Secrets of Hogwarts
19th October 1992
The stone floor swept beneath his feet as Mark swiftly made his way towards the seventh floor. It was after curfew, and the prefects would soon begin to prowl around making their rounds. But that wouldn't be for another half-an-hour—enough time for Mark to check up on something that had struck him late last night.
By now he had made countless trips to the Come-and-Go Room, or as he liked to call it, the Room of Requirement. Given that Corky had told him that the Room became whatever he wished it to be, Mark had tried asking virtually everything of it—a swimming pool, a billiards table, a full-fledged gym (no treadmills, obviously), a complete wood-working shop, a replica of his own bedroom in London, and the restricted section of the library. It could make secret pathways to any other part of the castle—something Mark used to surreptitiously return to Gryffindor Tower with ease—and conjure anything that didn't break any of the exceptions to Gamp's Law of elemental transfiguration.
But what was it like if you didn't ask it anything? What was it when no one was around? An empty room? Another hidden library? A secret treasury? A special room that said—Congratulations on finding the secret achievement?
Or perhaps even the room itself was a conjuration—coming only into existence when asked for. In any case, Mark wanted to find out today. As he turned around the corner and headed for the tapestry of Barnabas the Barmy, he mentally prepared himself to word his request to the room.
'I need to know what the Room normally looks like; I need to know what the Room normally looks like; I need to know what the Room normally looks like —' Mark began to mentally chant as he paced in front of the wall where the door usually appeared. He was half-expecting nothing to happen, and that all of this was just his overthinking. But he was wrong, for a door did appear. A simple wooden door with a blackened brass handle—smaller and plainer than what appeared when he had asked for anything else. Mark stood in shock, unable to decide whether he actually wanted to see what was behind the door now that it was in front of him. Hesitantly he checked the corridor for any prefects. Empty. Taking a deep breath, he turned the handle and stepped inside, his eyes eager to take in what he was about to see.
Darkness. Pitch black darkness. Taking his wand out of the waistband of his pyjamas, he held it high.
'Lumos,' he thought—he could do this spell non-verbally now. Incanting spells aloud was something that his naturally lazy mind considered stupid and useless. It worked, and the tip of the wand lit up in a bright white glow, illuminating his surroundings faintly.
Mark furrowed his eyebrows as he looked around. There were old chairs, desks and multitude of boxes stacked everywhere around him. He approached one of them to look inside—old textbooks, broken quills, a shiny chocolate frog card. A bizarre collection of items that could be home inside any Hogwarts student's bag. He waved his wand around and saw even more piles—there was a small stack of robes on one side, a couple of broomsticks on the other. As he raised his wand higher, he saw that these piles were stacked high—much higher than he would have imagined. Somewhere, in the back of his mind, he wondered just how this stack of things—easily fifteen feet high—was standing straight and stable. To his left, he could see a narrow pathway between these stacks, and as he peered along its length, he could see even more stacks flanking it on both sides. Just how much stuff was here?
"I need more light—to see the room clearly," muttered Mark. Bright, white lights lit up in an instant, flooding the room and making Mark squint his eyes close. After a few moments, once his eyes had adjusted, he looked. The first thing that struck him was the fact that the lights were high up on the ceiling—a particularly high ceiling, easily twice as tall as the Great Hall. It was like he was standing in an aeroplane hangar—made for one big bloody plane.
Making a split decision, Mark grabbed the old broom in front of him and mounted it—he needed to gain some elevation to see exactly what was in this room. As the broom floated up, a small fear crawled up his back. He hadn't actually checked if the broom was safe—not that he even knew how. All he needed now was a stupid fall like the on Neville had had at that flying lesson.
"What the —"
To say the room was huge would be an understatement. The Great Hall was huge. This room was easily three times that size. And it was stored full with things. It was like a small town or slum—there were pathways running between the piles in order to navigate the room, cutting the entire layout in a labyrinth of the storage monster. The stuff was old—like really, really old. One of the dresses that Mark noticed lying on the top of a pile was easily from before the times of Queen Elizabeth—the first Queen Elizabeth.
This was some form of a lost and found cum general storeroom. The things that were here—there was no telling what he might end up finding. As he floated back down, Mark began to ponder what he might do with this new information. As far as he knew, only the elves were actually aware of this place. It must have been them who stored all this stuff here.
From a logical perspective, the best way to proceed would be to take a proper inventory of everything—arrange everything by category rather than the bloody chaos that it was now. If he could give a couple of hours every week, they would be more than enough to go through all of this—after all, he still had five more years at Hogwarts. If he found anything particularly interesting, he would keep it for himself. Sort of a finder's fee. It could be an interesting side-project.
Mark nodded to himself. This was a good plan. Inventory and archive everything in here—just like one would do for a forgotten treasure. Perhaps he should have a chat with Corky beforehand—know what the elves position was on all this. In any case, he needed to be prepared before his next visit. A better, sturdier broom, a notebook to write everything down. Figure out some way to map the room—also mark and separate everything that was already catalogued. Yes, this needed some preparation.
As for when—he decided on Saturday nights. If he got late, he could just sleep in the next morning. In any case, all he would need to do is sneak up here—while going back, he could just ask the room for an exit near the entrance to Gryffindor Tower.
Mark nodded once again. Yes, this was going to be an interesting side-project indeed.
31st October 1992
THE CHAMBER OF SECRETS HAS BEEN OPENED.
ENEMIES OF THE HEIR, BEWARE.
Harry stared at the writing of the wall in stunned silence. The words were shining slightly, owing to the shimmering light cast by the flaming torches.
"What's that? Look, there—hanging underneath" Hermione pointed to a dark shadow below the torch bracket. Ron squinted through the darkness but was unable to determine the figure. As they edged nearer, they almost lost their footing, slipping on the puddle of water under their feet.
They held onto one another and continued on until they saw what they were looking for—it was Mrs Norris, Filch's beloved cat, hanging by her tail from the torch bracket. As they processed the sight before them, Harry wondered exactly how he had found himself in this situation.
It had been a week earlier when Nearly Headless Nick, the Gryffindor House ghost, had invited Harry and friends to his five hundredth deathday party. Harry—feeling a bit sorry for the kind ghost—had agreed to attend the party in place of the Halloween feast in the Great Hall. As usual, Hermione had been thrilled at having the opportunity to witness such a 'fascinating event', while Ron felt it was a dead waste of time. In the end, both accompanied Harry to the party tonight.
A party was a rather tame term for it, as it was a collection of the most bizarre things they had ever seen. Given that they studied at a school for magic, that was saying something. It was being held in one of the roomier dungeons of the castle. It was cold, damp and uncomfortable—in hindsight, exactly the kind of place a ghost would host a party. Dozens of other ghosts were in attendance, both from within Hogwarts and from outside. A few were playing some instruments in the corner as part of the orchestra—Harry refused to recognise the ear-splitting screeches they were producing as music.
There was a feast of course, fit for a king. The food consisted of rotting fish, burnt cakes, maggoty haggis, mouldy cheese, and an enormous grey cake—likely stale—shaped like a tombstone. Dead king, perhaps.
They also met some interesting people. Moaning Myrtle, the ghost of a girl who haunted the girl's bathroom on the second floor—the one they were now standing outside of—was at the party as well. Hermione told them how Myrtle was the reason that the bathroom was always out of order—the crying ghost kept throwing tantrums, flooding all the toilets in the process. This little bit of gossip cost Hermione though, for the mischievous Peeves overheard their conversation and told about it to Myrtle, who began crying again.
If all that wasn't enough, the Headless Hunt arrived soon after, playing a game called Head Hockey. It was pretty much what it sounded like. Harry smartened himself upon their arrival—it was the primary reason he was invited by Nearly Headless Nick to the party. Nick had been applying for years to join the hunt—a group of ghosts exclusive to spirits that had been properly beheaded when they were alive. But Nearly Headless wasn't Fully Headless, and his application was always rejected. That's where Harry came in; his job was to act intimidated by Nick's presence so that the Hunt could be convinced of the ghost's worthiness. Harry tried, and so did Ron and Hermione, but they weren't convinced by three kids.
After that, they decided that they had witnessed enough ghostly activities for the evening. Hoping to catch some dessert from the other, edible feast, they began to walk towards the Great Hall with their rumbling stomachs. They almost made it—reaching near the steps to the entrance hall—when Harry heard the eerie voice again.
"… rip … tear … kill …"
He had heard that voice before, in that same cold murderous tone a few weeks ago. He had been in detention with Professor Lockhart, helping him answer all his fan mail late in the evening. At first, he had thought it to be a trick played by his mind. After all, Lockhart didn't hear a single thing. Only Harry had heard it then, and only Harry heard it now. When Harry told them about it, both Ron and Hermione looked at him as if he'd grown a second head.
"… soo hungry … so long … kill … time to kill …"
Kill. That had been the clincher. Someone was going to kill, and Harry had to stop it before it did. He began to sprint up the stairs, tracking the voice, shouting at Hermione and Ron to follow him. He ran, he ran. And he ended up here, in front of this wall with painted with a mysterious message.
"We should leave," said Ron. Harry turned towards him—his voice was sombre, his face pale.
"Maybe we should try and help —" Hermione began awkwardly, but Ron interrupted again.
"No. Trust me, we don't want to be found here."
Harry found himself nodding in agreement. Whatever this was—it wasn't good. Before they could move away, however, the sound of chattering students filled in the corridor. The feast had ended, and the students were leaving the Great Hall.
Within minutes, the corridor became packed with students—students who, on seeing the hanging cat, fell into complete silence. No one spoke for a few moments, as everyone stood in shock. Finally, a voice broke out from the crowd, its tone menacing and hateful. It was Draco Malfoy.
"Enemies of the Heir, beware! You'll be next, Mudbloods!"
4th November 1992
"Professor, can you tell us anything about the Chamber of Secrets?"
Ron watched in amazement as Hermione's words silenced the class and drew all attention to her. Even the usually unfazed (and ghostly) Professor Binns just blinked in surprise. Ron knew Hermione was desperate to know more about the chamber, but he didn't think she would actually ask Binns about it.
Now, even though a few days had passed since Halloween and their discovery of the ominous message about the Chamber, the whole school was still fraught with wild rumours and gossip. Everyone was on an edge; such a direct threat had never been made before—not in anyone's memory. Though the matter of pure-blood supremacy was something everyone in the magical world recognised, propounding it like this was in not considered appropriate.
On top of it, there was the attack on Mrs Norris—many students had been disturbed by the fate of the cat. Professor Dumbledore had assured them that the cat wasn't dead—just petrified. The cure would be a Mandrake Restorative Draught, brewed once the baby Mandrakes in greenhouse matured. So, there wasn't actually a chance of permanent damage—but that wasn't enough to stub out the slowly spreading panic. After all, there had been an attack, and it could be a student next.
To be honest, Ron didn't care much for the devil of the cat. Although he felt a sliver of sympathy for Filch, the fact that the blasted cat would not hunt them for loitering around was something refreshing to think about. Hermione had chided him when he had said that out loud, calling him 'insensitive towards the plight of animals.'
Of the three of them, Hermione had been the one affected the most. She didn't show it of course; Even when Harry Hermione and he had discussed what the message on the wall could actually mean, she had talked in her usual clinical manner, showing no sign of being disturbed by it. But it was the little things—changes in her general behaviour that Ron noticed. She was always on edge—jumping slightly back when surprised, clutching her books and bag closer to herself when walking, and being more reserved and lost in her thoughts when she was around them. She was spending all her free time in the library—something she hadn't done before until it was a week before the exams.
Ron had initially thought that she was just nervous, unsure of what to do in such a time—scared even. But he had been wrong, as he found out earlier today. Turned out, Hermione Granger wasn't someone who hid in the library when she was scared. No, she hadn't been hiding—instead she had spent the past few days ring to scour the library for any reference to the Chamber of Secrets. She even remembered reading a small section about it in Hogwarts a History. She had been trying to get her hands on of the copies in the library since she had left her own back at home. Nobody had ever said that Hermione Granger was anything but persistent.
It was the thing Ron secretly admired in her—he would never tell it to her, of course. As much as she was persistent, most of her efforts were directed at him and Harry. It irritated Ron to no end when she kept nagging him about his schoolwork—but he admired her for it nonetheless.
Professor Binns—still partly in shock from Hermione's question—shook his head before answering.
"My subject, Miss Grant, is History of Magic," Binns wheezed, his voice dry. "In it, we rely on facts, not legends or myths, understood? Now, back to the —"
Ron turned to see what had caught Binns attention. At the back of the class, a single hand was raised in the air—Mark's. Given that the boy usually slumbered through the class—yet still getting an E on the tests—everyone, including Professor Binns, was surprised to see him awake and attentive.
"Yes, Mr —?"
"Smith, sir. I have a question—wouldn't you say that myths and legends have some factual basis for their existence? After all, this isn't some grandmother's tale we're talking about, are we? Madam Bagshot even mentions it in Hogwarts: A History."
Ron found himself nodding along with the rest of the class as they turned back to look at Professor Binns.
"You could argue that I suppose," said the ghostly professor, scratching his non-corporeal chin in deep thought. Yet, after a moment, he returned back to his dismissiveness. "But the legend of the chamber is so ludicrous that it cannot possibly be true."
He was about to return to the lecture on the convention of 1289 when he noticed his usually dull students rapt in attention.
"Very well then," he grumbled as he put the chalk down on the table. "Hmmm. You all know that Hogwarts was founded over a thousand years ago—the exact year is a matter of debate. That is irrelevant for our discussion." Coming back to the story, he continued, "Hogwarts was founded by four of the greatest warlocks of that time—Helga Hufflepuff, Rowena Ravenclaw, Godric Gryffindor, and lastly Salazar Slytherin."
"For a few years, the founders cooperated with each other, their concern primarily being to seek out youngsters who showed signs of magic and bringing them to the castle for protection and education—for this was an age when magic was feared by the muggles, and witches and wizards suffered much persecution for showing any signs of it." Taking a pause Binns added, "This we know for a fact."
"After a few decades, since the school was established, a rift began to grow between Slytherin and Hufflepuff. There are few documents which reference this—their authenticity debatable," he waved his hand dismissively. "Anyway, Lord Slytherin was of the opinion that entry to the school be restricted, and their admittance selective." Looking at the confused faces on some of the students, Binns elaborated further. "He believed that magical learning should be kept within the known magical families, since the students of Muggle parentage were likely to be untrustworthy."
"This was, in effect, quite opposite to the beliefs of Lady Helga. Some sources say that during the founding of the school, she had campaigned for squibs and even open-minded muggles to be allowed admittance—but that is mostly conjecture," Binns droned on.
Ron listened in rapt attention—even though he had grown up in the wizarding world, all of this was news to him. Why wasn't Binns teaching all of this in his normal classes? Who cared about some stupid rebellions?
"Lord Godric," continued Binns as he paced—or rather floated—around in front of the classroom, "who by now was a supporter of Lady Helga and her position on the matter, defended her when the argument turned explosive. The exact argument is unknown, for there is a possibility other matters may have been involved, but not recorded. In any case, the argument concluded with Lord Slytherin leaving the castle for good."
"Now this is all that historical sources tell us—ones that are reliable anyways," Binns said. "But these facts have been obscured by the fanciful legend of the Chamber of Secrets. The story goes that Lord Slytherin—who had been in charge of the construction of the castle—built a hidden chamber which the others knew nothing about."
"According to the legend, Slytherin, when he left the school, sealed the Chamber of Secrets by magical means so that none would be able to open it until his own true heir arrived at the school. This heir alone would be able to unseal the Chamber, and unleash the horror within, using it to purge the school of all the untrustworthy."
There was silence as he finished the story, but not the one usually found in his class. There was unease in the air as everyone looked to the professor, hoping for more.
"This whole legend has no basis in any facts, just a story passed on through the times," he said. "As for the Chamber; well the whole school has been searched for its existence many, many, times. And by the most learned witches, wizards and the most famous Cursebreakers. It does not exist. Just a tale told to frighten the gullible."
By its own volition, Ron's hand went up in the air. Every eye in the room was soon upon him.
"Sir—what exactly did you mean by the 'horror within' the Chamber?" Ron asked. He found his throat was rather parched. The whole class now turned back to look at Binns, who seemed hesitant to answer.
"There is believed to be some sort of monster, which the Heir alone can control," said Professor Binns dismissively.
"Wouldn't it be dead already, after a thousand years?" Mark interrupted; his hands folded. "Assuming it existed in the first place."
"That is irrelevant Schmidt," Binns said as he shuffled through his notes. "There is no monster, as there is no Chamber."
"But sir," Seamus interrupted, "if the Chamber can only be opened by Slytherin's true heir, no one else would be able to find it, would they?"
"Nonsense, O'Flaherty." Professor Binns was now aggravated. "If a long succession of Hogwarts Heads—the greatest witches and wizards of their times, haven't found a thing —"
"But, Professor," Parvati Patil piped in, "you'd probably have to use Dark Magic to open it —" But Binns had had enough.
"Miss Pennyfeather!" Binns had had enough. "Just because a wizard doesn't use Dark Magic does not mean he can't," he snapped. "If the likes of Dumbledore haven't found the Chamber, then it does not exist. No further questions."
AN: There we have it. Another chapter done, and the mystery officially begins. I have taken some liberties with the lore of Hogwarts and the Room of Requirement, things that just made sense to me. I hope you like them as well.
As for the upgrading, Chapters 9, 10, and 11 are done. They've turned out pretty good, especially the parts about Harry. They all were a bit iffy before—I had been in a hurry to get to the good parts. Now after reflection, I've managed to pump in some life in them. Content wise, I've added a short description of Quidditch rules—something that I had also skipped in the previous version. Now that I've decided to make the story more robust for the fandom blind, I needed to include them.
Feedback is welcome. Please read and review. Thanks!