Fighting for our Friends
Professor McGonagall had been a Transfiguration teacher ever since Professor Dumbledore had become Headmaster and hired her 37 years ago. Furthermore she had been the Gryffindor Head of House for over 30 years now. She had a severe no nonsense attitude and, to many witches and wizards, a reputation as the strictest teacher in living memory. Through sometimes harsh lectures, she had reduced students to tears, killed off otherwise invulnerable egos and left a lasting and sometimes haunting image in the childhood memories of many who had passed through Hogwarts doors.
If a student, say for example, snuck out after curfew during times when their lives could be in jeopardy and traipsed through the forest? Well when McGonagall was through with them, they would be heavily racked with guilt, no doubt shedding some tears and spend a great deal of time reflecting on what they'd done. To say nothing of the punishments.
However, she now found herself faced with ten truants, nine of whom her own Gryffindors, all of whom were either First or Second Year, who had done just that. McGonagall could easily rouse up a speech that would make them feel guilty, kill off their ego and make them reflect on what a stupid thing they'd done, even if they had to cry for it. The problem was, all ten of them, without exception, felt heavily guilty, had no significant problems with self-ego (despite what Severus would say) and would doubtlessly be reflecting on what had happened for weeks if not months to come. All of them were already in to process of crying and McGonagall hadn't gotten started yet. She had only just found them and escorted them to her office.
"Please explain from the beginning why you all felt the need to go out into the Forbidden Forest so long after midnight when we have strict security measures in place for your safety?" demanded McGonagall.
Everyone looked to Harry who probably didn't notice because he was cradling Dobby's corpse. He wasn't the least bit interested in Hogwarts rules right about now. Someone had died, trying to protect him. The fact that it was someone he didn't really like in the least and the fact that the protection demonstrated was never necessary in the first place did nothing to quell his guilt. However no one else was speaking. Harry was their leader, no one had ever said anything, but he made the decisions what to tell others. His friends all looked up to him and followed him on this particular adventure, despite the risks and fears they had. They respected him. They had forged a bond with him that could not easily be broken.
"I'm waiting?" said McGonagall.
"It was for Hagrid." Said Harry.
"I beg your pardon?" said McGonagall.
"I needed to proof that Hagrid wasn't responsible for what's happening." Said Harry.
"And what does that have to do with going into the Forbidden Forest?" demanded McGonagall.
"The Acromantula he was caught with when he was expelled lives in the forest. He told us, that Hagrid was never responsible for opening the Chamber fifty years ago, he also told us he was not the monster from inside the Chamber of Secrets."
McGonagall's eyes flared open in complete shock. "How could you possibly know the Chamber was opened Fifty Years ago?"
No one answered.
McGonagall took several deep breaths "Did you learn anything else in the Forest?"
She was looking at Harry but it was Luna who answered "We learnt that the person who was murdered, died in a bathroom, that the heir of Slytherin spoke the language of a snake and conversed through the walls. We also learnt that whoever he is, caught Hagrid with his spider and framed him for the attacks."
McGonagall's eyes widened. Professor Dumbledore had of course shared his suspicions with her regarding a certain Slytherin Prefect but there was never any proof. One other thing also stood out which she previously did not know.
"You say the heir spoke snake language through the walls." Said McGonagall.
"Yes." Said Harry "It looks like whatever the monster is, is a… Snake?" Harry suddenly realised. "That's what Hermione…"
McGonagall raised an eyebrow "Yes Mr Potter."
"I think Hermione got an idea what the monster was, that's why she went to the Library."
"And probably why she was also attacked." Said Emma.
"This is ridiculous." Said McGonagall before she could stop herself. Suddenly the door opened and Professor Flitwick came in.
"Miss Lovegood." He said sternly.
But after everything that happened that night Luna couldn't help but smile at his appearance "Hello Professor Flitwick, how are you feeling this night?"
Professor Flitwick stood stunned at his Ravenclaw's sudden greeting.
"Filius, these students have had a tough and stressful night, some of which." She glanced at Dobby's body in Harry's arms. "Some of which is not their fault. I suggest we take off fifty house points each and give them three weeks of detentions."
Professor Flitwick nodded.
"We shall give you more details about your detentions in the morning." Said McGonagall "I will spare you the lecture on how grave your actions have been, but only because nothing I say will make you feel any worse or teach any lesson that you haven't already learnt. I will say this though: you're all lucky to be alive, make sure think before heading into a situation like this again."
The fallout from losing Gryffindor 450 house points and Ravenclaw 50 was a bit mixed. True the Gryffindor point counter was now down to just 37 points and Ravenclaw were still in second place but behind Hufflepuff instead of Gryffindor. Many students were resentful that Harry and his friends had lost them all those points. But then stories started circulating that they had duelled against Acromantulae in the forest. Many students had to admit that if you were going to lose several hundred points that was the way to go.
The most significant negative reaction happened the second morning after Dobby died. Percy had obviously written home about what happened and Ron and Ginny got howlers from Mrs Weasley.
But the group by and large couldn't find it within themselves to be affected by what the howler or the limited bad mouthing of other students. All they could think about was Dobby's dying words and the fact that he was so desperate to try and protect Harry, still greatly affected them. None of them would talk to other students, except Luna but she wouldn't say anything the least bit relevant and kept on forcibly turning the conversation away from Acromantula to Crumple-Horned Snorkacks, so after a while people stopped asking her. Neither Harry nor Emma nor any of the others spoke of what happened. So it was testament to how bored everyone had become, being locked up in the Common Rooms, that people still didn't stop asking.
Since ten students had somehow snuck out after hours despite the patrols, the Common Rooms were now locked up at curfew after a role call was made. Harry and the others still hadn't told McGonagall or anyone how they managed to get out of the castle and no one had thought to look in Hagrid's hut or missed the brooms from the cupboard at the Quidditch pitch. But that did them no use what so ever, there movements were now closely monitored so even if they somehow made it out of the Common Rooms they had little to no chance of escaping surveillance.
Harry, Ron and Neville made their way from the last class of the day, Charms, to the Trophy Room to sit out their third day of detention. Because so much of the staff had to work on patrolling the corridors round the clock they simply could not supervise all ten students constantly for three weeks. So it was decided that the Second Years would serve three weeks, then when they had finished Emma, Demelza, Luna and Ginny would serve detention for the next three weeks and finally Vicky, Natalie and Geoffrey would serve detention for the three weeks after that.
The three of them were being escorted by Percy and Professor Vector, who turned out to be the Arithmancy teacher. When Harry and Neville learnt who she was they began bombarding her with questions about what sort of stuff would be covered next year and whether they'd get to design new spells.
"No boys, by the end of third year you'll be able to modify certain simple spells but you're not expected to make spells until seventh year."
Percy seemed really irritated, he had not thought losing all but 37 points was worth a battle against giant spiders, but here was a Hogwarts Professor happily chatting away with two of the misbehavers about Arithmancy and spell creation.
He would probably have taken some satisfaction given Filch was supervising but, because of the rule that patrol and guard duties had to be in pairs, Filch wasn't the only one supervising. The previous two nights it had been Snape with him, but tonight was his night off so the Fat Friar took the second role.
"Oh my, this takes me back." He said jollily "When I was at Hogwarts, this was all done by magic, except for detentions. Some say that it has to be done with good hard elbow grease but I found that a good focused Scourging Charm did wonders."
"You used to clean these?" asked Ron.
"Oh yes, I had more than a couple of detentions in my day. But my happiest days at Hogwarts were definitely when I was in charge of the infirmary. Oh at the time Muggleborns weren't that highly thought of but I found them and their culture absolutely fascinating. They found the Wizarding World absolutely fascinating too. I used to have this late night book club where we would read literature from their world, much harder to get in those days, especially from the Wizarding World. Some of it was absolutely marvellous."
"Yeah this castle is great." Said Harry.
"I know, when I first entered, I never wanted to leave. In many ways I haven't. After I trained my apprentice and retired, I was on the Board of Governors so I visited all the time. This was back in the day when the Governors always had two members living in the castle of course. Wouldn't get that today, bunch of upstart upperclassmen living in mansions, care more about their wine than the running of the school."
"You got that right." Said Ron, obviously thinking of Lucius Malfoy.
"Yes, strangely enough my finest moment came after I died. When I was asked to be the ghost of Hufflepuff House. Truly the greatest moment of my life… My Death to."
"Do all the ghost here have a patch?" asked Ron "I only ask because we once met this ghost who haunts the girls bathroom on the Second Floor."
"Ah yes Myrtle, very sad that. She became a ghost for all the wrong reasons. Immensely attached to that bathroom though, spent much of her Hogwarts years having her private moments in there, died there too the rumour goes. That was always the one downside of Hogwarts, not a lot of room for privacy."
It was only later when they were all back in the Common Room with the rest of the group, minus Luna, that it occurred to Harry what both the Friar and Aragog said.
"Died in a bathroom."
"Sorry Harry?" said Emma.
"Aragog said that the girl died in the bathroom."
"So?" said Natalie.
"What if she never left." Said Harry.
Suddenly all their heads turned to him.
"You're not serious?" said Vicky "You think she could have told us."
"I'm not sure she was that interested in what we were doing." Said Demelza.
"We need to ask her." Said Harry
"How?" said Ron "Since we went to the forest everyone's being watching us like we're about to rob Gringotts. I don't know where or not you noticed but two Prefects actually followed us all the way to breakfast this morning."
"I know. We'll just have to wait for an opening." Said Harry
But coming across openings was hard to do. Harry, Ron and Neville finished their third week of detention during the first week of the Easter Holidays. Emma had to fight herself not to laugh when Filch tried in vain to threaten Luna only for her not to notice in the first place.
"I wonder if Professor McGonagall would allow me to use the shackles on you." He leered.
"She wouldn't." said Luna simply.
"Oh wouldn't she?"
"No, use of corporal punishment against children was outlawed ten years ago, that falls under corporal punishment."
Filch glared at her.
"Are you feeling alright Mr Filch you look a bit constipated. Have you been underground a lot, you could have swallowed some Gulping Pimpys, I did warn Professor Snape that they like to dwell in the Dungeons but he wasn't interested. If you are constipated try singing Irish Ballads whilst on the loo, it tends to help, particularly if you can sing soprano."
Filch would very much have like to lynch her but, asides from legal issues surrounding that, the Fat Friar was present for this detention and was absolutely balling with laughter.
In detention, out of detention; in class, out of class; in the Common Rooms, out of the Common Rooms they were always being watched.
As April ended so too did Emma's time in detention. Vicky, Natalie and Geoffrey were in their final week when everyone got the shock that they had exams in just a few days.
But the following morning McGonagall announced that the Mandrakes were ready and that the process of revitalizing those in the Hospital Wing would occur later that evening.
"Maybe Hermione will be able to tell them everything." Said Ron "We won't even need to confront Myrtle."
"Don't get your hopes up Ron." Said Emma "We should still make one more… Ginny?"
Ginny, ever since McGonagall made the announcement had been shaking.
"I… I'm going to the Hospital Wing I don't feel well." She said.
"I'll go with you." Said Emma.
"No!" shouted Ginny "Leave me alone." She then ran out of the hall.
"Well that was odd." Said Ron.
"I'm going after her." Said Emma, "Something's not right, she was fine until…"
Suddenly dots began to connect themselves in Emma's head.
"No Surely Ginny isn't involved in all this!" she thought "I'll see you at lunch." She said and ran off after Ginny.
Harry looked at them go, something was going on.
"We should get to Myrtle somehow." Said Harry.
"Yeah." Said Ron.
Later Harry, Ron and Neville were being escorted to Charms by the ever self-obsessed Gilderoy Lockhart, when Harry realised that they could use this gullible teacher to escape from their surveillance.
"Mark my words, when each of those poor souls wakes up the first thing they'll say will be 'it was Hagrid'."
"Is that so?" said Harry, taking pleasure in watching Lockhart's spine shiver. "What evidence do you have to back that claim up? Surely someone who 'claims' to have done all you've done can share your 'great' wisdom with mere children like us…"
"Uh… Uh… you know what, you've only got two more corridors to walk I should go… pre…prepare for my next class."
Lockhart then ran back towards the Defence Against the Dark Arts Tower.
"Well that was amusing." Said Harry "I'm going to the toilet."
"I'll come with you." Said Ron.
"Me three." Said Neville.
"Hang on what are you three up to?" demanded Seamus, as he and their year mates looked at them.
"Oh this that and the next thing." Said Ron "But right now we need to go to a bathroom. So bye-bye."
"Wait!" shouted Parvati "You'll get Gryffindor into trouble again.
But Harry, Ron and Neville ignored them and trotted off towards Myrtles Bathroom.
Unfortunately, before they could get there, they then ran into McGonagall.
"Where do you three think you're going?" she demanded.
"We…" said Ron
"We were just going…" said Neville
"….to see Hermione." Said Harry, drawing on every feeling he had for the girl he then went on to say "She's practically family to me… to us… we haven't seen her since she was attacked and now that the Mandrakes are ready we just want to… you know… let her know she's going to be ok."
For a second the entire corridor was silent. Then in a croaky voice "Yes… Yes of course, I guess we haven't truly appreciated how much this has been affecting you, her friends. You may visit Miss Granger. I will inform Professor Flitwick where you are." She walked off in a hurry blowing her nose.
"That was brilliant." Said Ron.
"Yeah except if we don't go to the Hospital Wing, she'll lynch us with a tartan scarf." Said Neville.
"Let's go." Said Harry "We've just made it into her good books, besides I wasn't lying, I really do miss Hermione."
"Yeah me to." Said Ron.
Madam Pomfrey sighed at the boys' explanation but let them in to see Hermione.
"Hey!" said Harry "I really should have asked you what you'd figured out, if I had…"
"Don't continue that line of thought Harry Potter!" said Neville in a good imitation of Hermione.
"Thanks I needed that." Said Harry "With any luck this will be sorted out soon. One way or another you're…" Harry stopped when he looked at her hand. He nodded towards it and Neville and Ron understood his intention and kept a look for Madam Pomfrey while he pried out a crumpled up piece of paper from Hermione's hand.
Harry read through a page from an old book.
"Well that explains a lot." He said.
"Harry, have I ever mentioned you run too fast." panted Ron, while he and Neville struggled to keep up with Harry "Where are we going? I understand the monster's a Basilisk and the entrance is probably in the bathroom but… the bathroom is in the other direction."
"We can't just waltz off to the bathroom, we need to tell the staff about this." Said Harry "We need to tell McGonagall. She should be in the staff room in ten minutes, we'll wait for her there and show her the page."
"But what about the voices? How do we explain that?" said Neville "You don't really want to admit…"
No Harry didn't want to admit he was a Parselmouth. "Look there are plenty of other connections. The dead roosters, the method of petrification, the spiders, the fact that it's a snake, the fact that it can live for centuries. Maybe we won't have to tell her."
"Alright." Said Neville.
But they had barely waited in the staffroom a minute when McGonagall's voice echoed around the school.
"All students are to return to their House Dormitories Immediately. Prefects make extra care Mr Potter and his friends are accounted for. All teachers are to make their way to the Staff Room."
"Oh that is not good." Said Neville.
"They'll be here any second now. Get under this." Said Harry, pulling his invisibility cloak out of his bag.
The three of them crammed themselves in a corner waiting as the staff all assembled.
Finally McGonagall entered the staffroom looking graver than Harry could ever imagine her being. "It's happened. Students have been taken, by the Heir, into the Chamber of Secrets."
"No." cried out Flitwick
"Who?" asked Sprout.
"Ginny Weasley and Emma Potter."
Emma had just left breakfast and caught up with her best friend on the Second Floor corridor. "Ginny wait what's going on what are you hiding?"
"Leave me alone Potter." She snarled in a way so unlike the girl Emma had known for almost a year.
"Potter? Since when was I Potter. I'm Emma, you know. Your best friend and the sister of the boy you fancy."
She grabbed onto Ginny's bag in an effort to stop her. Both girls tugged hard causing the bag to split and Ginny's books to fall to the floor. Including one particular book.
"The Diary?" said Emma, recognising it "You're the one who stole it from Harry."
Ginny's frustrated look was replaced by another look that definitely didn't suit her in the slightest. She looked demented and malignant, it was unbelievable that an 11-year-old girl could form such an expression.
"So you've finally gotten this far. I was wondering if this vessel would live long enough for you or one of the other pathetics to find out."
Emma drew out her wand but Ginny was ready, she non-verbally summoned it with her own wand. Then she rapidly cast a silent Body-Bind before Emma could call for help.
"I think it's time for the Heir of Salazar Slytherin to finally come out of the shadows." Said Ginny. She magically sliced her hand with her wand and had the blood flow out and form writing on the wall.
THE BODIES OF GIRLS SHALL ROT IN THE CHAMBER FOREVER!
Emma realised that this message was written just next to the first message from Halloween, they were outside Myrles' bathroom.
Ginny then cut off a lock of her hair and then a lock of Emma's. Both girls were redheads but their shades were distinctive enough to tell them apart. She stuck them next to each other on the wall under the message.
"It's not a squib's cat but it will do." Said Ginny "You and this vessel shall die tonight, so shall your brother, but do not worry the two of you shall die together."
McGonagall held out the two locks of hair.
"We have to send the students home, we can't protect them. I'm afraid this is the end of Hogwarts."
"We will have to wait until tomorrow to send everyone on the train." Said Snape "We should also send out messages to the parents and guardians telling them what is happening."
The teachers spent over an hour just talking. Harry couldn't listen to it. He leant against the wall behind him, his sister was taken. Ron's sister was taken. Neville had a firm grip on both Harry and Ron's shoulders. After the hour past Harry looked to Ron and saw the exact same look of despair on his face.
"We should check on our students and inform them of what's happened." Said McGonagall "We're going to have to keep a close eye on the girls brothers, they may try something stupid. Their friends too."
The teachers left the staffroom and Neville guided Harry and Ron out and into a nearby broom cupboard.
"What's the plan Harry?" Said Neville "Do we still go to McGonagall?"
Harry didn't say anything.
"Why bother." Said Ron "None of them are going to do anything, Lockhart didn't even show up… Git."
"We know what we have to do Ron." Said Harry, his voice eminently dangerous.
"Neville…" Harry began.
"Save it Harry." He said "I care about Emma and Ginny too. They're your sisters but…" he couldn't find the right words.
Harry nodded, he understood. "The others are probably locked in the Common Rooms now, we have to go without them."
"Do you think they're still…" asked Ron
"I believe, with everything I have that Emma is alive." Said Harry strongly "What say you?"
"I want to believe Ginny is alive." Said Ron "So I will. Let's go, we may not have much time."
Moving around was slow work, Ghosts and the odd staff member were now patrolling the corridors. It took far longer than normal to get to Myrtle's Bathroom, the fact that there were three of them under the cloak made things even more difficult. But they got there.
"About time you three got here." Said Demelza, as Harry took the cloak off of himself, Ron and Neville.
"Demelza? Luna?" said Harry happily then he noticed a third person, and it wasn't Moaning Myrtle.
"What's this twit doing here?" said Ron glaring at Lockhart. The man looked positively afraid from his life and was sitting on the wet floor on the receiving end of both Luna and Demelza's wands.
"When the announcement was made we decided we had to listen in so we followed Professor McGonagall to the staffroom and listened from the outside. We heard enough to know that Emma and Ginny have been taken and that they're closing down the school" said Demelza
"But Professor Lockhart here interrupted us. Demelza was quite angry, she disarmed him, we took him prisoner and then we brought him here."
"I figured that as soon as you and Ron knew what had happened, you'd come here." Said Demelza.
"Good guess." Said Harry "The monster is a giant snake called a Basilisk. It has large and venoms teeth and looking it directly in the eyes will kill you. Those in the Hospital Wing only got petrified because the saw it indirectly: through a mirror, camera or Nick."
"Ah." Said Demelza in response to that.
"By the way, where are Vicky, Natalie and Geoffrey?" said Neville.
"They had their detention when McGonagall made the announcement." Said Luna.
"We actually caught site of them being escorted by six prefects and five ghosts back to Gryffindor Tower." Said Demelza. "I don't think they'll be able to help us."
"So Lockhart." Said Ron drawing everyone's attention. He was looking at the Defence Teacher with loathing normally reserved for members of the Malfoy family. "Fancy facing off against a Basilisk and saving our sisters' lives. That is what you do isn't it? You rescue innocent people from monsters and then write about it in your books… or is that brag?"
"Um… well the thing is I'm not well and my wand…" stuttered Lockhart.
"Actually where is his wand?" said Neville.
"When I disarmed him, it fell down the Grand Staircase." Said Demelza "It didn't seem worth the effort to retrieve it."
"So Lockhart?" said Harry "Facing a basilisk with no wand, think of how many books that will sell."
"Please… I'm a fraud… I'm a fraud… I never did any of those things."
"I know you just made them up." Said Harry "None of that stuff ever happened."
"Well that's not quite correct." Said Lockhart, he was still scared but some of his trademark smugness was beginning to surface. "Many of these things happened, they just happened as a result of other people efforts. I'm not completely useless. I was a Ravenclaw. I researched heroic events, tracked down the people involved and then erased their memories."
"And made the stories more interesting by making up nonsense such as a spell to turn a werewolf back into a human." Said Luna, her voice ice cold.
"Well I had to add a little flare to them. It sells books after all." Said Lockhart
Harry in complete rage punched Lockhart extra hard on the nose, causing him to fall back.
"I think you just broke his nose." Said Luna as blood trickled from Lockhart's nasal implement "It might be wrong, but I feel strangely happy that you did."
"That's because you and I agree about a number of things." Said Harry "You were the first person to take the same stand on this idiot as me."
"It is nice being your friend Harry." Said Luna.
"Ooh! Are you flirting?" came the girlish voice of Moaning Myrtle.
"Myrtle?" said Harry "Do you mind if I ask a question?"
"Ooh, well since you asked so nicely." She giggled.
"How did you die?"
Myrtle looked stunned for a moment then pulled a huge smile, it seemed inexplicably Harry was asking all the right questions. "Ooh it was awful, it happened right here in this very cubical." She pointed to the one at the end. "I was hiding because Olive Hornby was teasing me about my glasses, when I heard someone come in, I never saw them but I could tell it was a boy, by his voice. He was speaking in a horrible made up language so I opened the door to tell him to go away and… I died."
"Just like that?" said Harry "How?"
"All I remember is seeing a pair of great big yellow eyes, over there by that sink." She pointed.
Lockhart quivered pathetically as he realised that Harry wasn't kidding about the giant snake.
Harry walked over to examine the sink and gave it a look over, Luna and Neville helped him out.
"Harry here at the side." Said Luna.
Harry looked at the tap Luna was examining, there was a carving of a serpent on the side of the tap.
"I think this is it." Said Harry "This is the entrance to the Chamber of Secrets."
"But how do we get in?" said Neville.
Ron pointed his wand at the tap "Alohamora!" nothing happened. "Worth a shot!"
"Maybe you need a password?" said Demelza
"You're both thinking about it wrong." Said Luna "We need a method that only the Heir of Slytherin can use."
"But if only the Heir can use this method, how can we get in? We don't even know…" Ron stopped himself from talking as he realised what the method was.
Harry realised what Luna meant as well "Parseltongue. It has to be Parseltongue." He said.
"Well if you can't enter then you no longer need me." Said Lockhart cheerfully trying to get up.
Demelza shot a burst of red sparks at Lockhart's feat. He screamed in agony and collapsed back onto the wet floor.
"Harry?" said Ron warningly and glancing at Lockhart
"My sister's life is more important than this secret." Said Harry "Open!" he said.
"English." Said Ron
"Alright." He looked at Luna "Would you mind?"
"Of course not Harry." She said smiling with encouragement. She pointed her wand into the sink and incanted "Serpensortia!" a snake shot out of her wand and landed inside.
Harry looked the snake in the eye and said "Open!" Lockhart's sudden shriek in shock indicated to Harry that he had indeed spoken Parseltongue. The sink started to lower itself into the ground followed by the rest of the block leaving a large hole in the floor. Luna managed to banish the snake just before the sink it was in got beneath the floor.
Before them was a large dark hole, with no obvious way back up.
"I guess this is it." Said Harry
"Why don't we let the esteemed heroic author here go first." Said Ron grabbing Lockhart and bullying him towards the passage.
"Oh what a good idea." Said Demelza.
"Please what good would come of this." Begged Lockhart
"Better you than us!" said Ron vindictively.
"If it helps you can consider it atonement for your moral deviancy." Said Luna.
That didn't seem to make Lockhart feel better, but nevertheless he reluctantly approached the edge of the hole. Dissatisfied with how long he was taking, Harry pushed him in. As Lockhart fell he screamed until he reached the bottom. Harry mentally counted to three before following him.
When Harry impacted the ground he immediately trained his wand on Lockhart and kept it there as he rose to his feet. Ron landed next followed by Luna then Neville and finally Demelza not long afterwards.
Righting themselves they got a good look around. The entire area was surrounded by underground caves and bones of small creatures.
"These all appear to be rats." Said Harry, there was a sense of dread in his voice.
"Don't worry Harry none of them are human." Said Luna "Emma is alive."
"Thanks Luna, I needed that." Said Harry. The blond girl smiled at him.
"Remember, shut your eyes at the first sign of movement." Said Harry, as they made their way through.
They walked along the tunnel ahead, as it was the widest and the most accessible. With every step came the unavoidable sound of crunching bones. It was very disturbing, especially as slime coated the remnants as well. Harry was very aware of the possibility that the snake had probably run over these pieces repeatedly during the past year making its way to and from the surface.
"What's that over there?" said Ron "It looks like a snake."
Harry had to agree but the thing wasn't moving. "Shut your eyes everyone, I'm going to try to illuminate it. I'll be careful so don't worry."
He got a round of affirmatives then trained a lighting charm over the body. In happier times they would have commented on the fact that Harry could perform the magic non-verbally but now they were exceptionally worried about their friends… their family.
"It's alright." Said Harry. "It's not a basilisk, or at least not a live one."
"What do you mean?" said Ron. He and Harry walked over to it.
"Yeah it's a snakeskin." Said Harry
Demelza walked over leaving Luna and Neville to guard Lockhart. "Just how big is a basilisk?" she asked
"The book didn't say." Said Harry
"This thing has to be a good sixty foot long, or more." Said Ron
Ron, Harry and Demelza heard a thump behind them, upon turning they found Lockhart had fainted.
"Oh that's it." Said Ron furiously. He walked back towards Lockhart but got one hell of a shock.
Lockhart pushed Luna to the ground then snatched Neville's wand from his hand.
"Expelliamus!" Incanted Lockhart.
Neville got knocked back into Ron and both boys fell to the ground. Ron in his rage got up and ran towards Lockhart only to be stopped by a wand in his face.
"Not so fast, over with Miss Lovegood, Weasley." Said the poor excuse for a Defence teacher
Ron went over to Luna who was still lying on the ground, she made to get up but. Lockhart trained his wand on her.
"Nobody move. I'm afraid the adventure ends here, but don't worry everyone will know the story. How the Parselmouth Harry Potter lured his own sister and Ginny Weasley into the Chamber and killed them. How you all lost your minds at the grotesque betrayal and nature of the crime."
"You're mad." Shouted Ron "No one would believe that, besides Harry had alibis for most of the attacks."
"All of which will be irrelevant when he confesses all from 'his own' memory." Said Lockhart madly. "And I think his shall be the first. Say goodbye to your memory Potter and hello to your new home in Azkaban."
Lockhart was so busy bragging he didn't notice Harry had his own wand drawn.
"Expelliamus!" incanted Harry
Harry's spell his Lockhart, just as the man incanted his memory charm. Neville's wand flung into the air and the tip found itself pointed at Lockhart just as the memory charm left the tip of it. The fraudulent adventurer was thrown back and impacted the wall of the cave. Unfortunately this caused the fragile ceiling above them to collapse.
Emma was in a most uncomfortable position. Something was distinctly off with Ginny, the fact that she could speak Parseltongue was immensely off putting. Emma understood the word 'open' clearly but unlike when she heard herself or Harry speak the language, it sounded distinctly less human and she could actually tell that it was not English. The closest she could compare it to was when the snake at London Zoo spoke to her and Harry. But she could still sense an emblem of Ginny's voice in there.
There was nothing she could do. Ginny, or whoever was controlling her still had her in a body-bind and was floating her immobile form all the way down the passage to an underground cave. Ginny, or whoever was controlling her, guided Emma through the caves, past a snakeskin, to a large metal door. Once more Parseltongue was used to open it.
Emma managed to get a good view of the inner chamber. Well she didn't have any choice. Her eyes were stuck wide open and Ginny held her floating upright.
"Get a good look Potter, this great chamber of my ancestor shall be your tomb, as well as the tomb of your brother." Snarled Ginny.
Emma was floated to the far side in front of the huge head shaped like Salazar Slytherin. After being dropped to the floor she saw Ginny put both her own and Emma's wand down on the ground some distance away before walking back towards the body-bound girl. The Diary however was still in Ginny's possession.
Emma looked over her friend's face, it was turning white and there was some distinctly more Ginny like features returning to her expression.
"Emma? No Emma please get up… Your body bound? No I can't be responsible for the Death of my friend. Where's my wand… AHH!" Ginny cried out in pain and fell to the floor. She tried crawling closer to Emma but the young Potter could tell that Ginny's body was suffering a great loss of energy. From her line of view, behind Ginny, a fait ghostly outline began to appear.
"You have served me well Weasley. But there is nothing you can do. You will be dead by midnight and your pathetic friend will die long before you. But I still have a use for her."
Ginny turned to see the ghostly outline. It had no features and it was just a white blob roughly in the shape of a human.
"Please… you don't need her… let her go…"
"You know who I am girl and you will not tell me what to do." Shouted the blob the voice sounded articulated and educated, but also horrifically cruel. "No Potter shall be spared, no Mudblood, no Blood Traitor and no Muggle shall be allowed to live. Soon I shall rise once more and the world shall know my true power of the Slytherin line."
Emma wasn't entirely sure what was going on but it seemed that Ginny had been controlled by this figure and it was somehow done through that Riddle's Diary. She wondered if Riddle himself was involved.
The white blob gradually gained more substance and became a denser form.
"I am through with you Weasley. Know that you are nothing but a pathetic worthless girl and no amount of poorly chosen friends will ever change that." It sneered.
Ginny cried, she was losing consciousness. With a last effort, she turned to look at her best friend. "Emma I'm sorry… I'm sorry… I'm… Sorry… I…. I'm…. I'm…. Sorry." Ginny lost conscious, Emma to her shock saw the will to live just fade from Ginny's eyes. She was prepared to die. She was saying her last words to Emma.
"Do not fear." Said the blob "You and she will join each other in the afterlife, alongside your brother that Mudblood you are friends with and anyone else who dares to stand against me. Ha ha ha." The figure laughed cruelly at Emma, she could tell this being liked to cause people harm. As the figure laughed, it's form became more defined and She could make out a teenage boy of about sixteen. "Could this be Tom Riddle?"
Rocks fell all around them. Neville dived over the derelict snakeskin and ran back towards Harry and Demelza to avoid being buried alive.
Harry noticed the rocks began rolling towards him and had to drag a shocked Demelza out the way to avoid her getting crushed by a boulder.
On the other side Ron pulled Luna from the floor of the cave and ran further back towards the entrance in order to avoid either of them being hurt.
"Harry?" called our Ron when the rock fall subsided "Harry? Neville? Demelza?"
"I'm here." Called out Harry "Demelza's with me I'll just see if Neville…"
"I'm alive!" Called Neville "But I think my wand is under all that rock somewhere."
"Where's Luna?" said Demelza
"She's here." Called Ron
"I'm here." Agreed Luna "Ron saved me from the rolling rocks."
"I don't know if I even care but is the git still there?" called out Neville.
Before Ron could answer he and Luna were distracted by a coughing sound. Lockhart got himself sitting upright. His facial expression was odd, considering he had just tried to implicate Harry in a horrific crime.
"Hello!" he said happily. "Who are you?"
"Um… Ron Weasley?"
"Oh… great… and um… Who am I?"
Ron almost laughed "Lockhart's memory charm backfired, he hasn't a clue who he is."
"Harry." Shouted Luna "Are you and the others able to go on?"
"Yes I think so." Said Harry
"Hey I can see you!" said Ron finding a very small gap in the rubble.
Harry looked "Great. While we're gone see if you can expand it. If we're not back inside an hour…"
"We'll do what we can." Said Luna "Neville I think this is your wand, oh dear it's snapped." Luna held it up.
"No." said Neville "That was my Dad's wand."
"I'll get you another don't worry." Said Harry
"But you need one now." Said Luna cutting off Neville's protests to Harry before they could start. "Here." She passed her wand through the gap Ron found and Neville reluctantly took it.
"Are you sure?" he said to her.
"Oh course, it won't be much good to me here. Now hurry up before Harry tries to leave you and Demelza behind."
Neville and Demelza turned to look at Harry, now the notion had been mentioned he did look thoughtful.
"Don't even think about it." Demelza said.
Harry looked a bit stunned "Alright." He conceded.
Now that Luna had mentioned it he would prefer not to risk any more lives, but his overall desire to save his sister and his trust in Demelza and Neville overrode those feelings.
"Remember if we're not back inside an hour get help." Said Harry "And Ron, Luna, Guys… Thanks."
"Go Harry." Shouted Ron "Go save our sisters. We'll clear a way back for you."
"See you in a bit." Said Harry.
Ron and Luna began working on clearing a path, while Harry, Demelza and Neville walked further down the tunnel. After a while the sound of scraping rock faded away. Then they reached the metal door.
"Harry I don't know if I can summon a snake like Luna can." Said Neville.
"You don't have to." Said Harry.
"Yeah, those snakes look disturbingly real to me." Said Demelza.
The Snakes on the door parted and there followed a series of clicks as the locking mechanisms were released and the door opened.
Upon passing through, it was obvious they had reached the main chamber. There was a path with statues of snake heads in columns leading up to one big head that was the Slytherin founder. And at the bottom…
"Emma… Ginny…" Harry ran as hard as he could and Demelza and Neville cursed the fact that he could outrun them so easily.
"Harry wait it could be a trap." Said Neville
Harry was glad Neville said that, he was two more steps away from dropping his wand. But he still ran towards his sister.
"She's just body bound." Yelled Harry "Finite Incantatum!"
Emma had been lying still for hours unable to do anything other than look at her best friends form.
"It's a trap." She yelled out before Harry could get her in a hug and look her over.
At her words Harry immediately spun around looking for whoever was responsible for binding his sister. He saw movement in the shadows and the figure Tom Riddle emerged.
"Riddle." Said Harry "You will pay for this you bastard. Reducto!"
But the spell passed right through Riddle's body and smashed into the wall behind him.
"I am going to make you suffer for trying that Harry Potter." Said Riddle "But for now I think you should put your wand down."
Harry did not, however he didn't try anymore spell-fire.
"Fine but my body is not yet solid enough for you to be able to strike me." Sneered Riddle.
"I can wait." Said Harry "But don't forget you kidnapped my sister and Ginny and you attacked Hermione, Colin and the others. I will enjoy the moment when it comes
Riddle laughed "You are so full of yourself Potter. But you did remarkably well in learning about the Chamber of Secrets. It's just a shame you didn't know about Ginny."
"What are you talking about?" demanded Harry.
"Harry Ginny's body is ice cold, she's not body bound." Said Demelza "I think she's…"
"Oh she's not dead." Said Riddle "Not yet anyway. By my estimate she has just under two hours left. Of course you all will be dead by then."
"Harry he's been controlling Ginny." Said Emma managing to stand up. Her joints were all stiff from being locked into one position for so long. "He used her to capture me. Through that Diary."
"Oh yes." Said Riddle "Ginny's been under my control for almost a year now. It all began when she started writing in my Diary. She poured all her secrets into me, it took some goading on my part, but eventually I managed to gain access to all her deepest fears and insecurities. In the beginning all I heard about was the marvellous Harry Potter and her best friend in the whole world: Emma Potter. But after a while I managed to exploit her personal weaknesses: about her family being poor, and going to school with second hand clothing, about having to get her wand partly paid for by the charity of her friends. Then the attacks on you Harry Potter, by the idiotic elf occurred, and Ginny got worried for you. Then they expanded and several of your mutual friends got hurt by those enchanted suits. From then on it became much easier to infiltrate Ginny's deepest fears. I fed off them and grew stronger."
"Then the attacks started." Said Neville.
"But you couldn't keep control of her." Said Demelza realising "That's why you attacked the cat, you didn't want to risk going too far from the Chamber in case Ginny woke up next to a Basilisk. That's why Mrs Norris was attacked right outside the entrance. Pretty sloppy work."
Riddle's sneer proved that she was right "Shut up you Mudblood."
"Ooh I'm so hurt." Said Demelza. "You know there is a bigot upstairs who's been getting beaten up for what you did?"
"Maybe but none of you could figure out who the real person was until it was too late. You didn't know it was Ginny despite the signs." Preached Riddle.
"Yeah, you're right we didn't." said Harry "I take it she didn't know what she was doing?"
"Not at first. But after Christmas she began to get scared and tried to fight me off. Then she tried to dispose of the Diary. She fought hard, her time in the Hospital Wing was a result of me sending signals to her body to make her feel sick. Even when she discarded me in the bathroom I could still send them. Then you found me Harry Potter. The person I was most interested to see."
"Me?" said Harry "Why were you so interested in seeing me?"
"I had to meet you to gain your trust. But it didn't work."
"Framing my friend for a crime he didn't commit is not the way to do that." Said Harry. "At first I thought you were just wrong, but then we learnt that you were a Parselmouth."
"I still am one Harry Potter." Said Riddle "As are you and your sister. I had hoped that you would come back to write in my book, so I could ensnare you like Ginny. But when she learnt that you had spoken with me, she immediately stole me back. I was angered, especially as she tried to take me outside and bury me underground. I heavily punished her for that. From then on I exerted as much control over her as possible. Oh how she tried from then on to tell you all was her doing everything, but whenever she tried I punished her. I was not strong enough to possess her full time but I still kept in contact."
Harry's eyes widened. He realised the signs now, there were times when Ginny seemed to try to say something and then ended up saying something else. Including this morning.
"And now the fruits of my efforts. Finally my goal is achieved." Bragged Riddle.
"You have not, the mandrake draught is nearly ready, those you attacked will be revived soon. Unless you didn't notice, no one has died." Said Emma.
"Haven't I already told you, killing Mudbloods is no longer my top priority. Though the idea is still enticing." Said Riddle smugly glancing over at Demelza "Since I first met Ginny my true target has been you Harry Potter."
"Me?" said Harry "What have I done to earn your displeasure?"
"I had to meet you, to find out what was so special about you. How is it that you as a baby killed the most powerful wizard who ever lived? How is it that you still live with nothing more than a cut on your forehead, while Lord Voldemort's powers were diminished and he was reduced to nothing?"
"What do you care?" said Harry "Voldemort was after your time?"
Riddle looked dangerously smug.
"Voldemort." He spoke slowly and importantly "Is: My Past, Present, and Future!"
He then held up a stick that the others recognised as Ginny's wand and began swiping it through the air, writing letters with flames.
Then with another wave the letters reformed into the anagram:
Neville and Demelza gasped, taking a step back, and Harry moved himself in front of Emma.
"You see it was a name I was already using, with my intimate friends only." Said Riddle "You didn't really expect me to keep my filthy Muggle father's name did you? No I fancied a new name, a name I knew that one day all witches and wizards would fear, when I was recognised as the greatest sorcerer in the world."
For a second no one said anything.
"You're not." Said Harry.
"What did you say?" said Riddle.
"You're not the greatest sorcerer in the world. Albus Dumbledore is the greatest sorcerer in the world."
"Dumbledore has been driven out of the castle by the mere memory of me."
"He's not as gone as you might think." Shouted Harry indignantly. "He saw right through you fifty years ago as well didn't he? That's why you framed Hagrid, to get everyone looking at someone else."
"Very astute Potter. Yes Dumbledore kept an annoyingly close watch on me after that. My school career was ending by that stage, but I didn't want to let six years of researching my past and finding the chamber to go to waste so I decided to leave behind a memory, so when the time was right I could finish Salazar Slytherin's noble work."
"You'll fail you know that." Said Harry.
"I beg your pardon?" said Riddle.
"Even if you defeat us." Said Harry "Dumbledore will stop you, or someone else will."
"Dumbledore is no match for me." Sneered Riddle.
"He is a far greater wizard than you'll ever be." Shouted Harry.
"Harry's right." Said Emma "Even when you were at full power, you feared Dumbledore and you haven't been at full power for years."
"Yeah." Said Neville "And he won't be alone, there are plenty of witches and wizards who fought alongside him, and half of your followers are rotting in prison right now."
"We believe in Dumbledore." Said Demelza "And we believe in Harry, because we're not going to die here, we're going to stop you just like Harry did last year."
"And we're going to do it for Dumbledore." Said Emma "For the sake of all he's done to protect me… to protect my brother… and for every student in this castle."
Riddle looked taken aback by their courage and lack of fear. Before he could say anything they we all distracted by an unexpected sound. A golden coloured bird crowing a melodic trill materialized at the far end of chamber. Harry briefly recognised it as the bird from Dumbledore's office. It carried something in its beak which it dropped towards Harry.
Harry caught the item which turned out to the school Sorting Hat.
"That's a Phoenix." Said Riddle, as the bird landed on Harry's shoulder. "And that… is the school Sorting Hat. This is what the Great Dumbledore sends his faithful followers: a songbird and an old hat." He laughed.
Harry was not entirely sure what he'd been sent, but he knew, somehow, that this was because of his loyalty to Dumbledore.
"To business." Said Riddle a little too enthusiastically for anyone's liking. "Let's match the power of Lord Voldemort, Heir of Salazar Slytherin against Harry Potter and what pathetic help he's managed to gather himself." He trained Ginny's wand onto the giant head of Salazar Slytherin "Speak to me Slytherin, greatest of the Hogwarts four."
Harry realised he was about to release the Basilisk.
"Emma! Do not look this creature in the eye. One look can kill you. Oh yeah it has poisonous fangs." Said Harry
"Encouraging." Said Emma timidly. She believed in Harry and she believed in their friends. But they were up against something that would make the Acromantulae seem like the Wingardium Leviosa spell challenge."
As the mouth of the statue opened, they got a look at the snake's lower jaw, just before they all turned around and ran in order to protect themselves. As they did so the Phoenix took flight. Harry unsure what the purpose of it was, kept hold of the Sorting Hat, reasoning Dumbledore hadn't sent it for nothing.
"Kill them all." Ordered Riddle "Parseltongue won't save you this time Potter, it only obeys me."
"Everyone scatter." Shouted Harry. He and Emma ran to the right, while Neville and Demelza ran to the left. The snake followed him, and he could feel the jaws getting closer. But he saw the Snake's tail curving round, following the rest of its body. Taking advantage of a safe shot he incanted.
Harry's curse struck the serpents tail. It didn't do much damage but it definitely irritated it. The brother and sister found themselves propelled to the floor as the snake lunged at them, missed, but struck the ground behind them causing a shockwave.
"Emma get up." Shouted Harry, he refused to acknowledge that she would never get away in time. They were as good as dead, but were saved as the Phoenix flew directly over them and began attacking the beasts head. Harry used this opportunity to get up and yank his sister off the floor so they could quickly move away from the Basilisk, who was still in battle with the Phoenix.
Meanwhile Neville and Demelza were rapidly firing their Reductor curses at the beasts lower body in the hope they could wean it off their friends.
After moving a certain distance with his sister Harry glanced over at the snake, when the Basilisk turned its head he saw a repulsive, but heavily welcome site.
"The Basilisk's blind." He shouted.
Unfortunately, this drew its attention directly to Harry and the creature showed remarkable ability to operate without sight.
"Your bird may have blinded the basilisk but it has been used to living underground with no light for centuries. It knows this chamber better than even I do." Said Tom angrily.
The Snake began slithering towards Harry, but when it got close enough.
Flames shot out of Harry's wand and engulfed the Snake's head. It recoiled at the heat and Harry took the opportunity to run, Emma meanwhile ran in the opposite direction. The sounds of footsteps in different directions confused the creature as did the constant firing of Reductor Curses.
Harry ran into Demelza who then joined him in firing curses from their side. On the other side, Neville joined Emma and the intensity of curses increased. They weren't powerful enough to penetrate the hard scales of the Basilisk but they did serve to disorientate it, which was better than doing nothing at this stage. However after a time the huge snake managed to organise its concentration and chose to lung for Harry and Demelza.
"Run!" shouted Harry. He and Demelza ran in separate directions, the basilisk focused on Demelza.
Harry noticed this, turned and fired at the snake.
But unlike the other spells, this one hit the snake's underbelly. It screamed in agony, its soft tissue much more vulnerable, and Demelza was able gain some distance.
"Aim for the underbelly." Called Harry. Unfortunately this was easier said than done, Snake's use their underbellies to move across the ground, making it difficult to get a shot.
But they did their best and they managed to get a few good shots at the underbelly. At one point Harry was running round the snake when the Phoenix flew alongside him making trilling noises and nudging the Sorting Hat with its wings.
Harry didn't know what putting the hat on would accomplish but he tried it anyway.
"Please help me!" he thought.
He felt something from within the it whack him on the head. He pulled the hat off to look inside and found the hilt of a sword. Upon pulling, the rest of the blade emerged with it.
Meanwhile Riddle was getting irritated. If there had only been one person for the Basilisk to chase, even while blind, then it might have had more luck, but the competing noises of four different children were confusing it, slowing its actions and making it harder to kill, the spell-fire was also not helping. So he decided to do something entirely uncharacteristic for Voldemort and help his underling. Silently, he fired a curse that struck Neville on the leg.
Neville fell and screamed in pain, a huge gash had been made into his flesh.
"I have immobilized one, follow the smell of his blood." Commanded Riddle.
Emma, who was nearest, understood the Parseltongue. She immediately ran to Neville, seeing him paralysed with fear as the Snake aimed its head towards him in preparation to lunge. She used this opportunity to aim for the underbelly.
"Reducto!" she incanted
The snake shrieked in pain, and then Emma resumed targeting it, aiming for the underside as much as possible. Anything to keep it from Neville.
Unfortunately this diverted the snake's attention to Emma and it lunged at her, jaws opened.
Neville noticing this, snapped out of his paralysation and fired a Reductor Curse that struck the underbelly right where the Snake's throat was. The pain of the spell caused the snake to bend its head down on reflex at the last second, meaning what started as a lunge with open jaws became a high-speed head-butt.
Emma was knocked flying at high speed into the air. A few seconds passed and she felt absolute pain as her body collided with a stone pillar breaking her spine. She then fell to the ground, which in turned caused an overwhelming level of damage to her as over half her other bones broke as well.
"NOOOOOO!" screamed Neville.
"EMMA!" shouted Harry in agony.
Suddenly he felt violent incandescent rage course through his entire being. Harry had just pulled a sword out of a hat and now he was going to use it, he charged the snake with his new weapon. Harry had never wielded a sword before but with apoplectic ferociously he sliced downwards upon the creatures back and it did what the spells had failed to do. It drew blood. They were only minor cuts but Harry was delivering them at a rapid pace, something the Snake simply couldn't ignore. To make matters more desperate for the beast, Demelza was still firing her Reductors and she seemed to be aiming at the cuts Harry had made because that's where the majority of the curses landed.
The Basilisk turned itself to face Harry and lunged forward with its jaw open. Harry saw it do this just in time to aim the sword at its mouth. As one of the Basilisk fangs pierced Harry's shoulder, the sword he'd recently acquired drove through the ceiling of the snake's inner mouth and passed through the brain.
The Snake swung its head into the air in pain and screamed an almighty and horrific cry of pain and anguish and fell back. Dead.
"Harry!" called out Demelza.
Harry was dying. He could feel the poison coursing through his body. But he had to know. Was Emma alright? He waddled past the snake's corpse. Reaching for the fang that was stuck in his shoulder, he yanked it out and dropped it to the ground.
Demelza had ran after Harry but stopped short in shock when she realised he'd dropped the fang on the floor next to Ginny.
"No!" she whimpered.
Harry meanwhile continued to waddle over to Emma.
"Sis… Em…" he grunted.
Emma was not moving much, but she was alive. "Harry. I think I'm dying."
"I think I am too." Said Harry. He dropped to the ground next to her. "A fang got me."
Emma grunted. "Neville?"
"He's fine. So's Demelza."
"You're both dying." Came a sneering voice.
"I love you Emma." Said Harry ignoring Riddle.
"I'm going to stand here and watch the Basilisk's venom take your life." Said Riddle.
"I love you too Harry."
"Do you think you will survive long enough to see me return to full power Emma?" sneered Riddle.
"We'll be with Mum and Dad soon." Said Emma "That'll be nice, I can't really remember anything about them."
"Soon Ginny Weasley will lose her life. All thanks to my Diary." Said Riddle.
"Yeah. We have so much to catch up with them." Said Harry. He took his sisters hand and pressed his forehead against hers. "We can do it together."
"Will you too stop ignoring me?" shouted Riddle indignantly.
"Would you shut up you self-obsessed git." Shouted Emma "We're dying, I think we at least should be allowed to spend our last moments together in…"
Emma was cut off by the sudden appearance of Dumbledore's pet Phoenix. Riddle laughed at the bird who looked over Harry solemnly and began crying tears.
"Ha ha ha, even that pathetic songbird knows you're finished."
The tears dropped onto Harry's wound before Riddle could remember what the purpose of Phoenix tears was.
"Get away from him." Shouted Riddle indignantly "Of course, those tears have healing powers I forgot. Still no matter I prefer things this way." He raised Ginny's wand.
But then dropped it as a huge hole appeared in his body, whatever it was caused him to scream.
"Hey Tommy boy?" shouted Demelza. She was kneeling by Ginny's side and had the Diary open with the Basilisk fang Harry dropped stabbing one side.
"NO!" he cried out. Quickly he lifted Ginny's wand back off the ground but his fingers barely had a chance to grip the wood when another hole emerged in Riddle's forehead.
Demelza twisted the fang slightly causing Riddle to scream again and for a small hole to appear in his forehead, he dropped the wand on the floor.
"Tell me." Said Demelza almost sadistically "How does it feel, after all this time, to be killed by a Mudblood?"
She pulled out the fang, closed the Diary and punched it back down with all the force she could muster. It penetrated right through every page in the book and with one last cry of anguish Riddle vanished.
With Riddle gone two more things happened, firstly the Phoenix cried some tears into Emma's open mouth causing some of the pain and dying feeling to leave her, secondly Ginny regained consciousness.
"Demelza?" she said, "Emma?" Where's Emma?"
She looked around, she saw Neville lying on the ground with his leg injury. Then she looked over and saw Harry and Emma, who was being tended to by the Phoenix.
"No Emma… please… I'm sorry… don't be dead… please."
She scrambled over to her best friend.
"Relax Ginny I'm alive, I feel like crap mind but…" said Emma
The Phoenix flew from Emma, having done all it could, and went to heal Neville's wounds.
"You'd better not say you're sorry Ginny." Said Emma sternly "You weren't responsible for what you were doing. I saw Riddle controlling you, and he all but bragged about how he kept you from telling us anything was wrong."
Ginny collapsed to her knees and begun crying.
Neville with his newly healed leg approached them. "I think it's time we got out of here." He said.
"Right." Said Harry "Emma can you walk?"
"No. I can't even feel my legs." She replied.
"I thought you might say that." Said Harry "I'm going to try and lift you up ok?"
"Alright." Said Emma. Some of the more extreme pains had left when the Phoenix had cried into her mouth but the tears may purge Harry of poison and remove Neville's gashes but they didn't fix broken bones.
Harry crouched down and slid one arm under her legs and one arm under her shoulders. Then he slowly lifted her from the ground. She winced slightly.
"Are you alright? Should I put you down?" asked Harry.
"I'm fine." she said "I'm in constant pain, there's nothing you can do about Harry. Just get me to Madam Pomfrey."
"Yes sis." Said Harry feebly. He was scared for her, even with the Phoenix tears in her system, she was still incredibly fragile. Harry imagined she felt like he did when the stair column collapsed.
"Harry, I'll be fine." said Emma
"I know but…" voice shook "Please let me worry, I nearly lost you, for a second I thought I did."
Emma grunted a reluctant approval.
"Ok. Demelza can you get the Diary? Neville there is a sword imbedded in the Basilisk's mouth can you get that?
"Sure?" said Demelza
"The mouth?" said Neville, incredulously "Sword?"
"Yeah." Said Harry "Ginny how're you feeling? Can you walk?"
"Good. Don't worry we'll get you out of here and you'll be absolutely fine." said Harry.
"I'm going to be expelled."
"No you're not." Said Harry "This wasn't your fault. That's what we'll tell the professors."
"They'll still expel me." Said Ginny.
"Holy Merlin Harry where did you get this sword?" said Neville.
Harry shrugged, or at least as best he could with his sister in his arms. "It was inside the Sorting Hat."
The Phoenix made a trill at the mention of the magical headpiece.
"Oh yeah could one of you find the Sorting Hat? It should be lying over their somewhere."
Demelza, carrying the Diary with a basilisk fang still embedded in it, went over to retrieve the hat.
"Ron, Luna!" called out Harry when they reached the cave-in "Ginny and Emma are here, they're alive."
Everyone heard Ron cheer with joy and relief.
"Emma's heavily injured though we're going to need to carry her to the Hospital Wing." Said Harry.
"How bad is she?" called Luna.
"I can't feel my legs, my spine is broken and so are most of the other bones in my body." Said Emma.
Ron and Luna had managed to make a substantially large gap that they could crawl through but getting Emma through would be difficult.
"We need a stretcher." Said Ron "If we try tugging her through we could do some serious damage."
"You could put me in a Body-Bind." Said Emma "That would make me stiff enough to levitate through."
"Are you sure that won't hurt?" said Harry.
"It will probably hurt no more than you picking me up." Said Emma "I can take it Harry, stop worrying."
"I think we've had this conversation." Said Harry "Could someone cast the charms, I can't with my arms full?"
Demelza took out her wand and incanted.
Emma's body seized up and she felt like a dead weight in Harry's arms.
"Wingardium Leviosa!" cast Demelza
Emma's body floated from Harry's arms.
"Alright." Said Harry "I'll go through first, then levitate Em' through and I'll catch her on the other side."
Harry crawled through the hole and met up with Ron and Luna on the other side. Then Demelza floated Emma's form slowly and carefully through and lowered her into her brother's arms.
While the others climbed back through after them, Ron took out his wand and pointed it at Emma.
Emma's form slumped in Harry's arms.
"Were you ok?" asked Harry.
Emma's eyes watered "That… was absolute agony… but I'll live…"
Harry pressed his forehead against Emma's again, then kissed it. "We'll get you out of here." He promised her.
"GINNY!" cried Ron excitedly pulling his sister into a hug "You're alright, thank Merlin. You're alright."
Ron's worry for her caused Ginny to cry.
"What happened, was it Riddle?" said Ron.
"Yeah." Said Harry "He was using his Diary to control Ginny and make her do everything in his place. We killed him though, or rather Demelza did."
Demelza looked awkward.
"I saw that." Said Neville "That was a really cool speech: 'Tell me Tommy boy, how does it feel to be killed by a Mudblood?' how did you come up with that?"
Demelza caught Harry's eye. "I've no idea where it comes from." She said.
"We barely ever got to watch TV." Said Harry "Though I have heard phrases like it before."
"Well let's put it down to some obscure Muggle thing and get out of here. Where's Lockhart." Said Demelza.
"We sent him back." Said Ron "He was a danger to himself. Thought to be honest he's much less of a git now. By the way isn't that Dumbledore's bird?"
"Yeah, a Phoenix. He saved all our lives. I'll explain later though." Said Harry.
They made their way back to the passage, where they found Lockhart smiling idiotically at the ceiling. He turned when noticed them coming through.
"Oh hello, this is an odd sort of place. Do you live here?"
"No!" said Ron. "Any idea how we're going to get back up?"
As if to answer his question, the Phoenix flew directly in front of the way out and flapped its wings rapidly to hover stationary in the air.
"I think he wants us to grab on." Said Ron "But there no way a bird that size could carry any of us out."
"Of course it can." Said Luna "Phoenixes can carry immensely heavy loads, he can take all of us at the same time."
"You sure?" said Harry.
"Oh yes." Said Luna seriously.
"Right. Emma I'm going to have to hold upright with one arm, can you fasten yours tightly round my neck?"
"Uh huh." Mumbled Emma.
Harry lifted Emma into a sitting position and had her weight supported with a single arm until she wrapped her arms round his neck. She let out a groan.
"Does it hurt?"
"Yes but please Harry just go… there is nothing you can do about this."
"All right. One of you will need to grab a hold of my leg." Said Harry.
"I'll do it." Said Neville.
"Ok." Said Harry "Then Ginny you take Neville's other hand then Lockhart…"
"He means you." Said Ron.
After working out the specifics a large line of students and one obliviated-useless-soon-to-be-ex-Defence-professor soared out of the cave and up the passage way.
"Amazing. This is just like magic!"
They all landed in varying degrees of elegance on the floor of the Second Floor Girl's Bathroom.
"Right to the Hospital Wing." Said Harry, ignoring any attempts by Myrtle to start a conversation.
He dashed as fast as he could with his sister in his arms, the others following close behind him.
When he reached the doors to the Hospital Wing he kicked them open roughly and shouted "Madam Pomfrey, Emma's seriously hurt!"
"Harry?" said Hermione weakly but none the less surprised.
"Emma?" said Colin, in a similar state.
Both had just recently been unpetrified and were gradually getting used to their bodies again after being inanimate for so long. But at this moment they didn't yet have the strength to get themselves out of bed. Both Madam Pomfrey and Professor Sprout were administering the mandrake draught to the patients and now all the victims of the Basilisk's attack were at different stages of recovery.
"Mr Potter, everyone's been looking for you, why didn't you all head to your House Common Rooms." said Sprout.
"Forget that crap. Emma's been really badly hurt she help." Said Ron, unaware he was about to get away with swearing to a teacher.
"What happened?" said Pomfrey in her matron mode.
"She got sent flying at high speed, crashed her back into a stone pillar and fell about 20 feet to the floor landing on her front." Said Harry "This Phoenix here fed her some tears and got rid of some of the pain but over half her bones are broken, including her spine and she says she can't feel her legs."
"Right carefully lay her on the bed next to Mr Creevey." Said Pomfrey.
Harry sa Emma down on the bed then guided her so she'd lie on her back.
Pomfrey meanwhile ran a series of diagnostic charms.
"You're very lucky Miss Potter. It seems the tears healed a lot of internal bleeding, the most pressing concern is the broken bones. I'm going to cast a spell to repair them all. I should warn you it will feel very painful."
"Do it." Said Emma.
With her wand Madam Pomfrey drew a yellow circle directly above Emma then pointed her wand in the centre. It flared a green colour and expanded outwards to cover the entire area of the circle. Then, with a flash, magical energy seemed to slam into Emma.
Emma screamed immensely loud as every broken bone in her body clicked into place. It felt like every single one of them, 120 odd, was whacked with a mallet.
Harry ran over to her and seized a hand. But the pain was gradually fading from Emma's body.
"Your bones and joints you sting a little for a few minutes and your whole body will be stiff for about 24 hours but you should be fine." said Madam Pomfrey.
"I still can't feel my legs." Said Emma in a croaky voice. Tears were streaming down her face.
"No, I expect you have some nerve damage." Said Madam Pomfrey. She ran her wand over Emma's midsection. "Yes, just as I thought. Before you go to sleep tonight, I'll feed you a something that will repair that damage."
"You can do that?" said Hermione.
"Oh yes, magical medicine is quite advanced. To be honest with all the catastrophes this world causes, it needs to be."
"GINNY, RON!" came Mrs Weasley's voice from the Hospital Wing door. Professor Sprout had collected Mr and Mrs Weasley, as well as Professors Dumbledore and McGonagall from the latter's office.
Ginny and Ron found themselves engulfed in one of her bone-crushing hugs.
"What's been going on? Where did you all go?" said Mr Weasley.
"I think we all want an explanation to that." Said McGonagall looking directly at Harry. But Harry didn't realise.
Since his sister was now on the road to recovery but still upset Harry was giving her his undivided attention, he'd briefly noticed Ron and Ginny's parents come in, but asides from that he was carefully hugging Emma and stroking her hair.
"Um Harry?" said Ron "Hate to break up your moment, but McGonagall looks like we've just crashed a car into her office."
Harry turned to look at McGonagall who was now glaring at Ron.
"Mr Potter if you could share with us what has happened?" said Dumbledore.
"Hang on, what about us?" said Vicky from the doorway. Everyone turned to see Vicky, Natalie and Geoffrey standing there.
"Miss Frobisher, Miss Fairbourne, Mr Hopper what are you…" started McGonagall.
"We finally managed to get out of the Common room." Said Natalie "Though I think the prefects might have noticed we're gone by now."
"Come in guys." Said Harry "Might as well tell you all at once." Harry had a rather large audience. In addition to his now completely reunited Defence group, the Professors, the matron, he also had Justin, Penelope and Nick who had all been revived.
He spent nearly half an hour explaining: about brewing Polyjuice Potion, getting information out of Malfoy, finding the Diary in the bathroom, talking with Riddle, meeting Aragog, finding Hermione's note in her hand and finally entering the Chamber with half his friends to support him and defeating the Basilisk and Riddle. Not once did he mention his or his sister's ability to speak Parseltongue. He decided that he was lucky Lockhart could no longer remember and no one else other that the ten others or so needed to know. Demelza and Emma also spoke about what happened to them before they all met up inside the Chamber.
"So you didn't tell me everything that night." Said McGonagall "I guess I can see why, but I'm at a loss with what to do with all of you."
"If you're going to expel us we understand." Said Ron "But I think everything we did was necessary."
"Ron I would not call venturing into the forest to fight Acromantula necessary under any circumstance." Said Hermione "Not that I don't appreciate the effort but."
"We all felt it was necessary." Said Geoffrey "And one way or another, what we did was more than a little awesome, especially Harry's Flagrance Charm."
"Be that as it is." Said McGonagall "I have no intention of expelling any of you."
"I feel no punishment is warranted." Said Dumbledore. "On balance you may have flouted over half the school rule book but you saved more than one life in the process. Not to mention you have done what I and my colleagues have failed to do for fifty years. It seems that the issues regarding the Chamber of Secrets have finally been laid to rest. In fact I believe that the seven of you have performed amicably tonight."
"I didn't do anything." Said Ginny.
"On the contrary it seems that you fought Riddle with everything you had. Many people have submitted to Voldemort as a result of far less extreme methods of coercion and in shorter periods of time. I firmly believe that your ability to fight him off saved many lives this year. In all, I think that 200 house points each should suffice. I also think a nice big feast tomorrow is in order, I would personally like one right now, but I feel that some here need to stay a little more recovery time first."
"I'll go alert the kitchens then, we'll make dinner tomorrow night a big feast." Said McGonagall, seeming relieved she didn't have to punish anyone.
"Thank you Minerva. Pomona? Could you be so kind as to contact the Ministry, we really need our Gamekeeper back?"
"Oh course Albus." Said Sprout, she and McGonagall left to perform their tasks.
"Now before we go I would like to have a private word with Mr and Miss Potter." Said Dumbledore.
"Um Professor, Emma can't get up." Said Harry.
"Not to worry." Said Dumbledore. He drew a curtain around them, then put up a silencing ward so no one outside could hear them.
"Firstly Harry I must thank you. You must have shown me real loyalty down in the Chamber. Nothing else could have called Fawkes to you?" he said indicating the Phoenix.
"It wasn't just me sir." Said Harry "It was all of us. All four of us challenged Riddle and told him that even if we failed down there, you would stop him. We always had faith in you."
"I'm very flattered by your sentiments Harry." Said Dumbledore "And yours Emma, as well as everyone else's. But I sense that there is something else bothering you Harry."
Harry looked to Emma and stoked her hair.
"Tell him." Said Emma.
Harry took a deep breath "Sir, earlier this year we learnt something about ourselves that made very little sense. You see two years ago in London Zoo we spoke to a snake, at the time we dismissed it as accidental magic but…"
"You no doubt researched the Chamber of Secrets and learnt Parseltongue is recognised as a hallmark of a dark wizard." Said Dumbledore kindly, not seeming the least bit surprised that they could speak the language.
"Luna said that was a common misconception but even if it is, we don't understand why we have it. Voldemort is the only known person to speak the language in the last two centuries. At least according to our friends."
"As far as the rest of the Wizarding World knows that is the case." Said Dumbledore "However I have reason to believe Voldemort inherited his ability from his mother. An ability that has always existed in those descended from Salazar Slytherin."
"So… were our parents Parselmouths too?" said Emma.
"No." said Dumbledore.
"But then how can I speak the language?" said Harry "How can Emma speak the language?"
Dumbledore looked strangely pensive for a moment. Then he said "You Harry, can speak Parseltongue, because Voldemort can speak Parseltongue. If I'm not mistaken, and I do not think I am, he passed some of his powers to you the night he gave you that scar."
"His powers?" said Harry "That's why my scar hurt when he was nearby last year? Why didn't it hurt this year?"
"Because Tom Riddle in the Diary was not the same Voldemort you saw last year. The Riddle you met tonight is but a memory of his sixteen-year-old self, magically implanted in a Diary."
Harry looked thoughtful for a moment "But Emma doesn't have a scar." Said Harry "How can she speak Parseltongue?"
"Was I given Voldemort's powers like Harry?" said Emma.
"No." said Dumbledore. "You Emma can speak Parseltongue, because Harry can speak Parseltongue."
"What?" said both siblings.
"I have a theory that when Voldemort killed your mother, he initially chose to kill Emma before you Harry. But that you, acting on some protective family instinct tried to shield your sister from the man who made you both orphans. My knowledge of Tom indicates to me that such a challenge would have made him choose to kill you before your sister, as a result at no point that night did Voldemort manage to fire his curse on Emma. If so your mothers sacrifice saved you, and your sacrifice saved your sister." Said Dumbledore.
"And Voldemort's powers came to me." Said Harry "But what about Emma?"
"It is my theory that you put your life on the line in an effort to save your sister is correct and that you were willing to do all you could to save her. When a witch or wizard sacrifices or attempts to sacrifice themself to save another and as a result save the life of that other, they form a bonding of sorts. This is not magical bonding between soul mates or a mind link allowing telepathic communication, it is a simple magical link between the two of you where one recognises the other as an important part of their lives. On the face of it this is no different from two siblings being really fond of each other. But when Voldemort gave you the ability to speak Parseltongue, that ability was then passed through the magical bond between the two of you and as a result Emma also gained the ability to talk to snakes."
"So in other words the ability passed from Voldemort to me, then from me to Emma?" said Harry.
"Yes." Said Dumbledore.
"What happened to this bond we have?" said Harry.
"It is still there." Said Dumbledore, smiling. "It is based purely on your love for one another and your ability to recognise that love. This is the sort of bond that can only die with you. You will likely always have it, probably even after death. However I don't think that is a bad thing, and I don't think either of you two believe that either."
"No." said Emma "So Harry saved my life when we were babies?"
"That is my theory. When Hagrid brought me the two of you the night your parents were murdered, the two of you were unwilling to let go of one another's hands. Hagrid said that when he tried to separate the pair of you, both would wake up crying. I sensed the magical bond between you had been formed that night and was in the process of settling down. At some basic level I believe both of you realised that Harry had made an effort to protect you Emma at great personal risk to himself. For that reason you were both taking comfort in the fact the other was alright. This is all just a theory however, you don't have to take my word for it."
"If it's alright, I would like to believe it." Said Emma.
Dumbledore chuckled "There has been some compelling evidence to support this theory. Your common Parseltongue abilities for one. There is also the matter of what happened when poor Dobby attempted stop you both from entering Platform 9¾."
"That's right, I almost forgot about that." Said Harry. "When you hesitated before the apparent brick wall."
"I remember, I was really nervous." Said Emma.
"But then I took your hand." Said Harry.
"Then it felt like we were forcing our way through a pain of glass." Said Emma.
"A remarkable feat…" said Dumbledore. "Most human magic is incompatible with House-Elf Magic."
"Oh believe me I remember." Said Harry "Three out of six of my overnight visits in here were because of Dobby."
"I think you should consider what happened on the platform a result of this bond." Said Dumbledore. "Also…"
"Of our love." Said Harry. He found himself stroking Emma's hair and massaging her forehead.
"It seems you understand what I'm talking about." Said Dumbledore. "I think we have discussed all we need to."
He dropped the privacy ward and opened the curtains to find that Lucius Malfoy had arrived and seemed to be squaring off with Mr Weasley in a contest of glares. Both Madam Pomfrey and Mrs Weasley seemed to have placed themselves in a position to break up a fight should it start.
"Lucius." Said Dumbledore "Are you in particular need of medical attention?"
Mr Malfoy turned to look at Dumbledore. "I am here to see why you saw fit to return, despite your order of suspension?"
"Well when the Governors heard that Miss Potter and Miss Weasley were taken into the Chamber of Secrets and were likely dead, they for some reason saw fit to have me reinstated effective immediately, so here I am."
"Ridiculous." Scoffed Malfoy.
"Curiously several of them were under the impression you'd curse their families, had they not chosen to suspend me in the first place."
"How dare you…" said Malfoy
"I beg your pardon." Said Dumbledore cheerfully.
"My first and only concern is and shall always be the wellbeing of this school and its students."
Geoffrey chose that moment to sneeze "Crap!"
Malfoy turned around to glare at the boy in question "Is there something you would like to say."
Geoffrey smirked "Yes as a matter of fact. With your hair combed like that, you look remarkably like my Great Aunt Beatrice."
All Geoffrey's friends burst out laughing, and Dumbledore himself let out a chuckle.
"It seems that you allow you students to insult visitors on a whim Albus, I question the other governors' decision to allow you back." Said Malfoy, with a sense of self-superiority.
"Oh come now Lucius, it's a harmless joke." Said Dumbledore.
"Yeah." Said Geoffrey "I don't even have an Aunt Beatrice."
"Alright Mr Hopper I think that's enough." Said Dumbledore, though his eyes were twinkling brightly.
"I would assume that you have caught the culprit." Said Malfoy, he seemed to be glaring at Ginny.
Mr Weasley moved next to his daughter, placed a hand on her shoulder and gave Malfoy a warning look.
"We have." Said Dumbledore simply.
"And… who is it?"
"Ah!" Malfoy seemed unhinged, he obviously wasn't expecting that answer.
"But he chose to act through another this time. My means of the item in Miss Robins' hand."
For show Demelza waved the Diary, which still had the fang in it, and smiled manically. "For the record the Basilisk tooth is my own personal touch."
"Of course whoever planted this item on poor young Miss Weasley should hope, for their own sake, that we never find out who he or she is. The legal consequences for using a dark artefact like this, especially on an 11-year-old child of a ministry official, will be severe."
"Quite." Said Malfoy, he seemed highly disturbed by Dumbledore's comments. "Well I need to arrange a meeting with the other governors, there will need to be a full investigation into this last year. We will be in touch with you shortly." Mr Malfoy went over to the Hospital Wing Floo and used it to leave the castle.
Harry glared at the spot he left. "We can't arrest him can we?"
Most of those present looked at Harry oddly.
"No Mr Potter, there is no doubt in my mind, but that alone is not enough to convict someone of Mr Malfoy's influence." Said Dumbledore. "It is likely however, especially as he threatened them, that the other Governors will want him removed from board."
"How long have you suspected it was him?" asked Harry.
"Since he suspended me. It became clear that many of his ambitions would have benefited considerably from the chaos this last year has caused. The fact that he is an outspoken opponent of the oncoming Muggle Protection Act confirmed things in my mind." Said Dumbledore.
"What are you two talking about?" said Emma.
"Ginny." Said Harry "I take it you found the Diary amongst your school things before you came here?"
"Um… yes… I thought it was a book Mum got me, every so often I get a Diary for my birthday…"
"I thought so." Said Harry "I think Mr Malfoy slipped the Diary into your things back at Diagon Alley, when he took your book and scuffled with Mr Weasley."
"Wait you're saying that… that…" said Mr Weasley angrily.
"Yes Arthur it looks like he is responsible." Said Dumbledore. "Unfortunately there is no way of proving that to the Magical Law Enforcement. All we can do is keep an eye out for whatever else he may try. One day he will answer for what he's done, in some way or another."
Those assembled did not look overly reassured.
"I think it is time for everyone to get some rest, you especially Miss Weasley. I'd recommend you have a hot chocolate and sleep here tonight. I think the rest of us should make our way to our own beds."
"What a brilliant idea!" said Lockhart cheerfully. "Just one question, where is my room?"
The others all looked at him with varying degrees of amusement and curiosity.
"Um sir." Said Neville there was an accident down in the Chamber and Professor Lockhart…"
"I was a Professor?" said Lockhart in surprise "I suppose I was useless."
"Completely!" said Ron.
"The point is, Lockhart tried to cast a memory charm and it backfired." Said Neville "Actually now that I think about it, Luna this is yours." He handed Luna back her wand.
"Thank you Neville." Said Luna.
"Fallen on your own sword Gilderoy." Said Dumbledore. "I think you should stay here tonight. Poppy I recommend you contact the Janus Thickley Ward and have them prepare for his arrival."
Madam Pomfrey nodded.
"Now I suggest you all return to your House Dormitories."
"If it's all the same, I'm going to stay here." Said Harry.
"Now Harry I really think…" began Mrs Weasley.
"Are you going to stay with Ginny?" said Harry.
"James and Lily Potter would stay with their child if they were in Emma's position." Said Harry, his voice shaking slightly. "Actually I don't really know that, but I want to believe that Mum and Dad would have stayed here. So I'm going to, because there is no one else to do it."
"Harry you do not…" but Mrs Weasley stopped talking when Dumbledore raised a hand.
"Very well Mr Potter." Said Dumbledore. He aimed his wand at one of the Hospital Wing chairs and it morphed into a very comfy looking recliner. For good measure he then conjured up a blanket and pillow.
No one left immediately. They were all so relieved to see Emma and Ginny were alright, not to mention both Hermione and Colin had woken up. But Madam Pomfrey eventually chased them all out (except Harry and Mr and Mrs Weasley) and set about giving Ginny and Emma potions to help them sleep and, in Emma's case, repair the nerve damage.
"I don't suppose there is anything that can sweeten this?" said Emma as she drank the potion.
"I'm afraid not." Said Madam Pomfrey "It's very similar to Skele-Gro but the chemical composition is far too fragile for any interference of that sort to work."
"Well at least I'm getting a Potions lesson." Said Emma dejectedly.
"Yes. While we're on the subject, who's smart idea was it to brew Polyjuice Potion?" said Madam Pomfrey.
"Mine." Came Hermione's voice.
"But it was my decision." Said Emma.
"Actually you were dead set against it." Said Colin "What changed your mind?"
"She was upset after you were petrified." Said Harry "We had no leads and the Chamber threat was obviously very real by that stage, you have to admit we got some good information out of Malfoy."
"You were that worried about me?" said Colin.
"Of course I was. You're my friend. In fact you're my best friend who's not called Ginny." Said Emma.
Ginny didn't respond. She'd put on a brave face for her friends when they were around but she was feeling horrified at the things she was forced to do.
Mrs Weasley was stoking her daughter's hair, and every so often would kiss her forehead. At Dumbledore's instruction she was fed a Hot Chocolate and was in the process of sipping the contents in the mug.
"Harry and Ron were very brave." Said Hermione. "None of us girls wanted to turn into boys."
"None of you should have turned into anyone." Said Mrs Weasley firmly.
"Details, details." Blurted out Ginny, she then looked highly embarrassed.
Mrs Weasley glared at her but found herself unable to comment when looking at her daughter's broken face.
Harry noticed Emma was looking over at Ginny with worry. If she could move her legs, she would go over and comfort her friend. With that thought in mind, Harry decided to act in her place. He walked over to young Weasley's bedside.
"Ginny this isn't your fault."
She looked up, noticed that Harry was talking to her then looked away, her blush returning with the strength it had the previous summer.
"Please look at me." Said Harry kindly.
Ginny did, her face turning more and redder as the seconds passed while she gazed at her crush.
"You did everything you could. According to Riddle some of the stuff you did saved people's lives." Said Harry.
"But it was my fault…" said Ginny.
"No it wasn't." Came a voice from across the room. It was Penelope Clearwater. "When I saw you outside the Library you clearly weren't yourself, you were not under your own power."
"You don't seem like the sort of person who would attack us Muggleborns like the Heir would have." Said Justin.
"You don't need us to say anything, to know we don't blame you or think you're responsible." Said Colin.
"You, along with everyone else was shocked when Colin was attacked, I think the same can be said for me?" Said Hermione.
"The only person who thinks it was your fault Ginny is you." Said Harry "Please stop thinking that… for me."
Ginny found herself tearing up. Harry then pulled her into a hug. She was stunned at first but then reciprocated by holding onto Harry.
"This is all seems hard now." Said Harry "But you will move past it and you will always have me, Emma and the rest of us should you need friends. I think you should sleep now."
Ginny nodded. When she and Harry ended the hug, she downed the rest of her Hot Chocolate and Madam Pomfrey approached with a goblet of sleeping potion, she also gave Harry a very approving look.
As Ginny fell into her slumber Harry patted her shoulder, allowed Mrs Weasley to hug him, then went back to his sister.
"So how was that?" he asked Emma.
"That was brilliant brother, though I hope it didn't set Ginny back to far in overcoming her crush on you." Said Emma.
"We're friends, she is going to have to get used to some degree of relationship with me." Said Harry.
"What degree do you think it should be?" said Hermione teasingly.
"About the same it is with you." Said Harry nonchalantly.
Emma and Hermione caught each other's eyes. Boys were so clueless.
"I think you should all be going to sleep now." Said Madam Pomfrey. "Provided you're all fit enough tomorrow I'll have you discharged. Miss Potter have you finished your potion?"
"Almost." Said Emma.
"When you're done drink this, it will help you get to sleep, don't worry it taste's less like sour milk. If all goes well, the feeling in your legs should return somewhat in the morning."
Madam Pomfrey put the goblet on her bedside. Emma drank it and felt herself fall asleep. As her eyes closed she was aware of her brother stoking her hair once more and kissing her forehead. It was only as sleep took her did she fully appreciate how difficult this night had been for Harry.
The next morning Harry woke up along with the others as Madam Pomfrey began attending to her patients. Ginny was cleared to go immediately, after having a good night's sleep she seemed much better. Those who'd been petrified were given a few basic joint exercises to help them get used to having full control of their bodies again. Emma was in a bit of a more difficult situation.
"I still can't stand." She complained.
"You will in an hour or two." Said Madam Pomfrey. "Nerve damage like this is no minor thing, we'll go over some exercises after breakfast. You'll miss this morning's classes but you should be able to walk comfortably by Lunch time."
"I'll help." Said Harry.
"Mr Potter, it would be best if you didn't interfere."
"Harry go." Said Emma sternly "You stink, you haven't washed since you got out of the Chamber."
"Neither have you." Said Harry.
"I wasn't inside a Basilisks mouth, nor did I slide down a slimy chute, I was gracefully lowered."
"And left on a wet floor for several hours."
"Alright stop it you two." Said Pomfrey irritably "Mr Potter I will attend to your sisters washing requirements, you go attend to your own."
"Harry." Said Emma patiently "I'm fine, you saved my life and brought me here. You've done all you can and I'm fine now. Please let Madam Pomfrey do the rest. Go, shower, eat and…" Emma found herself unable to come up with another instruction.
Harry grumbled and turned to leave with the others.
"Harry." Said Emma
He turned to face her, she beckoned him over with her finger. Rolling his eyes, Harry walked over to Emma. She pulled him close enough to kiss his forehead.
"Thank you for saving my life, big brother." She said seriously. Harry smiled gave her one more hug then left.
The rest of the day passed by and the atmosphere inside the castle was the happiest it had been in months. But Harry was faced with one more issue when he got back to the Common Room. Neville and Demelza between them still had possession of the Sorting Hat, the Sword and the Diary with a Basilisk fang imbedded in it.
"It may seem weird, but I kinda wanna keep the fang." Said Demelza "Its proof of my really cool moment. Only thing is that it's supposed to be poisonous, I don't want to accidentally stab myself with it."
"You can get a special kind of container for it. Glass mixed with a particular substance that won't get penetrated by the Basilisk Venom." Said Hermione "I can't remember what it's called but Emma might know. Potioners use it to keep highly destructive liquids."
Demelza nodded "I'll ask her. But I don't want to keep the Diary, I actually want to burn it but…"
"Let's ask Dumbledore." Said Harry. "We have to give at least the Sorting Hat back to him, the sword too, after all it came out of the hat."
"Don't you want to keep it?" said Neville.
"Of course, but I don't think I'm allowed a sword around Hogwarts, and I shudder to think what my Aunt and Uncle will do with it should I leave it in Surry."
It was a relief when there other friends all came down, because the rest of those assembled in the Common Room were giving them and the items odd looks. On the way to the Great Hall for Breakfast, Neville mentioned that he had looked over the Sword and discovered it once belonged to Godric Gryffindor.
"I really wish I could keep it now." Said Harry.
"It's not a toy Harry, swords can be very dangerous." Scolded Hermione.
"I think he knows that." Said Luna joining them. "From the sound of things the Basilisk did too."
They all approached the Headmaster's chair at the staff table.
"Um… sorry to disturb your breakfast Professor…" said Harry "But we still have all these things we got in the Chamber and we have to at least give you back the Sorting Hat."
"Harry." Said Hermione warningly.
"And the sword…" said Harry.
Dumbledore chuckled. "Yes I suppose you do."
Harry handed over the hat and the sword, one rather reluctantly.
"There is also this." Said Demelza "I was planning on burning it but…"
"I would very much like to examine that." Said Dumbledore. "To help prevent such items coming into this school again."
"Alright." Said Demelza nodding "Just to let you know I'm keeping the Basilisk Fang, sort of as a trophy."
Dumbledore nodded. "Very well, you have earned at least the right to do that. Be careful though… That fang is likely still poisonous."
"I will." Said Demelza.
For the First time since November the twelve friends who'd largely bonded over jinxes, hexes and shield charms in an unused classroom sat down together for lunch. As it turned out Emma did know of the glass Demelza needed.
"I ordered some containers just before Christmas. I should have a jar you can seal it in." said Emma.
Demelza smiled "Thanks… I… Hey there's Hagrid."
Emma and Harry immediately turned to see their huge friend walk through the doors to the Great Hall. They both immediately ran up to him and took him in a hug, where he thanked them gratefully for what they done. He then went up to the others and thanked them too.
Later that evening at the celebratory feast, Professor Dumbledore announced that as a special treat all end of year Hogwarts exams were cancelled. Hermione was really disappointed by that revelation, but Colin was relieved as he had enough catching up to do. Emma had ordered him to report to the Library after classes the next day and every day until he'd caught up. Dumbledore also announced that Lockhart had to step down, which drew applause all round, even from the teachers. Emma then told Colin that they would be studying during the times Defence usually was.
In other news Lucius Malfoy had been kicked off the Board of Governors and someone had 'accidentally' leaked to the Prophet accusations of prejudice against Muggleborns. A year ago that wouldn't have mattered, but with Draco having spent much of the last year spouting the word "Mudblood" the Malfoy family had lost a modicum of respect in the Wizarding World. In Hogwarts it was generally accepted that, while Draco was not responsible for the attacks, he still was an unpleasant person to be around.
It was a few days before the end of term a blond haired Ravenclaw First Year found Harry leaning against a wall opposite an ugly tapestry.
"Hello Harry." Said Luna "Emma's looking for you."
Harry turned to see the blond girl. "Oh? I thought she was helping Colin catch up?"
"We've done as much practical work as we can." Said Luna "We're not allowed to practice during the holidays, so she plans to do the non-essential stuff when we get back. She also said that she'll stop by his house a few times to help him catch up during the summer."
"Ok." Said Harry "Wait, I thought Colin lived a long way from Surry?"
"I told Emma about this thing called the Knight Bus. It's a triple decker bus that takes witches and wizards from any part of Britain to any other part of the country."
"Oh!" said Harry.
"Why are you staring at the tapestry?" said Luna.
"Well Dobby's final words have been playing on my mind, much of the things he said never made sense but… he indicated the safest place in Hogwarts was opposite the 'ballet trolls' tapestry on the Seventh Floor. That should be here, but… it's just a wall." Said Harry.
Luna looked at the wall Harry was leaning against. "That is most peculiar." She said. "On my first day here I got lost trying to get to Breakfast, but I found a room with a vanishing cabinet inside and it led me to a corridor just off from where the Great Hall was. That room was where you're leaning against right now."
Harry got off from the wall and looked at it. "But I don't see a door. Was it a secret passage?"
"No it was an ordinary looking door." Said Luna.
Harry was wondering… "You say you were looking for a way to the Great Hall. Was it heavily on your mind at the time?"
"Oh yes, I was dearly anticipating some marmalade on Toast." Said Luna.
"Can you remember how you… you know… found this place… I mean exactly?"
"Well?" said Luna "I came from this direction." She walked further down the corridor "I walked past like this. Then I turned thinking that I didn't think this was the way down so I walked back a bit, then I thought perhaps I should try it and walked back a bit, because I didn't know what was at the end of the corridor at the time, but it still felt wrong so I turned back and found a door here. I remember distinctly thinking it was odd, because I had only just noticed it. I went inside found the vanishing cabinet and here I was. I was going to tell you all but then we got distracted by Snape being mean to Emma."
"Oh?" said Harry "I wonder if I can get it to open again. Was there anything else in this room?"
"There was, it appeared mainly to be a heaps of peoples stuff. But I was rather hungry so I didn't stop to look around."
"Right?" said Harry thinking "I've got no idea how to get in. Maybe there is some trick that you accidentally set off?"
"Maybe." Agreed Luna.
"Still, you said Emma was looking for me?"
"Yes she said something about having to pack." Said Luna.
"Right thanks." Said Harry. "I'll see you at dinner."
"That would be delightful."
"No Emma, I cannot take any of your stuff." Said Harry "I barely have enough room for what I have."
"Oh stupid Lockhart…" said Emma "It's all his bloody books that are the problem. When I came here I had Ginny carry some of my Potions books, but I can't do that this time round."
"You're just going to have to leave some stuff here." Said Harry "I've made space by carrying my Nimbus on the outside. Can you try anything like that?"
"Harry I can't just carry a cauldron through Kings Cross…"
But Emma was cut off.
"Mr and Miss Potter?" said McGonagall as she came into the Common Room. "Professor Dumbledore would like to speak to you both in his office."
Harry and Emma looked at each other then made their way.
"What do you suppose he wants?" said Emma "I mean we covered everything with the Chamber…"
"I don't think this has anything to do with the Chamber, I think it's to do with our living arrangements at the Dursleys."
Emma grinned an evil grin. "Ooh, I forgot about that, I am so looking forward to the look on Vernon's face when we get home."