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J.K.Rîwling >> Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (page 32)


“Boys,” he said, his voice feeble. “Boys, what good will it do?”

Harry jabbed him in the back with his wand. Lockhart slid his legs into the pipe.

“I really don't think—” he started to say, but Ron gave him a push, and he slid out of sight. Harry followed quickly. He lowered himself slowly into the pipe, then let go.

It was like rushing down an endless, slimy, dark slide. He could see more pipes branching off in all directions, but none as large as theirs, which twisted and turned, sloping steeply downward, and he knew that he was falling deeper below the school than even the dungeons. Behind him he could hear Ron, thudding slightly at the curves.

And then, just as he had begun to worry about what would happen when he hit the ground, the pipe leveled out, and he shot out of the end with a wet thud, landing on the damp floor of a dark stone tunnel large enough to stand in. Lockhart was getting to his feet a little ways away, covered in slime and white as a ghost. Harry stood aside as Ron came whizzing out of the pipe, too.

“We must be miles under the school,” said Harry, his voice echoing in the black tunnel.

“Under the lake, probably,” said Ron, squinting around at the dark, slimy walls.

All three of them turned to stare into the darkness ahead.

“Lumos!” Harry muttered to his wand and it lit again. “C'mon,” he said to Ron and Lockhart, and off they went, their footsteps slapping loudly on the wet floor.

The tunnel was so dark that they could only see a little distance ahead. Their shadows on the wet walls looked monstrous in the wandlight.

“Remember,” Harry said quietly as they walked cautiously forward, “any sign of movement, close your eyes right away...”

But the tunnel was quiet as the grave, and the first unexpected sound they heard was a loud crunch as Ron stepped on what turned out to be a rat's skull. Harry lowered his wand to look at the floor and saw that it was littered with small animal bones. Trying very hard not to imagine what Ginny might look like if they found her, Harry led the way forward, around a dark bend in the tunnel.

“Harry—there's something up there—” said Ron hoarsely, grabbing Harry's shoulder.

They froze, watching. Harry could just see the outline of something huge and curved, lying right across the tunnel. It wasn't moving.

“Maybe it's asleep,” he breathed, glancing back at the other two. Lockhart's hands were pressed over his eyes. Harry turned back to look at the thing, his heart beating so fast it hurt.

Very slowly, his eyes as narrow as he could make them and still see, Harry edged forward, his wand held high.

The light slid over a gigantic snake skin, of a vivid, poisonous green, lying curled and empty across the tunnel floor. The creature that had shed it must have been twenty feet long at least.

“Blimey,” said Ron weakly.

There was a sudden movement behind them. Gilderoy Lockhart's knees had given way.

“Get up,” said Ron sharply, pointing his wand at Lockhart.

Lockhart got to his feet—then he dived at Ron, knocking him to the ground.

Harry jumped forward, but too late—Lockhart was straightening up, panting, Ron's wand in his hand and a gleaming smile back on his face.

“The adventure ends here, boys!” he said. “I shall take a bit of this skin back up to the school, tell them I was too late to save the girl, and that you two tragically lost your minds at the sight of her mangled body—say good-bye to your memories!”

He raised Ron's Spellotaped wand high over his head and yelled, “Obliviate!”

The wand exploded with the force of a small bomb. Harry flung his arms over his head and ran, slipping over the coils of snake skin, out of the way of great chunks of tunnel ceiling that were thundering to the floor. Next moment, he was standing alone, gazing at a solid wall of broken rock.

“Ron!” he shouted. “Are you okay? Ron!”

“I'm here!” came Ron's muffled voice from behind the rockfall. “I'm okay—this git's not, though—he got blasted by the wand—”

There was a dull thud and a loud “ow!” It sounded as though Ron had just kicked Lockhart in the shins.

“What now?” Ron's voice said, sounding desperate. “We can't get through—it'll take ages...”

Harry looked up at the tunnel ceiling. Huge cracks had appeared in it. He had never tried to break apart anything as large as these rocks by magic, and now didn't seem a good moment to try—what if the whole tunnel caved in?

There was another thud and another “ow!” from behind the rocks. They were wasting time. Ginny had already been in the Chamber of Secrets for hours... Harry knew there was only one thing to do.

“Wait there,” he called to Ron. “Wait with Lockhart. I'll go on... If I'm not back in an hour...”

There was a very pregnant pause,

“I'll try and shift some of this rock,” said Ron, who seemed to be trying to keep his voice steady. “So you can—can get back through. And, Harry—”

“See you in a bit,” said Harry, trying to inject some confidence into his shaking voice.

And he set off alone past the giant snake skin.

Soon the distant noise of Ron straining to shift the rocks was gone. The tunnel turned and turned again. Every nerve in Harry's body was tingling unpleasantly. He wanted the tunnel to end, yet dreaded what he'd find when it did. And then, at last, as he crept around yet another bend, he saw a solid wall ahead on which two entwined serpents were carved, their eyes set with great, glinting emeralds.

Harry approached, his throat very dry. There was no need to pretend these stone snakes were real; their eyes looked strangely alive.

He could guess what he had to do. He cleared his throat, and the emerald eyes seemed to flicker.

“Open, “said Harry, in a low, faint hiss.

The serpents parted as the wall cracked open, the halves slid smoothly out of sight, and Harry, shaking from head to foot, walked inside.

 

 

CHAPTER SEVENTEEN

THE HEIR OF SLYTHERIN

 

He was standing at the end of a very long, dimly lit chamber. Towering stone pillars entwined with more carved serpents rose to support a ceiling lost in darkness, casting long, black shadows through the odd, greenish gloom that filled the place.

His heart beating very fast, Harry stood listening to the chill silence. Could the basilisk be lurking in a shadowy corner, behind a pillar? And where was Ginny?

He pulled out his wand and moved forward between the serpentine columns. Every careful footstep echoed loudly off the shadowy walls. He kept his eyes narrowed, ready to clamp them shut at the smallest sign of movement. The hollow eye sockets of the stone snakes seemed to be following him. More than once, with a jolt of the stomach, he thought he saw one stir.

Then, as he drew level with the last pair of pillars, a statue high as the Chamber itself loomed into view, standing against the back wall.

Harry had to crane his neck to look up into the giant face above: It was ancient and monkey-like, with a long, thin beard that fell almost to the bottom of the wizard's sweeping stone robes, where two enormous gray feet stood on the smooth Chamber floor. And between the feet, facedown, lay a small, black-robed figure with flaming-red hair.

“Ginny!” Harry muttered, sprinting to her and dropping to his knees. “Ginny—don't be dead—please don't be dead—” He flung his wand aside, grabbed Ginny's shoulders, and turned her over. Her face was white as marble, and as cold, yet her eyes were closed, so she wasn't Petrified. But then she must be

“Ginny, please wake up,” Harry muttered desperately, shaking her. Ginny's head lolled hopelessly from side to side.

“She won't wake,” said a soft voice.

Harry jumped and spun around on his knees.

A tall, black-haired boy was leaning against the nearest pillar, watching. He was strangely blurred around the edges, as though Harry were looking at him through a misted window. But there was no mistaking him

“Tom—Tom Riddle?”

Riddle nodded, not taking his eyes off Harry's face.

“What d'you mean, she won't wake?” Harry said desperately. “She's not—she's not -?”

“She's still alive,” said Riddle. “But only just.”

Harry stared at him. Tom Riddle had been at Hogwarts fifty years ago, yet here he stood, a weird, misty light shining about him, not a day older than sixteen.

“Are you a ghost?” Harry said uncertainly.

“A memory,” said Riddle quietly. “Preserved in a diary for fifty years.”

He pointed toward the floor near the statue's giant toes. Lying open there was the little black diary Harry had found in Moaning Myrtle's bathroom. For a second, Harry wondered how it had got there—but there were more pressing matters to deal with.

“You've got to help me, Tom,” Harry said, raising Ginny's head again. “We've got to get her out of here. There's a basilisk... I don't know where it is, but it could be along any moment... Please, help me.”

Riddle didn't move. Harry, sweating, managed to hoist Ginny half off the floor, and bent to pick up his wand again.

But his wand had gone.

“Did you see -?”

He looked up. Riddle was still watching him—twirling Harry's wand between his long fingers.

“Thanks,” said Harry, stretching out his hand for it.

A smile curled the corners of Riddle's mouth. He continued to stare at Harry, twirling the wand idly.

“Listen,” said Harry urgently, his knees sagging with Ginny's dead weight. “We've got to go! If the basilisk comes—”

“It won't come until it is called,” said Riddle calmly.

Harry lowered Ginny back onto the floor, unable to hold her up any longer.

“What d'you mean?” he said. “Look, give me my wand, I might need it—”

Riddle's smile broadened.

“You won't be needing it,” he said.

Harry stared at him.

“What d'you mean, I won't be -?”

“I've waited a long time for this, Harry Potter,” said Riddle. “For the chance to see you. To speak to you.”

“Look,” said Harry, losing patience, “I don't think you get it. We're in the Chamber of Secrets. We can talk later—”

“We're going to talk now,” said Riddle, still smiling broadly, and he pocketed Harry's wand.

Harry stared at him. There was something very funny going on here.

“How did Ginny get like this?” he asked slowly.

“Well, that's an interesting question,” said Riddle pleasantly. “And quite a long story. I suppose the real reason Ginny Weasley's like this is because she opened her heart and spilled all her secrets to an invisible stranger.”

“What are you talking about?” said Harry.

“The diary,” said Riddle. `My diary. Little Ginny's been writing in it for months and months, telling me all her pitiful worries and woes—how her brothers tease her, how she had to come to school with secondhand robes and books, how” -Riddle's eyes glinted “how she didn't think famous, good, great Harry Potter would ever like her...”

All the time he spoke, Riddle's eyes never left Harry's face. There was an almost hungry look in them.

“It's very boring, having to listen to the silly little troubles of an elevenyear-old girl,” he went on. “But I was patient. I wrote back. I was sympathetic, I was kind. Ginny simply loved me. No one's ever understood me like you, Tom... I'm so glad I've got this diary to confide in... It's like having a friend I can carry around in my pocket...”

Riddle laughed, a high, cold laugh that didn't suit him. It made the hairs stand up on the back of Harry's neck.

“If I say it myself, Harry, I've always been able to charm the people I needed. So Ginny poured out her soul to me, and her soul happened to be exactly what I wanted... I grew stronger and stronger on a diet of her deepest fears, her darkest secrets. I grew powerful, far more powerful than little Miss Weasley. Powerful enough to start feeding Miss Weasley a few of my secrets, to start pouring a little of my soul back into her...”

“What d'you mean?” said Harry, whose mouth had gone very dry.

“ Haven't you guessed yet, Harry Potter?” said Riddle softly. “Ginny Weasley opened the Chamber of Secrets. She strangled the school roosters and daubed threatening messages on the walls. She set the Serpent of Slytherin on four Mudbloods, and the Squib's cat.

“No,” Harry whispered.

“Yes,” said Riddle, calmly. “Of course, she didn't know what she was doing at first. It was very amusing. I wish you could have seen her new diary entries... far more interesting, they became... Dear Tom,” he recited, watching Harry's horrified face, `I think I'm losing my memory. There are rooster feathers all over my robes and 1 don't know how they got there. Dear Tom, l can't remember what 1 did on the night of Halloween, but a cat was attacked and I've got paint all down my front. Dear Tom, Percy keeps telling me I'm pale and I'm not myself. I think he suspects me... There was another attack today and I don't know where I was. Tom, what am I going to do? I think I'm going mad... I think I'm the one attacking everyone, Tom!”

Harry's fists were clenched, the nails digging deep into his Palms.

“it took a very long time for stupid little Ginny to stop trusting her diary,” said Riddle. “But she finally became suspicious and tried to dispose of it. And that's where you came in, Harry. You found it, and I couldn't have been more delighted. Of all the people who could have picked it up, it was you, the very person I was most anxious to meet...”

“And why did you want to meet me?” said Harry. Anger was coursing through him, and it was an effort to keep his voice steady.

“Well, you see, Ginny told me all about you, Harry,” said Riddle. “Your whole fascinating history. “ His eyes roved over the lightning scar on Harry's forehead, and their expression grew hungrier. “I knew I must find out more about you, talk to you, meet you if I could. So I decided to show you my famous capture of that great oaf, Hagrid, to gain your trust—”

Title: Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
Author: J.K.Rîwling
Viewed 105669 times

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