Short, but hopefully sweet...
"The creature is a Basilisk," said Hermione excitedly as she came around the corner of the bookshelf with a very large book open in her arms. "Spiders flee from it and it kills with a single look, but its reflection will only petrify, not kill. I bet, nobody is dead yet because nobody has looked into directly into its eyes.
"Colin looked at it through his camera, Justin saw it through Nick, who can't die again, and Mrs Norris saw the reflection in a puddle, so none of them died, they were all just petrified. Being the King of Snakes, and with Slytherin as a Parselmouth too, I'll bet that's why only you can hear and understand it, Harry.
"I think it's been moving through the pipes in the wall, and that's when you've been hearing it. It all fits perfectly, you see? Even the fact somebody killed all of Hagrid's roosters fits, because they are deadly to it. The creature is a Basilisk. There can't be any doubt."
She looked up proudly from her book, directly into the blank, unnerving stare of Larry, the mannequin.
Tom Riddle's Horcrux wasn't human. It had seemingly unlimited patience and had waited for decades until it was given to a victim without once getting frustrated, but two weeks in the possession of Harry Potter was pushing its limits.
Nothing it tried, not one urge or motivation could convince the boy to pick up a quill and write a single line inside of it. It was so close to achieving its new goal and yet so far. All the work that went into getting the previous owner to slip it into Potter's bag was so far for naught.
It was like Potter was an inhuman fortress of stability – immune to all compulsions.
Harry wasn't of course. He was just bone-lazy.
"Wake up, Harry. You're going to be late," said Ernie, pulling the bed covers off Harry in a much-practiced move.
"Merlin's crystal balls!" he yelled, stumbling backwards as Harry's head was exposed.
Strangely staring eyes peered at him over a wide open 'O' shaped mouth.
"Take it easy, Ern," said the real Harry, coming up behind the still shocked boy. "It's just Larry."
"What the hell is that thing doing in your bed?" asked Ernie, in a slightly panicked voice. "I thought you'd been turned to stone just like Justin."
"It's those damn roosters," said Harry wearily. "Ever since Hermione made her discovery and they put the blasted things all over the place, I just can't get a decent sleep. It's killing me."
"I know," agreed a very bleary eyed Zac, coming over to join them. "I hope they find and kill the bloody Basilisk soon. I've tried sleeping with my earmuffs on, but that's so damn uncomfortable I might as well just keep waking up."
From the distance, the sound of a rooster crowing echoed, just to emphasise the point. All night and all day the roosters crowed, constantly filling the school up with their deadly-to-Basilisks cries.
"But what's that got to do with this thing?" asked Ernie, nodding towards the mannequin in Harry's bed.
"I've been sneaking out trying to find a place to get a good kip," explained Harry. "Larry here is in case anybody does a head count or something. Everybody is so damn paranoid this year."
"Any luck?" asked Zac, rubbing his eyes and yawning loudly. "Finding a quiet place, that is?"
"Nothing so far, but I suspect the Professor's staff room might have some sort of sound proofing around it but I can't figure out a way to get in to check. Oh, and I have managed to find a deafness curse that we might be able to get put onto a necklace pendant or something so you can take it off when you want to hear again. I reckon it's not going to be too hard to convince an older year to help me get it working either."
"That sounds brilliant," said Zac. "Count me in for one."
It naturally went unsaid that Harry's idea wouldn't be had for free.
"Me too," said Ern, nodding in agreement. "But can you please stop leaving this thing around the place? It really gives me the willies, especially when you pull that swap trick and make it take your place in History."
"Freaks you out? I'm sure it did it all by itself the other day," said Harry.
A shiver ran down all three of their spines.
Finally, the piece of Riddle's soul thought as it felt the tip of a quill press down onto one of its pages.
"My name is Harry Potter," came the unusually untidy scrawl, but the diary already knew that.
With all of its magical might, it reached out and tried to compel the boy to write more, to start the long process of stealing the victim's soul by slowly leaching it out, one question at a time.
"Hello, Harry Potter. My name is Tom Riddle." It wrote back. "Are we still at Hogwarts?"
There was a hesitation - a moment where the balance of the scales teetered - and then the quill pressed down again.
"My name is Harry Potter."
Momentary confusion. The Horcrux tried again.
"Yes, I know. I can read anything you write. Are you a student?"
More hesitation, and the Horcrux pressed harder, exerting itself like it had never before.
"My name is Harry Potter."
The diary roared in silent frustration and anger.
"My name is Harry Potter" wrote Larry again, getting neater with each pass.
"That thing gets creepier every time I see it," said Fred upon spying the mannequin sitting in Harry's usual spot in the library. "Harry had it holding an old wand the other day."
"I kind of like it," said George looking up from his library book. "But not as much as that Colin kid did before he got petrified, mind you. Now he was a creepy character."
They both shuddered at the memory.
"My name is Harry Potter," wrote Larry yet again, completely ignoring the abuse scrawling itself over the page under his artificial hand.
Checking both ways to make sure nobody was watching, Harry ducked into the classroom he secretly commandeered as a hidey-hole just recently. It was his little safe-haven. A place away from the other students and professors, where he could do nothing and not bother even pretending to be busy.
It looked like an enraged troll had been set loose in it.
Books and parchment lay scattered all over the floor as if carelessly dropped or thrown there. The accumulated contents of one of his pockets sat in a pile, obviously just tipped out with no regard to neatness. The few desks left in the room were pushed untidily against one wall, and his trunk sat on its side spilling its contents out onto the ground.
Yep, it was pretty much exactly how he had left it, except the trunk, which somehow always managed to tip itself over and dump stuff out.
"Hmm," said Harry. "The elves must be really busy. I can't believe those coins I gave them are still going"
( "Twisty be getting another free games!" yelled one of the ugliest 'kids' still filling the video arcade.
"Yay!" cheered a group of similarly dressed 'kids'. )
"Ah well," shrugged Harry. "I guess it serves me right for making a mess. Suppose I should pick it all up. Nah. I'm sure they'll get to it one day, and I wouldn't want to deprive them of the fun they get cleaning up."
So he left, not noticing until much later that somebody else had been into the room, and had taken away that mysterious little black diary that always gave him an uncomfortable mental itch whenever it was close.
Although Harry normally chose to be fairly ignorant of the moods and feelings of the other students, even he couldn't ignore the terror permeating the ancient halls of Hogwarts.
Students, ghosts, pets and even portraits had previously being attacked; petrified by an unknown entity that the professors could not catch. Multiple rumours of the return of Slytherin's monster ran rampant through the school, some of them accurate, some completely fallacious.
Now a new message appeared on the wall, promising a student would be taken and never seen again.
One thing was sure, the school was in trouble.
"Excuse me, Professor? It is true, the rumour that the school might close? Because of the attacks, I mean?" asked Harry, finally getting worried enough to do something more than just listen to everybody gossip.
He could not understand why so many people put so much effort into whispers and guesses when the truth was often just a question away.
"Unfortunately, yes," answered Professor Sprout, Flowers, with a sad sniff.
"And we would all be sent home, right?" asked Harry, wanting to make completely sure of his facts.
"If the attacks continue, or until we can be sure the school is safe, it would be best for everybody to return to their homes."
"So I'd be stuck back at the Dursley's? Possibly for a long time?"
"As I explained last year, Harry, the headmaster believes it is the safest place for you."
"Right, that's what I thought, thanks," he said with a resigned sigh.
"Where are you going, Harry? Your dorms are back that way."
"Me? I'm off to find Sally's Secret Chamber, of course. I mean, I'm already looking for a quieter place to slee-um, to study, So I might as well search for the Chamber too. I figure either I'll find it and the school won't have to close, or the pet will find me and I'll get to spend a bit of quality time experiencing the existence of a statue.
"Trust me, Professor. When it comes to staying at the Dursleys, I think we'd all be much happier if I did it as an oversized garden ornament."
"Is there some reason you are brewing up a potion in the abandoned girl's toilet?" Harry asked. "No, stop. On second thoughts, I don't want to know why."
"You're not going to tell anybody, are you?" asked Hermione timidly.
"What? Lord no – then I'd be getting asked all sorts of questions."
"Thank you," she said, obviously relieved.
"So what is it you are brewing?"
"It's called Polyjuice Potion and it's very advanced. When it's done, one sip will turn you into anybody you can get a hair sample from, for one hour."
"Cool," said Harry.
"Unfortunately we still need bicorn horn and the boomslang skin to finish it," she added wistfully. "That's going to be tricky to get, but we have a plan."
"Oh, well, I think I can get some," said Harry. "For a price."
"What? Really? How much?" she asked excitedly, and then frowned.
"And where from?" she added in a suspicious tone.
"I bought all seven years potion supplies," answered Harry, "and it will only cost you an equal share of the completed potion."
There were many people Harry would prefer to be, even if it was only for a little while.
"Deal," said Hermione happily.
Then her insatiable curiosity obviously got her thinking.
"So what were you doing in the girl's–"
"Don't ask," said Harry, cutting her off.
The memory of Moaner offering to help him sleep still sent shivers down his back.
"So Hagrid, if Hermione's right and it's a Basilisk, does that prove it wasn't you that let the monster out all those years ago?"
"No 'ow did you 'ear about that?" asked Hagrid.
Hagrid was pretty sure he hadn't ever gotten drunk enough in front of a student to tell them that story, but he could never really be certain, not after that time he woke up naked on the shore of the great lake. Thank Merlin that Dumbledore, great man that he is, took pity and didn't fire him, although the way he kept smiling at Hagrid's nakedness was a bit unnerving.
"Ron was telling me about this bunch of huge spiders in the forest you had to rescue him from. He said something about his sister disappearing and he went looking for her and got lost or mislead or something, and you saved him from them because you were their friends but got you expelled in your second year?"
"Oh yeah, that. Strange girl, that Ginny. Always running off and getting into some sort of trouble or another. Found her locked in the broom shed once. Said some'ing had locked her in there. Anyway, Ministry's not likely to want to admit they were wrong on my account, Harry. Bleeding bunch of good for nothing bureaucrats."
"You shouldn't let them get away with it," said Harry, taking another sip from one of the buckets Hagrid called teacups.
"Not much I can do really," said Hagrid.
Harry knew lazy. He knew the kinds of people in bureaucracies like the Muggle school administration, and the kind of lazy they were. It was different to his lazy, and usually pretty stupid.
"Well," he said after taking a moment to think about it. "You start by writing a letter to the place that deals with animal control."
"You mean the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures? Why would I do that?"
"To license the Basilisk as your pet," said Harry. "When they demand proof of ownership, you won't be able to give them what they want because you can't open the Chamber. They'll deny you, and you can use that to argue with the other department, the one that locked you up, as proof that you had nothing to do with opening the Chamber all those years ago."
"You reckon that'll work?"
"Can't see why not. If anybody asks, you can point them towards the bureaucrats to get their answers. The way those places work, nobody will ever get a straight answer out of them, and Beardy is pretty sure to back you up, right?"
"Great man, Dumbledore," confirmed Hagrid solemnly.
"I'll take your word for it. Anyway, just make sure to go get a new wand, because it's no good trying to fix a broken one – trust me, I've tried a few and none of them worked out well at all."
Hagrid frowned in concentration, the stirrings of hope in his heart as another idea sprung to mind.
"And if they do let me register, I'll be allowed to keep it!" he said excitedly.
Harry managed not to slap a hand to his forehead.
Harry's searching finally found him the perfect place to take a nap where the constant crowing of roosters would not keep him on the verge of consciousness, but the effort to be there was a bit more than he would normally go for.
He always assumed the Professor's Staff room had the best couches, and he suspected they would have special silencing charms that prevented noise from getting in, but it had taken until Hermione finished brewing some Polyjuice potion to prove, and now he was finally taking advantage of it.
He had just sunk into a deep snooze in one of the luxurious armchairs when the rest of the professors entering the room, which they should not have been doing at this time of the night.
"-the girl, Ginny Weasley," said Professor Mac entering the room. "Ah, Gilderoy. Just the man I wanted to see."
Harry looked around trying to spot the other professor when he suddenly remembered who it was he was Polyjuiced as.
"So sorry - dozed off for a bit- what have I missed?" he asked, hoping to cover up his near-blunder.
He tried hard to pretend not to notice that the other teachers were looking at him with something remarkably like hatred, and then Greasy stepped forward. Harry was sure his cover was blown.
"Just the man," he said. "The very man. A girl has been snatched by the monster, Lockhart. Taken into the Chamber of Secrets itself. Your moment has come at last."
Harry felt himself blanche, the blood running from his face so fast it left him light headed.
"That's right, Gilderoy," chipped in Professor Sprout. "Weren't you saying just last night that you've known all along where the entrance to the Chamber of Secrets is?"
"I - well, I -"sputtered Harry.
"Yes, didn't you tell me you were sure you knew what was inside it even before miss Granger's theory came out?" piped up Professor Flitwick.
"I certainly remember you saying you were sorry you hadn't had a crack at the monster before the roosters were brought in," said Greasy. "Didn't you say that the whole affair had been bungled, and that you should have been given a free rein from the first?"
Harry stared around at the stony-faced professors.
"We'll leave it to you, then, Gilderoy," said Professor McGonagall. "Tonight will be an excellent time to do it. We'll make sure everyone's out of your way. You'll be able to tackle the monster all by all by yourself. A free rein at last."
"V-very well," he said. "I'll - I'll be in my office, getting, er getting ready."
He left the room as fast as he could without sprinting.
His first instinct was to bolt for his dorm, but then he realised Smiley wouldn't be looking for the missing girl unless he was told, so Harry veered off and ran to the defence professor's office instead.
When he got there, it was to discover a scared looking Ron Weasley standing in an otherwise empty office.
"Professor," Ron said, seeing Harry. "You've got to help. It's taken my sister!"
"Ah crap," said Harry. "Ron, it's me, Harry. I am using some of Hermione's Polyjuice. Where's Smiley?"
"Harry? What the hell? Oh crud, he really has gone, hasn't he? I thought so, when I saw his office was empty, but then you came in-"
"Gone? Gone where? Don't tell me he saw the writing on the wall and did 'a runner'? Damn!"
"What are we going to do?" asked Ron. "It's got my baby sister."
Harry swore again, this time using longer, more heart-felt words.
"Listen, you've got to tell the professors that Smiley has nicked off," said Harry. "They're expecting him to go rescue her. Once they know he has gone they'll start looking, but Smiley apparently knew where the entrance is and they don't, so don't waste any time. I've got to go hide and wait for the Polyjuice to wear off or I'll be in it deep."
"Okay," said Ron, rushing out of the room.
Harry pulled his invisibility cloak over his head and headed towards the second floor bathroom where Hermione had hidden to brew the potion. He really should have looked where he was going, but the last thing he expected to stumble into was a dirty great hole where the sinks used to be.
"Speak to me Slytherin," shouted Tom, and the mouth of the giant statue opened.
"Hey, he kind of looks like Larry now!"Harry giggled to himself, feeling a bit hysterical.
Maybe the bumps on his head from the tumble he took getting down here was affecting him a bit more than he originally thought. His hands were pretty torn up and he was covered in bruises too.
He hadn't even noticed anybody aside from Ron's sister (Scotch? No, that was Smiley's favourite. Margaritas? Tequila? Grog? No, Gin, that was it, Gin) lying on the middle of the chamber when he first staggered in looking for a way out.
Riddle's monologue had almost put Harry to sleep. It was like one of Binn's lectures, but without anybody else around to share the boredom or Larry to take his place in class.
Actually, that gave him an idea.
"Come forth, my pet! Come and obey your master, the true heir of Slytherin," ranted Riddle, working himself up into a nice little frenzy.
The sounds of something enormous moving up the dark tunnel behind the mouth echoed through the chamber, getting louder and louder until a mammoth snake's head pushed its way out of the gaping mouth.
"Kill him," yelled the semi-solid ghost of Voldemort, turning to point at Harry.
Tom barely registered the strange expression and wide open 'O' shaped mouth before the Basilisk dived forward to swallow the mannequin whole.
Spotting the real Harry dragging Ginny towards the chamber door, his invisibility cloak failing to keep them both covered, Tom was about to order the monster to attack again when the great beast suddenly began making a strange barking sound.
"What's going on?" demanded Tom. "What are you doing?"
The coughing grew worse and the huge snake started thrashing from side to side, banging its head on the ground and the walls in an apparent attempt to dislodge Larry from its throat.
"Stop it!" screamed Tom, jumping hurriedly out of the way as the Basilisk's thrashing became more desperate. "Stop that this instant!"
The snake was fairly writhing now, smashing everything in its path as it struggled to breath.
"They're getting away!" yelled Tom, completely ignoring the fact the monster had much bigger problems to deal with. "Kill them!"
Finally, the Basilisk gave an almighty heave, flinging its entire length into the air in an attempt to clear its airway. The massive coils of its body toppled pillars and destroyed the base of Slytherin's ego-sized statue.
The gargantuan bust leaned over, and then snapped completely. It toppled to the ground, landing on top of the choking snake with a crunching crash. Blood and snake guts burst out, spraying the room.
"No!" yelled Tom in anger and disbelief.
Then he spotted a wand, dropped by the fake Potter before it was eaten.
Harry, who had lost his slippery grip on Ginny while trying to keep his footing as the snake died, had a sudden flash of insight and memory. Something Beardy had said to him after trapping Voldemort in a glass jar last year. Something about his blood been poison to the Dark Lord.
Grabbing the diary from Ginny's hands, Harry opened it.
'BITE ME' , he wrote, using his blood as ink and his finger as a quill.
Tom, who was stalking towards them with murder in his eyes, suddenly gave out a huge shriek of pain. With each touch of blood, he screamed and twisted, his once handsome face disintegrating as if flames where eating away at it from the inside.
Realising he didn't need to actually write anything, Harry started using his hand as a stamp, covering page after page with smudgy palm prints, and finger painting random designs with any excess.
Riddle staggered with each mark, as if a physical blow was striking him.
Running low on blood from his damaged fingers, Harry grabbed the book in both hands and pressed his face against it, smearing the trickle of blood, that was leaking from a cut somewhere on his forehead, all over the middle two-page spread.
He made sure to put on a disgusted expression as he did it, just to make it as insulting as possible.
Harry started considering if he should swap to other body fluids – his bladder was quite full, and it would be even more insulting.
Fighting against the pain, Voldemort-the-younger raised the wand he had taken from the mannequin and pointed it at Harry in one final, desperate attempt to stop him.
It was unfortunate he hadn't noticed the wand was of the second hand ones Harry had picked up before the start of the year. It had a long crack running down its length and was barely holding together despite a significant amount of different glues Harry had tried fixing it with.
"Avada Kedavra!" screamed Tom.
The resulting green-flamed explosion shook the foundations of the school and brought down a ton of dust and rock from the roof of the cavern.
When the dust cleared, Harry sat up coughing for a few minutes and was very grateful to see Ron's sister, also sitting up and clearing her lungs.
"Meep!" she coughed while ducking down once she noticed he was looking at her.
"Oh good," he said. "You're awake. I really wasn't looking forward to having to carry you all the way back."
She did not look impressed.
Harry looked at the strange elf, the one that had stolen his mail and delivered the less than useful warning at the beginning of the year - Dobber or something.
It was perched on the end of his hospital bed, apologising profusely about not being able to stop the diary from possessing Ginny, or to stop her from doing all of the horrible things she had unknowingly been involved in, like killing roosters, enchanting the bludger to try to kill Harry, and petrifying people.
"I don't get it," Harry said. "Why don't you just leave? If you hate Malfoy so much, just disappear. He can't stop you, can he?"
Harry noticed people often came up with strange elaborate ways to stop from doing the easy things. It was quite baffling sometimes.
"Oh no, Mister Harry Potter sir," said the elf "Elves are bound-"
"Yeah, yeah, I know that," interrupted Harry, "but you've already managed to do stuff he wouldn't have wanted you to do, so just go that bit further and leave. Pretend he has given you a sock or something and go."
"Pretend?" asked the elf.
"Yeah, pretend. I pretend all the time. I pretend I care, I pretend I am working, hell, I'll even pretend I like you if it will make you go away and stop bugging me.
"Look, go home, find a an old pair of grungies or something that Mal has dropped, pick it up and pretend he gave it to you, which he sort of has done since he obviously left it there for you to find."
It was like a light bulb had gone off behind the elf's eyes - a maniacal, high voltage light bulb.
"Yes, yes! Thank you Harry potter. Dobby will not forget!"
With that, he disappeared in a puff of smoke. Leaving a grumbling Harry Potter determine to get more a decent sleep before the evening meal – a task made infinitely easier now that the roosters were finally gone from the halls.
"He could have at least offered to help me over summer," Harry murmured as he made his way to the land of nod.
"Potter," called Draco, catching up to Harry after the feast. "I guess you nearly got one of them but missed out at the last second, eh? Can't help bad luck, can you?"
"Eh?" said Harry, not at all close to understanding.
"Never mind, Harry," said Slick, more amicably than anything he had ever said to Harry before. "There's plenty more Weasleys to try for next year. See you in a few months then."
Eventually all of the petrified were revived, thanks to the Mandrakes grown by the students.
Harry found the shape his unevenly expanded pot forced his to grow into quite amusing, and was actually a bit sad to see the overly busty plant decapitated and stewed. It would have made an awesome addition to Petunia's garden.
"Right," said Harry, preparing himself for the train trip back to London.
"Enchanted stuff to make chores at the Dursley's easier – check.
"Stuff to keep Duderkins away – check.
"Stuff to play with to keep from getting too bored – check.
"Dirty great award thing for saving the school – check."
Hedwig crash-landed on his trunk. Her inactivity and unlimited food supply was taking its toll on the once svelte bird. He might need to get a bigger cage next year, if she kept on at this rate.
"Owl – check.
"Prewritten form letters for pen friends – check.
"Trunk full of prepared food that won't go off – check.
"Enchanted hovering bathmat that hopefully nobody will miss – check.
"What have I forgotten?"
After several minutes of concentration, Harry could come up with nothing more, so he made his way downstairs and headed towards the carriages that would take him to the train station and his 'home'.
"Guess if I've left anything behind I'll get it back next year," he thought, satisfied that he had covered his bases as much as could be expected. "Besides, the elves should be able to bring me anything I need."
He was really looking forward to having the elves around this year, now that he knew they would be hanging around.
( Deep in the bowels of the castle, a previously secret cavern echoed to the sound of almost a hundred elves suddenly popping into existence inside of it.
"Oh," they all moaned in ecstasy at the sight of a labyrinth that hadn't been cleaned for a thousand years.
"Look!" exclaimed one pointing to where the massive statue of Slytherin had fallen, crushing the enormous Basilisk, spreading much filth, gore, and grime everywhere.
"Harry Potter told us he left a messes to be cleaned up, but be never said how big its was!"
"This will takes us all summer," it panted excitedly "There's will be no need to leave Hoggywarts at all this year!"
"Yay!" cheered the rest.
Further in, hidden by large pieces of the fallen statue, a section of the crushed snake bulged outwards, stretching impossibly far before bursting open to allow a badly damaged artificial hand to emerge.
Well there you go – a surprise second year I had no intention of writing. Much thanks to the guys at AFC, especially BennyS for ongoing help and ideas that I shamelessly stole. There is one idea I have for a fourth year scene, but I am not likely to write a third year and a fourth year just to get to it! Then again...