Harry Potter and the Trouble With Neurotypicals: Book Two.
Or, "Aspie Potter and the Chamber of Secrets."
By = Fayanora
Note: I do not own this. J. K. Rowling does. This is just fan fiction. No money is being made.
Note 2: There may be a few bits and pieces lifted word-for-word from the canon material. I tried to do that as little as possible, though.
(Genuinely new chapter!)
Chapter 6: Riddle Me This
The next day, Harry woke to find himself wondering what was going to happen with the Dueling Club. It seemed a shame for it to stop, just because it had an inept teacher. He decided to find out its status, and suggest a different teacher for it if it was still ongoing.
Standing up and going over the the mirror, he took off the satin 'bonnet' that protects his hair at night, and got to work trying to get his hair into some semblance of order.
At breakfast, still a small affair because of so few people being there the day after Christmas, Harry walked over to Dumbledore at the staff table and waited for the headmaster to finish his bite of scrambled eggs.
“Why hello there, Har-er, Mr. Potter,” Dumbledore said, remembering he was teaching these days. “To what do I owe the pleasure?”
“Well I was just wondering if we could discuss the Dueling Club later, when we're both done eating.”
Dumbledore blinked. “Why of course, Har- Mr. Potter. You know where my office is, I take it?”
“Yes, sir, I do.”
“Well, in that case, I do rather like lemon drops.”
Harry stared at him curiously.
“It's the password for the gargoyle,” Dumbledore explained quietly. “Lemon drops, I mean.”
“Ah. Okay. Thank you, sir.”
“You're quite welcome, young man.”
After breakfast, Harry went to the gargoyle, gave it the password, and went up the revolving steps to wait for Dumbledore. The room was empty still, but for a young bird with feathers that were starting to look very pretty, and – oddly – a pile of ash at the bottom of the cage. Surely Dumbledore didn't smoke, did he? And surely he wouldn't put his ashes out in his pet's cage? Harry was still regarding the ashes with confusion when Dumbledore came into the room.
“Ah, I see you have met Fawkes, my pet phoenix,” the old man said.
“Oh! Well that explains the ashes.”
Dumbledore chuckled. “Yes, he had a burning day recently. He's looking much better now than he did then, but still not to his usual glory. Anyway, Harry—er--oh nevermind... anyway, you wished to discuss the Dueling Club?”
“Yes. I was wondering if it was going to continue.”
“I had not been planning on it, no. Not after young Mr. Malfoy summoned a dangerous snake during a duel.”
“I believe that was Professor Snape's idea, sir. At least, he was whispering in Malfoy's ear just before it happened.”
Dumbledore frowned slightly. “Thank you for telling me this, Harry. I will discuss it with Professor Snape.” He brightened suddenly. “So it seems we need to replace Professors Lockhart and Snape for the Dueling Club to continue. Did you have any suggestions?”
“Someone said Flitwick was a dueling champion in his youth.”
“Yes, indeed he was. But that many students, we shall need at least two teachers to keep order.”
“What about yourself, sir? You defeated Grindelwald in a duel, and Voldemort still feared you, even at the height of his powers.”
“Me? Well, I suppose I do have the talent, and I do like to teach. One Dueling Club lesson a week should not be too much of an added burden to my Wizard Studies course.”
The headmaster thought for a moment. Then his eyes twinkled. “Yes, Harry, I believe I shall ask Professor Flitwick and perhaps also Professor McGonagall, if she's willing, to help me out. With Voldemort having tried to regain his body last year, and all this Chamber business this year, continuing the Dueling Club would not go amiss, with the right teachers. Ah, but I shall have to disappoint poor Gilderoy. Oh well, he will just have to live with it.
“So, with that all settled, was there anything else, Harry?”
Harry thought. “No, I think that's it for now.”
“Good. Now run along, enjoy your holiday.”
Harry nodded, and left the room.
The next several weeks went by without much of any note happening. Malfoy continued coming to MAC meetings, Wizard Studies class was very interesting, Dumbledore had indeed started the Dueling Club up again with Flitwick and McGonagall helping him ensure there were no more incidents, and the attacks had stopped for now.
About the only thing unusual in that time was that Malfoy's standing among most of the Slytherins seemed to be going down; he was no longer hanging out with Crabbe and Goyle, and started spending time with Angela, Antigone, Danzia, and Willem Stone instead, schedules permitting. The rest of the Slytherins gave him the cold shoulder, but he kept his head high and seemed happy with his new friends.
It wasn't until the final week of January that something else happened. Harry, Antigone, and Ron were on their way to the MAC classroom one day when they heard yelling from the bathroom of Moaning Myrtle.
“What the heck is Filch yelling about?” Antigone asked.
“You don’t think someone else’s been attacked?” said Ron tensely.
They stood still, their heads inclined toward Filch’s voice, which sounded quite hysterical.
“...even more work for me! Mopping all night, like I haven’t got enough to do! No, this is the final straw, I’m going to Dumbledore!”
They kept listening, as they heard footsteps, and when they were sure he was gone, they went around the corner for a closer look. The corridor floor was flooded again, and Myrtle was wailing. Harry cast Impervious on his robes and shoes, and went inside. Antigone and Ron followed suit.
There was water everywhere; even the candles had been doused by the water. If Harry hadn't been so sure nobody ever used this bathroom because of Myrtle, he'd be more disgusted than he was.
“What's wrong, Myrtle?” Harry asked.
“Who’s that?” glugged Myrtle miserably. “Come to throw something else at me?”
“Why would I do that? That would be rude.”
“Don’t ask me,” Myrtle shouted, emerging with a wave of yet more water, which splashed onto the already sopping floor. “Here I am, minding my own business, and someone thinks it’s funny to throw a book at me. …”
“But it can’t hurt you if someone throws something at you,” said Harry, reasonably. “I mean, it’d just go right through you, wouldn’t it?”
He had said the wrong thing. Myrtle puffed herself up and shrieked, “Let’s all throw books at Myrtle, because she can’t feel it! Ten points if you can get it through her stomach! Fifty points if it goes through her head! Well, ha, ha, ha! What a lovely game, I don’t think!”
“I'm sorry, I didn't mean to sound cruel. I'm not very good at this whole 'social' thing,” he explained. “So, er... who threw it at you?”
“I don’t know. … I was just sitting in the U-bend, thinking about death, and it fell right through the top of my head,” said Myrtle, glaring at them. “It’s over there, it got washed out. …”
The three of them looked where she pointed. A small, thin, shabby, wet book lay there. Harry stepped forward to pick it up, but Ron suddenly flung out an arm to hold him back.
“What?” said Harry.
“Are you crazy?” said Ron. “It could be dangerous.”
“Dangerous?” said Harry, confused. “Come off it, how could it be dangerous?”
“He's right,” Antigone said, nodding.
“Trust me, I know what I'm talking about,” said Ron, who was looking apprehensively at the book. “Some of the books the Ministry’s confiscated — Dad’s told me — there was one that burned your eyes out. And everyone who read Sonnets of a Sorcerer spoke in limericks for the rest of their lives. And some old witch in Bath had a book that you could never stop reading! You just had to wander around with your nose in it, trying to do everything one-handed. And —”
“All right, I’ve got the point,” said Harry. “But what do we do about it, then?”
Antigone got out her wand and floated the book as close to her as she dared, turning it around in the air with her wand, even opening it that way. Then she cast several spells for revealing hidden magic, and got nothing.
“Okay, I know I'm only a 4th year,” she said, her gray eyes regarding the book, “but it appears to be an ordinary book to me.”
Harry snatched it out of the air and flipped through it. He saw at once that it was a diary, and the faded year on the cover told him it was fifty years old. He opened it eagerly. On the first page he could just make out the name “T. M. Riddle” in smudged ink.
“I wonder who this Riddle guy is?” Harry said. The others shrugged.
Harry flipped through it. There was nothing at all written on it, it seemed. If it had been written in, surely there would be some faded words somewhere; the whole thing couldn't wash out without leaving some sort of sign of having been used.
“Either he never wrote anything in it, or the words are hidden by magic,” Harry said.
“I wonder why someone wanted to flush it away?” said Ron curiously.
Harry turned to the back cover of the book and saw the printed name of a variety store on Vauxhall Road, London.
“He must’ve been Muggle-born,” said Harry thoughtfully. “To have bought a diary from Vauxhall Road. Or Muggle raised, like me.”
“Well, it’s not much use to you,” said Ron. He dropped his voice. “Fifty points if you can get it through Myrtle’s nose.”
“Ron!” Antigone said in disapproval.
Harry, however, pocketed it.
For reasons even he didn't know, Harry was fascinated by the diary, carrying it around with him and opening it on occasion to look at it, even though it was blank. The name even sounded familiar, even though it wasn't possible, as he'd had no friends before Hogwarts thanks to Dudley. So he found himself going everywhere he could to find the name, and actually – by some miracle – managed to find it in the Trophy Room, where Riddle had two awards displayed; one for magical merit, another was an award for special services to the school.
When he was done looking at those, he went to the library to try to find some reference to Riddle in the archives, but he found nothing.
He even thought briefly about asking Dumbledore about Riddle, since the headmaster was old enough to have been teaching 50 years ago, but immediately part of his mind said that was silly, that Dumbledore had known too many students over the years to recognize the name, even if Riddle – whoever he was – had won a special award for services to the school the year the Chamber had last opened. Especially since he had no legitimate way of knowing that fact. And so he listened to that warning voice in his mind, and kept quiet.
After finding nothing more about Riddle, they took Riddle's diary to Hermione. But alas, this didn't help any, either. Her only unique contribution was to use something like an eraser called a Revealer, which did nothing to the diary.
“There has to be something written in it, hidden by magic somehow,” Harry said in frustration. “I doubt someone would throw away a blank, fifty year old diary, when we know the Chamber of Secrets was opened 50 years ago, and Riddle got an award for special services to the school at the same time. It can't be a coincidence. Gah! If only we knew why he got a special award.”
“Could’ve been anything,” said Ron. “Maybe he got thirty O.W.L.s or saved a teacher from the giant squid. Maybe he murdered Myrtle; that would’ve done everyone a favor.”
“That's not funny, Ron. Don't joke about murder.”
Ron turned red. “Sorry, mate.”
For whatever reason, as Valentine's Day approached, there still hadn't been any attacks. The mandrakes were getting closer to growing old enough to be used for the restorative potion, and between these facts and the sunlight starting to shine again, the mood in the castle was lifting.
Harry was focusing so much on MAC and his schoolwork that the only thing he had time left for were his friends, which was largely Ron and Luna because the others were studying as well, and some of them had extra-curricular activities, too.
In fact, he was so focused on school and friends that he was taken completely by surprise when, the morning of Valentine's Day, the Great Hall was bedecked in lurid pink flowers, heart-shaped confetti raining from the ceiling. Harry cast a spell to make the confetti blow sideways just enough to avoid getting all over the food, and even then he had to blow some off of his bacon, trying the whole time he ate to not wonder where that confetti had been before.
“Hello, Harry,” Luna said, sitting next to him and handing him a card. “Happy Valentine's Day.”
“Happy Valentine's Day, Luna,” Harry said, turning red. “I... well,” he said, pulling something out of his pocket. “I got you something. Not a card, though. Should I have gotten a card, too?”
“Oh no, a gift is more than enough.”
He handed her the hastily-wrapped gift, and looked at the card she'd given him as she unwrapped her present, knowing she would do so slowly and deliberately, careful not to rip the wrapping.
The card was bright yellow, painfully so in fact, with an even more painfully red-and-blue heart on the front, the blue and red swirling together in a ghostly fashion suggesting movement and making him feel sick to his stomach with something like vertigo. He hastily opened the card, only to find it was neon orange with bright blue lettering, which was even worse.
“Can you read this to me, Luna? It's painful to look at, and is making me ill.”
“Oh,” she said, looking sheepish. “Sorry. I guess I forget not everyone shares my love of interesting color combinations. The card says, 'A brightly colored Valentine's Day card for you, because you brighten my life.'”
“Ah. Cool. Just... please don't use any of these colors around me in future, especially not together.”
“Sure thing, Harry. Ooooh!” She had opened the present at last, a silver friendship bracelet with 'H.J.P. & L.L.' inscribed on it.
“It's lovely, Harry,” she said, giving him a hug. “I got you a gift as well, I just didn't bring it with me. I can bring it to the MAC classroom later.”
“Okay. Before or after dinner?”
“Before, I think.”
Luna opened her mouth to say something else, but then Lockhart addressed them all, and introduced a bunch of surly-looking dwarfs as his 'friendly, card-carrying cupids,' available for anyone to send Valentine's to others. He also mentioned love potions, which had Harry frowning disapprovingly.
All day long, Harry kept eyeing the 'cupids' warily, half expecting one of them to try to give him a Valentine, but they didn't, much to his relief. He made it all the way to his meeting with Luna without being bothered by any of them.
Luna's gift for him turned out to be a book about the old pre-Christian holidays, and their modern wizarding equivalents, with explanations about how they differed from both the oldest ways and from modern Christian ways. She also changed the colors on his card to soft, gentle colors that soothed his eyes, and changed the text to read 'A gently colored card for a gentle soul I feel comfortable with.'
When he got back to the Griffindor common room, he was still looking at his card.
“Oooh, Harry,” Ron teased, “your girlfriend get you that? Can I see?”
Ron grabbed it, but Harry held on. They had a brief tug-of-war with it, and Harry got it back, but knocked a bottle of ink all over Riddle's diary in the process. Harry put the card away and cleaned the ink off the diary, noticing as he did that the ink was disappearing into the book. He looked at Ron, who was talking with Hermione and hadn't noticed. Harry put the diary in his pocket, and took his things up to his dorm.
He was about to try writing in the diary, when he saw a card on his bed. It was solid red with black ink. He opened it up curiously and looked at it. It was addressed to him, and read:
His eyes are as green as my envy,
Which cuts to the quick like a sword;
I wish he was mine, he's truly divine,
The hero who conquered the Dark Lord.
He blinked at these words, then turned the card all around, but there was no 'from' on it. He had a secret admirer, it seemed, and one who was in Griffindor, or knew someone in Griffindor willing to deliver it to his bed. But why speak of envy? He was single, after all. But this person seemed to think differently for some reason, and was upset about it. He wondered who it was, if only to ask why they thought he was dating someone, but ended up shrugging for now.
“One mystery at a time,” he said, as he put the mysterious card in his trunk to look at later, and sat down with Riddle's diary open.
He first tried a blot of ink on the page, which was sucked completely into the book when he tried it. 'Successful first experiment,' he thought.
Next he tried writing in it. He wrote, “Hello?”
Then, oozing out of the page in his very own ink, came words.
“Hello, stranger, my name is Tom Riddle. Who are you?”
'Yeah, not creepy at all,' he thought. But he was still intrigued. After all, for all he knew it could just be like a written-word version of one of the portraits, or a magical computer programmed to respond in certain ways.
“Hello, Tom Riddle. My name is Harry Potter,” he wrote back.
“Nice to meet you, Harry Potter. How did you come by my diary?”
“Someone tried flushing it down a toilet,” he wrote in reply.
“Good thing I recorded my memories into something more lasting than ink. But I always knew there would be those who would not want this diary read.”
“Why's that?” Harry asked it.
“Because this diary holds memories of terrible things that people tried covering up. Events that happened in this very school, bringing shame to those who ran it.”
Scribbling so fast it was barely legible, Harry replied, “I'm there now, at Hogwarts. Terrible things are happening again. Do you know anything about the Chamber of Secrets?”
“Of course I know about the Chamber of Secrets. In my day, they told us it was a legend, that it did not exist. But this was a lie. In my fifth year, the Chamber was opened and the monster attacked several students, finally killing one. I caught the person who’d opened the Chamber and he was expelled. But the headmaster, Professor Dippet, ashamed that such a thing had happened at Hogwarts, forbade me to tell the truth. A story was given out that the girl had died in a freak accident. They gave me a nice, shiny, engraved trophy for my trouble and warned me to keep my mouth shut. But I knew it could happen again. The monster lived on, and the one who had the power to release it was not imprisoned.”
Harry paused, thinking. 'So the victim was a girl. Interesting.'
Writing again, he said, “I had heard he wasn't imprisoned, but not who it was. Now there've been three attacks and nobody knows who's doing it. So who was it last time?”
“I can show you, if you like,” came Riddle’s reply. “You don’t have to take my word for it. I can take you inside my memory of the night when I caught him.”
This confused Harry; he'd never heard of such a thing before.
“You could do that?” he asked Riddle in hasty scrawl. “How?”
“The how is not important, Harry, and would take too long to explain. May I show you?”
After hesitating for a moment, he wrote back, “Ok.”
The book's pages moved like they were in a high wind, stopping sometime in June. A little screen appeared on the page, so small he had to bend closer to see it. And as he did, he tipped forward and fell into the diary, landing after a rush of colors and shadows.
He looked around, and recognized the place as being the headmaster's office, but none of the signs of Dumbledore were there. Instead there was a man he'd never met before sitting behind the desk, a wizened, frail-looking wizard, bald except for a few wisps of white hair; he was reading a letter by candlelight.
Figuring he was in Riddle's memory but needing to make sure, he waved his hand in front of the man's face. There was, of course, no reaction, which confirmed his suspicions.
A moment later, there was a knock on the door, and a second confirmation appeared in the form of a tall, 16 year old boy wearing a Prefect badge, who knocked and was let into the office. From what he knew of Riddle, Riddle had been a Prefect and Head Boy.
“Ah, Riddle,” said the headmaster, the final confirmation for Harry that he was in Riddle's memory.
“You wanted to see me, Professor Dippet?” said Riddle. Even Harry could tell he was nervous.
What followed was an exchange in which he found out that Riddle, a half-blood orphan, lived at a Muggle orphanage, which seemed strange to Harry. The Ministry was always so keen on keeping the two worlds separate, so it seemed odd they would lose track of a wizarding-world orphan. Especially when the boy had such a strange middle name as Marvolo.
They continued talking, about Tom's request to stay the summer at Hogwarts. Harry got the impression that the place was worse than the Dursleys, at least to Riddle. But the headmaster had to refuse, because of the “unpleasantness” with the Chamber of Secrets, which included the death of a girl.
“Sir — if the person was caught — if it all stopped —”
“What do you mean?” said Dippet with a squeak in his voice, sitting up in his chair. “Riddle, do you mean you know something about these attacks?”
“No, sir,” said Riddle quickly.
But Harry was sure Riddle wasn't being honest, that he knew something but for whatever reason wasn't telling.
This professor 'Dippet' was disappointed that Riddle didn't appear to know anything, and dismissed him. Harry followed Riddle out the door, sure the boy was going to go bust the person responsible.
On their way to wherever it was Tom was going, they ran into a much younger Dumbledore, with auburn hair and beard. He was so astonished that he almost didn't notice that it was odd to ask a Prefect why they were wandering out in the halls. But then, he supposed, maybe it wasn't Riddle's night to patrol? Or had they forbidden Prefects from patrolling, with the Chamber being open, in order to protect the students?
His mind was taken from these thoughts as Riddle continued down the steps to the dungeons. Harry blinked at this. Was Riddle a Slytherin, like his friends Antigone, Angela, and Danzia? He scoured Riddle's uniform for any sign of a Slytherin badge or colors, and found none. Of course in a standard uniform there wouldn't be, but some students liked to add scarves, pins, or other embellishments with a House crest or in House colors, to show off their House pride. Riddle, it seemed, was not among the people who did that.
Instead of going to the Slytherin common room, Riddle went to the dungeon that Snape taught Potions in. Riddle closed the door almost completely shut, then peered through the crack of the almost-closed door, waiting.
After a very long time, in which Harry spent a long time wondering why Riddle didn't just fast-forward to the good part, they saw someone else skulking about out in the corridor, passing the dungeon where they hid. Once the person had passed, Riddle sneaked out into the hall again, Harry following him.
Five minutes they walked, until the other person opened a door and started talking.
“C’mon … gotta get yeh outta here. … C’mon now … in the box …”
'Hagrid?' Harry thought, recognizing the voice. He frowned at Riddle, confused. But they boy wasn't aware of him, of course. Instead, he jumped around the corner. Harry followed him, and sure enough there was a much younger – but almost as vast – Hagrid, crouching near an open door, a large box next to it.
What followed was Riddle confronting Hagrid about how the monster he was keeping in here had killed someone, and Hagrid protesting that it hadn't. Then, without much warning, Riddle cast a bright spell that hit the door behind Hagrid, and out came an enormous spider that nearly bowled him over. Harry found himself screaming at this, though only he could hear it.
Then the scene fell apart in a swirl of mist, and Harry was at his desk again, the still-open diary now blank.
Before he had had time to regain his breath, the dormitory door opened and Ron came in.
“There you are,” he said. “Why you all sweaty, mate?”
Harry shook his head. He needed time to process things, to think, before he told anyone this story.
“I'll tell you later, Ron. Right now, I need to think.”
The next day, he gathered his core friends – Ron, Hermione, Luna, Antigone, Angela, and Danzia – after classes and told them to meet him at the MAC classroom. When they got there, he had them help him set up privacy wards and sweep for magical 'bugs.' Only when he was certain the room was secure did he tell them about what Riddle's diary had shown them.
Of all of them, the ones who were surest Hagrid was innocent were his Slytherin friends.
“But the attacks must have stopped after Hagrid was expelled,” Harry said, “or else Riddle wouldn't have gotten his award.”
“I dunno, though, Harry,” Antigone said. “He's facing the threat of going back to this orphanage, and just like that he knows who did it? Why didn't he tell someone sooner, if he thought it was Hagrid? Why wait? It just seems too suspicious to me.”
“What, d'ya reckon Riddle's the culprit himself?” Ron asked. “He was a Head Boy and a Prefect, doesn't sound to me like the type that would go around setting monsters on people.”
“Oh,” Danzia said, her tone dripping with sarcasm, “I wasn't aware that you'd joined Hermione in thinking that all Authorities are pure and innocent souls who never do any wrong.”
“Hey!” Hermione protested, weakly.
Danzia opened her mouth to speak, but Ron interrupted. “No I don't, but come on! He sounds like Percy, obsessed with rules and stuff.”
“Then I repeat: why did he wait? Why not tell someone right away?”
“I dunno,” Ron admitted. “Maybe he didn't have any proof? Or maybe he knew Hagrid, didn't want to think he could be responsible?”
“Ron,” Danzia cut in before she could be interrupted again, “I dunno about you, but if I was the Heir of Slytherin, and if I was evil, what better way to disguise myself than to be a model student?”
“All we have is circumstantial evidence on Riddle,” Harry said. “And we're agreed that's all Riddle had on Hagrid, so let's not go jumping to conclusions. Besides, he could've just made a mistake. Maybe he honestly thought it was Hagrid. Doesn't mean he can't still be innocent himself.”
“So why did the attacks stop, then?”
“I dunno,” Harry admitted. “Maybe the Heir knew that Riddle knew something about it, and got scared, and stopped?”
“But why not go back to it later? We know Hagrid didn't go to Azkaban, not for long anyway. He was expelled, and now he's the gamekeeper. The Heir could have started up again when Hagrid got his job.”
“Yeah, but Hagrid was 13 when he got expelled, and Dumbledore wasn't headmaster then, that Dippet bloke was. He wasn't gonna get hired until he was 17 at least, and we don't even know when Dumbledore became headmaster, could've been ages later. The Heir prob'ly would've graduated by then, unless 'e was only 13 'imself when 'e did it,” Ron countered.
“Something to research, then,” Antigone said.
“I think we should ask Hagrid about it,” Luna said serenely, as though they were discussing Hagrid's favorite flavor of Every-Flavor Beans.
“Oh, that'd be a cheerful visit,” Ron said, rolling his eyes. “ 'Hello, Hagrid. Tell us, have you been setting anything mad and hairy loose in the castle lately?' ”
In the end, they decided that they would not say anything to Hagrid unless there was another attack, and as more and more days went by with no whisper from the disembodied voice, they became hopeful that they would never need to talk to him about why he had been expelled. It was now nearly four months since Justin and Nearly Headless Nick had been Petrified, and nearly everybody seemed to think that the attacker, whoever it was, had retired for good. What was more, the mandrakes were almost ready to be used.
“I feel bad for Colin and Justin, missing out on so much schooling because of this,” Harry said one day.
“Oh, they'll probably be summer-schooled to get caught up. If not, we can help get them caught up,” Hermione assured him.
The second years had something new to think about, though; classes for next year. They would be getting new classes next year, and would get to pick them. This was something that Harry and Hermione were taking very seriously, as it would affect their future career possibilities. Ron, however, wasn't taking it so seriously, and had picked Care of Magical Creatures and Divination because he thought they'd be easy. Harry, however, had picked Runes, Arithmancy, and Care of Magical Creatures. Hermione had given up trying to pick, and just signed up for all of them.
Even though he didn't care for Quidditch himself, Harry still made note of the fact that Griffindor would be playing Hufflepuff on Saturday. Everyone would be there, because Griffindor had been doing pretty well this year and was ahead on points. One more match, and they'd win the Quidditch cup for the first time in a long time.
On the night before the match, Neville Longbottom came to find Harry and told him someone had trashed their dorm, focusing on Harry's stuff. Harry followed Neville up, and sure enough, the place was a mess; desk drawers were pulled out, the sheets on the bed undone, torn pages from books everywhere, and the pockets of his robes were turned out; whoever it was had been looking for something.
Only when he'd repaired everything he could and thrown away or straightened up the things he couldn't did he realize Riddle's diary was gone, and quietly told Ron.
They went downstairs to tell Hermione, who was reading a book about ancient runes. She was aghast when they told her, and pointed out that only a Griffindor could have done it.
It was only later that night that he noticed that the mysterious red valentine's day card he'd gotten was intact, not even bent. His card from Luna, however, was torn into four pieces, and he had to repair it with his wand.
Deciding he'd rather be with people when the Heir was running amok, even if it had been quiet lately, Harry decided he would put his special earmuffs and sunglasses on, closing his eyes as he sat with his friends. He had the sunglasses perched on his forehead and the earmuffs around his neck as he and his friends gathered to go to the match.
On the way downstairs, Harry heard that monstrous voice again.
“Kill this time … let me rip … tear …”
He shouted aloud and Ron and Hermione both jumped away from him in alarm.
“The voice!” said Harry, looking over his shoulder. “It's going to kill again! And now I'm absolutely certain it's Parseltongue.”
Hermione and Ron both looked very worried. “Let's get out of the castle now,” Ron said. Then he turned to Hermione. “You had any luck finding out about snake monsters?”
Hermione shook her head, her floofy hair threatening to pop out of the single large elastic holding it back. “It's like Nicolas Flamel all over again. The library here is such a mess! Especially compared to Muggle libraries. There's no card catalog, people keep putting the books back in the wrong places, half the books don't even have titles visible on the spines, and there are a bunch of books in languages I can't even identify. If I could find the right book, I'm sure I could find the monster, but finding it is the problem.”
“Have you tried asking the librarian?”
She snorted. “Yes. About as helpful as dry rot, that one.”
In the stands, Harry put his sunglasses on over his glasses as well, and closed his eyes. So it was that he had to be poked by Hermione to realize something had happened. Taking off his earmuffs and sunglasses, he realized McGonagall was informing them that the match was canceled, much to Oliver Wood's dismay, because someone else had been attacked. Harry looked around himself, and didn't see any of his friends missing. Still, he wondered who it was.
McGonagall came up to him.
“I'm glad to see you here, Mr. Potter,” she said. “With this being the second attack you've got a solid alibi for, I can cross you off my list of suspects completely, which is a relief. I just wish we knew who it was.”
“Oh. Thanks?” he said, a little annoyed that he'd been on her list at all after being with the Hufflepuffs during the last attack.
“Professor,” Danzia said, sounding panicked, “I don't know where Willem Stone is. Please, he wasn't the one attacked, was he?”
“No, Miss McCullough, Mr. Stone was not the one petrified. This attack was another double attack. One of the victims was a Ravenclaw Prefect by the name of Penelope Clearwater.”
“Penelope!” Percy shouted, standing up and rushing away.
“The other victim was a Slytherin Prefect, Miss Maki Yasu.”
Harry and the rest of his friends followed everyone else back into the castle. He was thinking about calling an emergency friend meeting in the MAC classroom, but soon McGonagall's voice rang throughout the school, informing them of new rules that included a 6 pm curfew, and teachers escorting kids through the halls.
While they were still together, Harry turned to Danzia and said, “We need to find out if we can get a look at these latest victims. Of the attacks so far, Colin had his eyes up to his camera at the time he was attacked, and I'm pretty sure Justin was looking at something or someone through Sir Nicolas. It may be important.”
“Gotcha. I'll pass it on.”
Then they went their separate ways to their own common rooms.
In the Griffindor common room, McGonagall was waiting, and went over the rules again, and also added that she thought the school would be shut down if the attacks didn't stop soon.
When she left, people started to talk.
“That’s one Gryffindor down, not counting a Gryffindor ghost, one Ravenclaw, and one Hufflepuff,” said the Weasley twins’ friend Lee Jordan, counting on his fingers. “Haven’t any of the teachers noticed that the Slytherins are all safe? Isn’t it obvious all this stuff’s coming from Slytherin? The Heir of Slytherin, the monster of Slytherin — why don’t they just chuck all the Slytherins out?” he roared, to nods and scattered applause.
“Excuse me,” Harry said, “but the other victim of this latest attack was a Slytherin Prefect, Maki Yasu.”
That rather took the wind out of everyone's hate-sails.
“I don't know her blood status, having never met her before” he continued, “but there are half-blood and Muggle-born people in Slytherin, too. Not to mention blood traitors. They have to keep a low profile in Slytherin, but they exist.”
There were some mumbles of shame at this, which pleased Harry, but he was already moving on to speak with Ron and Hermione, casting privacy spells before sitting down.
“We need to do something,” Harry said. “The Heir is attacking Slytherins too, now. Whoever it is, is getting bolder.”
“But what are we supposed to do?” Hermione asked.
“I think we need to talk with Hagrid. I know it's a slim lead, but it's all we have.”
“Right,” said Ron. “Well let's hope it works out better than our last lead.”
“How, though? We're under curfew.”
“We'll have to use my dad's old cloak again,” Harry said.
“Just us, or do we invite anyone else along?”
“Well we don't have any way of communicating with Danzia and the others. I wish I'd thought to get them one or two magical two-way mirrors, but I didn't.”
“What about Luna?”
“I dunno. We'd have to swing by Ravenclaw tower to do that, and that increases our odds of getting caught. So just the three of us, this time.”
After waiting for everyone to go to bed, the three of them got under the invisibility cloak Harry had inherited from his father, and headed out into the castle. It was a lot more difficult this time than previous times, because there were far more adults in the corridors than usual, all watching out for signs of danger. Harry was glad, seeing this, that he'd decided not to invite Luna along.
They had a close call when they ran into somebody invisible just before the oak front doors, but the area was presently otherwise unoccupied.
“Ow, who's there?” Harry whispered.
“Harry? Is that you?”
“Antigone. Why am I surprised you're here?”
“Me and Angela are here, too,” said Danzia's voice.
“Of course you are. Well, let's get out of here before someone catches us,” Harry said, easing the large front doors open, then closed again when they all got out.
The six of them – three under the invisibility cloak, and three Disillusioned – made their way under the starry sky to Hagrid's hut. When they got there, the three under the cloak lifted it up so Hagrid would be able to see them, and knocked on his door.
The second they knocked, he flung the door open, crossbow in hand. Fang the boarhound barked at them.
“Oh,” he said, lowering the weapon. “What're you three doin' here?”
“Six,” said Harry. “Antigone, Danzia, and Angela are Dis--”
“Not 'nough room fer six of yeh an' me too. Jes you three, in. Rest of yeh, sorry, but you need ter go back.”
“We'll stay out here,” they said as Harry, Ron, and Hermione entered Hagrid's hut.
He closed the door behind them.
“What's that for?” Harry asked, referring to the crossbow.
“Nuthin. Jes bin expectin'... but never mind. Don't matter none. Sit down, I'll make tea.”
But Hagrid was so nervous that he poured hot water into empty mugs, spilling most of it.
“Are you okay, Hagrid? Did you hear about those two Prefects?”
“Yeah, I heard, all righ',” he said, a slight break in his voice.
There was a loud knock at the door, making Hagrid drop some fruitcake. The three of them glanced at one another in near panic as Hagrid took up his crossbow again. Then they ducked under the invisibility cloak again, retreating into a corner.
When they were hidden, Hagrid opened his door. Standing there were two men: Dumbledore, and a man in a lime-green bowler hat. Ron gasped, whispering about that man being Cornelius Fudge, the Minister of Magic.
Hagrid had gone pale and sweaty. He dropped into one of his chairs and looked from Dumbledore to Cornelius Fudge.
“Bad business, Hagrid,” said Fudge in rather clipped tones. “Very bad business. Had to come. Three Muggle-borns and a Half-Blood petrified. Things’ve gone far enough. Ministry’s got to act.”
Hagrid protested, pleading his innocence in a terrified voice, begging not to be sent back to Azkaban. But despite Dumbledore's assurances of Hagrid's innocence, too, the Minister was adamant that he had to go back.
Then there was another knock on the door. Dumbledore answered it, and this time Harry gasped, recognizing Lucius Malfoy. Of course, Ron and Hermione knew him as well, both having been there at Flourish and Blotts when he and Mr. Weasley had fought.
The three of them watched as the elder Malfoy informed them that he'd come looking for Dumbledore, to show him that the School Governors had voted unanimously to boot him from his position, an action that Hagrid thought highly suspect. All the signatures were there, though, and despite even protestations from Fudge, Dumbledore had to step down.
“However,” said Dumbledore, speaking very slowly and clearly so that none of them could miss a word, “you will find that I will only truly have left this school when none here are loyal to me. You will also find that help will always be given at Hogwarts to those who ask for it.”
For a second, Harry was almost sure Dumbledore’s eyes flickered toward the corner where the three of them were hidden.
Nor was that the only mysterious thing said. As they all left with Hagrid in tow, Hagrid paused and gave a cryptic message about following the spiders, as well as saying someone would need to feed Fang.
The door banged shut and Ron pulled off the Invisibility Cloak.
“We’re in trouble now,” he said hoarsely. “No Dumbledore. They might as well close the school tonight. There’ll be an attack a day with him gone.”
Fang started howling, scratching at the closed door.
Harry looked out the window very carefully, watching the three adults heading for the front gates. When they were gone, there was a knock at the door. He opened the door and let his three Slytherin friends inside.
“What's going on? Where's Hagrid going?” Angela asked.
Harry, Hermione, and Ron took turns recounting what they'd witnessed. The three girls echoed Ron's earlier sentiment about the results of Dumbledore's dismissal.
“So now what?”
“For now, we go back.”
And go back is exactly what they did, all of them making it safely back without getting caught.
End note 1: On a whim, I looked for pictures of gray-eyed Indian women, and even though I knew it was possible, I was pleased to see proof that there really are people who look like Antigone. I mean, I'd seen blue eyed Indian people before, and gray eyes are just a shade of blue eyes, but still cool to have proof.
End note 2: I Googled “painful color combinations” as research for this chapter, and now I regret it because I react to them the same way this fic's Harry does.
End note 3: I didn't know who the Slytherin Prefects for this year were, so I made a (this time minor) OC for the second victim of the second double attack. She is a half-blood, secretly a blood traitor but pretends to be a blood purist. She is in the same year as Penelope and Percy.
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