would make a good Horocrux."
Ginny shrugged, "Write Hermione, she'd know more than I do."
Harry nodded, by the time the Chamber was dealt with, Hermione had already taken her end of the year exams under promise not to write her friends about what was on it. He sighed as he looked back out the window. He had various books sent to him before the train had arrived, as he didn't believe his relatives would be receptive to a ton of owls floating about, and he didn't plan on wasting this summer. Next year would be one of preparation.
"You seem to have a lot of weight in your head, Harry." Luna mused as she watched him. "Care to lighten the load on your brain?"
Harry shook his head, "I guess I'm realizing that we can't be kids anymore."
"Really?" Ron asked, "You may be the last one to figure it out mate."
Harry snorted with laughter, "Maybe you're right."
The door to their compartment slid slowly open. Neville popped his head in, "Um, hey."
Harry looked at the young boy. He had kept Neville's crush on Ginny and how it led him to the diary, a secret. Everyone looked at him cautiously, remembering his period of arrogance and creepiness. Ginny and Luna had guessed that he wasn't himself, but it had still been frosty between them for the remainder of the term.
"I was wondering if…" Neville looked as if he was about to run at any moment. Meeting silence, he was about to turn and flee.
"There is a seat next to me, Neville." Luna smiled at him.
In that delicate moment, forgiveness snapped into place and the friends all began to talk as if there wouldn't be a war and as if they hadn't all lost a bit of their innocence.
Harry stepped off the train, trying to keep the weight from returning to his shoulders. He turned to his friends, "Let's write this summer, instead of just guessing that everything is okay."
Ginny laughed, "That's a good idea, Mr. No Respond."
Harry chuckled, "Not my fault!"
"Here." Luna handed out a stack of Quibblers, "I think you'll find the main article rather interesting."
Harry took a quick look, "How to tell if your parents are indoctrinating you."
Ron looked at his, "Robert Owen, Time Traveling Goblin King…"
Ginny snickered, "Prats, look at the main picture."
Harry smiled at the large, unflattering picture of Gilderoy Lockhart. "Unmasked huh? Thanks Luna!"
"I was more talking about the Goblin King…" Luna sighed.
Ginny waved to her family as she finally spotted them. "It will be a short summer, we'll have you over the second we can."
"Mind if I cut in, young miss." A man stepped forward with long, groomed black hair, "I'd like to talk to my godson."
END YR 2
A/N: The world was already AU, and I always knew that people couldn't accuse this story of rehashing the books. This story has been a joy to write, and I have enjoyed responding to every review and talking about the world we all love. I know I will get some rocks thrown for this chapter, but it has a scene that was really written in the beginning. The world and plot are really centered around the event in the Headmasters office, and it really couldn't be avoided. I have bit my tongue in all my review replies over Robert Owen (Blackthorn), both good and bad. I hope he comes across as a grey character. I am committed to writing characters that aren't fully evil or good, notice I don't demonize the Dursley's or Lockhart. Umbridge might not be as safe though… The next few years will be posted as a 'Part 2' as part of a HaR trilogy. Thank you so much for sticking with me, and I hope you all enjoyed the year, I hope to see what you think!
A/N2: I'm a fan of the little things. Many characters are broken down by personality and I research famous people that shared their personality. I don't know if it has helped the character development, but it makes me smarter! Also, has anyone noticed that Dumbledore stood up first at a table of 13? Trelawney can be right sometimes I guess, maybe.