Author's Notes: I just wanted to give a special shoutout to Diana-Shan, PlushChrome, and Raider09, the first three reviewers on the latest chapters. Going back through the reviews I saw that you guys were some of the most dedicated and generous fans of the story we had! It was YOUR reviews that made me want to keep writing the Slytherin Tales. Thanks so much for being so supportive! I don't want to dissapoint you!
That's another reason why it's so important for people to review. A single review can make the difference between whether a story carries on or not. Plus, lately I've had lots of new ideas for the Slytherin Tales and I rely on the readers out there to check them for me. Give me your suggestions, things you like, things you don't, and believe me, it will really make a difference! For example, someone reviewed a while back begging me not to let Harry be with Ginny because she's shallow and just like his mom. Someone else said they wouldn't mind Harry ending up with her again. I've sort of taken both factors into consideration and well... What if Harry ended up with a remodeled Ginny? Not the only-important-to-progress-the-plot-Ginny, but a better developed actual character? Thoughts, opinions?
Anyway, thanks again and please enjoy the next chapter!
(PS, Diana-shan... Flukes is one of my favorites too!)
Since the disastrous episodes of the pixies, Professor Lockhart had not brought live creatures to class. Instead, he read passages from his books to them, and sometimes reenacted some of the more dramatic bits. He always wanted harry to help him with these reconstructions; most of the time, Harry was able to feign some sort of excuse, but so far, he had been forced to play a yeti with a head cold and a vampire who had been unable to eat anything except lettuce since Lockhart had dealt with him.
Lockhart tried to haul Harry to the front of the class during their very next Defense Against the Dark Arts lesson to act as a werewolf, but Harry flatly refused.
"Oh come on, Harry, be a sport! I want to show the class how, with one hand, I managed to hold the werewolf down and perform the immensely complex Homorphous Charm."
"Sorry, Professor, but no."
They argued for several minutes, back and forth, until the bell rang and Lockhart got to his feet.
"Fine. Homework—compose a poem about my defeat of the Wagga Wagga Werewolf! Signed copies of Magical Me to the author of the best one!"
Mal and Draco waited for Harry to pack his things and headed out of the class with him.
"I'll make a poem about Lockhart," said Mal and then, in a light tone, "Professor Lockhart is one of a kind: a stuffed up pig without a mind. Says he taught a goblin to fly, but I think it's all a lie."
"It has to be about the Wagga Wagga Werewolf," commented Draco.
"Oh, shut up! You ruin all my jokes!" Mal punched Draco playfully in the arm.
"So, Harry," said Draco, ignoring her, "ready for the first match of the season? Us against Gryffindor?"
Harry nodded, but in truth, he hadn't even really thought about the Quidditch match that would take place tomorrow. His mind was on something else. . .
" I say that we go put snakes in the first year dorms during lunch," said Mal.
"Actually," said Harry, "I need to go to the library for something. Go on without me."
"Aw," said Mal, "but Draco's no good at pulling pranks alone with me! He just whines."
Draco looked at Mal as if he wanted to say something very nasty in response to her, but instead, he looked back at Harry with a careful expression.
"What do you need in the library?"
"I'm just doing some research," said Harry.
Draco nodded, knowingly. "Well, we'll see you at lunch, then."
Mal groaned and followed Draco down the hall, bickering with him. Harry watched them for a moment, then continued into the muffled stillness of the library. Madam Pince, the librarian, was a thin, irritable woman who looked like an underfed vulture. She glanced suspiciously at Harry when he came in. It wasn't unusual. Most people glanced suspiciously at Slytherins no matter where they were at.
He went over to the genealogy section when he was sure no one was watching him, and he began looking desperately for anything that might be about his parents. He had no idea where to begin and couldn't help but wonder if there was some better way to go about getting the information he wanted. He searched and searched for the entire lunch period. In fact, he might not have heard the bell at all if it weren't for Madam Pince making a sound over his shoulder and shooing him away.
He left feeling discouraged and frazzled. He was nowhere closer to finding out if he really was the heir of Slytherin. He decided to put it aside for now—after all, there was a Quidditch match tomorrow.
Harry woke early on Saturday morning and lay for a while thinking about the coming Quidditch match. He was nervous, mainly at the thought of what Flint would say if Slytherin lost, but also about facing Gryffindor. After a half an hour of lying there with his insides churning, he got up, dressed, and went down to breakfast early, where he found the rest of the Slytherin team huddled at the long, empty table, all looking wide-eyed at something on the table.
Draco was standing at one end of the table looking as tall as the older boys with the way he was standing, chest puffed out, back straight and proud. A bright smile spread over his face when he saw Harry.
"Guess what Father sent to the team," said Draco, hands on his hips. Harry pushed a couple of excited Slytherins out of the way and couldn't stop himself from smiling either when he saw a whole pile of Nimbus Two Thousand and Ones stacked up on the center of the table.
"Your father got these for us?" he said in wonder, grabbing the first broomstick that caught his eye. "This is the latest model!"
"Yes, well, I admit that I may have done a little persuading. . ."
"This is brilliant, Draco!" said Harry. "We'll be sure to crush Gryffindor with these!"
Marcus Flint, the Slytherin captain, had never looked less trollish.
"I knew I wouldn't regret putting you on the team, Malfoy."
As eleven o'clock approached, the whole school started to make its way down to the Quidditch stadium. It was a muggy sort of day with a hint of thunder in the air. Malvora came hurrying over to wish Harry good luck, as well as to stick her tongue out at Draco as they entered the locker rooms. The team pulled on their green Slytherin robes, then sat down to listen to Flint's usual threats.
"We've got better brooms than Gryffindor," he began, "so I want you all to show off your speed. Don't make any dumb mistakes either, got it? If you screw this up, I'll find a new team. So go on, get out there and win, or else, got it?"
As they walked out onto the pitch, a roar of noise greeted them; mainly boos, because Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff were anxious to see Gryffindor win, but the Slytherins in the crowd were almost making enough cheer to drown out the booing.—and an excited murmur broke out when they started to notice the new brooms.
The crowd weren't the only ones to notice—Gryffindor captain Oliver Wood suddenly paled when he saw the broomsticks gleaming in the sunlight. Madam Hooch, the Quidditch teacher, asked Flint and Wood to shake hands, which they did, Flint baring teeth in his grin and Wood barely moving his hand at all.
"On my whistle," said Madam Hooch. "Three. . . two. . . one. . ."
With a roar from the crowd to speed them upward, the fourteen players rose toward the leaden sky. Harry flew higher than any of them, squinting around for the Snitch.
"Keep your eyes open, Potter," yelled Draco, shooting underneath him and showing off the speed of his broom to the Gryffindors.
Harry had no time to reply. At that very moment, a heavy black Bludger came pelting toward him; he avoided it so narrowly that he felt it ruffle his hair as it passed.
"Pay attention!" said Adrian Pucey, streaking past him with his club in his hand, ready to knock the Bludger back toward a Gryffindor. Harry saw him give the Bludger a powerful whack in the direction of George Weasley, but the Bludger changed direction in midair and shot straight for Harry again.
Harry dropped quickly to avoid it, and Adrian managed to hit it hard toward Ophelia Hart. Once again, the Bludger swerved like a boomerang and shot at Harry's head.
Harry put on a burst of speed and zoomed toward the other end of the pitch. He could hear the Bludger whistling along behind him. What was going on? Bludgers never concentrated on one player like this; it was their job to try and unseat as many people as possible. . . .
Morag was waiting for the Bludger at the other end. Harry ducked as he swung at the Bludger with all his might; the Bludger was knocked off course.
As though it was magnetically attracted to harry, the Bludger pelted after him once more and Harry was forced to fly off at full speed.
It had started to rain; Harry felt heavy drops fall onto his face, splattering onto his glasses. He didn't have a clue what was going on in the rest of the game until he heard Lee Jordan, who was commentating, say, "Slyterhin lead, sixty points to zero—"
The Slytherin's superior brooms were clearly doing their jobs, and meanwhile the mad Bludger was doing all it could to knock Harry out of the air.
Harry knew that someone had to making the Bludger behave like this. He waved his hands at Flint to signal a time out.
"This better be good," snapped Flint as the Slytherin team huddled together. "We're on a winning streak, here."
"It's one of the Bludgers," said Harry. "It's been fixed to follow me."
"It must be the Gryffindors," spat Draco.
Madam Hooch was walking toward them. Over her shoulder, Harry could see the Gryffindor team jeering and pointing in his direction.
"Listen," said Harry, suddenly changing his mind "let's keep playing. I'll deal with the rogue ball."
"But if we can prove that Gryffindor fixed the ball," said Draco," then they'll have to forfeit. We'll win."
"They'll just think that we got off easy," said Harry. "But if we finish flattening them, they won't have an excuse. It'll prove that we're the better team."
"I like your thinking, Potter," said Flint, grinning.
Madam Hooch had joined them.
"Ready to resume play?" she asked Flint.
Flint nodded with an expression of determination.
The rain was falling more heavily now. On Madam Hooch's whistle, harry kicked hard into the air and heard the telltale whoosh of the Bludger behind him. Higher and higher Harry climbed; he looped and swooped, spiraled, zigzagged, and rolled. Slightly dizzy, he nevertheless kept his eyes wide open, rain was speckling his glasses and ran up his nostrils as he hung upside down, avoiding another fierce dive from the Bludger. He could hear the laughter from the crowd; he knew he must look very stupid, but the rogue Bludger was heavy and couldn't change direction as quickly as Harry could; he began a kind of roller-coaster ride around the edges of the stadium, squinting through the silver sheets of rain to the Gryffindor goal posts, where Pucey was trying to get past Wood—
A whistling in Harry's ear told him the Bludger had just missed him again; he turned right over and sped in the opposite direction.
That's when he saw it—the Golden Snitch. It was hovering inches above Ophelia Hart's (Gryffindor seeker) ear.
Through a haze of rain he dived toward Ophelia, whose eyes widened in surprise: she thought Harry was attacking her.
She careened out of Harry's way as Harry took his hand off his broom and made a wild snatch; he felt the cold Snitch on his fingertips but then—WHAM. The Bludger grazed his back and drove him forward so that he pushed the Golden Snitch directly into Ophelia Hart's open hand. In a moment of desperation, he lunged forward with both hands, as if to yank the Snitch away from her, but again the Bludger whistled toward him and this time he didn't have time to react. He ducked, lost his balance, and fell from his broom.
There was a chorus of screaming and gasps as he plummeted to the ground. With a splattering thud he hit the mud, landing on his arm. He felt it break from the impact. He hardly felt the pain, however; all he could think about was how he'd pushed the Snitch right into Hart's hand.
"We've lost," he said vaguely.
And he fainted.
He came around, rain falling on his face, still lying on the field, with someone leaning over him. He saw a glitter of teeth.
"Oh, no, not you," he moaned.
"Doesn't know what he's saying," said Lockhart loudly to the anxious crowd of people pressing around them. "Not to worry, Harry. I'm about to fix your arm."
"No!" said Harry. "I'll die before I let you—"
He tried to sit up, but the pain was terrible. He heard a familiar clicking noise nearby.
"Get out of here, Creevey!" he said loudly.
"Lie back, Harry," said Lockhart soothingly. "It's a simple charm I've used countless times—"
"No, I'll just go to the hospital wing!' said Harry through clenched teeth.
Through the thicket of legs around him, Harry spotted the Weasley twins wrestling the rogue Bludger into a box. It was still putting up a terrific fight.
"Stand back," said Lockhart, who was rolling up his jade-green sleeves.
"I said no!" snapped Harry, weakly, but Lockhart was twirling his wand and a second later had directed it straight at Harry's arm.
A strange and unpleasant sensation started at Harry's shoulder and spread all the way down to his fingertips. It felt as though his arm was being deflated. He didn't dare look at what was happening. He had shut his eyes, his face turned away from his arm, but his worst fears were realized as the people above him gasped and Colin Creevey began clicking away madly. His arm didn't hurt anymore—nor did it feel remotely like an arm.
"Ah," said Lockhart. "Yes. Well, that can sometimes happen. But the point is, the bones are no longer broken. That's the thing to bear in mind. So, Harry, just toddle up to the hospital wing—ah, Mr. Malfoy, Miss Melbarke, would you escort him?—and Madam Pomfrey will be able to—er—tidy you up a bit."
As Harry got to his feet, he felt strangely lopsided. Taking a deep breath he looked down at his right side. What he saw nearly made him pass out again.
Poking out of the end of his robes was what looked like a thick, flesh-colored rubber glove. He tried to move his fingers. Nothing happened.
Lockhart hadn't mended Harry's bones. He had removed them.
Madam Pomfrey wasn't at all pleased.
"You should have come straight to me!" she raged, holding up the sad, limp reminder of what, half an hour before, had been a working arm. "I can mend bones in a second—but growing them back—"
"You will be able to, won't you?' said Harry desperately.
"I'll be able to, certainly, but it will be painful," said Madam Pomfrey grimly, throwing Harry a pair of pajamas. "You'll have to stay the night."
Mal waited outside the curtain drawn around Harry while Draco helped him into his pajamas. It took a while to stuff the rubbery, boneless arm into a sleeve.
"I'll get Lockhart back for this, just you wait," said Mal. "I'll slip leeches into his bathwater, burn all the pictures in his office, turn him into a whale—"
"Father will make sure he's sacked," said Draco. "It's just like Dumbledore to hire incompetent teachers."
"How mad is Flint?" said harry, getting into bed.
"He thinks we should win by default because Gryffindor fixed the Bludger. He's been arguing in Snape's office about it for hours."
As Harry swung himself onto the bed, his arm flapped pointlessly.
Mal and Madam Pomfrey came around the curtain. Madam Pomfrey was holding a large bottle of something labeled Skele-Gro.
"You're in for a rough night," she said, pouring out a steaming beakerful and handing it to him. "Regrowing bones is a nasty business."
So he was taking the Skele-Gro. It burned Harry's mouth and throat as it went down, making him cough and splutter. Still tut-tutting about dangerous sports and inept teachers, Madam Pomfrey retreated, leaving Mal and Draco to watch Harry gulp down some water.
"No one's happy we lost," said Draco, frowning. "Some of the team says that you practically gave Hart the Snitch. You should have seen the look on her face when the game was over." A look of disgust crossed his face.
"I'm not happy about it either," said Harry in a bitter voice. If it hadn't been for that Bludger, he would have caught the Snitch. It was going to be hard to make Flint happy after this.
"Hey," said Malvora, suddenly, "I've got something for you, Harry." She opened her bag and pulled out handfuls of sweets that she tossed on the bed, followed by smuggled pumpkin juice bottles. "Stole them from the Gryffindor afterparty. I thought you could use the pick-me-up."
Draco reached for a chocolate and Mal smacked his hand.
"Oy, those are for Harry!"
"He doesn't need all of them!" snapped Draco, reaching again.
"He's in agony! What's your excuse?" she pushed him.
"My excuse?" Draco swatted her hand away, " I want a chocolate."
Before Harry could yell at them to keep their fight away from his arm, Madam Pomfrey came storming over, shouting, "This boy needs rest, he's got thirty-three bones to regrow! Out! OUT!"
And Harry was left alone, with nothing to distract him from the stabbing pain in his limp arm.
Hours and hours later, Harry woke quite suddenly in the pitch blackness and gave a small yelp of pain: His arm now felt full of large splinters. For a second, he thought that was what had woken him. Then, with a thrill of horror, he realized that someone was sponging his forehead in the dark.
"Get off!" he said loudly, and then, "Dobby!"
The house-elf's goggling tennis ball eyes were peering at Harry through the darkness. A single tear was running down his long, pointed nose.
"Harry Potter came back to school," he whispered miserably. "Dobby warned and warned Harry Potter. Ah sir, why didn't you heed Dobby? Why didn't Harry Potter go back home when he missed the train?"
Harry heaved himself up on his pillows and pushed Dobby's sponge away.
"What're you doing here?" he said. "And how did you know I missed the train?"
Dobby's lip trembled and Harry was seized by a sudden suspicion.
"It was you!" he said slowly. "You stopped the barrier from letting us through!"
"Indeed yes, sir," said Dobby, nodding his head vigorously, ears flapping. "Dobby hid and watched for Harry Potter and sealed the gateway because Dobby's master told him to. Dobby thought Harry Potter was safe, and never did Dobby dream that Harry Potter would get to school another way! Dobby had to iron his hands afterward"—he showed Harry ten long, bandaged fingers.
He was rocking backward and forward, shaking his ugly head.
"Dobby was so shocked when he heard Harry Potter was back at Hogwarts, he let his master's dinner burn! Such a flogging Dobby never had, sir. . . ."
Harry had the sudden desire to flog Dobby himself.
"You nearly got Mal and me expelled," he said fiercely. "You'd better get lost before my bones come back, Dobby, or I'll strangle you."
Dobby smiled weakly.
"Dobby is used to death threats, sir. Dobby gets them five times a day at home."
"I don't care about what you get at home," said Harry," I just want you to leave me alone!"
Dobby mopped his bulging eyes and said suddenly, "Harry Potter must go home! Dobby thought his Bludger would be enough to make—"
"Your Bludger?" said Harry, lunging at Dobby but then pulling back when pain shot through his arm. "What d'you mean, your Bludger? You made that Bludger try and kill me?"
"Not to kill you, sir, never kill you!" said Dobby, shocked. "Dobby wants to save Harry Potter's life! Better sent home, grievously injured, than remain here sir! Dobby only wanted Harry Potter hurt enough to be sent home!"
"Oh, is that all?" said Harry angrily. "I don't suppose you're going to tell me why you wanted me sent home in pieces?"
"Ah, if Harry Potter only knew!" Dobby groaned, more tears dripping onto his ragged pillowcase. "If he knew what he means to us, to the lowly, the enslaved, we dregs of the magical world! Dobby remembers how it was when He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named was at the height of his powers, sir! We house-elfs were treated like vermin, sir! Of course, Dobby is still treated like that, sir," he admitted, drying his face on the pillowcase, "But mostly, sir, life had improved for my kind since you triumphed over the He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named. Harry Potter survived, and the Dark Lord's power was broken, and it was a new dawn, sir, and Harry Potter shone like a beacon of hope for those of us who thought the Dark days would never end, sir. . . . And now, at Hogwarts, terrible things are to happen, and perhaps happening already, and Dobby has been told that Harry Potter must not stay here now that history is about to repeat itself, now that the Chamber of Secrets is open once more—"
Dobby froze, horrorstruck, then grabbed Harry's water jug from his bedside table and cracked it over his own head, toppling out of sight. A second later, he crawled back onto the bed, cross-eyed, muttering, "Bad Dobby, very bad Dobby. . ."
"So there is a Chamber of Secrets?" Harry whispered. "And—did you say it's been opened before? Tell me, Dobby!"
He seized the elf's bony wrist as Dobby's hand inched toward the water jug.
"Ah, sir, ask no more, ask no more of poor Dobby," stammered the elf, his eyes huge in the dark. "Dark deeds are planned in this place, but Harry Potter must not be here when they happen—go home, Harry Potter, go home. Harry Potter must not meddle in this, sir, he must not—"
"Who is it?" Harry said, keeping a firm hold on Dobby's wrist. "Who's opened it? Who opened it last time?"
"Dobby can't, sir, Dobby can't, Dobby mustn't tell!" squealed the elf. "Go home, Harry Potter, go home!"
"I'm not going anywhere!" said Harry fiercely. "I don't care what you, or your master has to say about it! And if you try something like that Bludger trick again, I'll feed you to the monsters in the lake!"
"Harry Potter must leave, he must—"
Dobby suddenly froze, his bat ears quivering. Harry heard it, too. There were footsteps coming down the passageway outside.
"Dobby must go!" breathed the elf, terrified. There was a loud crack, and Harry's fist was suddenly clenched on thin air. He slumped back into bed, his eyes on the dark doorway to the hospital wing as the footsteps drew nearer.
Next moment, Dumbledore was backing into the dormitory, wearing a long woolly dressing gown and a nightcap. He was carrying one end of what looked like a statue. Professor McGonagall appeared a second later, carrying its feet. Together, they heaved it onto a bed.
"Get Madam Pomfrey," whispered Dumbledore, and Professor McGonagall hurried past the end of Harry's bed and out of sight. Harry lay quite still, pretending to be asleep. He heard urgent voices, and then Professor McGonagall swept back into view, closely followed by Madam Pomfrey, who was pulling a cardigan on over her nightdress. He heard a sharp intake of breath.
"What happened?" Madam Pomfrey whispered to Dumbledore, bending over the statue on the bed.
"Another attack," said Dumbledore. "Minerva found him on the stairs."
"There was a bunch of grapes next to him," said Professor McGonagall. "We think he was trying to sneak up here to visit Potter."
"Harry's stomach gave a horrible lurch. Slowly and carefully, he raised himself a few inches so he could look at the statue on the bed. A ray of moonlight lay across its staring face.
It was Colin Creevey. His eyes were wide and his hands were stuck up in front of him, holding his camera.
"Petrified?" whispered Madam Pomfrey.
"Yes," said Professor McGonagall. "But I shudder to think. . . If Albus hadn't been on the way downstairs for hot chocolate—who knows what might have—"
The three of them stared down at Creevey. Then Dumbledore leaned forward and wrenched the camera out of Colin's rigid grip.
"You don't think he managed to get a picture of his attacker?" said Professor McGonagall eagerly.
Dumbledore didn't answer. He opened the back of the camera.
"Good gracious!" said Madam Pomfrey.
A jet of steam had hissed out of the camera. Harry, three beds away, caught the acrid smell of burnt plastic.
"Melted," said Madam Pomfrey wonderingly. "All melted. . ."
"What does this mean, Albus?" Professor McGonagall asked urgently.
"It means," said Dumbledore, "that the Chamber of Secrets is indeed open again."
Madam Pomfrey clapped a hand to her mouth. Professor McGonagall stared at Dumbledore.
"But, Albus. . . surely. . . who?"
"The question is not who," said Dumbledore, his eyes on Colin. "The question is, how. . . ."
And from what Harry could see of Professor McGonagall's shadowy face, she didn't understand this any better than he did.