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J.K.Rîwling >> Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (page 30)


Harry swung his legs up onto his bed and leaned back against his pillows, watching the moon glinting at him through the tower window.

He couldn't see what else they could do. They had hit dead ends everywhere. Riddle had caught the wrong person, the Heir of Slytherin had got off, and no one could tell whether it was the same person, or a different one, who had opened the Chamber this time. There was nobody else to ask. Harry lay down, still thinking about what Aragog had said.

He was becoming drowsy when what seemed like their very last hope occurred to him, and he suddenly sat bolt upright.

“Ron,” he hissed through the dark, “Ron—”

Ron woke with a yelp like Fang's, stared wildly around, and saw Harry.

“Ron -that girl who died. Aragog said she was found in a bathroom,” said Harry, ignoring Neville's snuffling snores from the corner. “What if she never left the bathroom? What if she's still there?”

Ron rubbed his eyes, frowning through the moonlight. And then he understood, too.

“You don't think—not Moaning Myrtle?”

 

 

CHAPTER SIXTEEN

THE CHAMBER OF SECRETS

 

“All those times we were in that bathroom, and she was just three toilets away,” said Ron bitterly at breakfast next day, “and we could've asked her, and now ..”

It had been hard enough trying to look for spiders. Escaping their teachers long enough to sneak into a girls' bathroom, the girls' bathroom, moreover, right next to the scene of the first attack, was going to be almost impossible.

But something happened in their first lesson, Transfiguration, that drove the Chamber of Secrets out of their minds for the first time in weeks. Ten minutes into the class, Professor McGonagall told them that their exams would start on the first of June, one week from today.

“Exams?” howled Seamus Finnigan. “We're still getting exams?”

There was a loud bang behind Harry as Neville Longbottom's wand slipped, vanishing one of the legs on his desk. Professor McGonagall restored it with a wave of her own wand, and turned, frowning, to Seamus.

“The whole point of keeping the school open at this time is for you to receive your education,” she said sternly. “The exams will therefore take place as usual, and I trust you are all studying hard.”

Studying hard! It had never occurred to Harry that there would be exams with the castle in this state. There was a great deal of mutinous muttering around the room, which made Professor McGonagall scowl even more darkly.

“Professor Dumbledore's instructions were to keep the school running as normally as possible, she said. “And that, I need hardly point out, means finding out how much you have learned this year.

Harry looked down at the pair of white rabbits he was supposed to be turning into slippers. What had he learned so far this year? He couldn't seem to think of anything that would be useful in an exam.

Ron looked as though he'd just been told he had to go and live in the Forbidden Forest.

“Can you imagine me taking exams with this?” he asked Harry, holding up his wand, which had just started whistling loudly.

Three days before their first exam, Professor McGonagall made another announcement at breakfast.

“I have good news,” she said, and the Great Hall, instead of falling silent, erupted.

“Dumbledore's coming back!” several people yelled joyfully.

“You've caught the Heir of Slytherin!” squealed a girl at the Ravenclaw table.

“Quidditch matches are back on!” roared Wood excitedly.

When the hubbub had subsided, Professor McGonagall said, “Professor Sprout has informed me that the Mandrakes are ready for cutting at last. Tonight, we will be able to revive those people who have been Petrified. I need hardly remind you all that one of them may well be able to tell us who, or what, attacked them. I am hopeful that this dreadful year will end with our catching the culprit.”

There was an explosion of cheering. Harry looked over at the Slytherin table and wasn't at all surprised to see that Draco Malfoy hadn't joined in. Ron, however, was looking happier than he'd looked in days.

“It won't matter that we never asked Myrtle, then!” he said to Harry. “Hermione'll probably have all the answers when they wake her up! Mind you, she'll go crazy when she finds out we've got exams in three days' time. She hasn't studied. It might be kinder to leave her where she is till they're over.”

Just then, Ginny Weasley came over and sat down next to Ron. She looked tense and nervous, and Harry noticed that her hands were twisting in her lap.

“What's up?” said Ron, helping himself to more porridge.

Ginny didn't say anything, but glanced up and down the Gryffindor table with a scared look on her face that reminded Harry of someone, though he couldn't think who.

“Spit it out,” said Ron, watching her.

Harry suddenly realized who Ginny looked like. She was rocking backward and forward slightly in her chair, exactly like Dobby did when he was teetering on the edge of revealing forbidden information.

“I've got to tell you something,” Ginny mumbled, carefully not looking at Harry.

“What is it?” said Harry.

Ginny looked as though she couldn't find the right words.

“What?” said Ron.

Ginny opened her mouth, but no sound came out. Harry leaned forward and spoke quietly, so that only Ginny and Ron could hear him.

“Is it something about the Chamber of Secrets? Have you seen something? Someone acting oddly?”

Ginny drew a deep breath and, at that precise moment, Percy Weasley appeared, looking tired and wan.

“If you've finished eating, I'll take that seat, Ginny. I'm starving, I've only just come off patrol duty.”

Ginny jumped up as though her chair had just been electrified, gave Percy a fleeting, frightened look, and scampered away. Percy sat down and grabbed a mug from the center of the table.

“Percy!” said Ron angrily. “She was just about to tell us some-' thing important!”

Halfway through a gulp of tea, Percy choked.

“What sort of thing?” he said, coughing.

“I just asked her if she'd seen anything odd, and she started to say

“Oh—that—that's nothing to do with the Chamber of Secrets,” said Percy at once.

“How do you know?” said Ron, his eyebrows raised.

“Well, er, if you must know, Ginny, er, walked in on me the other day when I was—well, never mind—the point is, she spotted me doing something and I, um, I asked her not to mention it to anybody. I must say, I did think she'd keep her word. It's nothing, really, Id just rather—”

 

Harry had never seen Percy look so uncomfortable.

“What were you doing, Percy?” said Ron, grinning. “Go on, tell us, we won't laugh.”

Percy didn't smile back.

“Pass me those rolls, Harry, I'm starving.”

Harry knew the whole mystery might be solved tomorrow without their help, but he wasn't about to pass up a chance to speak to Myrtle if it turned up—and to his delight it did, midmorning, when they were being led to History of Magic by Gilderoy Lockhart.

Lockhart, who had so often assured them that all danger had passed, only to be proved wrong right away, was now wholeheartedly convinced that it was hardly worth the trouble to see them safely down the corridors. His hair wasn't as sleek as usual; it seemed he had been up most of the night, patrolling the fourth floor.

“Mark my words,” he said, ushering them around a corner. “The first words out of those poor Petrified people's mouths will be “It was Hagrid.” Frankly, I'm astounded Professor McGonagall thinks all these security measures are necessary.”

“I agree, sir,” said Harry, making Ron drop his books in surprise.

“Thank you, Harry, said Lockhart graciously while they waited for a long line of Hufflepuffs to pass. “I mean, we teachers have quite enough to be getting on with, without walking students to classes and standing guard all night...”

“That's right,” said Ron, catching on. “Why don't you leave us here, sir, we've only got one more corridor to go—”

“You know, Weasley, I think I will,” said Lockhart. “I really should go and prepare my next class—”

And he hurried off.

“Prepare his class,” Ron sneered after him. “Gone to curl his hair, more like.”

They let the rest of the Gryffindors draw ahead of them, then darted down a side passage and hurried off toward Moaning Myrtle's bathroom. But just as they were congratulating each other on their brilliant scheme

“Potter! Weasley! What are you doing?”

It was Professor McGonagall, and her mouth was the thinnest of thin lines.

“We were -we were-” Ron stammered. “We were going to—to go and see—”

“Hermione,” said Harry. Ron and Professor McGonagall both looked at him.

“We haven't seen her for ages, Professor,” Harry went on hurriedly, treading on Ron's foot, “and we thought we'd sneak into the hospital wing, you know, and tell her the Mandrakes are nearly ready and, er, not to worry—”

Professor McGonagall was still staring at him, and for a moment, Harry thought she was going to explode, but when she spoke, it was in a strangely croaky voice.

“Of course,” she said, and Harry, amazed, saw a tear glistening in her beady eye. “Of course, I realize this has all been hardest on the friends of those who have been... I quite understand. Yes, Potter, of course you may visit Miss Granger. I will inform Professor Binns where you've gone. Tell Madam Pomfrey I have given my permission.”

Harry and Ron walked away, hardly daring to believe that they'd avoided detention. As they turned the corner, they distinctly heard Professor McGonagall blow her nose.

“That,” said Ron fervently, “was the best story you've ever come up with.”

They had no choice now but to go to the hospital wing and tell Madam Pomfrey that they had Professor McGonagall's permission to visit Hermione.

Madam Pomfrey let them in, but reluctantly.

“There's just no point talking to a Petrified. person,” she said, and they had to admit she had a point when they'd taken their seats next to Hermione. It was plain that Hermione didn't have the faintest inkling that she had visitors, and that they might just as well tell her bedside cabinet not to worry for all the good it would do.

“Wonder if she did see the attacker, though?” said Ron, looking sadly at Hermione's rigid face. “Because if he sneaked up on them all, no one'll ever know...”

But Harry wasn't looking at Hermione's face. He was more interested in her right hand. It lay clenched on top of her blankets, and bending closer, he saw that a piece of paper was scrunched inside her fist.

Making sure that Madam Pomfrey was nowhere near, he pointed this out to Ron.

“TG and get it out,” Ron whispered, shifting his chair so that he blocked Harry from Madam Pomfrey's view.

It was no easy task. Hermione's hand was clamped so tightly around the paper that Harry was sure he was going to tear it. While Ron kept watch he tugged and twisted, and at last, after several tense minutes, the paper came free.

It was a page torn from a very old library book. Harry smoothed it out eagerly and Ron leaned close to read it, too.

Of the many fearsome beasts and monsters that roam our land, there is none more curious or more deadly than the Basilisk, known also as the King of Serpents. This snake, which may reach gigantic size and live many hundreds of years, is born from a chicken's egg, hatched beneath a toad. Its methods of killing are most wondrous, for aside from its deadly and venomous fangs, the Basilisk has a murderous stare, and all who are fixed with the beam of its eye shall suffer instant death. Spiders flee before the Basilisk, for it is their mortal enemy, and the Basilisk flees only from the crowing of the rooster, which is fatal to it.

And beneath this, a single word had been written, in a hand Harry recognized as Hermione's. Pipes.

It was as though somebody had just flicked a light on in his brain.

“Ron,” he breathed. “This is it. This is the answer. The monster in the Chamber's a basilisk—a giant serpent! That why I've been hearing that voice all over the place, and nobody else has heard it. It's because I understand Parseltongue...”

Harry looked up at the beds around him.

“The basilisk kills people by looking at them. But no one's died—because no one looked it straight in the eye. Colin saw it through his camera. The basilisk burned up all the film inside it, but Colin just got Petrified. Justin... Justin must've seen the basilisk through Nearly Headless Nick! Nick got the full blast of it, but he couldn't die again... and Hermione and that Ravenclaw prefect were found with a mirror next to them. Hermione had just realized the monster was a basilisk. I bet you anything she warned the first person she met to look around corners with a mirror first! And that girl pulled out her mirror—and—”

Rods jaw had dropped.

“And Mrs. Norris?” he whispered eagerly.

Harry thought hard, picturing the scene on the night of Halloween.

“The water...” he said slowly. “The flood from Moaning Myrtle's bathroom. I bet you Mrs. Norris only saw the reflection...”

He scanned the page in his hand eagerly. The more he looked at it, the more it made sense.

“...The crowing of the rooster... is fatal to it!” he read aloud. “Hagrid's roosters were killed! The Heir of Slytherin didn't want one anywhere near the castle once the Chamber was opened! Spiders flee before it! It all fits!”

“But how's the basilisk been getting around the place?” said Ron. “A giant snake... Someone would've seen...”

Harry, however, pointed at the word Hermione had scribbled at the foot of the page.

“Pipes,” he said. “Pipes... Ron, it's been using the plumbing. I've been hearing that voice inside the walls...”

 

Ron suddenly grabbed Harry's arm.

“The entrance to the Chamber of Secrets!” he said hoarsely. “What if it's a bathroom? What if it's in—”

Title: Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
Author: J.K.Rîwling
Viewed 97433 times

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