Hannah and Luna were both struggling to keep their breath as they raced up the stairs to the teacher's booth, high above the surface of the Quidditch pitch.
The stairs themselves seemed to go on forever, and from the sounds of the spectators inside the stadium, the game could be ending at any moment.
"Come on were almost there," said Hannah, not stopping to peer over the balcony to see how the game was going.
After what seemed like a torturously long five minutes, they finally reached the top box, where they threw open the door and stumbled into the room.
They didn't care if many of the teachers were looking at them strangely, quite frankly they couldn't care less if they weren't supposed to be up there.
Without even attempting to explain themselves, the two first years hurried over to a shocked Professor McGonagall and handed her the note Amanda gave them, before collapsing to the floor exhausted.
While most of the teachers were at a loss for words, Madame Pomfrey for one was quick to jump into action, as she uncorked a bottle from her bag and poured a healthy dose down both of the girl's throats.
After getting over her initial shock and seeing that the two girls were all right, McGonagall turned her attention to the crumpled note in her left hand.
She was hardly aware of Lee Jordan's booming voice beside her announcing that Harry Potter had once again caught the snitch for Gryffindor, all of her focus was on the three scribbled lines on that small piece of paper.
There's been another attack. Hermione Granger and Michael Wood were found petrified inside the library. Keep the students down at the pitch so we have time to escort them to the hospital wing.
Not wasting any time, McGonagall handed the note to Headmaster Dumbledore before bustling out of the room and down the stairs.
"Uh here we go again," groaned Hannah as she rolled over and attempted to pull herself to her feet.
"Not so fast you don't," said Madame Pomfrey, as she reached over to put a hand on the young Hufflepuff, signalling that she wasn't going anywhere until the healer was comfortable with her condition.
"We're fine really. It's just stairs," said Luna, as she too pulled herself up to a stand.
"Not until I've checked your condition."
"Actually Madame Pomfrey, I fear your services will be more required back at the school," said a solemn-faced Dumbledore, as he showed the medi-witch the note.
Pretty soon, everyone besides Lee Jordan had cleared out of the top box, the Gryffindor boy so caught up in the excitement he'd still yet to realise what had just transpired behind him.
Down on the pitch, Harry was celebrating yet another Gryffindor victory with his teammates.
It had been a close game, highlighted by a head-to-head race for the snitch around the stadium between him and Cedric Diggory, but in the end, he'd proven himself to be just that extra bit faster, and that's what made the difference.
However, the celebration proved to be short-lived, as soon after, Professor McGonagall came bustling onto the pitch, with much of the staff if not all in tow.
When Dumbledore began taking out his wand to cast an amplifying charm allowing him to make an announcement to everyone in the stadium, Harry knew something was up.
Sure enough, when Professor McGonagall pulled him aside for a private word, he didn't even need to hear an explanation from her, the look on her face was enough.
Within seconds, he had mounted his broom and was racing towards the castle as fast as he could.
McGonagall could only watch him leave, deciding to not to make any attempt at stopping him.
She knew he'd want to be with her at that moment, and there were probably two other young Gryffindors in the stands who'd be feeling the same way.
Not to mention another member of the Quidditch team who was related to a victim of this attack.
"What do you think could've done this," said Olivia, as she continued to levitate Michael Wood's petrified body through the empty halls of the school.
Amanda, who was levitating Hermione's body, just shrugged her shoulders, as she continued to navigate their way through the castle, attempting to avoid any stragglers still inside the castle.
No sooner did they make it to the hospital wing, before Harry Potter came flying through the window.
From the sight of him collapsing to his knees in anguish, it didn't take him long to identify the bodies of the latest victims.
Amanda and Olivia could do nothing other than finish levitating the two bodies onto cots, before attempting to console the distraught boy.
Harry, however, wasn't in the mood for comforting. He didn't care if he had started crying, much less if these two witches were there to witness it.
Pulling himself to his feet, he began slowly walking over to the bed of his best friend. With every step, it felt like he was having to drag his feet through quicksand.
He wanted to wake up from this terrible nightmare.
He wished his eyes were simply deceiving him, that there was some way to deny the fact that his best friend had just been attacked by Slytherin's monster, but sadly his pleas were for nought.
When he got close enough to see her glassed over eyes, Harry lost what little control he had left, as he collapsed on her bed, hugging her unmoving body as he sobbed uncontrollably into her stomach.
When Neville, Susan, Oliver, Madame Pomfrey, and Professor McGonagall entered the Infirmary five minutes later, they found him in that very same position.
But while Neville, Susan, Oliver, and Madame Pomfrey all raced over to the beds of the two victims, Professor McGonagall went over to the two Aurors, both of whom were standing awkwardly over to the side, clearly not wanting to intrude on such a private moment.
"I can't thank you enough for your work here today, but if I can ask one more favour of you, letters need to be sent to the family of the victims. I'm sure Harry would have no problem sending his phoenix to deliver both," said Professor McGonagall awkwardly.
"Say no more," said Olivia graciously as she got up to hug her old school teacher.
"I trust we can find her up in the Owlery?" questioned Amanda, sparing one last glance over her shoulder towards the two hospital beds.
McGonagall could only nod her head, her eyes transfixed on the scene around the two hospital beds.
Without another word, Amanda and Olivia left the ward.
This wouldn't be the first time they had to write to the families of victims, but it certainly didn't get any easier each time they did.
The parents themselves were currently settled around the fireplace in the living room of the manor, still seething over Lucius Malfoy's underhanded political tactics, and how he'd once again managed to escape justice.
"That trial was a complete farce before it even began," complained Frank.
"I just can't believe I wasted all that time preparing an iron-clad case, just for Fudge to ignore the evidence staring him right in the face," said Amelia, as she buried her head in her hands.
The four kids could only sit there staring at their hands in silence.
They'd be shocked when their parents came home and told them the ruling of the court, having fully expected Malfoy Sr. to be found guilty.
"I don't know if I'm going to be able to control myself next time I see that slime ball," said Sirius, his hands shaking in anger.
However, before anyone in the room could say anything else about Lucius Malfoy, Hedwig made an appearance in the middle of the living room.
"Well at least there's one shred of good news today," said James. When his wife gave him a curious glance he casually explained. "I told Harry to write to us after the game with the score."
"And it goes without saying that you just assume your son won," laughed Remus, as he watched the kids scramble to untie the letter from Hedwig's leg.
"Well duh," said James, as he leant back in his chair, closed his eyes, and waited for the kids to announce the score.
However, instead of reading out the score like he expected, Sarah merely scrambled over to Dan and Emma and handed them the letter, her hands trembling like crazy.
Confused, James watched the Grangers faces change from surprise to shock and then to anguish as they stared at the letter, and immediately he knew something was horribly wrong.
Evidently, he wasn't the only one who had made the connection, as Alice and Lily were had already jumped out of their chairs to console the Grangers, while Remus and Amelia concerned themselves with the children.
James didn't even need to read the letter to know what had happened.
It was as if his mind was on autopilot. Without even thinking he went to retrieve the Floo-Powder from the next room, mentally preparing himself for the unwanted sight he was sure to see.
One thing was for certain, their day had definitely gotten a lot worse than simply watching Lucius Malfoy walk free.
Harry, Neville, Susan, and Professor McGonagall were all still in the Hospital Wing when the parents arrived.
They'd been expecting them; having just witnessed Oliver Woods parents arrive moments earlier to see their own child who had been attacked.
Emma and Dan were the first ones into the room, racing over to the bed of their daughter, with the others quick in tow.
Harry felt sick to his stomach watching the two parents crying over the still form of her petrified body, and was grateful when his mum appeared and wrapped her arms around him, drawing him into her comforting embrace.
Wanting to give the two mourning families some privacy, Professor McGonagall excused herself from the ward. Besides, she needed to have a word with the Headmaster. With these two latest attacks, especially one on a Professor, perhaps it was time to seriously start considering closing the school.
In the next hour, the family were treated to two unexpected arrivals.
The first came in the form of an emotionally distraught house-elf as Dobby furiously apologised to anyone who would listen for his former masters' horrible actions and whatever part he played in carrying them out.
The little guy was so inconsolable, that it got to the point where Lily and Alice had to leave the hospital wing with him so that he wouldn't continue to disturb everyone else.
"Dobby is sorry! Dobby isn't meaning to disturb. Dobby didn't mean to harm anybody!"
"Dobby we're not mad at you," said Lily, as she knelt down so that she could be at eye level with the little elf.
"And we don't hold you responsible for anything your old masters did," said Alice, copying Lily's gesture of kneeling down beside the little elf, as she rested a hand on his shoulder.
Dobby could only nod his head in gratitude as he blew his nose into his old raggedy pillowcase.
"Mrs's are too kind to lowly Dobby. Dobby has heard that you'ze helped to free Dobby from old masters. Dobby is in your debt."
"You don't owe us anything Dobby," said Alice. "We just treated you with the respect you deserve."
"Although you could do us all a favour and get yourself something nicer than that pillowcase to wear," said Lily. "I have an old sewing kit, you can even use it yourself if you want."
Dobby just started sobbing all over again as he thanked them profusely and explained how happy he was to be a free elf.
Lily and Alice could only look on saddened to think of everything the little guy must've gone through under Malfoy's ownership.
After all, it wasn't normal to see an elf happy about being free.
They didn't want to pressure him into doing anything for them, as Dobby had certainly earned his freedom, but the reality was that they had to ask Dobby this question, no matter how bad it made them feel.
"Actually Dobby, there is one thing you could do for us," said Lily awkwardly.
The change in the elf's demeanour was immediate, as his posture straightened up, and he stood at attention as if he was awaiting orders.
"Now feel free to say no," explained Alice, hesitating to look into the elf's eyes before continuing, "but we were wondering if you knew anything about Malfoy's plot to open the Chamber of Secrets."
Dobby seemed to start shaking a little, but he slowly nodded his head.
"Dobby does not know much, but Dobby does know that he's using a book, a book that he gave to Ginny Weasley. It is supposed to be able to open the Chamber and unleash the monster."
Alice and Lily's eyes both went wide, before they hugged Dobby in thanks, before quickly climbing to their feet and excusing themselves as they rushed back to the Hospital Wing.
They hadn't been expecting an answer nearly that helpful and were anxious to share the information with the rest of the group.
However, what they didn't expect was to see James, Sirius, Frank, and Amelia all preparing to exit the ward.
"Dumbledore's just sent Fawkes with an immediate summons for a Board of Governors meeting," explained Frank, seeing the look of confusion on his wife's face.
"We think it's because they're either considering closing the school or Malfoy and his cronies want to use this as an excuse to have Dumbledore canned," explained Sirius.
"Well whatever you do, don't let them close the school now. Dobby just told us how Tom's controlling Ginny. We can make a play at her tonight and end all of this before it's allowed to escalate any further," said Alice excitedly.
As expected, this brightened Amelia, James, Franks, and Sirius's mood dramatically, and gave them hope that maybe this Board of Governors meeting wouldn't be the bearer of more bad news.
"What do you mean you won't sign the agreement," complained Archie Simon. "A professor has now been petrified underneath our very Headmasters nose, and you four still want to keep the school open!"
Sirius just rolled his eyes as he listened to the man speak, as he fought back the urge to ask the man what he'd bought with the money Lucius gave him to acquire his vote.
"Think about the safety of our children," said Maddy Baker.
"Don't mistake my refusal for intolerance," growled James. "My own child attends the school, and in case you've forgotten the latest victim was one of his best friends."
"Now, now," said a very smug looking Lucius Malfoy, "There's no need for fighting, I'm sure we can work some form of agreement. Perhaps we'd be better suited negotiating the terms for our dear Headmasters resignation."
"The only agreement I'm negotiating with you is how much money it would take for your pathetic ilk to leave the country," spat Sirius, causing quite a few eyebrows to rise around the table.
"Gentlemen, gentlemen, I don't think that shall be necessary," said Dumbledore, trying to regain control of the situation.
"Actually Dumbledore, I move we call this meeting to an end. I have other places to be at the moment, and there's no chance I or my associates are going to sign off on any bill to close the school, especially not now that we have a new lead on the heir," said Amelia, as she stared down Lucius in an attempt to intimidate him.
"Well if you'd be so kind as to share, I'd certainly like to hear any new information you may have," said Dumbledore.
"I too would like to hear this lead of yours," said the silky voice of Lucius Malfoy.
"This may be something better served for a more private environment," said Frank. "We wouldn't want this information falling into the wrong hands."
"Are you saying the decorated members of this council are untrustworthy," accused Stephen Nott.
Frank didn't even hesitate with his answer of, "I am."
"Very well, if no decision is going to be reached at this meeting, I'm not going to waste my time," said Lucius. "I vote we table this meeting until a later time and continue from there."
"Seconded," said Robertson Nichols, quick to agree with Malfoy's decision.
After a majority voted in favour of delaying the meeting, James, Amelia, Sirius, and Frank stayed behind to have a quick word with Dumbledore about the possibility of bringing a team of Aurors into the school.
For the most part, James despised nearly every member of the council and was quite happy to cut their meeting short, but there were the few genuine members like Maddie Baker and Adam Boot who actually wanted what was best for the school.
He just hoped they'd get the approval they needed to put their plan into execution and then everyone's children would be safe.
As he exited the gargoyle staircase, Lucius Malfoy said goodbye to his compatriots and headed off in search of his son.
He may not have gotten the ruling he had been expecting at the Board of Governors meeting, but he wasn't thinking about that right now, instead, he was focused on damage control.
He wasn't sure if Amelia and the others had just been bluffing about some new lead on the heir, but he wasn't willing to take his chances.
His plan had accomplished just about everything he'd originally designed it for. The majority of the muggleborns had been pulled from the school, and the public outcry for Dumbledore's resignation was higher than it had been in decades.
Perhaps now was just the time to make a few alterations to the final stages of the plan.
The important thing was that he had to cover his tracks. He couldn't allow the diary to be traced back to himself, and to do that he needed to remove the evidence before anyone could find it.
Once Draco had retrieved the diary, then it could be exposed that the culprit behind the attacks was none other than Arthur Weasley's daughter, thus effectively humiliating the light side and earning him back the support of the Wizengamot he'd lost for having to face trial over possession of a few dark artefacts.
Yes, everything would work out perfectly. He just needed Draco to pull through on a very important mission.
Late that evening, Amelia was ready to put her plan into motion.
Dumbledore had originally been quite surprised to hear just how much information they'd gathered on Ginny Weasley and Malfoy's without him knowing but had nonetheless given his permission for Amelia to bring a team of Aurors into the school.
After carefully selecting a team of half a dozen of her most trusted Aurors, Amelia was ready.
In the dead of midnight, the team apparated to the gates of Hogwarts and then proceeded to creep up to the castle in the cover of darkness. Each one of them was equipped with an Invisibility cloak, and their entire bodies were coated in silencing and scentless charms, allowing them to move completely undetected.
Once they got up to the school, they quickly made their way up the East staircase, as they made their ascent up to the Gryffindor dormitories.
With Dumbledore's intrusion, they didn't have to worry about running into any wandering prefects, Peeves the poltergeist, Filch, or any other distractions.
When they got to the portrait of the fat lady, Amelia gave the password that she'd acquired from Dumbledore, and the Aurors silently entered the Common Room.
As luck would have it, no one was in the Common Room at that hour, so they were able to move to the bottom of the girl's dormitory staircase without a problem.
Once there, the team ascended up to the first year's dormitory.
After taking a moment to gather themselves, they quietly unlocked the door and stepped into the room.
It took them only a second to identify the bed of Ginny Weasley, both because it was the only bed with a body in it and because her long flaming red hair was easily identifiable.
Not taking any chances, Amelia immediately fired a petrificus totalus at her sleeping body, before striding over to her nightstand and picking up her wand.
"Okay search the room, I want that book found," said Amelia, as she kept her wand trained on the young girl, even going so far as to put up a strong protego charm around the bed as an extra precaution. After all, if Tom Riddle really could control this girl's body, then she wouldn't rule out the possibility that she could wandlessly free herself.
After ten minutes of searching, where her team practically tore the room apart in search of the diary, Amelia was starting to get nervous.
The first part of the plan had gone so smoothly, but if they couldn't find the book then things would certainly get more complicated.
After another ten minutes of searching, Kingsley Shacklebolt was the one to give his boss the bad news – the book simply wasn't there.
Cursing, Amelia was left to make the tough choice.
Either wake the girl up and force feed her veritaserum, or take her back to a Ministry holding cell.
In the end, Amelia decided to go with the first option, having Kingsley administer the potion and questioning the girl, while the rest of them kept their wands trained on her as a precaution.
After casting a few strong incarcerous charms to restrain her, Amelia cast an enervate charm to wake the girl up.
Before she even had time to take in her surroundings, Kingsley had forced her mouth open and had poured in a couple drops of the powerful truth serum.
Sure enough moments later, her eyes rolled into the back of her head signalling that the potion had taken effect, and Kingsley began the questioning.
"Were you the one that opened the Chamber of Secrets?"
One Auror wanted to arrest her right there, but Amelia quickly shut him up with a harsh look before signalling to Kingsley to continue.
"How did you do it?"
"I've been writing in my diary all year, Tom just simply showed me how."
This brought Kingsley up short, so he asked, "Who's Tom?"
"Tom's the diary."
There was a moment of hesitation before Kingsley asked his next question.
"Where did you get this diary?"
"It was in my second-hand copy of A Beginners Guide to Transfiguration."
"And where is the diary now?"
"I got scared of what it was doing to me, and flushed it down one of the toilets in Moaning Myrtle's bathroom on the second floor."
Quick as a flash, Amelia sent half of her team down to the second-floor bathroom to retrieve the diary, with strict instructions to come into contact with it.
Almost as soon as they left, the potion seemed to begin wearing off, as Ginny's eyes refocused and she moaned a little in discomfort.
Not wasting any time, Amelia fired a stupefy charm at the little girl before putting her in magic-repressing handcuffs.
Next, she pulled the portkey Dumbledore had given her out of her jacket pocket and together, she, Ginny, and the other two Aurors accompanying her portkeyed into one of the Ministry holding cells.
As she left the two Aurors to care for Ginny, Amelia went into the next room to update Dumbledore about their progress.
She could only hope that it wouldn't be a long wait for Kingsley and the others to return, hopefully with the diary in their possession.
Unfortunately, Kingsley and the other two Aurors never did find the diary in Moaning Myrtle's bathroom, as unbeknownst to them, it was found earlier that evening by none other than Draco Malfoy, after he followed Ginny on the advice of his father.
So that was where Tom found himself, in the second year Slytherin boys dormitory, with Draco Malfoy leafing through his pages repeatedly.
The diary itself was a mystery to him. It seemed vaguely familiar, but he didn't recognise the name on it, and there was nothing else written in the pages.
Draco knew the diary belonged to his father, and it was obviously quite important given the strict instructions he was given to retrieve it, but other than that Draco knew little about it, and that irked him to no end.
Frustrated, Draco shoved the diary into the hidden compartment of his trunk and got ready for bed.
It was certainly going to take all of his composure to follow his father's orders and not write in the diary.
When Kingsley arrived back at the Ministry an hour later with no sign of the diary, Amelia sent word to Dumbledore that the diary was still in the school, and that Ginny Weasley had been taken to the Ministry for safe-keeping.
She'd then sent Kingsley to Floo the Weasley parents to tell them that they'd taken their daughter into custody, and to extend an invitation to visit her.
She knew it was approaching two in the morning, but if she knew the Weasleys she was willing to bet the parents would want to be with their daughter if they knew what had happened to her. Besides it was fairly obvious that Ginny wanted to see her family – as evident by the fact that she'd been crying uncontrollably ever since they revived her – and Amelia couldn't help but feel bad for the poor girl.
It seemed Ginny had already convinced herself that she was going to be expelled from Hogwarts and sent to Azkaban for her actions.
Amelia had attempted to console her and tell her that she wouldn't be going to Azkaban but she was fairly certain that Ginny hadn't believed her; given her current state of deliria.
With little else she could do, Amelia simply sat with the girl and waited for Kingsley to return with word on whether or not the parents would be visiting that evening.
Sure enough, Arthur and Molly entered the holding cells to visit their daughter only ten minutes later. They were both frantic to see their daughter and to learn what had happened to her, as they had virtually no clue as to what had happened.
As Kingsley took Molly into the other room to see her daughter, Amelia sat Arthur down in the interrogation room to try and explain to him everything that had happened.
She told him that his daughter had been writing in some mysterious diary all year and that the diary had been writing back to her the whole time. That this diary was supposedly one of Lord Voldemort's old school things made it that much worse.
Arthur could only hang his head in anguish as he listened to Amelia continue her explanation, wondering how in Merlin this was allowed to happen.
Eventually, it was all just too much for him, and Arthur had to ask the pressing question of what was to come of all this.
Amelia had been expecting that question, but she wasn't sure Arthur would like her answer.
"To be honest, I'm not entirely sure. You don't have to worry about her facing time in Azkaban - greater minds have been deceived by Voldemort before and none of them has ever had that sentencing - and at eleven years of age, she's much too young to face a criminal trial. However, I can tell you that the victims of the families will be given the opportunity to press charges if they choose to do so."
Arthur could only nod his head, relieved to know that his daughter wouldn't face time for her actions, but also worried by the possibility of having to pay charges – it was no secret after all that their family was quite tight for cash.
Feeling pity for her friend's situation, Amelia could do nothing else but show him into the next room where his wife and daughter were sitting on the floor holding each other as they each sobbed into each other's hair.
"I'm so sorry daddy," squeaked Ginny as soon as she saw her father walk into the room, rushing over to embrace him.
Arthur just held her and told her that it was all right and that he wasn't mad at her.
Yes, he'd told her many times growing up that she was never to touch anything that she didn't know where it's brain was, but he was hardly going to remind her of that now.
Instead, he simply picked her up, and walked over to his wife and put Ginny down in between them, as the three Weasleys embraced, Ginny still sobbing loudly.
As they sat in the comfort of each other's arms, she told them of how there were various parts of her day where she had no memory of her actions. How'd she suddenly just find herself standing in some far corridor of the castle, having no clue how she got there.
She also told them of the mornings she woke up with blood on her robes, and how she eventually began to fear that she was the one behind the attacks and that the mysterious diary she was writing in was the cause of it.
Finally, she told that she was so horrified by her actions regarding the latest attack that she tried to get rid of the diary by flushing it down Moaning Myrtle's toilet, but that the Aurors had arrested her later that night.
"I'm going to be expelled aren't I," said Ginny, as she attempted to wipe the tears out of her eyes. "I've been looking forward to going to Hogwarts ever since Bill went and now I'm not even going to be able to finish my first year!"
Arthur and Molly didn't really have an answer for her, other than to hug her tighter in comfort, so Amelia was left to provide a verbal response.
"I don't think you will be. Your parents will have to speak with Headmaster Dumbledore about it tomorrow, but it isn't likely. I think if anything, you should just take the rest of the year off and return in the fall once all this is behind us."
Unsurprisingly, this answer did little to quell Ginny's sobs.
Apologising, Amelia got up to give them some privacy, allowing the parents to stay the night with their daughter if they chose before she would be released in the morning.
Arthur and Molly simply thanked her, as she expanded the bed with her wand, before leaving the room and locking the door behind her.
At that moment, neither Molly nor Arthur cared about the financial problems this mess could pose to their family, all that mattered to them was that they overcame this situation together as a family.
The next day, Lucius Malfoy had Minister Fudge over for lunch as a thankful gesture for the man helping him out of a sticky situation the last week when he was put on trial.
Of course, Fudge brushed it off as simply doing his job of protecting the innocent and valued members of society.
The two shared a marvellous meal of the highest quality dragon steak money could buy, before sharing a bottle of wine as they discussed politics and the latest attacks regarding the Chamber of Secrets late into the afternoon.
By the time the Minister left, Lucius was confident that he would side with him to remove Dumbledore from his post as Headmaster if he could link the diary to one of his biggest supporters.
In the end, he'd just have to wait and see how it all panned out. He still hadn't heard anything from Draco about whether or not he was successful in retrieving the diary.