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J.K.Rîwling >> Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (page 31)


“Moaning Myrtle's bathroom, “said Harry.

They sat there, excitement coursing through them, hardly able to believe it.

“This means,” said Harry, “I can't be the only Parselmouth in the school. The Heir of Slytherin's one, too. That's how he's been controlling the basilisk.”

“What're we going to do?” said Ron, whose eyes were flashing. “Should we go straight to McGonagall?”

“Let's go to the staff room,” said Harry, jumping up. “She'll be there in ten minutes. It's nearly break.”

They ran downstairs. Not wanting to be discovered hanging around in another corridor, they went straight into the deserted staff room. It was a large, paneled room full of dark, wooden chairs. Harry and Ron paced around it, too excited to sit down.

But the bell to signal break never came.

Instead, echoing through the corridors came Professor McGonagall's voice, magically magnified.

“All students to return to their House dormitories at once. All teachers return to the staff room. Immediately, please.”

Harry wheeled around to stare at Ron.

 

“Not another attack? Not now?”

“What'll we do?” said Ron, aghast. “Go back to the dormitory?”

“No,” said Harry, glancing around. There was an ugly sort of wardrobe to his left, full of the teachers' cloaks. “In here. Let's hear what it's all about. Then we can tell them what we've found out.”

They hid themselves inside it, listening to the rumbling of hundreds of people moving overhead, and the staff room door banging open. From between the musty folds of the cloaks, they watched the teachers filtering into the room. Some of them were looking puzzled, others downright scared. Then Professor McGonagall arrived.

“It has happened,” she told the silent staff room. “A student has been taken by the monster. Right into the Chamber itself.”

Professor Flitwick let out a squeal. Professor Sprout clapped her hands over her mouth. Snape gripped the back of a chair very hard and said, “How can you be sure?”

“The Heir of Slytherin,” said Professor McGonagall, who was very white, “left another message. Right underneath the first one. Her skeleton will lie in the Chamber forever.”

Professor Flitwick burst into tears.

“Who is it?” said Madam Hooch, who had sunk, weak-kneed, into a chair. “Which student?”

“Ginny Weasley,” said Professor McGonagall.

Harry felt Ron slide silently down onto the wardrobe floor beside him.

“We shall have to send all the students home tomorrow,” said Professor McGonagall. “This is the end of Hogwarts. Dumbledore always said...”

The staff-room door banged open again. For one wild moment, Harry was sure it would be Dumbledore. But it was Lockhart, and he was beaming.

“So sorry—dozed off—what have I missed?”

He didn't seem to notice that the other teachers were looking at him with something remarkably like hatred. Snape stepped forward.

“Just the man,” he said. “The very man. A girl has been snatched by the monster, Lockhart. Taken into the Chamber of Secrets itself. Your moment has come at last.”

Lockhart blanched.

“That's right, Gilderoy,” chipped in Professor Sprout. “Weren't you saying just last night that you've known all along where the entrance to the Chamber of Secrets is?”

“I—well, I -“sputtered Lockhart.

“Yes, didn't you tell me you were sure you knew what was inside it?” piped up Professor Flitwick.

“D-did I? I don't recall—”

“I certainly remember you saying you were sorry you hadn't had a crack at the monster before Hagrid was arrested,” said Snape. “Didn't you say that the whole affair had been bungled, and that you should have been given a free rein from the first?”

Lockhart stared around at his stony-faced colleagues.

“I—I really never—you may have misunderstood—”

“We'll leave it to you, then, Gilderoy,” said Professor McGonagall. “Tonight will be an excellent time to do it. We'll make sure everyone's out of your way. You'll be able to tackle the monster all by yourself. A free rein at last.”

Lockhart gazed desperately around him, but nobody came to the rescue. He didn't look remotely handsome anymore. His lip was trembling, and in the absence of his usually toothy grin, he looked weak-chinned and feeble.

“V—very well,” he said. “I'll—I'll be in my office, getting—getting ready.”

And he left the room.

“Right,” said Professor McGonagall, whose nostrils were flared,

“that's got him out from under our feet. The Heads of Houses should go and inform their students what has happened. Tell them the Hogwarts Express will take them home first thing tomorrow. Will the rest of you please make sure no students have been left outside their dormitories.”

The teachers rose and left, one by one.

It was probably the worst day of Harry's entire life. He, Ron, Fred, and George sat together in a corner of the Gryffindor common room, unable to say anything to each other. Percy wasn't there. He had gone to send an owl to Mr. and Mrs. Weasley, then shut himself up in his dormitory.

No afternoon ever lasted as long as that one, nor had Gryffindor Tower ever been so crowded, yet so quiet. Near sunset, Fred and George went up to bed, unable to sit there any longer.

“She knew something, Harry,” said Ron, speaking for the first time since they had entered the wardrobe in the staff room. “That's why she was taken. It wasn't some stupid thing about Percy at all., She'd found out something about the Chamber of Secrets. That must be why she was—” Ron rubbed his eyes frantically. “I mean, she was a pureblood. There can't be any other reason.”

Harry could see the sun sinking, blood-red, below the skyline. This was the worst he had ever felt. If only there was something they could do. Anything.

“Harry” said Ron. “D'you think there's any chance at all she's not—you know—”

Harry didn't know what to say. He couldn't see how Ginny could still be alive.

“D'you know what?” said Ron. “I think we should go and see Lockhart. Tell him what we know. He's going to try and get into the Chamber. We can tell him where we think it is, and tell him it's a basilisk in there.”

Because Harry couldn't think of anything else to do, and because he wanted to be doing something, he agreed. The Gryffindors around them were so miserable, and felt so sorry for the Weasleys, that nobody tried to stop them as they got up, crossed the room, and left through the portrait hole.

Darkness was falling as they walked down to Lockhart's office. There seemed to be a lot of activity going on inside it. They could hear scraping, thumps, and hurried footsteps.

Harry knocked and there was a sudden silence from inside. Then the door opened the tiniest crack and they saw one of Lockhart's eyes peering through it.

“Oh—Mr. Potter—Mr. Weasley—” he said, opening the door a bit wider. “I'm rather busy at the moment—if you would be quick—”

“Professor, we've got some information for you,” said Harry. “We think it'll help you.”

“Er—well—it's not terribly—” The side of Lockhart's face that they could see looked very uncomfortable. “I mean—well all right—”

He opened the door and they entered.

His office had been almost completely stripped. Two large trunks stood open on the floor. Robes, jade-green, lilac, midnight blue, had been hastily folded into one of them; books were jumbled untidily into the other. The photographs that had covered the walls were now crammed into boxes on the desk.

“Are you going somewhere?” said Harry.

“Er, well, yes,” said Lockhart, ripping a life-size poster of himself from the back of the door as he spoke and starting to roll it up. “Urgent call—unavoidable—got to go—”

“What about my sister?” said Ron jerkily.

“Well, as to that—most unfortunate—” said Lockhart, avoiding their eyes as he wrenched open a drawer and started emptying the contents into a bag. “No one regrets more than I—”

“You're the Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher!” said Harry. “You can't go now! Not with all the Dark stuff going on here!”

“Well—I must say—when I took the job—” Lockhart muttered, now piling socks on top of his robes. “nothing in the job description—didn't expect—”

“You mean you're running away?” said Harry disbelievingly. “After all that stuff you did in your books—”

“Books can be misleading,” said Lockhart delicately.

“You wrote them!” Harry shouted.

“My dear boy,” said Lockhart, straightening up and frowning at Harry. “Do use your common sense. My books wouldn't have sold half as well if people didn't think Id done all those things. No one wants to read about some ugly old Armenian warlock, even if he did save a village from werewolves. He'd look dreadful on the front cover. No dress sense at all. And the witch who banished the Bandon Banshee had a harelip. I mean, come on—”

“So you've just been taking credit for what a load of other people have done?” said Harry incredulously.

“Harry, Harry,” said Lockhart, shaking his head impatiently, “it's not nearly as simple as that. There was work involved. I had to track these people down. Ask them exactly how they managed to do what they did. Then I had to put a Memory Charm on them so they wouldn't remember doing it. If there's one thing I pride myself on, it's my Memory Charms. No, it's been a lot of work, Harry. It's not all book signings and publicity photos, you know. You want fame, you have to be prepared for a long hard slog.”

He banged the lids of his trunks shut and locked them.

“Let's see,” he said. “I think that's everything. Yes. Only one thing left.”

He pulled out his wand and turned to them.

“Awfully sorry, boys, but I'll have to put a Memory Charm on you now. Can't have you blabbing my secrets all over the place. Id never sell another book—”

Harry reached his wand just in time. Lockhart had barely raised his, when Harry bellowed, “Expelliarmus!”

Lockhart was blasted backward, falling over his trunk; his wand flew high into the air; Ron caught it, and flung it out of the open window.

“Shouldn't have let Professor Snape teach us that one,” said Harry furiously, kicking Lockhart's trunk aside. Lockhart was looking up at him, feeble once more. Harry was still pointing his wand at him.

“What d'you want me to do?” said Lockhart weakly. “I don't know where the Chamber of Secrets is. There's nothing I can do.”

“You're in luck,” said Harry, forcing Lockhart to his feet at wandpoint. “We think we know where it is. And what's inside it. Let's go.”

They marched Lockhart out of his office and down the nearest stairs, along the dark corridor where the messages shone on the wall, to the door of Moaning Myrtle's bathroom.

They sent Lockhart in first. Harry was pleased to see that he was shaking.

Moaning Myrtle was sitting on the tank of the end toilet.

“Oh, it's you,” she said when she saw Harry. “What do you want this time?”

“To ask you how you died,” said Harry.

Myrtle's whole aspect changed at once. She looked as though she had never been asked such a flattering question.

“Ooooh, it was dreadful,” she said with relish. “It happened right in here. I died in this very stall. I remember it so well. Id hidden because Olive Hornby was teasing me about my glasses. The door was locked, and I was crying, and then I heard somebody come in. They said something funny. A different language, I think it must have been. Anyway, what really got me was that it was a boy speaking. So I unlocked the door, to tell him to go and use his own toilet, and then—” Myrtle swelled importantly, her face shining. “I died.”

“How?” said Harry.

“No idea,” said Myrtle in hushed tones. “I just remember seeing a pair of great, big, yellow eyes. My whole body sort of seized up, and then I was floating away...” She looked dreamily at Harry. “And then I came back again. I was determined to haunt Olive Hornby, you see. Oh, she was sorry she'd ever laughed at my glasses.”

“Where exactly did you see the eyes?” said Harry.

“Somewhere there,” said Myrtle, pointing vaguely toward the sink in front of her toilet.

Harry and Ron hurried over to it. Lockhart was standing well back, a look of utter terror on his face.

It looked like an ordinary sink. They examined every inch of it, inside and out, including the pipes below. And then Harry saw it: Scratched on the side of one of the copper taps was a tiny snake.

“That tap's never worked,” said Myrtle brightly as he tried to turn it.

“Harry,” said Ron. “Say something. Something in Parseltongue.”

“But—” Harry thought hard. The only times he'd ever managed to speak Parseltongue were when he'd been faced with a real snake. He stared hard at the tinyengraving, trying to imagine it was real.

“Open up,” he said.

He looked at Ron, who shook his head.

“English,” he said.

Harry looked back at the snake, willing himself to believe it was alive. If he moved his head, the candlelight made it look as though it were moving.

“Open up,” he said.

Except that the words weren't what he heard; a strange hissing had escaped him, and at once the tap glowed with a brilliant white light and began to spin. Next second, the sink began to move; the sink, in fact, sank, right out of sight, leaving a large pipe exposed, a pipe wide enough for a man to slide into.

Harry heard Ron gasp and looked up again. He had made up his mind what he was going to do.

“I'm going down there,” he said.

He couldn't not go, not now they had found the entrance to the Chamber, not if there was even the faintest, slimmest, wildest chance that Ginny might be alive.

“Me too,” said Ron.

There was a pause.

“Well, you hardly seem to need me,” said Lockhart, with a shadow of his old smile. “I'll just—”

He put his hand on the door knob, but Ron and Harry both pointed their wands at him.

“You can go first,” Ron snarled.

White-faced and wandless, Lockhart approached the opening.

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