“Thank you, Fawkes. I shall call for you when I need you again.”
Albus Dumbledore watched as his companion flamed away before beginning his brisk walk down the lane to the house he wished to visit.
It had been nearly twelve years since he had last visited, having remained away out of respect for the owner and his godson. Sirius Black and Harry Potter had lived here since the night Harry’s parents, James and Lily, had been killed by Lord Voldemort. It had kept them safe and hidden from the rest of the wizarding world all these years, with only a very small number of people being aware of the location.
He had been shocked to learn that his groundskeeper, Rubeus Hagrid, had willingly allowed Sirius to take Harry with him, but Minerva McGonagall had told him that she was well aware of where the pair had gone and knew that they were well hidden. She made clear that, while she had not been given the secret of where the Potters had been hidden, she was well aware of whom the Secret Keeper had been. His Transfiguration professor had then made it clear that he was not to meddle and that he was to do everything within his power to make sure Sirius’ name was cleared and guardianship of Harry was secured for him. Admittedly, Minerva may have also had some choice words for him when he had asked for the secret of the property’s location that had made an impact on him deciding to stay away from the property for all these years.
Albus had done as he had been asked. He had come to the house and spoken to Sirius about the events of that night, shocked to discover that Peter Pettigrew had been the spy within their midst. They came to an agreement that he would leave the pair alone, hidden from the world, allowing Sirius to raise Harry without interference. He, in turn, had made sure Sirius’ name had been cleared – Minerva giving a sworn testimony under Veritaserum that Peter was the Secret Keeper for the Potters – and officially declared as Harry’s guardian. After that, they had no contact with one another until Harry was sent his acceptance letter to Hogwarts.
Sirius had appeared at the school to speak to the Headmaster, uncertain as to whether he should allow Harry to attend the school. The pair had spoken for several hours, going back and forth on what the best course of action would be. That was until Albus had let slip that he had agreed to look after a precious artefact of Nicolas Flamel that coming school year. Sirius had stood, told him that Harry would not be coming school under any circumstances, and had left his office immediately. He had not heard from the man since.
Now, Albus found himself with a situation at the school that he required help with and the only person he knew could help was young Harry himself, something he knew would not go down well with Sirius. He knew Harry was aware of the prophecy, why his parents had been killed and why he was called the Boy Who Lived, but Sirius had made it clear that Harry would remain away from any potential problems until he was in a position where he could face a Death Eater and survive. How was he going to convince the man to allow Harry to help, especially when time was of the essence?
He knocked on the door the moment he reached the door and waited. It wasn’t long before the door opened to reveal a young boy that looked like the spitting image of James Potter, but with the eyes of Lily Potter.
“Hello, Professor Dumbledore,” the boy said, recognising the man his godfather had told him so much about.
“Hello, Harry,” Albus replied in kind. “Would it be possible to speak to your godfather? A matter of urgency has arisen that I require help with.”
“Let me just get him for you, Sir.”
Albus watched as Harry disappeared into the house.
“Dad,” Albus heard Harry say, much to his confusion. He could only wonder when the relationship had shifted to that of father and son. Sirius had not mentioned the change the last time they had spoken.
“Professor Dumbledore, what a surprise,” Sirius said as he came to the door. “Please, come on inside.”
Albus entered the house, looking around at how much it had changed in the past twelve years. It had changed from a house with only the basic furnishings to one that felt homely and full of love. He smiled as he walked past a wall full of photos of Harry, ranging from just after he was born to more recently.
“What can I do for you, Albus?” Sirius asked as he indicated to the headmaster to take a seat.
“I have come asking for your help, Sirius,” he replied. “A matter of great urgency has come up at the school and I require assistance that I believe, right now, only your godson can provide.”
“Me?” Harry asked, confused at what he could possibly provide that no one else could, even one of the greatest wizards to ever live.
Albus looked towards Harry, having not realised the young wizard had followed them into the living room.
“Yes, you, Harry,” Albus responded. “I believe your godfather informed you of the events that led you to living here with him.”
Harry nodded in confirmation.
“Sirius informed me during our last conversation that you were able to communicate with snakes,” Albus continued. “That talent is what we call Parseltongue. It’s rare and generally is a trait that is hereditary.”
“My dad said that my parents didn’t have the talent and that he thinks I somehow gained the talent from Voldemort the night he tried to kill me.”
Albus looked to Sirius, surprised he had informed Harry of that small piece of information.
“As I told you, the last time we spoke, I refuse to keep secrets from Harry,” Sirius said defensively.
Albus could only nod in response, not wishing to start an argument when time was of the essence.
“I require the talent of a Parseltongue to open an entrance to a secret chamber that has long thought to be just a legend,” Albus continued on. “A young girl has been taken down there and could potentially lose her life if we do not gain entry.”
“Then, why are sitting here talking then?” Harry demanded to know as he jumped up from where he had been sitting. “The longer we sit here, the more chance there is she will die.”
Sirius looked as though he was going to argue with Harry about heading into something dangerous, but at the last second, he set his eyes upon Albus and demanded he informed them of the situation. Albus quickly gave them an overview of the events of the past year, of how a number of students had been Petrified, the message that had appeared proclaiming how the Chamber of Secrets been reopened, how there were no clues to how they had been or who the culprit was. He explained how he had been forced from the school by the governors before he could discover the truth. He confirmed he had discovered the answer earlier that evening and had been about to head to the school when he had received an urgent message from Minerva McGonagall informing him that a girl had been taken down into the Chamber of Secrets.
“How did you figure it out, Sir?” Harry asked.
“A ghost, known as Moaning Myrtle, haunts the very same bathroom where the messages have appeared,” Dumbledore told the younger wizard. “It wasn’t until Hagrid was taken away to Azkaban that I thought to speak to her. Even then, I was denied the chance to speak to her as I was forced from my position as headmaster. Professor McGonagall spoke to her on my behalf and passed along that she remembered a hissing noise and two yellow eyes. It wasn’t much, but I finally made the connection earlier today.”
“Is it a Basilisk?” Harry innocently asked to Dumbledore’s shock. “Dad gave me a book on snakes after we discovered I could speak to them.”
“It is,” he confirmed for the young wizard. “Now, unless you have any more objections, Sirius, I really do insist on us making a move. I do not wish to delay any longer as we are unaware how long the student has been down there.”
Sirius could find no argument to stop Harry from going to help, but he knew he needed to lay some ground rules.
“Harry, you have to promise me that you will listen and follow anything either myself of Professor Dumbledore ask of you?” Sirius asked as the wizards stood to leave.
Harry nodded, “I promise.”
Sirius pulled into a rough hug before turning to Dumbledore and stating, “Let’s go, then.”
Harry couldn’t stop the gasp that escaped his lips as he saw the writing on the wall of the corridor. A feeling of dread filled him as he took in the words, ‘Her skeleton will lie in the Chamber for ever’. He didn’t think they had much time to be standing around if they were going to prevent those words from coming true.
“Tell me again, Dumbledore, what you know,” Sirius demanded. The anger that laced his voice told Harry that his godfather suspected that they had only been given the basic facts of what had happened over this past school year.
While he knew Sirius would be mad for him wandering off without him, Harry decided to head through the door opposite the message and into the girls’ bathroom in hopes of finding the ghost Professor Dumbledore had mentioned to them.
“Ooh, who are you?”
Harry turned in the direction of the voice to see the ghost of young Hogwarts student floating just inside one of the stalls of the bathroom.
“I’m Harry,” he replied kindly. “You must be Myrtle.”
“How do you know my name?” she replied as she floated over to where Harry was stood. “I never seen you around the school. Are you even a student here?”
“No, I don’t go to school here, but Professor Dumbledore told me about you after he asked me to come and help him with something. Can I ask how you came to be a ghost here at this school, in this bathroom?”
“Ooh, no one ever asks me about how I died!” the ghost exclaimed in excitement. “It happened right here in this very bathroom.”
Harry listened patiently as she explained how she had been hiding from Olive Hornby when she heard a hissing noise. She had left the stall she had been sat in to find out what the noise was only to see two big yellow eyes and die.
“Do you know whereabouts you saw those eyes?” Harry asked, knowing the entrance had to be in the bathroom somewhere.
“Over here,” Myrtle said as she floated over to the sinks.
Even though he was not certain about what exactly he was looking for, he knew they had to be some sort of clue as to where the entrance was. That’s when he spotted the small snake on one of the sinks and the reason Dumbledore had requested him became clear.
They would need Parseltongue to gain entry.
Harry took a step back and spoke, “Open!”
There was a low rumbling noise as the sink shifted and moved to reveal a pipe large enough for him to climb into. However, before he went to jump in, he turned back round to the ghost.
“Myrtle, did you see a young girl come into this bathroom and enter this pipe?” Harry asked as Dumbledore and Sirius finally entered the room.
“Yes, she has been here and gone in there several times over the last several months,” Myrtle confirmed. “It’s funny, though, as it always seemed like she struggled to open entrance. It was never like the way you just did it.”
Harry nodded, recognising the useful piece information Myrtle had just given him, before he turned back to the entrance.
“Harry?” Sirius said, but before he could ask his godson what they had spoken about or how he had found the entrance, Harry jumped
inside the pipe and disappeared from view.
Harry arrived at the bottom of the pipe with a thud, landing on the damp stone floor. He quickly stood and dusted himself off before grabbing his wand and lighting it to see more clearly in the dark tunnels.
Moving his wand around to help take in his surroundings, he quickly spotted what looked like a body lying on the ground. It appeared to be too big for it to be the girl they had come down to rescue. He quickly moved over to the body and turned it over to discover it was a man, perhaps a teacher.
“I’m over here,” Harry called out, not taking his eyes off the man lying unconscious on the floor.
The footsteps of the other two wizards became louder as they neared the younger wizard. Within seconds, Harry had pulled into a rough hug by his godfather.
“Why did you just jump into that pipe without telling us what was going on?” Sirius demanded as he pulled back to check Harry over for any injuries.
“Because I am not going to hang around talking while someone’s life is on the line,” Harry replied stubbornly. “Plus, I discovered someone unconscious on the ground behind me.”
Dumbledore quickly moved forward and knelt down next to the body.
“This is Gilderoy Lockhart, our Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher,” he noted. “I was not aware he had gone missing before coming to your house. Perhaps he will be able to give us some more information about what had happened here, this evening.”
Sirius and Harry watched as Dumbledore revived his teacher.
“Gilderoy?” Dumbledore asked the man finally opened his eyes and looked round, seemingly unable to focus on any one thing.
“Gilderoy? I need you to focus on me, I need to know how you came to be here.”
“Here?” the wizard finally responded. “Where is here? Who are you? Who am I?”
Dumbledore didn’t respond as he appeared to be keeping eye contact with the confused wizard.
“Oh dear, it appears that he has completely lost his memories.”
Sirius chuckled, “Well, to be brought down by the one spell he loves to use regularly, isn’t that just ironic?”
“Sirius, if you can take Gilderoy to the hospital wing, while I continue on with Harry.”
“Of course,” Sirius replied as he looked round to speak to Harry, only discover he was no longer there. “Damn it, Harry snuck off while
we were distracted.”
Harry barely took in his surroundings as he rushed through the gap where the wall had parted and into the chamber. The only thing he truly noticed was the greenish gloom that seemed to fill the area. He only came to a sudden pause when he reached a huge statue of a wizard, who he assumed to be Salazar Slytherin.
There, at the bottom of the statue, lay the body of the student he had come to help rescue. The girl was lying face down of the floor of the chamber, her long red hair scattered as it covered any sign of her face.
Harry ran over, skidding to a stop next to the girl. He fell to his knees, dropping his wand to the floor as he did so, and carefully rolled the missing student over. She was so pale and barely breathing. He didn’t even know this girl, but the very thought that she could die because he was too late immediately weighed on his heart.
“Come on, please, I need you to wake up,” Harry begged as he gently tapped her cheek with his hand. “Please!”
“She won’t wake,” a voice said from behind, one he knew did not belong to either Sirius or Professor Dumbledore.
Harry twisted himself slightly as he turned his head to see who it was that was talking to him. There, behind him, was another boy – tall with black hair – who didn’t look quite right and gave Harry an uneasy feeling.
“Who are you?” Harry questioned the unknown boy. “I wasn’t aware of any other student being brought down here into the chamber.”
“I wasn’t brought down here against my will,” the boy replied as he moved slight closer to where Harry was knelt. “I came down here with little Ginny Weasley, who is helping me with a special project.”
The comment immediately raised Harry’s suspicions that this boy was somehow behind whatever had been happening at the school this past year and was responsible for the state Ginny Weasley was currently in. As the boy continued moving nearer, Harry realised he didn’t seem complete as a weird, misty light shone around him.
“Again, who are you and what have you done to Ginny?” Harry demanded to know as he went to pick up his wand which no longer appeared to be where he dropped it.
“Looking for this?” the boy asked as he held up the wand for Harry to see.
“Yes, thank you,” Harry replied quickly, holding out his hand for the boy to return it.
“Oh, I won’t be giving it back to you. I shall be needing it very shortly once Ginny has completed her task.”
Harry stood up, ready to do whatever he needed to get his wand back and Ginny out of this chamber.
“You see, Ginny here has been helping me regain my body,” the boy spoke, not paying attention to Harry’s movements. “I attended this school many years ago and I learnt many things, including how to preserve my memory in a diary. A diary that Ginny received and began writing in. She spilled her secrets, her wishes, her desires to me. She revealed her loneliness, her sadness at being ignored by her brothers. The more she told poured her heart out to me, the more powerful I became until I was able to bring her down here and create this form, one that is nearly complete.”
As the boy spoke, Harry’s eyes were roaming the floor around him and Ginny, looking for the diary that had been mentioned. Somehow, he knew it needed to be destroyed, but he needed to find it first.
“Once I have regained this form, I can finish off what I know needs to be done for me to truly take my place in our world. Little Ginny Weasley was very helpful in filling in what had happened in the past fifty years, especially about the defeat of Lord Voldemort. It seemed Ginny was fascinated by the child who had managed to defeat the greatest wizard to ever live by sheer luck.”
“He is NOT the greatest wizard to ever live,” Harry retaliated. “Albus Dumbledore is considered the greatest wizard in the world. The whole wizarding world believes and knows this to be true!”
“Except he is not here, now, is he?” the boy hissed in response. “No, he has been driven from the castle and nothing he can do can prevent me from returning. And now, I intend to end the life of Harry Potter once I am in a position to leave this wretched place for good.”
Harry’s jaw dropped in shock. He knew Voldemort had not been destroyed that night in Godric’s Hollow, that he would one day return. However, it seemed that day had come and he needed to find a way to delay the wizard’s return.
“You’re Lord Voldemort,” Harry spoke confidently.
“Yes, I am,” came the response from the boy. “Though, Ginny here knows me by my former name – Tom Riddle.”
“It seems your chance to destroy Harry Potter has come a little sooner than expected, Tom,” Harry replied, determined to call this boy by his original given name. “Nice to meet you, Tom. I’m Harry Potter.”
Before Tom could respond, music suddenly filled the chamber. The sound spread through Harry, giving hope and courage that he could do what needed to be done.
A giant bird flew through into the chamber, a bird Harry recognised to be a Phoenix, and circled around Harry a few seconds before it dropped a ragged-looking hat at his feet.
Harry bent down and picked up the hat, unsure why he had been given it. He did, however, recognise it as the school’s Sorting Hat, something Sirius had told him about whenever he had told stories about his and his parent’s time at Hogwarts.
“The Sorting Hat?” Tom Riddle questioned. “I am not quite sure how that will help you survive, Harry Potter. Shall we see if you survive against my little pet?”
Riddle turned towards the large statue and hissed, “Speak to me, Slytherin, greatest of the Hogwarts.”
Harry understood the words Tom Riddle spoke perfectly and knew instantly that he had called forth the Basilisk. He wasn’t quite sure how he was meant to defeat the giant snake, stop Tom Riddle and save Ginny Weasley, but he knew he needed to try. The only thing he could think of to do at that moment was to put some distance between himself and the Basilisk to give himself time to figure out what he was going to do.
Harry picked up the diary and studied it with fascination, wondering how one book could cause so much damage. It was certainly something that would interest the headmaster, especially considering it had belonged a teenaged Voldemort.
A groan caused Harry to pocket the diary and look over to where Ginny Weasley was starting to come round. He picked up the Sorting Hat and the sword before quickly making his way over to the young girl, intent on making sure she was okay. Once he reached her, he dropped to his knees just as she sat up and looked around, confused to where she was.
“Oh,” the young witch gasped when Harry came into her view, causing her to shuffle away in fear.
“No, please, don’t be scared of me,” Harry quickly said, desperate to ease her fears. “The Basilisk is dead; the diary has been destroyed and Tom has gone. He can’t hurt you anymore.”
Ginny looked around the chamber again, making sure to really take in what was around her. The Basilisk lay there, dead, just as the boy said. There was no sign of Tom, who she had seen start to come out of the diary just before she collapsed and lost consciousness. However, she couldn’t see the diary.
“The diary?” she questioned, turning back to the stranger.
“Here,” Harry said as he pulled the book from his pocket and held it out for the girl to see. “I used a Basilisk fang to destroy it. Tom disappeared the moment I drove the fang into it.”
Ginny stared at the diary, not responding to the boy’s words, before she burst into the tears. What she didn’t expect was the feel of arms wrapping round her and pulling her into a warm, and much needed, hug.
“Everything that has happened this past school year,” Harry gently said after a few minutes, “it isn’t your fault. I don’t know everything, just what I was told by Professor Dumbledore and what I was able to gleam from Tom’s ramblings. I know enough to know that the very fact you have survived an encounter with one the darkest wizards to walk this earth means you are one strong witch!”
“He was a Dark Wizard?” Ginny asked, pulling away to allow herself to see her rescuer’s face.
“Tom Riddle, the boy who befriended you through the diary, was the wizard we know today as Lord Voldemort. He killed my parents as baby, he destroyed so many lives before that, and you met a memory of him from when he was still in school. It seems he was just evil then as he was at the height of the war.”
“He killed your parents?” Ginny repeated as she studied the face of the boy sat next to her. There was something about his face that she recognised, but she couldn’t quite put her finger on it. “Who are you?”
“I’m Harry,” Harry told her. “I was told your name is Ginny Weasley.”
“Yes, it is,” she responded absently as she continued studying Harry’s face. Then, she spotted the biggest sign as to who Harry was – his famed lightning bolt scar. “Oh, Merlin!”
Ginny shuffled away from Harry again, mortified at who he was and the fact he had rescued her for near-certain death. Her brothers would tease her mercilessly if they found out her childhood crush had been the one to risk his life for her.
“Please,” Harry begged as he realised she knew who he was. “Don’t be embarrassed; I hate the title everyone calls me. I am just a normal boy – just Harry! The only difference between me and other boys my age, bar my stupid title, is that I am home-schooled and don’t actually have any friends my own age.”
Harry looked away in shame at having admitted the one thing Sirius had never been able to provide for him. He didn’t resent his godfather for keeping him away from the public eye or the lack of people in their lives as he knew it was for his own protection. He couldn’t resent his godfather for any of that when he now called him Dad, something they had both agreed his actual father would be happy for the relationship they had developed.
“I’ll be your friend,” a small voice said, breaking through Harry’s thoughts.
Harry turned back to see that Ginny had crawled closer to him. “I’d like that. Perhaps, maybe, I could write to you.”
Ginny smiled, “I’d like that, too. It would be nice to be able to write to someone who knows what happened down here. I don’t know if my family are going to be happy with me when they find out what I had done. Tom said they would hate me for all the horrible things I did on his behalf this year.”
Harry wrapped Ginny in his arms again as he firmly told her, “It isn’t your fault! Your family won’t hate you, especially once they know the truth. They will still love you! I suspect your parents, at least, will be waiting for you when we get out of here! I know there was a lot of people worried about you when I arrived at the school.”
Ginny pulled away from Harry, tears still swimming in her eyes, and stood up, ready to leave the chamber and face the teachers and her family.
“Remember,” Harry said as he stood up and took her hand in his, “you are going to be fine and, no matter what happens, I will back you up and support you, because you’re my friend.”
Ginny simply nodded as her eyes watched the Phoenix that was flying around the ceiling of the chamber.
“Hold my hand tightly,” Harry said to her as his grip tightened. “I think the phoenix is going to help us get out of the chamber.”
Just as Harry finished what he was saying, the phoenix swooped down, grasped Harry’s shoulder and flamed the pair away from the chamber.
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