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Chapter 47: Gryffindor v. Slytherin

Thank you to my Betas; Cateagle and Sparky40sw.

"Tom Marvolo Riddle," Harry started, "Graduated as the Headboy here at Hogwarts in 1945 from Slytherin." He stood at the head of the Great Hall, just in between the students and the teacher's table. He was fulfilling his promise to explain who the other person to enter the Chamber was, but decided to do it fully so that people would know who they were afraid of. It was an opportunity. "He was conceived from the marriage of Merope Gaunt, daughter of Marvolo Gaunt, and Tom Riddle, muggle heir to local wealthy landowners in Little Hangleton, Yorkshire. Neither Merope Gaunt, nor her brother Morfin, attended any sort of formal schooling or received formal education due to deep poverty and their father's belief that their status as the last remaining heirs of Salazar Slytherin made them better than each and every other witch and wizard in England."

The information started to cause a stir amongst the students, but Harry just gained their attention by conjuring an image on the wall behind the teachers of the run down shack looking up at the great mansion that existed before Tom got his hands on it.

"As she grew up," Harry continued, "Merope fell in love with the regal man that she saw ride by her family's crumbling shack on his way to and from the town his family's mansion overlooked. Her father did not approve of her desire to have a relationship with a muggle, but that didn't dissuade her from her feelings. She finally got the freedom to approach the man with her brother and father in Azkaban. His response was less than heartening, causing her to retaliate with the skills her father had taught both her and her brother in mind controlling love potions and magics. After their marriage, Merope felt that they were truly bonded and in love, mutually, and discontinued her use of the love potion that she had been dosing her love with from the beginning, believing that he would love her now that she was with child. However, when he came out of his mind controlling fog, he threw her out of the house and divorced her instantly.

"She was left destitute, just as before the potion enhanced romance, with a baby on the way," Harry lectured. "All during the nine months of her pregnancy, Merope never sought care from healers for herself or her developing baby. Because of this, when the birthing came, she was dangerously ill prepared. She gave birth at a muggle orphanage where she had sought shelter shortly before the birth, but suffered severe bleeding during the birth and died shortly after naming Tom Marvolo Riddle after the baby's father and Grandfather.

"There, at the orphanage," Harry threw up a picture of the dining room of an orphanage with larger boys picking on a young brown-haired boy. The picture progressed to where it was now the young boy, slightly older than before, picking on those around him. "Tom grew up defending himself from bullies that were stronger than him and bullying all those weaker than him. His accidental magic, as a child, took the form of controlling and torturing the children around him. Finally, when he received his letter of acceptance to Hogwarts, he saw it as a chance at power.

"Throughout his time in Slytherin, he displayed charm and cunning that brought many to his side. He was careful to not be seen as evil or dark, though he studied forbidden magics throughout his tenure. Shortly after coming to the castle he learned about his heritage as Heir of Slytherin. He used the skills passed on to him through this heritage to gain power and revenge. The discovery of his mother's relationship with Tom Riddle fomented a hate of the man and of all things muggle. This hate caused him to search for and, in his fifth year, find the entrance to his ancestor's lair, The Chamber of Secrets. From there he unleashed Slytherin's Monster, a millennia-old Basilisk," Harry changed the image behind him to reflect the evil, giant snake with long fangs and yellow eyes, causing many to gasp. The animated picture was slithering from the mouth of Salazar's statue deep within the chamber, "which he commanded to hunt muggle born students. This continued until the death of a witch in the second floor girl's loo, Myrtle Mendelson. Her death threatened to cause a closing of the school, the last thing Tom wanted.

"If the school were to close," Harry explained, "he would be sent back to the orphanage without a chance to escape. To keep the school open, he framed another student, a third year with a love of interresting creatures. This student had been raising a spider, an acromantula, in an out of the way cupboard, which was then blamed for the deceased witch. This third year was expelled without warning or trial, his wand snapped, despite his unwavering denial of the charges. Unfortunately for the expelled student, he had no where to go. His father had deceased the previous year and his mother had left long before. The transfigurations professor, Albus Dumbledore, took action to help the student and provided him with a job that he could excel at.

"After framing the other student, Tom Riddle stopped the snake from attacking any further students, therefore ensuring that he would not be discovered in his evil pursuits. Instead he enchanted a diary with a piece of his soul so that the Chamber could be opened later when some innocent student put trust in the friendly book. This diary retained his skill at possessing and drawing power from others, and would do so when someone poured their emotions into it. It is this diary that was responsible for the chamber being opened four years ago. At that time, the diary did its job and possessed a student and set the monster loose in the school. The monster is now dead, killed with the Sword of Gryffindor."

Harry flicked his wand again, this time showing a still life of the gruesome scene containing the dead snake, his broken fang, the destroyed diary and the Sword of Gryffindor, all on a backdrop of a blood soaked stone floor. This brought forth some sobs of terror and some disgusted students turning away.

"After leaving Hogwarts, Tom Marvolo Riddle disappeared to the ends of the earth to learn any and every dark magic and ritual he could to gain power and escape death. His goal was power and immortality by any means. When he returned to the Wizarding World of England, the half-blooded Tom Marvolo Riddle was forgotten; favoring, instead, a persona to which he could gather followers in his quest for power, under the excuse of cleansing the wizarding world of muggle influence. He assumed a name he had invented while he was in school."

Harry brandished his wand and slashed the air, creating a fiery trail as he wrote out the name, 'Tom Marvolo Riddle'. With another wave of his wand, an illusion of a fifth year Tom Riddle stood before the school in Slytherin robes below his fiery name. Harry gave a jab and a flick causing the name and illusion duplicated themselves, the duplicates moving from left to right of the Great Hall in front of the head table. As they moved the letters of the name rearranged themselves just as Harry had seen the memory of Voldemort do in the Chambers four years before. At the same time, the illusion of Riddle aged and changed through the effects of time and the rituals he had completed over the past fifty years, ending up the reptilian evil man that he had become after his rebirth. After the ten second transition, the students were faced with the visage of the dark lord with the caption, 'I Am Lord Voldemort'. This realization caused gasps and shrieks from the students, many trembling and afraid.

"As you can see," Harry said in closing, "Lord Voldemort was born a half-blood, Tom Marvolo Riddle. His cause is a quest for power over all of the wizarding world, not the idealistic quest to preserve pureblood traditions and culture, as it was claimed when it first started; just a right self-loathing bastard wanting power over everyone else."

Harry let that sink in as he left his position at the front of the hall and walked back to his girlfriend. He felt energized and drained at the same time. He had provided the school, and undoubtedly the press, with the information they needed to make the choice between paths to follow. As he reached Ginny, she stood and walked with him out of the Great Hall. Ron and Hermione quickly stood and followed the couple.

"That is all for this evening's presentation," Professor Dumbledore announced to the school. "Thirty points to Gryffindor for such an accurate assessment and presentation of the facts and truths as they stand."

With the Headmaster’s statement of the accuracy of Harry's presentation, the rest of the school started to get noisier as they rose from their seats and proceeded to their evening destinations. Professor Snape and the other teachers rose as well to tend to their duties grading papers and making themselves available to students with questions on their schoolwork. The Potions Professor made his way to the bowels of the school to prepare for his two evening detentions.

Detention for Harry and Ginny proved that serving detention with your love interest is not all it promises to be. Harry would have been better off to be alone in detention, what with the Professor's continued ability to cause anger, outrage and embarrassment with both of his students. They ended up cleaning and polishing an endless pile of vials while listening to a detailed lecture on the promised subject; what is and is not appropriate behavior for students with those of the opposite sex. Snape managed a good amount of concealed glee when he found he could make Harry quite angry and the little trollop Weasley hurt and jealous with choice comments while they were forbidden talking.

That week was occupied with the final three lessons in apparition, where the instructor refused to let any of the accomplished students skive off, saying that any and all could use the practice no matter when they had completed their first move. Ron managed to earn two detentions, one on Monday when Malfoy found the Gryffindors in the corridors before defense and insulted Hermione, claiming that Harry's presentation was just mudblood drivel trying to discredit her betters. Professor Tonks had caught Ron just after he bloodied the Slytherin's nose.

The second, it was not so justifiable. Ron had simply not prepared for transfiguration and left his homework undone, despite Hermione's warning. Lucky for him, Professor McGonagall assigned him detention on Friday night, as if Professor Snape had caught him out at anything, the detention would have surely disrupted the Quidditch game against Slytherin scheduled for that Saturday.

In Ron's mind, the game against their school rivals was the most important of the year. He kicked himself for not keeping his nose clean during the week, and therefore missing a chance at getting a last minute team practice shoehorned in on Friday due to his detention. He was determined that they were prepared and would be successful. He put his all into a spirit building speech to his team as the entire school gathered in the stands. After Ron’s speech, the team took the field. Madame Hooch was at the center of the field with the Quidditch set waiting.

This was to be Draco’s first game back on the team after his long lasting punishment was lifted. Harry noticed the angry, mean look in his eye and it frankly unsettled him. Draco had been seen ranting to himself and his lapdogs about exactly whose fault it was that he had spent the last couple of months as a prisoner of his own School House. He wasn't pleased with being a second-class citizen within the Slytherin house. He had gone rapidly from prince to serf, all his previous power lost.

With a cursory shake of the captains’ hands, the match between Slytherin and Gryffindor was joined. The fourteen players kicked off the ground hard to propel themselves to their positions. Harry caught Ginny’s eyes and wished her good luck, and accepted the warm smile that she returned. They each sped off to their respective positions, Harry high and circling; looking for the snitch, Ginny grabbing the Quaffle and racing to the Slytherin end.

Harry drew his attention to the task at hand. The snitch, however, was nowhere to be seen.

Harry monitored the game while on his snitch hunt through the excited voice of the Ravenclaw announcer as she announced the game. Gryffindor was up thirty points to naught in just ten minutes. This pleased Harry more than it pleased the Slytherin team. That team, chosen for bulk, was channeling their displeasure into violence.

Thirty minutes into the game, the Gryffindor players were starting to look the worse for wear. The Gryffindor beaters, Andrew and Jack, had improved since their performances last year, but were still not able to inflict near as much harm as the Slytherins. Harry assumed that this was due to the greater bulk of the opposing players. They simply could take more punishment.

Ron had only allowed the Slytherins one goal by him at the half hour mark. That one goal, however, had required the use of both Bludgers by the Slytherin brutes to force Ron onto the left goal and leaving the right wide open. Whatever the results in the end, Harry would be proud of his team captain’s performance. Ron's performance left no doubt about his improved skill.

The use of both Bludgers by the Slytherins, while successful, wasn’t a practical way to win the game, as Ginny had now scored four goals herself with the other chasers getting one each. This seemed to make Ginny the target of the wrath of Crabbe and Goyle, testing her new broom and her flying skills to the hilt. They were focusing their hate and Bludgers in her direction, narrowly missing her at each turn. Harry realized that this could quickly become dangerous for his friendlier than friend.

Harry sped up and focused on finding the snitch. He had to end this before someone was hurt permanently, namely his Ginny.

Malfoy was shadowing Harry once again, clearly hoping to let Harry spot his target and then for Malfoy to get it himself. Harry knew that this had never worked before and couldn’t see what Draco was thinking. Harry’s only guess was that even while thinking was required, it was not always accomplished. Draco seemed to insist on beating his head against the wall repeatedly without any lessons learned.

With the score eighty to twenty at the hour, Harry spotted a glint of gold at the base of the Slytherin goal posts. Harry turned his broom and sped directly at it automatically, knowing that Draco would be keying off of him and at the disadvantage of having Harry’s reaction and maneuvering time added to his own before he could truly make chase.

Halfway there, either Crabbe or Goyle, Harry didn't know which, spotted the Gryffindor Seeker trying to end the game. He managed to launch a Bludger into Harry’s path, forcing him to dodge or lose his broom. This momentary lapse of attention allowed the snitch to evade his capture and disappear again.

Harry and Draco returned to their high racetrack search pattern and waited.

By now Bludgers had struck most of the rest of the team, no doubt leaving bruises and stiff muscles in their wake. It was going to be a sore team come Sunday.

The score had climbed to one hundred to twenty before Harry spotted the snitch again, this time at the Gryffindor end of the stadium, flying lazily high in the corner. Harry sped in the direction of the snitch, noting, fleetingly, that Draco had been motioning to one of his beaters and had therefore missed Harry’s movement.

Harry took advantage of his opponent's distraction and launched himself flat to the broom, trying for the maximum speed he could achieve. He raced level, intending to go vertical from below the snitch and catch it in victory. Harry really didn’t have problems with flying high, even after his beginning of the year mishap. Despite his stay in the hospital wing, he drove to the snitch at the same angle of attack as his previous game.

Harry neared the edge of the pitch before pulling up on his broom for his vertical maneuver. He soared up along the outer bounds of the pitch, quickly topping the height of the students in the stands. He extended his hand, feeling the snitch smack into his palm as he closed his fingers around it. He heard the crowd cheer and the announcement of the final score, two hundred and sixty to twenty.

Harry turned to the other end of the pitch to see Ginny triumphant. She must have just scored the last goal as Harry caught the snitch.

Harry was watching the beautiful chaser, however movement caught his eye. A Bludger was headed straight at the side of her head and Draco Malfoy was holding a beater bat with a triumphant look. That look was enough to make Harry’s stomach clench. Harry shout of warning went unheard. The Bludger struck home at the side of Ginny’s head.

The world slowed down for Harry. He saw her head snap sharply to the side in a sick, unnatural motion. Limply, she slumped off her high performance broom, without any movement initiated by her own muscles. Harry turned his broom and raced toward Ginny's end of the pitch as he saw her falling toward the hard ground. She seemed to be falling in slow motion, head first facing the grass below. Despite Ginny’s seemingly slow fall, Harry couldn't push his broom to a high enough speed to reach the plummeting figure. Harry was in a panic. He couldn’t loose her. If she hit the ground like this, there would be nothing that a healer could do for her. She would be dead instantly. Harry had been reminded all too often that there is nothing to reverse death.

Harry watched as Cedric was killed for being the ‘spare’. He had seen his own Godfather slain with a simple spell in front of his eyes, simply because he was standing in front of the gateway to the afterlife when the spell struck. He even had vague memories of the fateful Halloween and his parents’ own deaths, thanks to dementors' influence years prior. He was not going to let Ginny die too. It was just too much to lose.

Harry’s right hand shot forward, releasing the snitch and focusing his energy. As she plummeted to her death, he knew he had to stop her fall.

Harry had never tried to use such power as this would take. He did not know if he had it in him.

Previously he had sensed a glow in himself that frightened him, the flames of power occasionally licking at his flesh from within. The vessel containing his magical reservoir had been cracked, irreparably, over the summer, allowing most of his full power to do more than merely trickle out as it did in most wizards. The crack allowed the power to flow out of the vessel in a stream, allowing a great amount of power to be available to spells. The only way that he contained the power that burned as flame after the ritual that changed his summer, was by force of his own will to hold the streaming crack at bay. His only ally in the fight to contain his inner magical power was his strength, not of muscle, but of will and determination. He wasn’t sure that he was strong enough to control this power once it was unleashed. But he had to.

Harry reached into his core; the very center of his soul.

He needed the power.

He wanted the power.

He had to have all of the power.

He had to have the power now.

Harry ruthlessly shattered his remaining natural containment, leaving a burning torrent licking from his core. Had Harry not been focused on the falling woman, he would have surely been consumed in the flame.

Harry’s vision and body itself changed in that instant. He could feel the magic around him, coursing through his flesh, licking at his skin. He could see the veins of magic almost as a new layer of color in everything that he could see. He hadn’t practiced seeing aura’s since the summer, but the short time he had was just drop in the bucket for what he now saw. He new view of the world was rife with streams and pockets of magic energy in colors on and off the rainbow. He could see the magic in each of the spectators, flowing and moving, accomplishing the little things a witch or wizard would never have to think about. The view of Ginny, however, frightened him to his core. The magic was strong in Ginny, strong but unmoving. She was teetering on the edge, unconscious and not moving the magic within herself. She would be of no use in her own rescue.

Harry tensed his arm as he flew toward the falling woman, focusing his entire being on her form. Ginny Weasley was the only thing that he could see, his vision tunneled.

He wanted to stop her fall.

He needed to stop her fall.

He could stop her fall.

He would stop her fall.

He did stop her fall.

The limp form of Ginny Weasley stopped in the position that it had been falling, head pointing at the ground, body trailing behind, her whole being frozen safely in stasis. Any movement of her body could be fatal.

Harry’s tunnel vision eased now and he noticed people rushing the field to come to Ginny’s aid.

Harry examined her from afar as he sped to her side. He could now see clearly, even from his distance, that the Bludger had broken her neck and fractured her skull. He concentrated again. Any movement of her body could be the final straw. He could see the magic in all areas of her body; he hoped that that meant she hadn't severed any nerves yet.

People were approaching her at a run, trying to get to her side to help. As good as their intentions were, any movement could be fatal. They were not slowing, not keeping their distance.

Harry wanted to stop them from reaching her. They would not harm her.

The magic flowing in the air around the Quidditch pitch flowed at his command.

The magic congealed into a golden dome, nearly invisible to the eye, but there.

She would be safe. They would not compound the injury.

The crowd reached the extent of the dome before Harry touched down. The front echelon of concerned students and staff came to a sudden halt as they struck the soft but strong dome. The entire crowd had the distinct look of surprise and confusion on their face.

Harry landed on the ground several feet behind the rear of the twenty person deep crowd.

"Excuse me," Harry calmly spoke as he concentrated on Ginny’s form and keeping it still.

At the sound of the calm, powerful voice behind them, the nearby people turned. Each person gasped and hastily moved to the side forming a path. The sound of the gasp was contagious as Harry strode through the group.

At the edge of the golden dome, Professor McGonagall looked at Harry, concern in her eyes.

"Harry, are you alright?"

"Ginny's hurt," Harry said simply.

Harry walked straight at the dome but didn't break stride as he walked through the protective barrier. The crowd reformed behind Harry, closing the circle.

Harry concentrated on the woman in the air in front of him.

"Madame Pomfrey," Harry’s voice boomed, magically amplified throughout the castle and grounds, "Ginny Weasley has been injured. She has broken the first and second vertebra in the neck and a fractured skull. I will bring her immediately."

His voice lowered to a non-amplified level as he resumed speaking.

"Excuse me," Harry calmly spoke once again.

The crowd between him and the castle parted without individual conscious thought, leaving an open path.

Harry turned Ginny to where she was lying on her back, still suspended. He started walking, bringing her with him. They made their way to the castle, through the long hallways, to the hospital wing, golden dome in tow. The doors of the hospital wing burst open as Harry approached, Ginny gliding smoothly in, coming to rest above one of the beds near the healer’s office.

As the gold dome continued with Harry and Ginny, it left a similar translucent gold shield at the doorway to the hospital wing, ever protecting Harry’s charge.

Madame Pomfrey ran in, clutching several potions and her wand. "Oh my, what happened to Miss Weasley?" she asked frantically. As she spoke, she moved efficiently through the golden dome wall without notice of the woven web of magic.

"A Bludger struck her head, fracturing her skull and breaking a vertebra," Harry told her with cold efficiency.

Madame Pomfrey waved her wand in an intricate pattern over her patient. Ginny glowed in a variety of colors, their meanings escaping Harry.

"Very well," she said, considering the case before her. "She should be fine, but this will take a while. Are you able to hold her in that position for some time? I don’t want to risk transferring her to someone else’s hold as that could move her."

"Yes, Madame, I can hold her," Harry said with unwavering certainty.

Madame Pomfrey waved her wand again in a diagnostic spell or three over Ginny’s entire body, not wanting to miss any other injuries. Thankfully, the only injuries that she could find, bar several contusions that were not unusual for Slytherin’s Quidditch opponents, were the ones mentioned by Harry.

"A broken neck requires the use of potions to repair, as a spell is not exact enough to get it right," the school matron said. "I’ll give her a potion to induce a coma until she's healed, and I’ll let you know when she may be lowered to the bed."

"Go ahead," he said in a cold, mechanical voice.

"Harry, are you alright?" she asked.

"I’m fine, just tend to her," Harry commanded.

Harry watched in silence as several potions were administered. He could feel a small group of people gathering outside the doors of the hospital wing, held back by his shield.

"Madame Pomfrey, shall I allow the others to enter now that you've tended to Ginny?" Harry asked.

"What do you mean?" she asked. "Where is everybody? Usually when someone's injured, they won't leave the hospital wing alone for people to rightly heal."

"I’m holding a shield on the doors to keep them out," Harry said. "I'd like to lower the shield so that I’m not wasting my energy." The small waver in his voice barely betrayed the strain that was mounting from using such a large amount of sustained magic.

"You can," she said, "but wait till I can be at the doors to keep the bulk of people out myself."

She marched over to the doors and gave Harry a nod. Harry released the shield on the door with a feeling of relief. Madame Pomfrey opened the doors to find Professor Dumbledore leading a group that included much of Gryffindor house and certain other concerned onlookers. At her steely gaze, the Professor turned to the crowd and spoke.

"Would you all please return to your normal Saturday activity?" the Professor said. "News of Ginny Weasley’s condition will travel to the school in the normal fashion. I am sure that no one will be in the dark for long. Mr. Weasley, you may come in if you will remain quiet. Your sister has much healing to be done."

The Professor entered with Ron in tow. Madame Pomfrey seemed grudgingly pleased that only the pair of them entered her area of responsibility. She turned from the now closed doors and returned to tend to her charge. She once again walked straight through the shield, stopping at Ginny’s side.

Professor Dumbledore walked up to the shield and placed a hand on it muttering, "Interesting."

After receiving an update on the condition of the floating student, the Professor turned to Harry and addressed him in a very low voice. "Harry, are you alright? You seem distressed," asked Professor Dumbledore with concern.

"Yes sir, Ginny was hurt," Harry stated matter-of-factly.

"Yes, I know," the professor said with concern. "But that's not all that is distressing you at this moment. What's wrong Harry?"

Harry responded at just above a whisper as he concentrated on the levitation, "It’s this power that I’m using, sir. I had to completely open my reserves for this. There is no containment left. I shattered it. When I stop this, I don’t know if I can control it."

"That is a risk, Harry," acknowledged Dumbledore. "But you seem to be controlling it just splendidly. I have complete confidence in your abilities."

"But what happens when I stop channeling it out of myself and it's still there, burning. I can already feel the fire on my flesh and bones," Harry said with the first emotion to grace his voice yet. "The power scares me."

"I'm sure that you will do fine," the Professor assured his charge.

Ron never noticed this conversation; his worry over his sister drowning out any other concern.

Draco Malfoy found himself, once again, in the Headmaster’s office, only this time he was not bound and petrified. He was in a stiff chair facing the Headmaster’s desk in opposition to the Headmaster, the Deputy Headmistress and his head of house. Instead of elegant dress robes he was here in his sweaty Quidditch robes, uncomfortable and unhappy.

"Mr. Malfoy," Dumbledore said without even a hint of his usual mirth, "throughout your career at Hogwarts, you have exhibited a pattern of bullying, intimidation and violence. We have attempted to warn you from this path, but today’s events are beyond pale. Today you committed assault with the intent to kill. You attempted to commit murder."

"This is an outrage!" Malfoy screeched. "She was hit with a Bludger during a Quidditch match. How am I responsible if the Bludger hit her in the side of the head rather than the shoulder?"

"You had no reason to take the beater bat from Mr. Goyle," Dumbledore said firmly. "You had no reason to hit a Bludger toward Miss Weasley at any time, much less after she had scored the final goal of the game and after the snitch had been caught."

"Goyle wasn’t doing his job," Draco said by way of explanation. "I'm the Captain of the team, so I was showing him."

"Pensive evidence can show that you looked and saw Mr. Potter catch the game-ending snitch," Dumbledore stated. "Add to this your continuing blame of Miss Weasley for your being caught at your last assault attempt and the story is quite compelling. I am going to make it even simpler," Dumbledore said in a hard, cold voice, "Mr. Malfoy, you are hereby expelled from Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Your wand will be forwarded to the Department of Magical Law Enforcement for their judgment as to whether it will be broken or returned to you. Mind you, if she does not recover, you will be facing charges of murder not attempted murder."

"I’ll protest this farce," screamed Malfoy.

"Of course you will, Mr. Malfoy," patronized Professor Dumbledore.

Throughout the entire exchange, Professors McGonagall and Snape stayed silent observers

It was three hours before Madame Pomfrey announced that Harry could lower Ginny to the bed.

After a moment regarding the bed Ginny was hovering over, Harry dropped the golden shield and spoke, "Ron, would you pull the sheet and blanket back from her bed and remove the pillow?"

Ron stepped forward silently, doing as Harry asked.

Harry lowered Ginny to the bed and released the magic that he had been performing for more than three straight hours. He nearly collapsed as the exhaustion swept over him. He was tired and weak, but there was something else. Despite his exhaustion, now that his magic had no task, he could feel the fire inside his flesh burning intensely. This wasn't good.

Ron turned to Harry with a single tear in his eye, Ginny's pale hand clutched in Ron's. "Thank you, Harry. Thanks for saving her," he said quietly, his voice full of emotion.

Harry nodded before turning silently and walking out of the hospital wing. He could feel the fire burning him. He had to center himself or it would overtake him. He strode blindly, not thinking of his destination. It was several corridors before he realized what he must do. At the next junction, he turned left and set out.

Harry walked purposefully toward the entryway, knowing that he'd have to go to his secret place to work through this. He needed to be isolated. If it did overtake him, he didn't want to be around anyone that could be hurt if he were unsuccessful. He didn't know what would happen, but he knew that it wouldn't be safe or pretty.

He focused on getting to the Entry Hall and then the Hogwarts crest there would transport him to the Chamber of Secrets. As the Chamber wasn't under the school, if he were to do extensive damage, the lake over his head would swallow him and he wouldn't do any harm to the hundreds of unsuspecting students. He was almost there. Just down one last hallway.

"Harry…Stop Harry. What’s wrong?" asked Hermione.

She had run after him from the entrance of the hospital wing, her previous yells not penetrating Harry's haze.

She stopped him with a hand on his shoulder at the entrance to the Hall.

"Harry, where are you going? What's wrong?" she asked with concern.

"Ginny's going to be fine," Harry said. "Madame Pomfrey just put her to bed. She'll be out for some time while she heals."

"That’s great," Hermione said, "but, Harry, what’s wrong with you?"

"I need to focus," Harry said, "to concentrate."

Harry felt the flames inside him licking at his flesh. If he boiled over, he didn’t want to hurt his friends.

"Hermione, I need to go calm down," he stated. "I don’t want to hurt you or any of my friends."

With this he turned, pulling his wand.

Hermione saw him point his wand at the new crest in the center of the hall and muttering something.

The crest shimmered as Harry broke into a run away from Hermione. She was startled at his sudden action. Harry reached the seal and dove forward, headfirst, into the floor, disappearing through the stone, the surface rippling like a pond.

She ran after him, hoping to follow her friend. She had learned from Harry what the new crests really were for more than a month ago, but still couldn't operate them. Sometimes students would randomly disappear, through what Hermione knew was Harry's little built in prank, but they always turned up at one of the other crests that Harry had placed around the school.

She reached the seal on her feet and was surprised to find that it was solid. Harry had just dove through the seal as if it were water, but under her feet was solid stone.

Hermione was confused both by Harry’s behavior and the crest under her feet. She couldn't wrap her mind around what she had just seen. From what she had learned, what Harry did should not have been possible. Obviously, Harry knew more secrets hidden within the runes than he had revealed.

After a few minutes gaping at her surroundings and the absence of her friend, she turned to retrace her steps to the hospital wing. Hermione entered the wing, seeing her boyfriend sitting next to Ginny’s bed. She conjured a chair to sit next to him.

"Hi," he said as he grasped his girlfriend's hand for support.

"How is she?" Hermione asked softly.

"She’s okay now," Ron breathed. "Harry really saved her."

"Yeah," replied Hermione quietly.

Ron suddenly looked around, obviously not seeing what he was after.

"Hermione, have you seen Harry?" Ron asked. "I didn’t notice him leave."

"He left just after putting her down," she told him. "He just said that he needed to calm down, then he dove into the great seal and disappeared."

"Dove into the seal? Weird," Ron said with little emotion in his voice. "Well, he was using a lot more magic than normal. Let’s let him rest. We will check on him later. That’s weird with the seal and all."

"But, I don’t know where he is," Hermione said in exasperation.

"The map is upstairs in the dorm. It'll tell us where he is," Ron replied, "But he's probably in the Chamber."

"Oh, Yeah. Forgot about the map," Hermione said, "but it won’t show him if he is in the Chamber of Secrets."

After repeated assurances that Ginny would be unconscious for days, Ron had finally given up his vigil in favor of dinner.

Ron and Hermione entered the Great Hall, each looking up and down the Gryffindor table, hoping to find Harry waiting for them. The table was quite full already, but Harry was not one of the many people in the hall.

"We’ll check the map right after dinner," they assured each other.

They ate in silence, holding hands under the table, more for comfort than anything else. They finished their dinners and decided to forgo dessert. If Hermione had not been so worried about Harry, this would have piqued her attention. Ron never skipped dessert. This just showed how worried Ron was after his best friend and his sister.

Ron raced up the steps into his dorm while Hermione waited at the base of the steps for him to return with the Marauder’s Map.

He returned, out of breath from running up several flights of stairs and back down.

He peered at the activated map intently. There were hundreds of names on the parchment and many levels to the castle to search. Where could he be?

Harry wasn't in any of his usual haunts, the Room of Requirement, the library, or the Owlery...not even in Hagrid’s hut.

"Ron, he’s not here!"

"That just means that he is probably in the Chamber of Secrets," Ron said, "he wouldn’t have left Hogwarts grounds on his own."

"But, Ron," Hermione said, "he’s not on the map. How can we be sure?"

"I know…" Ron started.

"Ron, we have to go talk to Dumbledore," Hermione stated. "What if something has happened to him?"

Ron contemplated this, voicing his worry, "What are we going to tell Dumbledore about how we know that Harry is not on grounds?"

"I'm sure that Dumbledore already knows about the map," Hermione said, "and if we just say that he's not on grounds, Dumbledore won't ask."

"Okay," Ron agreed, "but Harry'll kill us if we lose his father’s map."

They proceeded out of the common room and to Dumbledore’s office. They hoped to find the Headmaster there, after all, he had never failed to be there before.

Arriving at the gargoyle statue that concealed the stair to the headmaster’s office, they realized that they didn't know the current password.

"Oh what is it…Fizzing Whizbee."

"Marshmallow Tart."

"Pumpkin Pasties."

"Sugar Quill."


"Cockroach Cluster."

"Blood Pops."

Hermione glared at Ron, "Blood Pops? He uses candy that he likes and he’s not a vampire."

"I'm just running out of candy ideas."

"OK, maybe something Muggle," Hermione said.

"Don’t look at me Hermione," Ron said, "I’ve never been in a Muggle candy store."

"OK, fine," Hermione huffed. "Snickers. Almond Joy. Mounds. Mars Bars. M&M’s. Baby Ruth. Heath. Cadbury’s Eggs."

With the last guess the Gargoyle sprang to life and jumped to the side, revealing the stairs to Dumbledore’s office. The pair bound up the stairs, hardly stopping to knock before entering without waiting for an answer. They burst in to the office to find the Headmaster behind his desk with a seat in front of it already occupied.

"Mr. Weasley, Miss Granger," greeted the Headmaster. "How nice to see you."

"Sir, Harry’s not in the castle," Hermione blurted out. "We think that he's in the Chamber of Secrets, but we can’t be sure. What if he has been taken?"

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