Standard disclaimers apply!
I do not own Harry Potter. I have nothing to do with Scholastic, Warner Bros or Bloomsbury. I'm not JKR and I am certainly not making any profit out of this.
The done to death missing moment I wasn't going to write. :-)
And then he skidded round a final corner and with a yell of mingled relief and fury he saw them: Ron and Hermione, both with their arms full of large, curved, dirty yellow objects. Ron with a broomstick under his arm.
"Where the hell have you been?" Harry shouted.
"Chamber of Secrets," said Ron.
"Chamber – what?" said Harry, coming to an unsteady halt before them.
"It was Ron, all Ron's idea!" said Hermione breathlessly. "Wasn't it absolutely brilliant? There we were after you left, and I said to Ron, even if we find another one, how are we going to get rid of it? We still hadn't got rid of the cup! And then he thought of it! The Basilisk!"
"What the -?"
"Something to get rid of Horcruses," said Ron simply.
Hermione was watching Ron, who was watching Neville lead Luna and Harry out of the Room of Requirement.
"Typical Ginny," he muttered in Hermione's ear with a snigger, "I knew she wouldn't let Cho go off with Harry."
"She must be a Weasley," Hermione needled him good naturedly; "I hear they have a little bit of a jealous streak."
"Ha ha," Ron responded automatically, staring at his sister thoughtfully, "whatever gave you that idea? Us? Never. We're a sweet-tempered, calm lot ... didn't you know?"
"If you say so," she laughed.
"Tell me again, Hermione, why we need the sword to destroy the ... thingies."
"The Sword of Gryffindor is imbibed with Basilisk venom, which is one of the few substances destructive enough to break though all of the spells and curses put on the ... thingies." Hermione answered promptly. "Even if we find another ... thingy ... how are we going to get rid of it? We've still got the cup, and we don't have the sword."
"Because that little sod of a goblin made off with it." He pulled out a chair and sat down with a thud, leaning his elbows on his knees and rubbing his face vigorously. Then he did a surprising thing. He took Hufflepuff's cup from his pocket and smiled slowly at it. "The sword is incidental, isn't it? It's the venom that makes it so dangerous, right?"
He stood abruptly and took her hand. "Let's go then."
"What? Go where?"
"Neville, how do we get out of here?" Ron yelled over the babble of the rapidly filling room.
"See that broom cupboard over there?" Neville yelled just as loudly, pointing to their right, "go through that! Where are you going? What do I tell Harry when he comes back?"
"The broom cupboard? Excellent! Tell him we're going to Myrtle's Bathroom," Ron laughed, pulling Hermione into the cupboard and taking a heavy old broom with him as they went.
"Myrtle's Bathroom?" Hermione echoed. "What are you talking about? Why do we have a broom?"
"Shh," he poked his head out the door carefully, "I wish we had the invisibility cloak, but I suppose he needs it more." Lowering his voice to a whisper, he added, "Do you know where we are?"
She looked around carefully. "Fifth floor, by the looks of it. Why are we going to Myrtle's Bathroom?"
"Because it's the entrance to The Chamber of Secrets," he grinned broadly, "we have a Basilisk! Even better, it's dead – so it won't really care when we rip its teeth out and use them to destroy the bloody horcruxes."
"Oh my lord," her jaw dropped, "you are unbelievable."
"We'll see, we've still got to get in yet ... oh no!" He pulled her into an empty classroom and pushed her head down, ducking himself. "Filch," he mouthed silently.
She looked around wildly as they listened to shuffling footsteps come closer, there was no escape from the room and to make things worse, all the desks had been pushed to the walls, leaving them nowhere to hide. Pointing her wand at the door, she motioned for Ron to stay where he was. The door was being pushed half way open before she muttered "Confundus", and they both held their breath until the door shut again and the footsteps shuffled away.
"Bloody hell," Ron whispered, "that was too close for comfort."
"Bend over a bit, you're too tall," she whispered back, "I'm going to disillusion us."
"Merlin, that's weird," he shuddered slightly as the feeling of cold water trickled down his neck and he held up his hand. "Hah, it worked on the broom too. Probably because I was holding it. Well done."
"Thanks." She peered at him, just able to make out his general shape. "It's been ages since I've done one of those. Moody showed me how."
"Good thinking," he slowly pulled open the door and they hurried on their way.
"You'd better lock the door," Ron suggested, pacing around the old bathroom and staring at the sinks, "and then you can give me a hand, I can't remember where the tap is. Somewhere on this side, but it was a while ago, you know?"
"What am I looking for?"
"One of the taps has a little snake scratched on the side."
"I found it!"
"Now for the fun part," Ron scratched his head and pursed his lips thoughtfully. "Harry used parseltongue to open the locket, I think I can make the sounds again ... here goes nothing!"
Hermione couldn't help shuddering at the strange, unnatural sounds coming from somewhere in the back of his throat. Two minutes of it and she was completely unnerved, about to beg him to stop – tell him they could wait for Harry to do it – when her words died before they could even be formed.
A deep grinding sound, like some sort of wounded monster, then a sort of wet sucking pop ... and an unholy stench that made them both stagger back.
"Nice," he coughed, "really lovely."
"At least we know its dead," she offered in a small voice. "How do we get down there?" she asked, already knowing and dreading the answer.
"Maybe we should let it air out first," he peered down into the seemingly endless black hole.
"We don't really have time."
"I knew you'd say that," he pulled a face at her. "OK. I'll go first; you come down when I call."
She took a step forward and peered into the hole as well, grabbing his arm as she did so. "WAIT! How do we get out?"
"That's why we have the broom."
"I really don't want to know what I'm sitting on, do I?" Hermione muttered, accepting Ron's helping hand up.
"No," he shook his head, "you really don't."
"Why is it crunching?" she grabbed his arm again as they started forward.
"I thought you didn't want to know?" he laughed. "To the left I think."
"I can't believe you boys came down here when you were 12, weren't you scared to death?"
"Terrified," he answered shortly as they turned a corner and came across the old snakeskin.
"Oh my ... is that it?"
"No. That's just from when it shed. It was there before too."
"Ugh. Right, so where is it then? Let's just get this over with."
"Just over this way, I think ... yeah, look, there's the cave in from where that idiot Lockhart tried to obliviate us with my old wand. We're going to have to make that gap bigger, I can't fit through there."
"This place is huge," said Hermione as they pulled rocks away and let them roll to the floor, "how could Slytherin have built all this and no one noticed?"
"Dunno," Ron grunted, "he was a pretty powerful bloke, and he must have been at it for a long time before he finally left."
"Legend tells us," she paused for breath, "the four founders worked together in harmony, until the issue of muggle-borns came between them. That doesn't indicate this kind of pre-planning. This has to have been built with the castle."
"That's why its legend, Hermione," Ron straightened up and massaged the small of his back. "That should do it, surely. It sounds much kinder to all of them if it was a sudden thing, doesn't it?"
They both scrambled through the gap and tumbled down the other side.
"I've never been on this side," Ron whispered as they gazed around in awe.
"It's utter madness. Who would do this?"
"A madman, obviously," he shrugged as they came to a fork. "I wonder which way?"
"Over here, I think," she pointed to the right, "it looks cleaner, like something's been dragged through it."
"The smell's getting worse. We can't be far away, come on!" He pulled her along faster, around another bend and they came to an abrupt halt, almost barrelling into a half-open door.
"Well, look at it! It's ... it's enormous!" She walked to the half-rotted basilisk and crouched down in front of it, examining it carefully. "It's still got the venom, I can see it. Right there."
"Don't touch it," he warned her, approaching cautiously.
She shot him a withering look. "I wasn't about too." She pointed her wand at a particularly long fang. "Have you got the cup?"
"Right here," he fished it from his pocket and held it gingerly. "It's hot."
"Yeah. It knows what's about to happen, that's why," she said with a certain amount of relish. "Diffindo!" She picked up the severed fang gingerly from the blunt end and held it up to the light. "Nasty looking thing."
"Harry's done one and I've done one, do you want a turn?" He offered her the cup, then immediately thought better of it – but it was too late, she's already taken it. "If it, uh, say's something to you, and it might, it's all lies. OK."
"I'll keep that in mind," she smiled up at him and placed the cup carefully on the ground by the dead serpents head, the fang poised directly above it, but stopped in the middle of bringing it down. "What do you mean say something to me?" she asked, a strange look on her face.
"The locket talked a lot," said Ron vaguely, "I ... I don't think this will, though."
"What did it say?" she frowned at him, irritated by his lack of communication.
"Just get rid of it, Hermione, we'll talk about it another time."
"No. I don't think I will." She stood abruptly, suddenly angry. "It's just a bloody cup! How can a cup talk? That's completely illogical," she advanced on him, "what did it ever do to you, to make you say something like that? YOU'RE THE LIAR!"
"I – what?" he took a step back, the basilisk fang in her hand a little too close to his face for his liking. "What are you on about?"
"You're the liar," she repeated, her voice suddenly silky, "you and Harry. Both of you. This cup is innocent. An inanimate object." She dropped to her knees, crawling back to the cup and caressing one of its handles lovingly. "It's beautiful. Hufflepuff's relic ... it deserves to be revered, protected."
Oh no! I should have known something like this would happen! What do I do? If I try getting the basilisk fang from her, the cup will probably make her attack me. Think, Weasley! THINK! "Hermione ... you're right," he nodded, edging a little closer to her cautiously, "it deserves to be protected, and the only way to do that is to get rid of the ... the ... impurity of infection. You have to stab the cup, Hermione, to clean it. Do you understand me?"
"Stab the cup?" She laughed wildly. "How will that help?"
"Because it's dirty, see?" He tried to sound reasonable, pointing at the cup. "There's a spot right there in the middle, making it sick. To make it better, you have to stab out that spot. That's all you have to do."
"Stab the spot," she repeated, tilting her head to one side. "Clean the cup by stabbing the spot?"
"That's right. Make sure you do it really hard."
"Wouldn't it be better to stab myself?" she asked in a dreamy voice, examining the very tip of the fang closely and running her thumb over it.
Ron's heart stopped for a moment. "No, that would not be better." He spoke softly, trying desperately to keep panic at bay, forcing himself not to jump forward and knock the evil thing from her hands. "You need to look after the cup, don't you? You can't look after the cup if you stab yourself."
"But I don't want to hurt the cup," she pouted. "Won't it hurt the cup, if I stab it?"
"No, it will make the cup happy."
"If you're sure ... I'll bet that's sharp," she giggled.
"I'm sure it is," he agreed, slightly relieved to see she was no longer playing with the pointy end, "it's sharp so you can stab the dirty spot off the cup, see? To clean it."
"OK then." She bought the fang down in one swift movement, piercing the bowl of the cup.
Dead silence, as the cup shrivelled in on itself, black liquid oozing from the place where the fang had pierced it.
"Well," Hermione said briskly, picking up the cup and handing it to Ron, "that's that sorted out. Now, if we can just find that diadem. I hope Harry's had some luck."
Ron wordlessly slipped the diminished cup in his pocket.
"Ron? What's wrong? You're shaking."
"Nothing." He pulled her into his arms and held her tightly. "Nothing's wrong at all."
"I'm OK, really," he assured her, not ready to let go just yet, "I'm just ... a bit overwhelmed, that all." Pull yourself together, Weasley. Look happy. He forced a cheerful expression. "And really happy that's it done."
"It might not have been, if you hadn't thought of this," she pointed out, gesturing around them as he finally loosened his grip on her and stepped away. "I can't believe I didn't think of it myself." She fixed him with a hard look. "Don't you ever let me hear you say you're thick again."
She really has no idea what nearly happened ... but she's not stupid, and if you don't start looking pleased with yourself she's going to wonder why – so go for some false modesty, you idiot, and keep at it. "Oh, I'm sure you would have thought about it soon enough," he protested, his mouth stretching into a wide smile. "Come on, let's get out of here."
"We should take more of these fangs," she told him, bending in front of the basilisk head again, "to get rid of the diadem."
"Hmm." He held back a shudder. "Is there some kind of spell you can put on them so they don't get US?"
"Good idea," she said brightly and pointed her wand at the small pile on the ground, murmuring something he couldn't quite catch. "That should do it. Come on then, grab an armful and let's get back upstairs – Harry should be back by now, and he's going to be wondering where we are."