Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (Page 17) eBook online

Harry sat on his four-poster and flicked through the blank pages, not one of which had a trace of scarlet ink on it. Then he pulled a new bottle out of his bedside cabinet, dipped his quill into it, and dropped a blot onto the first page of the diary.

The ink shone brightly on the paper for a second and then, as though it was being sucked into the page, vanished. Excited, Harry loaded up his quill a second time and wrote, “My name is Harry Potter.”

The words shone momentarily on the page and they, too, sank without trace. Then, at last, something happened.

Oozing back out of the page, in his very own ink, came words Harry had never written.

“Hello, Harry Potter. My name is Tom Riddle. How did you come by my diary?”

These words, too, faded away, but not before Harry had started to scribble back.

“Someone tried to flush it down a toilet.”

He waited eagerly for Riddle’s reply.

“Lucky that I recorded my memories in some more lasting way than ink. But I always knew that there would be those who would not want this diary read.”

“What do you mean?” Harry scrawled, blotting the page in his excitement.

“I mean that this diary holds memories of terrible things. Things that were covered up. Things that happened at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.”

“That’s where I am now,” Harry wrote quickly. “I’m at Hogwarts, and horrible stuff’s been happening. Do you know anything about the Chamber of Secrets?”

His heart was hammering. Riddle’s reply came quickly, his writing becoming untidier, as though he was hurrying to tell all he knew.

“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 nearly upset his ink bottle in his hurry to write back.

“It’s happening again now. There have been three attacks and no one seems to know who’s behind them. 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. “

Harry hesitated, his quill suspended over the diary. What did Riddle mean? How could he be taken inside somebody else’s memory? He glanced nervously at the door to the dormitory, which was growing dark. When he looked back at the diary, he saw fresh words forming.

“Let me show you.”

Harry paused for a fraction of a second and then wrote two letters.

“OK.”

The pages of the diary began to blow as though caught in a high wind, stopping halfway through the month of June. Mouth hanging open, Harry saw that the little square for June thirteenth seemed to have turned into a miniscule television screen. His hands trembling slightly, he raised the book to press his eye against the little window, and before he knew what was happening, he was tilting forward; the window was widening, he felt his body leave his bed, and he was pitched headfirst through the opening in the page, into a whirl of color and shadow.

He felt his feet hit solid ground, and stood, shaking, as the blurred shapes around him came suddenly into focus.

He knew immediately where he was. This circular room with the sleeping portraits was Dumbledore’s office—but it wasn’t Dumbledore who was sitting behind the desk. A wizened, frail looking wizard, bald except for a few wisps of white hair, was reading a letter by candlelight. Harry had never seen this man before.

“I’m sorry,” he said shakily. “I didn’t mean to butt in—”

But the wizard didn’t look up. He continued to read, frowning slightly. Harry drew nearer to his desk and stammered, “Er—I’ll just go, shall I?”

Still the wizard ignored him. He didn’t seem even to have heard him. Thinking that the wizard might be deaf, Harry raised his voice.

“Sorry I disturbed you. I’ll go now,” he half shouted.

The wizard folded up the letter with a sigh, stood up, walked past Harry without glancing at him, and went to draw the curtains at his window.

The sky outside the window was ruby red; it seemed to be sunset. The wizard went back to the desk, sat down, and twiddled his thumbs, watching the door.

Harry looked around the office. No Fawkes the phoenix—no whirring silver contraptions. This was Hogwarts as Riddle had known it, meaning that this unknown wizard was Headmaster, not Dumbledore, and he, Harry, was little more than a phantom, completely invisible to the people of fifty years ago.

There was a knock on the office door.

“Enter,” said the old wizard in a feeble voice.

A boy of about sixteen entered, taking off his pointed hat. A silver prefect’s badge was glinting on his chest. He was much taller than Harry, but he, too, had jet black hair.

“Ah, Riddle,” said the Headmaster.

“You wanted to see me, Professor Dippet?” said Riddle. He looked nervous.

“Sit down,” said Dippet. “I’ve just been reading the letter you sent me.

“Oh,” said Riddle. He sat down, gripping his hands together very tightly.

“My dear boy,” said Dippet kindly, “I cannot possibly let you stay at school over the summer. Surely you want to go home for the holidays?”

“No,” said Riddle at once. “I’d much rather stay at Hogwarts than go back to that—to that—”

“You live in a Muggle orphanage during the holidays, I believe?” said Dippet curiously.

“Yes, sir,” said Riddle, reddening slightly.

“You are Muggle-born?”

“Half-blood, sir,” said Riddle. “Muggle father, witch mother.”

“And are both your parents—?”

“My mother died just after I was born, sir. They told me at the orphanage she lived just long enough to name me—Tom after my father, Marvolo after my grandfather.”

Dippet clucked his tongue sympathetically.

“The thing is, Tom,” he sighed, “Special arrangements might have been made for you, but in the current circumstances…”

“You mean all these attacks, sir?” said Riddle, and Harry’s heart leapt, and he moved closer, scared of missing anything.

“Precisely,” said the headmaster. “My dear boy, you must see how foolish it would be of me to allow you to remain at the castle when term ends. Particularly in light of the recent tragedy… the death of that poor little girl… You will be safer by far at your orphanage. As a matter of fact, the Ministry of Magic is even now talking about closing the school. We are no nearer locating the er—source of all this unpleasantness…”

Riddle’s eyes had widened.

“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 it was the same sort of “no” that he himself had given Dumbledore.

Dippet sank back, looking faintly disappointed.

“You may go, Tom…”

Riddle slid off his chair and slouched out of the room. Harry followed him.

Down the moving spiral staircase they went, emerging next to the gargoyle in the darkening corridor. Riddle stopped, and so did Harry, watching him. Harry could tell that Riddle was doing some serious thinking. He was biting his lip, his forehead furrowed.

Then, as though he had suddenly reached a decision, he hurried off, Harry gliding noiselessly behind him. They didn’t see another person until they reached the entrance hall, when a tall wizard with long, sweeping auburn hair and a beard called to Riddle from the marble staircase.

“What are you doing, wandering around this late, Tom?”

Harry gaped at the wizard. He was none other than a fifty year younger Dumbledore.

“I had to see the headmaster, sir,” said Riddle.

“Well, hurry off to bed,” said Dumbledore, giving Riddle exactly the kind of penetrating stare Harry knew so well. “Best not to roam the corridors these days. Not since…”

He sighed heavily, bade Riddle good night, and strode off. Riddle watched him walk out of sight and then, moving quickly, headed straight down the stone steps to the dungeons, with Harry in hot pursuit.

But to Harry’s disappointment, Riddle led him not into a hidden passageway or a secret tunnel but to the very dungeon in which Harry had Potions with Snape. The torches hadn’t been lit, and when Riddle pushed the door almost closed, Harry could only just see him, standing stock still by the door, watching the passage outside.

It felt to Harry that they were there for at least an hour. All he could see was the figure of Riddle at the door, staring through the crack, waiting like a statue. And just when Harry had stopped feeling expectant and tense and started wishing he could return to the present, he heard something move beyond the door.

Someone was creeping along the passage. He heard whoever it was pass the dungeon where he and Riddle were hidden. Riddle, quiet as a shadow, edged through the door and followed, Harry tiptoeing behind him, forgetting that he couldn’t be heard.

For perhaps five minutes they followed the footsteps, until Riddle stopped suddenly, his head inclined in the direction of new noises. Harry heard a door creak open, and then someone speaking in a hoarse whisper.

“C’mon… gotta get yeh outta here… C’mon now… in the box…”

There was something familiar about that voice.

Riddle suddenly jumped around the corner. Harry stepped out behind him. He could see the dark outline of a huge boy who was crouching in front of an open door, a very large box next to it.

“Evening, Rubeus,” said Riddle sharply.

The boy slammed the door shut and stood up.

“What yer doin’ down here, Tom?”

Riddle stepped closer.

“It’s all over,” he said. “I’m going to have to turn you in, Rubeus. They’re talking about closing Hogwarts if the attacks don’t stop.”

“What d’yeh—”

“I don’t think you meant to kill anyone. But monsters don’t make good pets. I suppose you just let it out for exercise and—”

“It never killed no one!” said the large boy, backing against the closed door. From behind him, Harry could hear a funny rustling and clicking.

“Come on, Rubeus,” said Riddle, moving yet closer. “The dead girl’s parents will be here tomorrow. The least Hogwarts can do is make sure that the thing that killed their daughter is slaughtered…”

“It wasn’t him!” roared the boy, his voice echoing in the dark passage. “He wouldn’! He never!”

“Stand aside,” said Riddle, drawing out his wand.

His spell lit the corridor with a sudden flaming light. The door behind the large boy flew open with such force it knocked him into the wall opposite. And out of it came something that made Harry let out a long, piercing scream unheard by anyone—

A vast, low slung, hairy body and a tangle of black legs; a gleam of many eyes and a pair of razor sharp pincers—Riddle raised his wand again, but he was too late. The thing bowled him over as it scuttled away, tearing up the corridor and out of sight. Riddle scrambled to his feet, looking after it; he raised his wand, but the huge boy leapt on him, seized his wand, and threw him back down, yelling, “NOOOOOOO!”

The scene whirled, the darkness became complete; Harry felt himself falling and, with a crash, he landed spread eagled on his four-poster in the Gryffindor dormitory, Riddle’s diary lying open on his stomach.

Before he had had time to regain his breath, the dormitory door opened and Ron came in.

“There you are,” he said.

Harry sat up. He was sweating and shaking.

“What’s up?” said Ron, looking at him with concern.

“It was Hagrid, Ron. Hagrid opened the Chamber of Secrets fifty years ago.”




14. CORNELIUS FUDGE


Harry, Ron, and Hermione had always known that Hagrid had an unfortunate liking for large and monstrous creatures. During their first year at Hogwarts he had tried to raise a dragon in his little wooden house, and it would be a long time before they forgot the giant, threeheaded dog he’d christened “Fluffy.” And if, as a boy, Hagrid had heard that a monster was hidden somewhere in the castle, Harry was sure he’d have gone to any lengths for a glimpse of it. He’d probably thought it was a shame that the monster had been cooped up so long, and thought it deserved the chance to stretch its many legs; Harry could just imagine the thirteen year old Hagrid trying to fit a leash and collar on it. But he was equally certain that Hagrid would never have meant to kill anybody.

Harry half wished he hadn’t found out how to work Riddle’s diary. Again and again Ron and Hermione made him recount what he’d seen, until he was heartily sick of telling them and sick of the long, circular conversations that followed.

“Riddle might have got the wrong person,” said Hermione. “Maybe it was some other monster that was attacking people…”

“How many monsters d’you think this place can hold?” Ron asked dully.

“We always knew Hagrid had been expelled,” said Harry miserably. “And the attacks must’ve stopped after Hagrid was kicked out. Otherwise, Riddle wouldn’t have got his award.”

Ron tried a different tack.

“Riddle does sound like Percy—who asked him to squeal on Hagrid, anyway?”

“But the monster had killed someone, Ron,” said Hermione.

“And Riddle was going to go back to some Muggle orphanage if they closed Hogwarts,” said Harry. “I don’t blame him for wanting to stay here…”

“You met Hagrid down Knockturn Alley, didn’t you, Harry?”

“He was buying a Flesh Eating Slug Repellent,” said Harry quickly.

The three of them fell silent. After a long pause, Hermione voiced the knottiest question of all in a hesitant voice.

“Do you think we should go and ask Hagrid about it all?”

“That’d be a cheerful visit,” said Ron. “‘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. Peeves had finally got bored of his “Oh, Potter, you rotter” song, Ernie Macmillan asked Harry quite politely to pass a bucket of leaping toadstools in Herbology one day, and in March several of the Mandrakes threw a loud and raucous party in greenhouse three. This made Professor Sprout very happy.

“The moment they start trying to move into each other’s pots, we’ll know they’re fully mature,” she told Harry. “Then we’ll be able to revive those poor people in the hospital wing.”

The second years were given something new to think about during their Easter holidays. The time had come to choose their subjects for the third year, a matter that Hermione, at least, took very seriously.

“it could affect our whole future,” she told Harry and Ron as they pored over lists of new subjects, marking them with checks.

“I just want to give up Potions,” said Harry.

“We can’t,” said Ron gloomily. “We keep all our old subjects, or I’d’ve ditched Defense Against the Dark Arts.”

“But that’s very important!” said Hermione, shocked.

“Not the way Lockhart teaches it,” said Ron. “I haven’t learned anything from him except not to set pixies loose.”

Neville Longbottom had been sent letters from all the witches and wizards in his family, all giving him different advice on what to choose. Confused and worried, he sat reading the subject lists with his tongue poking out, asking people whether they thought Arithmancy sounded more difficult than the study of Ancient Runes. Dean Thomas, who, like Harry, had grown up with Muggles, ended up closing his eyes and jabbing his wand at the list, then picking the subjects it landed on. Hermione took nobody’s advice but signed up for everything.

Harry smiled grimly to himself at the thought of what Uncle Vernon and Aunt Petunia would say if he tried to discuss his career in wizardry with them. Not that he didn’t get any guidance: Percy Weasley was eager to share his experience.

“Depends where you want to go, Harry,” he said. “It’s never too early to think about the future, so I’d recommend Divination. People say Muggle Studies is a soft option, but I personally think wizards should have a thorough understanding of the non magical community, particularly if they’re thinking of working in close contact with them—look at my father, he has to deal with Muggle business all the time. My brother Charlie was always more of an outdoor type, so he went for Care of Magical Creatures. Play to your strengths, Harry.”

But the only thing Harry felt he was really good at was Quidditch. In the end, he chose the same new subjects as Ron, feeling that if he was lousy at them, at least he’d have someone friendly to help him.

Gryffindor’s next Quidditch match would be against Hufflepuff. Wood was insisting on team practices every night after dinner, so that Harry barely had time for anything but Quidditch and homework. However, the training sessions were getting better, or at least drier, and the evening before Saturday’s match he went up to his dormitory to drop off his broomstick feeling Gryffindor’s chances for the Quidditch cup had never been better.

But his cheerful mood didn’t last long. At the top of the stairs to the dormitory, he met Neville Longbottom, who was looking frantic.

“Harry—I don’t know who did it—I just found—”

Watching Harry fearfully, Neville pushed open the door.

The contents of Harry’s trunk had been thrown everywhere. His cloak lay ripped on the floor. The bedclothes had been pulled off his four-poster and the drawer had been pulled out of his bedside cabinet, the contents strewn over the mattress.

Harry walked over to the bed, open mouthed, treading on a few loose pages of Travels with Trolls. As he and Neville pulled the blankets back onto his bed, Ron, Dean, and Seamus came in. Dean swore loudly.

“What happened, Harry?”

“No idea,” said Harry. But Ron was examining Harry’s robes. All the pockets were hanging out.

“Someone’s been looking for something,” said Ron. “Is there anything missing?”

Harry started to pick up all his things and throw them into his trunk. It was only as he threw the last of the Lockhart books back into it that he realized what wasn’t there.

“Riddle’s diary’s gone,” he said in an undertone to Ron.

“What?”

Harry jerked his head toward the dormitory door and Ron followed him out. They hurried down to the Gryffindor common room, which was half empty, and joined Hermione, who was sitting alone, reading a book called Ancient Runes Made Easy.

Hermione looked aghast at the news.

“But—only a Gryffindor could have stolen—nobody else knows our password—”

“Exactly,” said Harry.

They woke the next day to brilliant sunshine and a light, refreshing breeze.

“Perfect Quidditch conditions!” said Wood enthusiastically at the Gryffindor table, loading the team’s plates with scrambled eggs. “Harry, buck up there, you need a decent breakfast.”
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