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J.K.Rîwling >> Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (page 33)


“Hagrid's my friend,” said Harry, his voice now shaking. “And you framed him, didn't you? I thought you made a mistake, but—”

Riddle laughed his high laugh again.

“It was my word against Hagrid's, Harry. Well, you can imagine how it looked to old Armando Dippet. On the one hand, Tom Riddle, poor but brilliant, parentless but so brave, school prefect, model student... on the other hand, big, blundering Hagrid, in trouble every other week, trying to raise werewolf cubs under his bed, sneaking off to the Forbidden Forest to wrestle trolls... but I admit, even I was surprised how well the plan worked. I thought someone must realize that Hagrid couldn't possibly be the Heir of Slytherin. It had taken me five whole years to find out everything I could about the Chamber of Secrets and discover the secret entrance... as though Hagrid had the brains, or the power!

“Only the Transfiguration teacher, Dumbledore, seemed to think Hagrid was innocent. He persuaded Dipper to keep Hagrid and train him as gamekeeper. Yes, I think Dumbledore might have guessed... Dumbledore never seemed to like me as much as the other teachers did...”

“I bet Dumbledore saw right through you,” said Harry, his teeth gritted.

“Well, he certainly kept an annoyingly close watch on me after Hagrid was expelled,” said Riddle carelessly. “I knew it wouldn't be safe to open the Chamber again while I was still at school. But I wasn't going to waste those long years Id spent searching for it. I decided to leave behind a diary, preserving my sixteen-year-old self in its pages, so that one day, with luck, I would be able to lead another in my footsteps, and finish Salazar Slytherin's noble work.”

“Well, you haven't finished it,” said Harry triumphantly. “No one's died this time, not even the cat. In a few hours the Mandrake Draught will be ready and everyone who was Petrified will be all right again—”

“Haven't I already told you,” said Riddle quietly, “that killing Mudbloods doesn't matter to me anymore? For many months now, my new target has been -you.”

Harry stared at him.

“Imagine how angry I was when the next time my diary was opened, it was Ginny who was writing to me, not you. She saw you with the diary, you see, and panicked. “What if you found out how to work it, and I repeated all her secrets to you? What if, even worse, I told you who'd been strangling roosters? So the foolish little brat waited until your dormitory was deserted and stole it back. But I knew what I must do. It was clear to me that you were on the trail of Slytherin's heir. From everything Ginny had told me about you, I knew you would go to any lengths to solve the mystery -particularly if one of your best friends was attacked. And Ginny had told me the whole school was buzzing because you could speak Parseltongue...”

“So I made Ginny write her own farewell on the wall and come down here to wait. She struggled and cried and became very boring. But there isn't much life left in her... She put too much into the diary, into me. Enough to let me leave its pages at last... I have been waiting for you to appear since we arrived here. I knew you'd come. I have many questions for you, Harry Potter.”

“Like what?” Harry spat, fists still clenched.

“Well,” said Riddle, smiling pleasantly, “how is it that you a skinny boy with no extraordinary magical talent—managed to defeat the greatest wizard of all time? How did you escape with nothing but a scar, while Lord Voldemort's powers were destroyed?”

There was an odd red gleam in his hungry eyes now.

“Why do you care how I escaped?” said Harry slowly. “Voldemort was after your time...”

“Voldemort,” said Riddle softly, “is my past, present, and future, Harry Potter...”

He pulled Harry's wand from his pocket and began to trace it through the air, writing three shimmering words:

TOM MARVOLO RIDDLE

Then he waved the wand once, and the letters of his name rearranged themselves:

I AM LORD VOLDEMORT

“You see?” he whispered. “It was a name I was already using at Hogwarts, to my most intimate friends only, of course. You think I was going to use my filthy Muggle father's name forever? I, in whose veins runs the blood of Salazar Slytherin himself, through my mother's side? I, keep the name of a foul, common Muggle, who abandoned me even before I was born, just because he found out his wife was a witch? No, Harry—I fashioned myself a new name, a name I knew wizards everywhere would one day fear to speak, when I had become the greatest sorcerer in the world!”

Harry's brain seemed to have jammed. He stared numbly at Riddle, at the orphaned boy who had grown up to murder Harry's own parents, and so many others... At last he forced himself to speak.

“You're not,” he said, his quiet voice full of hatred.

“Not what?” snapped Riddle.

“Not the greatest sorcerer in the world,” said Harry, breathing fast. “Sorry to disappoint you and all that, but the greatest wizard in the world is Albus Dumbledore. Everyone says so. Even when you were strong, you didn't dare try and take over at Hogwarts. Dumbledore saw through you when you were at school and he still frightens you now, wherever you're hiding these days—”

The smile had gone from Riddle's face, to be replaced by a very ugly look.

“Dumbledore's been driven out of this castle by the mere memory of me!” he hissed.

“He's not as gone as you might think!” Harry retorted. He was speaking at random, wanting to scare Riddle, wishing rather than believing it to be true

Riddle opened his mouth, but froze.

Music was coming from somewhere. Riddle whirled around to stare down the empty Chamber. The music was growing louder. It was eerie, spine-tingling, unearthly; it lifted the hair on Harry's scalp and made his heart feel as though it was swelling to twice its normal size. Then, as the music reached such a pitch that Harry felt it vibrating inside his own ribs, flames erupted at the top of the nearest pillar.

A crimson bird the size of a swan had appeared, piping its weird music to the vaulted ceiling. It had a glittering golden tail as long as a peacock's and gleaming golden talons, which were gripping a ragged bundle.

A second later, the bird was flying straight at Harry. It dropped the ragged thing it was carrying at his feet, then landed heavily on his shoulder. As it folded its great wings, Harry looked up and saw it had a long, sharp golden beak and a beady black eye.

The bird stopped singing. It sat still and warm next to Harry's cheek, gazing steadily at Riddle.

“That's a phoenix,” said Riddle, staring shrewdly back at it.

“Fawkes?” Harry breathed, and he felt the bird's golden claws squeeze his shoulder gently

“And that—” said Riddle, now eyeing the ragged thing that Fawkes had dropped, “that's the old school Sorting Hat—”

So it was. Patched, frayed, and dirty, the hat lay motionless at Harry's feet.

Riddle began to laugh again. He laughed so hard that the dark chamber rang with it, as though ten Riddles were laughing at once

“This is what Dumbledore sends his defender! A songbird and an old hat! Do you feel brave, Harry Potter? Do you feel safe now?”

Harry didn't answer. He might not see what use Fawkes or the Sorting Hat were, but he was no longer alone, and he waited for Riddle to stop laughing with his courage mounting.

“To business, Harry,” said Riddle, still smiling broadly. “Twice—in your past, in my future—we have met. And twice I failed to kill you. How did you survive? Tell me everything. The longer you talk,” he added softly, “the longer you stay alive.”

Harry was thinking fast, weighing his chances. Riddle had the wand. He, Harry, had Fawkes and the Sorting Hat, neither of which would be much good in a duel. It looked bad, all right... but the longer Riddle stood there, the more life was dwindling out of Ginny... and in the meantime, Harry noticed suddenly, Riddle's outline was becoming clearer, more solid... . If it had to be a fight between him and Riddle, better sooner than later.

“No one knows why you lost your powers when you attacked me,” said Harry abruptly. “I don't know myself But I know why you couldn't kill me. Because my mother died to save me. My common Muggle-born mother,” he added, shaking with suppressed rage. “She stopped you killing me. And I've seen the real you, I saw you last year. You're a wreck. You're barely alive. That's where all your power got you. You're in hiding. You're ugly, you're foul—”

Riddle's face contorted. Then he forced it into an awful smile. “So. Your mother died to save you. Yes, that's a powerful counter-charm. I can see now... there is nothing special about you, after all. I wondered, you see. There are strange likenesses between us, after all. Even you must have noticed. Both half-bloods, orphans, raised by Muggles. Probably the only two Parselmouths to come to Hogwarts since the great Slytherin himself. We even look something alike... But after all, it was merely a lucky chance that saved you from me. That's all I wanted to know.”

Harry stood, tense, waiting for Riddle to raise his wand. But Riddle's twisted smile was widening again.

“Now, Harry, I'm going to teach you a little lesson. Let's match the powers of Lord Voldemort, Heir of Salazar Slytherin, against famous Harry Potter, and the best weapons Dumbledore can give him...”

He cast an amused eye over Fawkes and the Sorting Hat, then walked away. Harry, fear spreading up his numb legs, watched Riddle stop between the high pillars and look up into the stone face of Slytherin, high above him in the half-darkness. Riddle opened his mouth wide and hissed—but Harry understood what he was saying...

“Speak to me, Slytherin, greatest of the Hogwarts Four. “

Harry wheeled around to look up at the statue, Fawkes swaying on his shoulder.

Slytherin's gigantic stone face was moving. Horrorstruck, Harry saw his mouth opening, wider and wider, to make a huge black hole.

And something was stirring inside the statue's mouth. Something was slithering up from its depths.

Harry backed away until he hit the dark Chamber wall, and as he shut his eyes tight he felt Fawkes' wing sweep his cheek as he took flight. Harry wanted to shout, “Don't leave me!” but what chance did a phoenix have against the king of serpents?

Something huge hit the stone floor of the Chamber. Harry felt it shudder—he knew what was happening, he could sense it, could almost see the giant serpent uncoiling itself from Slytherin's mouth. Then he heard Riddle's hissing voice: “Kill him.”

The basilisk was moving toward Harry; he could hear its heavy body slithering heavily across the dusty floor. Eyes still tightly shut, Harry began to run blindly sideways, his hands outstretched, feeling his way—Voldemort was laughing...

Harry tripped. He fell hard onto the stone and tasted blood the serpent was barely feet from him, he could hear it coming.

There was a loud, explosive spitting sound right above him, and then something heavy hit Harry so hard that he was smashed into the wall. Waiting for fangs to sink through his body he heard more mad hissing, something thrashing wildly off the pillars.

He couldn't help it—he opened his eyes wide enough to squint at what was going on.

The enormous serpent, bright, poisonous green, thick as an oak trunk, had raised itself high in the air and its great blunt head was weaving drunkenly between the pillars. As Harry trembled, ready to close his eyes if it turned, he saw what had distracted the snake.

Fawkes was soaring around its head, and the basilisk was snapping furiously at him with fangs long and thin as sabers.

Fawkes dived. His long golden beak sank out of sight and a sudden shower of dark blood spattered the floor. The snake's tail thrashed, narrowly missing Harry, and before Harry could shut his eyes, it turned—Harry looked straight into its face and saw that its eyes, both its great, bulbous yellow eyes, had been punctured by the phoenix; blood was streaming to the floor, and the snake was spitting in agony.

“NO!” Harry heard Riddle screaming. “LEAVE THE BIRD! LEAVE THE BIRD! THE BOY IS BEHIND YOU. YOU CAN STILL SMELL HIM. KILL HIM!”

The blinded serpent swayed, confused, still deadly. Fawkes was circling its head, piping his eerie song, jabbing here and there at its scaly nose as the blood poured from its ruined eyes.

“Help me, help me,” Harry muttered wildly, “someone—anyone!”

The snake's tail whipped across the floor again. Harry ducked. Something soft hit his face.

The basilisk had swept the Sorting Hat into Harry's arms. Harry seized it. It was all he had left, his only chance—he rammed it onto his head and threw himself flat onto the floor as the basilisk's tail swung over him again.

“Help me—help me—” Harry thought, his eyes screwed tight under the hat. “Please help me!”

There was no answering voice. Instead, the hat contracted, as though an invisible hand was squeezing it very tightly.

Something very hard and heavy thudded onto the top of Harry's head, almost knocking him out. Stars winking in front of his eyes, he grabbed the top of the hat to pull it off and felt something long and hard beneath it.

A gleaming silver sword had appeared inside the hat, its handle glittering with rubies the size of eggs.

“KILL THE BOY! LEAVE THE BIRD! THE BOY IS BEHIND YOU. SNIFF—SMELL HIM.”

Harry was on his feet, ready. The basilisk's head was falling, its body coiling around, hitting pillars as it twisted to face him. He could see the vast, bloody eye sockets, see the mouth stretching wide, wide enough to swallow him whole, lined with fangs long as his sword, thin, glittering, venomous...

It lunged blindly. Harry dodged and it hit the Chamber wall. It lunged again, and its forked tongue lashed Harry's side. He raised the sword in both his hands.

The basilisk lunged again, and this time its aim was true—Harry threw his whole weight behind the sword and drove it to the hilt into the roof of the serpent's mouth.

But as warm blood drenched Harry's arms, he felt a searing pain just above his elbow. One long, poisonous fang was sinking deeper and deeper into his arm and it splintered as the basilisk keeled over sideways and fell, twitching, to the floor.

Title: Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
Author: J.K.Rîwling
Viewed 95407 times

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