Harry The Rune Master

Chapter 8

Chapter 7: Accusations, Associations and Applications

March was upon Hogwarts and an additional three students had been petrified. Harry was feared and hated by about half the school since the idiots still believed him to be the Heir of Slytherin. He had taken to walking around with the Concussor and Ninja stones on his belt in case either was needed. Thankfully he hadn't had to defend against any actual attacks beyond the typical tripping jinxes and fearful gazes.

The bigger surprise was the other half the school. Harry actually had allies. Hermione and Neville along with the Weasley twins and their sister were almost assured. A blond, first year friend of Ginny's – apparently named Luna – had also pledged her support. Though Harry hadn't been entirely certain whether the girl was agreeing that he was not the Heir or if she was pledging her support to help him take over the school and purge the wrackspurts…

Lavender Brown, Parvati and Padma Patil, and the rest of the Gryffindor Quidditch team rallied behind him. The Hufflepuff support really only came down to Susan Bones and Hannah Abbott. Besides Padma and Luna, the Ravenclaws were also mostly avoiding him – with the notable exception of Su Li and Cho Chang who had both stated unequivocally that they believed Harry had nothing to do with whatever was going on. The real surprise had been Slytherin. Most of the upper years had apparently been annoyed that Harry was rumored to be the Heir and ignored it on principle. In their own year, Daphne Greengrass and Tracey Davis had reported that Millicent Bulstrode had taken to threateninganyone who claimed Harry had anything to do with the attacks and Blaise Zabini had also begun to support him from the sidelines.

Now if only Harry could figure out exactly who the Heir was

"Mr. Potter, Mr. Longbottom?" McGonagall asked from the open door to the Charms classroom. "I must speak with you for a moment. I'm sorry Fillius but I need to remove your students a little early."

"Of course. Of course," Flitwick responded with a worried look. McGonagall just gave a slight shake of her head. "Don't forget to practice for your homework, gentlemen."

Harry and Neville frowned at each other. An expression which only deepened after they had grabbed the bags and noticed that McGonagall was exceedingly drawn and tired. The stern Head of House had never looked so withdrawn in front of her students before and Harry felt the first fluttering of dread settle in his stomach.

"Professor? What's happened?" Harry asked pushing down his worry as simply overreacting. She was probably just coming to tell them what was taking so long with purchasing the mandrakes. He had been asking her every day after all. 'Then where is Hermione. How come she never showed up for class after running off at lunch? When does Hermione ever miss class?'

"There has been another attack, Mr. Potter." McGonagall's voice was soft. Too soft. Too controlled to be remotely natural.

'Where is Hermione?!' Harry's brain screamed. "So are we being questioned by Professor Dumbledore again? Does Snape want to accuse me of the attacks yet again?"

"We are going to the hospital wing, Mr. Potter. The student – the student was found in the hallway outside the library…"

Harry barely heard anymore of his professor's sentence. He was too busy fighting down panic. 'Hermione was going to the library after lunch. She had had an idea. She had gone to research her idea. WHERE WAS HERMIONE!?'

"I assure you both that we will find the cause of this and…"

"Where – " Harry's mouth ran dry and had to start again. He did his best to ignore the gibbering fool screaming for bloody murder in a corner of his mind. "Where is Hermione, Professor McGonagall."

The three came to stop outside the doors to the infirmary and McGonagall turned shimmering eyes onto Harry. "Miss Granger is inside, Harry. She was petrified just like the other victims."

Harry's control strained against its bonds but he managed to keep hold long enough to open the doors to the wing. He nearly sprinted to his friend's side, Neville right behind him. Hermione was lying in a bed near Colin Creevy and the others, her hand was extended with a small mirror clutched in it and a look of surprise frozen on her features. Her other hand was curled into a ball and held to her breast. Harry collapsed on top of her and – for the first time in six years – he cried.

"My boy, I am sorry," Dumbledore's voice droned out somewhere behind Harry. He couldn't be bothered to care. "Please take all the time you need here. I am sure Miss Granger would not want you to neglect your classes on her account however." Harry's hands clenched and he started to reign himself back in. It wouldn't due to hex the Headmaster. Hermione would never let him hear the end of it when she woke up.

"I don't see what the fuss is all about," Snape drawled near Dumbledore, "the girl is just the same as the others." Harry's blood ran cold and his tears stopped immediately. He sucked in a deep breath and let it out slowly.

"Where are the mandrakes, Headmaster Dumbledore?" Harry said still clutching Hermione's side.


"The mandrakes," Harry repeated. He lifted his head and gazed at them. If looks could kill than Snape would be a smoldering pile of rags while Dumbledore would likely be twitching in pain. "The mature mandrakes that Neville, Hermione and I advised you to buy weeks ago. The mandrakes that are now out of season for the large majority of Britain, and so have a diminishing stock every day. The mandrakes that we had compiled a list of. The mandrakes to restore our classmates and friends."

"Our mandrakes will be ready in mere weeks," Snape said. Neville growled right back at the Professor while Harry never took his gaze from Dumbledore.

"Where are the mandrakes? Sir." Nobody took much notice of the breeze picking up or the curtains beginning to flap near the windows. Despite the windows not being open.

Dumbledore sighed. "The Board of Governors – at the urging of Lucius Malfoy – has determined that there are insufficient funds in the Hogwarts budget to justify the purchase of mature mandrakes while a crop is already growing on the grounds."

Neville's growl increased to a full snarl. He started to take a step towards the teachers but Harry stood up and all eyes turned to him. Harry's face was seething in rage, his lips curled into a primal sneer. The hair on his head whipped about as the breeze in the room became a small maelstrom centered on Harry. Harry stalked towards the assembled staff amidst complete silence from everyone else present.


"My boy, I assure you – "


"Mr. Potter…where are you going?" McGonagall asked softly. She started to reach a hand out to him but seemed to think better of it and stopped halfway letting her arm fall back to her side.

"To the library, Professor," Harry scowled not bothering to look back. "If none of you can figure out what the bloody hell is going on than I'll do it myself. Neville!"

"Harry?" Neville nodded to him and hurried to catch up.

"Send off the forms. We'll buy the damn mandrakes ourselves. If the stores are out of stock send it off to the ones we found out of country. I'll figure out what Hermione was searching for and if it has anything to do with why she was attacked."

"On it." Neville reached the doors a second before Harry and took off down the corridor while Harry turned towards the library.

The staff was left gaping behind the two. "What just happened?" Pomfrey asked quietly.

"We were told very firmly how our world seems to work these days by two twelve year olds," McGonagall said. She turned her gaze on Dumbledore with barely contained disgust. "And they were absolutely correct."

"Potter? He had no right to speak to us like – " Snape tried to spit out glaring after Harry. He was cut off mid-rant by McGonagall slapping him across the cheek. Three sets of eyes turned to McGonagall in shock who simply lowered her hand.

"As I said, Harry and Neville were absolutely correct. You, Albus, could have overrode the Board in the matter of safety of the students. You, Severus, could have immediately searched out low cost, fast alternatives to waiting months for our crop to mature. And I, I could have taken a far more targeted interest in healing my students than allowing this farce to continue. You all know as well as I do that if Draco Malfoy was lying in one of these beds not even a week would pass before he was walking around the castle again. And yet, Mr. Creevy has been lying there since before the turn of the New Year in his first year! We should all be ashamed of ourselves." McGonagall scowled at all of the them and turned to stalk out of the hospital wing. "I for one am going to attempt to catch Mr. Longbottom before he sends that owl in order to add my own gold to their purchase efforts."

The wind trailing Harry had finally calmed by the time he stalked into the library. He was still riled up, but he had regained enough sense to speak with Madame Pince in a somewhat even tone. She had shown him the book that Hermione had been using prior to running off. Dangerous Magical Creatures. And it was missing a page from near the beginning. Harry stared down at the missing section with wide eyes and a gaping mouth. Hermione vandalized a book. The thought of such an event almost had Harry doubling over in laughter and shock.

At least he had somewhere to start now. Hagrid would be the next stop.

Harry had just walked out of the library and almost ran into Neville and McGonagall when he froze again. A soft beeping sounded from his left shirt sleeve and a red mark glowed faintly before dying down.

"Harry?" Neville asked cocking his head at the fading rune mark on Harry's robe. "What was that?"

"Someone's trying to get into my trunk," Harry said confused. His features twisted in rage a second later and he repeated, "Someone's trying to get into my trunk!" He took off down sprinting down the corridor. Neville and McGonagall shook off their surprise and ran after him a few moments later.

They had just managed to open the Fat Lady's portrait door when Harry whipped out his Ninja stone, activated it and flew up the stairs to his dormitory. As he threw open the door, he saw Ron Weasley sitting on the floor near Harry's open trunk with the Invisibility Cloak in his hands. Harry's world turned red and he lashed out. A kick to the redhead's hands saw the Cloak fly out and flutter to a heap on the floor. Harry didn't even notice the door to the dorm bang open again as he threw a punch into Ron's ribs. The boy cried out but Harry sent another punch into Ron, silencing him with a wheeze. He lost his hold on the Ninja stone and melted back into view but he didn't care. Harry grabbed Ron and tossed him to the wall. He tried to throw another punch into the whimpering boy but found his arms restrained as ropes wrapped around him. Neville caught him so he didn't fall and Fred and George ran into the room as well.

"You little git!" Harry yelled. The twins looked from Harry to Ron and back.

"Mr. Potter, would you care to explain?" McGonagall said lowering her wand.

"I saw the look he gave my Invisibility Cloak last year, Professor!" Harry spat out. "Fred and George were there! They saw it too. Ask them how Ron looked at it!" McGonagall glanced at the two older boys who looked guiltily at each other before turning back to her and slowly nodding. "It was the first time I ever got anything! I got worried he might try something so I warded my trunk. There's three layers. One in case someone tries to open it that sends an alert to the entwined rune on my robes and sounds a warning here as well. The second activates if they try again and it marks their head. See!" Harry jerked his chin towards Ron who had the word THIEF across his forehead as if written with a green Magic Marker. One of the twins snorted and nodded approvingly. McGonagall's eyes just narrowed. "The third layer knocks them back and gives a mild electric shock. You have to deliberately want to take something to keep going through all three!"

Harry spat at the redhead who had finally managed to stumble to his feet. "What? Got tired how thinking how the Heir of Slytherin had such nice things? You wanted to take some for yourself?"

"I heard Hermione was attacked!" Ron yelled back, his face darkening. "I wanted to follow you and get proof that you're the one hurting people! That Cloak's the best way to do it!"

"That's the only thing I have of my father you arse! You want to take the pictures of my parents as well?! How about my mother's notebooks?! Or maybe you're more interested in the rune case Shiva gave me? Or the etching set from Hermione? Well!? What else do you want you – "

"That's enough, Mr. Potter," McGonagall said forcefully. Unlike in the hospital wing earlier, Harry calmed down enough to simply glare at Ron. "Mr. Weasley. 25 points from Gryffindor and a week of detention served between myself and Mr. Filch. I am ashamed that you resort to petty theft of a family heirloom! Rest assured this will be brought up to your parents. Mr.'s Fred and George Weasley, please escort your brother to the hospital wing to ensure that any injuries he has are treated." Both twins nodded and moved to grab Ron's shoulders. Fred patted Harry on the back as they passed muttered a quiet, "sorry mate," to him. "Mr. Potter. I understand the stress you are currently under but this is not the way to deal with the situation. 15 points deducted for physical altercation. 5 points gained for a creative warding scheme." McGonagall sighed. "Miss Granger will be fine, Harry. She was petrified yes, but she is otherwise uninjured. You need to calm down so that you remain that way yourself. Mr. Longbottom, please ensure to take care of him in the meantime."

"So why are we going to Hagrid again?" Neville asked following Harry. It had been nearly a day until Harry was calm enough to go out and talk to the large man. Shiva had tried to speak with Harry a few times since then but he had simply stayed silent, standing vigil over Hermione.

"Hermione was looking up something about dangerous magical creatures. Who do we know who is the best source to get more information on that particular topic?" Harry said with raised eyebrows.

Neville chuckled. "Yeah. Good point." He stopped and squinted towards their friend's hut. "Hey, that's the Minister. And Aurors…what are they doing at Hagrid's?"

Harry's insides went cold. "Neville, activate your Ninja and listen at the window."

"Are you sure?"

"Yeah." Harry grabbed his own rune stone and pushed the activator etching. Feeling the now familiar shiver of the camouflage and silencing wards wrapping around him, Harry hurried to kneel down by the window to Hagrid's hut. He saw a small shimmer in the air next to him and knew that Neville had arrived as well.

"Really, Minister, this is unnecessary." Dumbledore's voice drifted out to them from somewhere inside.

"Now, now, Albus, the attacks have yet to stop. The Ministry must be seen to be doing something!" Harry's eyes narrowed at the implications of that statement. He shifted so that he could watch the man in the lime green bowler hat. The Minister was standing behind a trio of Aurors talking with Dumbledore while Hagrid sobbed into a large handkerchief at his table.

"Hagrid does not even have a wand. And the last time he was accused, the creature he was found with was an acromantula. Acromantulas cannot petrify victims in any way, Cornelius."

One of the Aurors shifted her weight from foot to foot. Harry started as he recognized Tonks. Her hair wasn't pink anymore but instead was brown and mousy. He could barely recognize her without the wild hair or carefree expression. "He's right Minister Fudge. I looked it up. Acromantulas can kill no problem and they're smart as hell but…they couldn't be related to what's happening right now."

"Be that as it may I am the Minister, Auror, and I say what is and is not possible!" Harry snarled. This man was even worse than Ron. At least the idiot Weasley used some form of logic. "Now arrest him and bring him to Azkaban until this mess is all solved!"

"But what about a trial, Sir?" Tonks tried again. Dumbledore just sighed and shook his head. The old man – the Chief Warlock – didn't seem to be willing to do anything and Harry felt the wind picking up around him again.

"Rook," one of the other Aurors said to Tonks, "let it go. If you want to graduate just shut up and do what you're told."

"That doesn't seem – "

"It's al'righ'," Hagrid said with a final wheeze into his hanky. "I'll go, Tonksie. Jus' promise me you'll find who's doin' this and help those kids."

"We'll figure it out, Hagrid," Tonks said wilting even further. How dare they do that Tonks! To Hagrid! Harry felt a hand on his shoulder and turned back to the dim outline of Neville. His eyes widened as he noticed that he himself was visible again. With a start, Harry saw the small tornado that was whipping up by him and the sparks flying from the Ninja clutched in his hands. Harry hurriedly damped down on whatever wild magic he was sending off and the Ninja stopped sparking, the illusions and silencing wards snapping back into place around him. Breathing a sigh of relief and nodding thanks at Neville's outline, Harry turned back to the window.

"Enough of this. Arrest him. I have other meetings to get to," Fudge said with a twist of his hat. The small group stepped out with Hagrid in some sort of cuffs between them and Tonks trailing dejectedly behind. If being an Auror did that to her, he hoped she didn't end up graduating. Tonks should be fun and cheery not looking like Dudley had been jumping on her back. Within a minute everyone had left Hagrid's hut and Neville and Harry dropped the Ninja stones back into their belt holsters.

"What the hell is going on, Harry?" Neville stared where the group had disappeared to in the distance.

"I don't know. But now we really have to figure it out. The government obviously doesn't seem to want to solve anything." Harry's glare increased. Yet another strike against people with authority.

"I'm sorry, Hermione," Harry said holding his friend's hand. He and Neville had stopped in to talk with her after classes had let out. "We can't get the mandrakes for you just yet. Apparently," Harry spit the word like a curse, "Lucius Malfoy has managed to get a new law passed that regulates the import of dangerous magical substances and requires a holding period to ensure they are properly stored and inspected. By the time we could get them here, the ones growing would already be mature. I'm going to get that man. I don't know how, but I'm going to get back at him somehow!"

Neville smirked from her other side. "We did find the book you were looking at though. I know Harry thinks you tore out that page but I still say he's mental. I mean really, Hermione Granger defacing a book? That's more insane that teaching Trevor to do the tango!" He chuckled. "We did order a new copy though just in case you really did do it. That way we can check the page and try to figure out what you already knew."

"Yeah, maybe next time tell us what you're running off to check so that we don't have to guess, eh?" Harry said squeezing her hand. He frowned. She was holding something in the hand clutched to her chest. "What the…Neville look at this!"

"What?" Neville leaned over Hermione and peered at the hand. "Is that paper?"

"Hang on." Harry grabbed one of the tweezer-like instruments on a side table near him and carefully worked the paper out of her hand. He unfolded it and held it up in triumph to Neville. "Told you she tore the page!"

"Yeah, yeah, bully for you. What's it say?"

Harry squinted at the little piece of paper. " 'No snakes are more feared than the King of Serpents. The basilisk. A basilisk is born by hatching a chicken egg warmed from under a toad. They continue to grow as long as they live and specimens have been known to survive millennia. A basilisk's gaze will immediately kill nearly anything that looks into its eyes and in addition, the snake's venom is the most potent poison known to our world only able to be healed through the tears of a phoenix. Basilisk hide is nearly immune to spell fire – even more so than a dragon. The only known weakness of a basilisk is the crow of a rooster which is nearly instantly fatal to the creature.' Neville," Harry stared down at the paper with wide eyes, "weren't all the roosters killed on Halloween?"

"Yeah…" Neville swallowed nervously. "But that can't be the monster can it? The book says its gaze kills not petrifies."

Harry slowly shook his head staring at the mirror still stuck in Hermione's fingers and the camera Colin was clutching. "But what if someone didn't see it directly, Nev? What if someone saw it say through a mirror? Or a camera? Or a puddle of water? Or a reflection in a suit of armor? Or through a ghost? And Salazar Slytherin was supposedly a parseltongue like me right? It would make sense for his monster to be something only he could control."

"And it would explain why you could hear it and we couldn't…We need to find Babbling and the other professors and let them know immediately!"

"Wait! Nev, give me a minute!" Harry tore into his bag, pulled out his etching tool and whipped off his glasses.

"Harry, this isn't the time for a new invention! We have to tell them there's a monster snake on the loose that can kill you by looking at you! Bloody hell, it's a miracle no one's died yet!"

"I know! This should just take a minute!"

"What are you doing, Harry?" Neville was practically jumping from one foot to another.

"It's a Reflection rune twined with a Magic rune. Maybe it'll bounce the gaze back at the thing if we stumble across it?" Harry finished his work and the glass of his lenses flashed briefly before the lines faded back to barely visible patterns. Harry put them back on his face and grabbed a shiny tray from the table handing it off to Neville.

"What I don't get a reflection thing?"

"Can you transfigure glasses?" Harry asked raising an eyebrow. Neville wilted and shook his head. "That's what I thought. Besides there's probably a 50/50 shot that this does nothing anyway and the basilisk just kills me. This way at least one of us will probably survive if we get unlucky…"

Harry and Neville practically flew down the corridors slowing only at intersections where Neville would carefully hold his shiny tray to peer around the corner and Harry would pray his Reflector Lenses held up. They had just tore around the corner to Shiva's office and raised their fists to slam on the door when it was pulled open from the inside. A white faced Shiva stared back out at them, jerking back slightly in surprise before regaining her composure.

"Harry, Neville. This really isn't a good time. I have to get to the Teacher's conference room immediately and – "

"Shiva, we know what's been attacking everyone! It's a – " Harry explained hurriedly. Before he could get the nature of the beast out though Daphne Greengrass barreled into the corridor at a flat run. She saw Harry, Neville and Shiva and angled for them. Before anyone could say anything, Daphne had grabbed Harry's robes in both hands and was pleading with him.

"Potter, please tell me you've seen her! She ran and I can't find her! I should've realized something was wrong but I didn't see it until it was too late! Please, I need to find her!" Harry had never seen Daphne with so much as a hair out of place before but now…now she looked like Dudley had been chasing her for miles. Her face was splotchy, her hair wild, there were tear tracks down her face and her voice was just short of complete panic.

"Daphne, what are you talking about?" Harry asked trying to ignore the hands still clenched in his robes and focus on the girl in front of him.

"Tracey! I touched that stupid diary and she completely freaked out! She ran out of the room and I lost her and she's gone! She's gone! Potter, I need to find her! I don't know what's going on but something is horribly wrong!"

"Tracey Davis?" Shiva said in a whisper behind the three students. Her face had lost what little color it had left.

"Yes. Have you seen her, Professor? Please, I need to find her! She's my – she's my friend," Daphne said with a hitch.

"Miss Greengrass I – "

All students return to your dormitories. All students return to your dormitories. Remain in your Common Rooms. Instructions will follow. Dumbledore's voice reverberated through the castle sounding almost as if it was coming from the very walls themselves.

Harry's blood ran cold as he turned between the frantic Daphne and the despondent Shiva. "Shiva? Where is Tracey?"

"The three of you inside. Now," Shiva said as she wiped a hand down her face and pushed her door open further. The students dutifully filed into the office. "I am sorry to have to tell you this but…another message was discovered on the walls a few minutes ago. It appears that Miss Davis was taken."

"Taken?" Neville asked as his eyes narrowed. "Taken where? How?" Harry's mind started turning. How did this fit? Why take Tracey?

"Into the Chamber. We don't know how. I'm sorry Miss Greengrass."

"But – that's – no!" Daphne yelled not letting go of Harry's arm. Her eyes widened and she took a shuddering breath before sitting up straight and her features visibly freezing into a mask of calm and disinterest. "What did the message say, Professor?"

"It said," Shiva said, "that 'Davis' skeleton will lie in the Chamber forever. Her death will feed the rebirth.' " She gave a dark chuckle. "We have so utterly failed this school…"

"What the hell would a basilisk need Tracey for?" Neville asked collapsing back against the wall.

"A basilisk?" Shiva and Daphne both stared at the boy in utter confusion.

"It's the Heir, Nev. The basilisk is just the weapon but someone needs to be controlling it. Someone who's done it before. Or at least someone who's figured it out and is using this as the perfect opportunity. What if it's Lockhart? Maybe it's him and he needed Tracey to complete some ritual or something…"

"Flophart? There's no way that that idiot is the Heir!" Neville shot back.

"It would be a good cover…" Harry muttered.

"What the hell are you two talking about with a basilisk?" Shiva asked turning a hard stare on Harry. "Harry, I need to get to this staff meeting but if you know what is going on I need to know. Now."

"Hermione figured it out before she was attacked, Shiva," Harry explained. "The monster is a basilisk. It's vulnerable to roosters. All the roosters were killed on Halloween before the first attack. It's gaze kills but nobody has seen the direct gaze. Everybody's been really, really lucky and only caught a reflection or a distorted view and so they've just been petrified. It's supposed to be Salazar Slytherin's monster and he was a parseltongue. It all fits. The monster is a basilisk."

Shiva cursed and Daphne's eyes widened turning between the two boys present. "But if Lockhart has a basilisk under his control why go after Tracey?"

"Search me." Harry shrugged.

"Let's go ask him," Shiva growled before sweeping to her feet.

"Wait, Shiva! Can you transfigure glasses? Or at least something reflective?" Harry asked grabbing her arm before they could leave the room.

"What? Why?"

Harry pointed to his glasses. "The eyes, Shiva! A basilisk kills if you meet its eyes. I etched these into Reflector Lenses which might bounce its gaze back at it, but neither Nev nor I can transfigure glasses so he had to make do with that tray." Neville helpfully held up his medical tray.

Shiva peered at his lenses noticing the faint rune lines stenciled into the glass. She stood back up shaking her head. "I suck with transfiguration. Good catch though." Flicking her wand two small mirrors flew out of the inner room and into her hand. She handed one to Daphne and took the other herself. "These will have to do for now. Come on everyone."

The foursome hurried down the corridors of the castle. With any luck Lockhart would be at the staff meeting and they'd have backup. Shiva was directing them towards his office first though since it was on the way. She didn't even stop to say anything as they pulled up outside. Shiva just slashed her wand down with a muttered banishing hex and the door slammed open.

As the four stepped into the office Lockhart looked up from in front of his desk pushing his trunk closed. "Oh, hello, everyone." Lockhart's smile was strained and his face pale. "I'm afraid I just received a call from my editor and I must be off immediately."

"You're not going anywhere, Gilderoy," Shiva said glaring at the man.

"Where's, Tracey, you bastard?!" Daphne snarled. Her wand started to come up but Harry held her arm down shaking his head and nodding towards Shiva, letting his mentor take the lead.

"Come on, Gilderoy. We're going to the rest of the staff and you're going to explain some things about what's been going on around here since you showed up."

"I really have no idea what you're talking about. I must be going," Lockhart shifted slightly so that his side was facing the group with one arm hidden. He started to bend to seemingly pick up his trunk but spun with his wand out. Before an incantation could leave his lips four disarming spells slammed into the man. Lockhart was thrown back into his desk while his wand flew out his hand and smashed into the ceiling with a crack. The wand dropped back to the tiles, almost broken into two but held together by a sliver of wood and unicorn hair.

"Real smart, Gilderoy," Shiva said with a snort before picking up the wand and pocketing it. "Now where's the girl?"

"What?" Lockhart wheezed holding his head and shakily getting to his feet. "The Davis girl? How should I know?"

"Because you're the one who took her, arsehole!" Daphne yelled. She threw off Harry's arm and pointed her wand at the teacher with the tip glowing. "I lost her near Myrtle's bathroom! Where did you take her!"

Harry froze. Myrtle's bathroom. Moaning Myrtle's bathroom. Moaning Myrtle. Moany. 'Bloody hell…'

"The entrance is in the bathroom," Harry said gaping.

"What?" Neville and Shiva said giving him a quick glance before returning their attention to Lockhart.

"Dobby said that the last time the Chamber was opened 'Moany' died," Harry explained feeling numb. They had been sitting right outside the bloody thing for nearly a month and never once noticed it! "The only 'Moany' I can think of is Moaning Myrtle. Moaning Myrtle who haunts the place she died. Daphne, you lost Tracey outside Moaning Myrtle's bathroom. The Chamber's entrance is in Moaning Myrtle's bathroom! I can't believe I didn't see this before! I am such an idiot!"

Neville's mouth dropped open as he processed what Harry was saying. Daphne's glare just hardened though her wand tip stopped glowing. Shiva's eyes narrowed in thought before giving a short head nod of agreement.

"Good enough for me." She flicked her wand towards the entrance. "Move it, Gilderoy. To the bathroom. Harry, take Daphne and Neville and go get some backup."

"No," Harry said with a firm shake of his head.

"Harry this is not a debate."

"If you think I am leaving you alone with him and a basilisk you are insane!" Harry snarled at her losing his grip on the rage that seethed up. "You are the closest thing to a bloody loved one I've ever had and I'll be damned before I let you go into the Chamber alone! I'm coming with you!"

"As am I," Daphne said stepping beside Harry. "If Tracey is down there, there is no way you are leaving me behind."

Neville moved to stand with the other two students. "And I'm not backing down from this either. I'd never be able to look at my mum and dad again if I let you three go alone."

Shiva growled and muttered, "Merlin-be-damned teenagers. Fine! But you all listen to me and do exactly what I tell you yeah?" Three answering nods later Shiva continued, "Good. Okay, fine. Tilly?"

A small house elf popped into view near Shiva startling the three students and Lockhart. This one looked far better off than Dobby though she was still clad in little more than a fancy tea towel. "How can Tilly be helping Mistress Shedy?"

"Tilly, go to Professors McGonagall, Flitwick, Snape and Dumbledore. Tell them I believe the entrance to the Chamber of Secrets is inside Moaning Myrtle's bathroom and I am en route with the assumed perpetrator – "

"What?!" Lockhart squawked.

Shiva ignored him and kept going. "Tell them I believe the instrument of attack to be a basilisk and require immediate assistance. Got that?"

"Yes, Mistress Shedy," Tilly said bobbing her head. "Tilly will be telling the Professors immediately." She popped out of the room with a snap. Shiva nodded and turned to the others gesturing towards the door out.

Lockhart tried protesting again but found himself tossed out the door by a flip of a wand. The three others followed along behind him as the stumbling staff members started walking towards the ghost's bathroom and the entrance to the Chamber of Secrets.

As they got to the bathroom, Harry grabbed Shiva's arm. "Shiva, I should go first."

"Like hell, kid. Not happening," she said snorting.

"I'm the only one with glasses. I'm the one who talks to snakes. If I go first and it's there I have a far better chance of surviving than anyone else here," he said staring at her. "You know I'm right, Shiva."

She worked her mouth for a few moments before scowling. "Sometimes I really hate that you can use logic, you know that? You open the door and take a quick peek. That's it. Nothing else. You see anything besides Myrtle and you slam that door closed, got it?" Harry nodded and Shiva let out an explosive sigh. "Fine, everyone step back. Lockhart, stay where I can see you." She motioned to Harry and made sure she could cover both the door and Lockhart.

Harry took a deep breath and cracked the door to Myrtle's haunt. He opened it just a sliver, enough to take a short scan of the room beyond. It was empty. Letting out his breath Harry pushed the door open completely and waved the others forward.

As they trooped into the room, Myrtle floated out of her stall. "Hello, Harry. Hello, Neville. Come to visit with me?"

"Actually, Myrtle we need to ask you a question," Harry said taking the lead. Daphne looked ready to jump down the ghost's throat but Neville gave her a slight shake of his head and she backed down.

"Really? Me? How can I help you?"

"Well…please don't freak out Myrtle because this is really important," the ghost nodded at Harry's plea, "we need to know if you remember how you died."

Myrtle just shrugged. "It wasn't exciting. I was crying because Olive had said something mean. There was a noise – a boy had come in and started talking and hissing. I got angry at him because this is a girl's room so I opened the door to yell at him. Next thing I know I'm staring into these giant yellow eyes and then I'm dead. Nothing fun like Nick."

"Merlin," Shiva breathed out, "it really is a bloody basilisk."

"Do you remember where the eyes you saw were, Myrtle?" Harry asked.

Myrtle shrugged again and pointed towards the sinks. "Over there. Are you going looking for whatever killed me?" Harry and the others nodded. Lockhart squeaked. "If you die, you can share my bathroom, Harry. You too, Neville," Myrtle said bashfully. Harry and Neville both tried to ignore the fact that a ghost apparently had a crush on them.

Harry walked over to the sinks and started looking on, under and around them with Daphne coming over to help. Shiva stayed watching Lockhart.

"You know I really don't know why I'm here…" Lockhart started. "I mean, sure I may have lied a bit on some of my books but kidnapping and attempted murder? Me? Really?"

"Yup," Shiva replied simply.

"I'm really only good at one spell you know. I'm a genius with memory charms. I'm not very good at anything else. I simply don't have the necessary skill set to kill someone even if I ever had the motivation. What would be the point, Babs?" He held his arms out to his side. "Why would I bother trying to kill anyone? All I want is fame and fortune. I have both. I have witches lining up to sleep with me. Why would I risk any of that to try and kill some students?"

"Search me." Shiva glared at him. "And are you really going to keep using that horrible name that I hate while I am half convinced you're a wannabe murderer and have a wand trained on you?" Lockhart paled again as the implications sank in.

"Potter!" Daphne exclaimed. She pointed towards a section of one of the sinks. "Look, a snake motif. This must be it!"

Harry shifted around to look at the spot she was pointing at to see a tiny snake etched onto the side of the faucet. "Worth a shot. Everyone ready?" Three answering nods later Harry turned back to the sink. "Open." He said to the snake motif. Nothing happened.

"That was English, Harry," Neville said. "Try parseltongue."

"It's not exactly easy to do on command you know," Harry grumbled irritably.

"Well you don't exactly practice it," Neville rolled his eyes. "Try imagining it's real before you say anything again."

Harry sighed and turned back to the little imprint. He tried to imagine the thing waving its head at him and shifting its body. After a moment Harry felt something click in his head and he whispered, ~Open.~ This time the snake responded. It coiled into a circle around the faucet and the entire sink structure sunk into the floor exposing a dark tunnel leading underground.

"Well…" Shiva said dumbfounded. "That's new."

"Let's go. Tracey's down there," Daphne looked ready to jump down before Harry grabbed her and pulled her back from the edge.

"One second, Daphne." Harry pulled over his pack before popping the top and grabbing the rune case Shiva had gotten him last Christmas. "Neville, Daphne, here. Sorry, Shiva I only have two extras," he said with a shrug. "These are Concussors, Reductors, and Blastors. They work basically just like the spells they're named after but you just have to channel a bit of magic into it to activate it instead of going through a wand motion. The rune pattern directs the spell so make sure it's facing away from you and your fingers aren't covering it. That hurts. A lot."

Daphne frowned at him. "I can fire a reducto with my wand, Potter."

"Yeah, I can too but this is faster and you can use it in your off-hand while using a wand in your main hand if you want. As long as you don't use it continuously for five minutes or so it shouldn't disintegrate or crumble on you."

"Should we wait for the reinforcements?" Neville asked.

Both Shiva and Daphne shook their heads. "If Davis is down there already every second we wait could be worse for her. There's nothing I can say to make any of you stay up here?" Lockhart raised his hand before she snorted at him and he closed his mouth. The rest just shook their heads. Shiva sighed but nodded. "Very well. Lockhart, you first. I'll follow. Then Harry, Neville and Daphne you bring up the rear."

"I really don't think this is a good – " Lockhart said before Shiva flicked her wand and he soared into the tunnel shrieking like a teenage girl.

"You know I'm starting to think maybe he really isn't the controller," Shiva said with a sigh. "Be careful everyone. If he isn't, Merlin knows just who is actually down there controlling the bloody snake. Keep on your toes, keep your mirrors out, and be ready to shut your eyes if you see scales." She stepped up to the edge and muttered, "Merlin help me and Goddess watch over these kids and their idiot of a Professor." She stepped over the side and slid into the tunnel.

Harry quickly jumped in after her. He heard Neville and Daphne follow him down and then there was a grinding noise reverberating down the tunnel along with what little light filtered through disappearing. Harry flew out the end of the tunnel skidding along on the dirt and mud before stopping near a small pile of bones against the wall. The lower section was lit up by Shiva's wand and he rolled out of the way as Neville and Daphne flew out on his heels.

"Tunnel closed as I jumped in," Daphne said getting to her feet and brushing her robes off. "Looks like the reinforcements aren't going to make it." Shiva swore and Neville turned a bit green before squaring his shoulders.

Harry just shrugged. "Well, I fought Voldemort alone last year. I'm already doing better so far."