Ron woke slowly. He found himself unable to rise and meet the day, partially because he was still drowsy and partially because he was tied up in the middle of our trunk.
I took a leisurely walk around his captured form. My invisibility cloak ensured that he heard only measured footsteps and an eerie voice. “I always knew that you would betray us. Did you really believe that we wouldn’t find out, Ron?”
“Find out what?”
“You’ve been sneaking out of the trunk, carefully avoiding my traps. But you were foolish. Hermione saw you returning. This wouldn’t have been a problem, of course, if you had been invisible.”
In her ominous, shadowy corner, Hermione groaned. “You do have to take off the cloak sometime.”
“Really? That’s what the youngest brother did, and then he died,” I spat.
Hermione stepped into the light, glaring at me instead of Ron. “Anyway, if you have an explanation, Ronald, now would be a good time.”
“I know you can’t see it right now, but my wand is pointing right at you,” I helpfully added.
“I’ve been sending letters,” he said.
“Hush, Harry,” Hermione said. “Who are you sending letters to?”
“Uh…Fenrir Greyback,” Ron muttered.
“I knew it! Also, who is that?”
“A vicious werewolf who follows You-Know-Who,” Hermione said, frowning.
“We’re sort of pen pals, now,” Ron said, struggling against his ropes (or possibly attempting to shrug). “He’s got some really good points, actually.”
Hermione gaped at him. “He bites children!”
“I said some. Also, he only went after Wizarding kids ‘cause he wanted to change cultural perceptions about werewolves by forcing prominent Purebloods to face the issue” – Ron paused for a moment – “I think that’s a quote.”
“But Remus –”
“I’m writing to him, too,” Ron said. “Also my Mum. She worries, and I don’t want any more Howlers.”
I nodded. “She almost got us killed that one time.”
Ron grinned, either at my remark or Hermione’s gullible decision to free him from the ropes. “I know you don’t really understand parents, Harry, but she’s really stressed out about all this. Especially pretending I have Dragon Pox. I bet Hermione’s parents are going barmy, too.”
Hermione peered intently down at her wand, perhaps checking it for tampering. “Actually, they don’t remember that they have a daughter.”
“Yeah, the Dursleys did that sometimes,” I commiserated.
“Harry, that’s horrible.”
“Maybe for you. I thought it was great.”
Tears filled Hermione’s eyes. “It…it isn’t like that! They aren’t abusive like your family. I erased their memories.”
Ron’s eyes widened. “Why would you…?”
“They wouldn’t have gone to Australia if they knew I was still in England, but they simply aren’t safe here.”
“Hermione…that’s evil,” I said.
The brunette whirled around to glare at me, wand raised. “Will you stop saying things like that?!”
“But it is. You turned them into completely different people so that you could ignore their explicit wishes. Hermione, you murdered your parents.” Even I didn’t murder all of my parents.
“I’ll set them right afterwards,” she said.
“Unless you die,” Ron said.
It was as if her vocal cords had been hit with a shriveling curse, leaving her voice small and childlike. “You guys can do it, then.”
“I’m terrible at memory charms, and do you really trust Ron with your parents’ brains?” I asked.
“Hey!” Ron said. “…But you’re sort of right. I don’t know anything about memory charms.”
Hermione desperately tried to justify her despicable act. “It…it’s better this way. They’re safe from You-Know-Who.”
Her reasoning baffled me. “Hermione, the Death Eaters don’t care about your parents. How would they even know where they live? I’ve spent a couple of summers there, and even I don’t know where they live.”
“But they could still be caught in a raid or something,” she mumbled, hugging herself tightly.
“That seems fairly unlikely,” I said.
We were silent for some time. Eventually, Ron said, “What do we do now?”
“We haven’t captured Nagini yet,” Hermione said. “Separating her from You- Know-Who could be difficult.”
“That is a priority,” I agreed. “First, however, we have to go to Australia to fix Hermione’s terrible mistake.”
Though our long and dangerous mission into the outback was successful, Hermione had retreated into our trunk to sob into her pillow. “I’m evil. I’m actually evil.”
Ron was above us, comforting the Grangers and – if the situation called for it – obliviating them of Hermione’s confession. That left me to calm down the most vicious member of our trio. “So…you’re evil.”
She wailed, burying her face further into the downy fabric. I continued, “That’s not a bad thing. Plenty of people are evil, and they live perfectly good lives. Like Dumbledore.”
Hermione lifted her head, watching me with blank, red eyes. “Dumbledore.”
“Yes, he was best friends with Grindelwald when they were kids, but then Dumbledore killed him,” I said. “He didn’t kill any of his other friends, however, which shows his great self-restraint.”
“There’s something wrong with you,” she said into her pillow.
I glanced around, casually checking for listeners, before admitting. “Hermione, much like you, my nature is also somewhat evil. But I channel that evil into constructive aims like murdering the Dark Lord. We should probably get back to that, by the way. It’s been a few weeks.”
“But what if _I’m _the next Dark Lord?”
“I don’t think You-Know-Who will like that very much. You’ll have to kill him anyway,” I said.
Hermione giggled, smiling up at me. I don’t know what was funny about that, but I took it as a good sign.
I continued, “You’ll be fine so long as you listen to your friends when they tell you that you’re committing an atrocity. Then, later, when you’re the Dark Lady of Wizarding Britain, you reward them by making them the Headmaster of Hogwarts.”
Sirius Black twirled his wand between his fingers, eyes making a lazy sweep over the panicked denizens of Diagon Alley. Timid shopkeepers peered at the group of Death Eaters from windows and doorways, a woman screeched and flailed under the Cruciatius, and Nagini sprawled in the sun, a humanoid bulge in her stomach.
Black groaned. “Right, five minutes and I’m already bored. Any chance we can head back?”
Voldemort said, “I’m surprised at you, Black. I distinctly recall your enthusiasm for raids.”
He shrugged. “Eh, I’ve got papers to grade and six kids in for detention tonight. Having a job kinda sucks.”
There was a loud groan from inside Nagini. At that moment, I stepped into view, and Voldemort hissed, “Potter.”
“Hi, Tom,” I said, approaching the Dark Lord and his right-hand man.
He sneered at me. “Don’t call me by that name.”
“You’ve made it impossible to say your old name, and I can’t just call you You-Know-Who. That would be silly.”
Voldemort thoughtfully tapped his chin with his wand. “You could call me ‘my lord.’”
“Well, I suppose I could, but that would be untrue.”
“Show some respect for your betters!” a Death Eater shouted as he jabbed his wand at me. “Imperio.”
For a moment, there was a distortion in my vision and everything seemed very bright. It ended as the Death Eater barked, “Bow to him.”
I gave the man a bored look. “Crucio.”
He fell, wailing, to the ground. I smirked. “You should show respect for your betters.”
Voldemort laughed, and Black also cracked an uneasy grin. “That was a good one. So, have you come here to protect these miserable excuses for witches and wizards?”
“Actually, no,” I said. “I just needed to grab something.”
Red light filled the alleyway. The Death Eaters, shopkeepers, shoppers and even I watched, stunned, as the light receded and Ron hauled Nagini up by the neck. Hermione, shaking herself into action, grabbed the snake’s tail and apparated them away. With a cheerful wave towards Voldemort and his right hand man, I followed.
“Where am I?” Nagini hissed several hours later. Ron’s stunner was truly astounding.
“You’re at your new home,” I said. “Welcome to the trunk. You’re following me, now.”
The snake backed up. “Why?”
“I can talk to you.”
She sniffed anxiously at the air. “That is true, but you are not my master.”
I raised an eyebrow. “Are you sure?”
“…Less so now.” Nagini said and slithered towards my feet. I patted her head.
“You’re taking the piss out of me,” Ron said.
Hermione frowned. “How did you just do that?”
“I explained that I was the superior Parselmouth,” I said. “She argued, but soon realized that I was right and has endeavored to do exactly as I say…I think we can all learn a lot from Nagini.”
Ron laughed, still daydreaming about our successful raid. “I can’t believe you were actually bait for once!”
I smirked. “I was more of a distraction.”
“And you completely ignored that Imperius.”
“Then crucioed the caster,” Hermione said, still judgmental despite coming to terms with her own evil, “and I suppose you’re going to say that you have an insane amount of willpower because you’re the descendant of Merlin or something.”
I chuckled. “No, no, there’s a trick to it, actually. You can’t be affected by two Imperiuses at once.”
Ron blinked. “What?”
I attempted to lower my speaking to Weasley levels. “If you’re under the Imperius from one person, then a new Imperius won’t make you do things.”
Hermione nibbled her lip. “You were under the Imperius?”
“I am under the Imperius,” I said, pointing my wand at my temple.
I stroked Nagini, who was currently curled around my leg, squeezing affectionately. “To protect me from the Imperius, of course. I just order myself to do whatever I want, so it doesn’t really affect me.”
Ron said, “So, when you said that you couldn’t be blamed for crucioing that guy ‘cause you were under the Imperius, you weren’t joking?”
“Why would I joke about something like that?”
Hermione’s eyes were wide with wonder and admiration. “Harry, how long have you been doing this?”
“On and off since I learned about the spell.”
“Three years?” she squeaked.
More like sixty. “…Yes.”
“That cannot be healthy,” she muttered. “Take it off, please.”
I did so, and Hermione stole my wand.
The sink unfolded, revealing the shadowed and slimy entrance to the Chamber of Secrets. Draco Malfoy peered into the darkness, keeping his feet firmly on the tiles of the Girls’ Loo. “I suppose this explains a lot. I was starting to think that Potter was a pervert.”
I nodded. “Yes. The current location of the Chamber is an unfortunate consequence of the constantly-shifting nature of Hogwarts.”
Draco seemed troubled. “This doesn’t make sense, though. How can one of the trials require a Parselmouth? The other ones at least pretended to be fair.”
I snorted. “You don’t need to be a Parselmouth to open it. There are only like four syllables in Parseltongue, random hissing would probably crack it eventually.”
He was shocked silent at my brilliance.
“Besides,” I continued, “It’s not unfair that you needed a Parselmouth because one was there. Perhaps…one will always be there.”
Draco took a step into the Chamber. “Thank you, my lord.”
“I’ve told you: Call me Professor,” I said. “Also, good luck with the Basilisk!”
“Hermione, please give me my wand back,” I begged.
Hermione held my wand above her head, using her height advantage against me. “Not until I’m sure that you won’t cast an Unforgivable on yourself.”
I took a step upon the worn, wooden floor and placed a hand on her shoulder. “What? No. Why would I cast an Unforgivable on myself? That would be ridiculous. Give me the wand.”
She groaned, my wand clenched firmly in her hands. “No.”
“I can feel my magical core draining.”
“There hasn’t been a theory of magic that even postulated magical cores since the seventeenth century” – Hermione furrowed her brow – “I’m honestly not sure where you would have heard about them.”
“Hermione, I am begging you –”
She glared at me. “Will you stop?”
“I’ll never stop. You’ll have to imperio me.”
“I will not,” she ground out.
“I’ll set Nagini on you,” I said. “Nagini, hiss at Hermione.”
Nagini hissed, and Hermione swallowed heavily. “You wouldn’t.”
“…You’re right,” I mumbled.
Hermione blinked. “Really?”
I whirled around to my other minion. “Ron, give me Dumbledore’s wand.”
Ron’s freckles stood darkly against his white face. “Uh, can’t. Sorry.”
“You aren’t even using it!”
“It’s not a very good match for me,” he mumbled. “But I still can’t give it to you.”
“Don’t let Hermione bully you into denying me this,” I said.
“Honestly! Will you stop trying to manipulate Ron” – Hermione raised a hand to keep me silent – “and, no, I am not going to stop you with the Imperius just because you have some sort of addiction.”
I glared at my traitorous followers. “I am not addicted. It’s just that everything is terrible, now. The colors are too bright and the light is sharper and I feel guilty about everything…Oh Merlin, is this how you feel all the time?”
“Uh, no?” Ron denied his suffering, but I could see the truth in his eyes. Wait, had they always been blue?
Hermione pinched the bridge of her nose, wild hair drifting over her eyes. “I’m sorry, Harry, but you’ll just have to ride out this…whatever this is.”
She was wrong, I suddenly realized. I raced towards the cupboard and dug through my robes. With a triumphant cry, I unearthed a wand and held it aloft.
Hermione frowned, and, with a twirl of her wand, said “Expelliarmus.”
I whimpered. Hermione examined the wand with a gentle frown. “Where did you even get this?”
“I stole it from Neville. The reason doesn’t even make sense now” – I paused for a moment – “Do you think I should give it back?”
Ron frowned. “Uh, maybe when you’re acting less crazy…or, at least, more your kind of crazy.”
I shook my head, summoning my wand from Hermione’s grasp with a flick of my wrist. “No, we have to go to Hogwarts. It’s the only way to defeat the Dark Lord. He’s killing people right now.”
Hermione said, “Harry –”
“Right now. I can hear the screaming. It’s kind of creeping me out. Besides, I really need to return Neville’s wand.”
Hermione sighed. “Alright.”
Ron scrambled towards the trunk’s desk in search of parchment. “I’ll owl Ginny.”
We followed Pansy Parkinson and…Crabbe through the secret passageway, Ron sulking and eying the Slytherins with suspicion. “Probly leading us into a trap, bloody Death Eaters in training.”
Hermione said, “Ronald, stop antagonizing our allies.”
“I don’t think they’re really our allies,” he said. “Why would Ginny send a bunch of Slytherins to get us?”
Parkinson flipped her dark hair dismissively. “Perhaps because we’re the only ones who can travel unwatched in Hogsmeade?”
Ron kicked a rodent’s skull, sending it skittering into the darkness. “I’m just saying we should’ve gotten a passcode or something.”
“Then you would be claiming that they’d intercepted our mail,” Hermione said.
I trailed behind them, comfortably invisible as I pulled along our trunk. “It’s possible they still did. That’s why they were able to so seamlessly intercept our meeting, leading us ever-closer to our doom.”
Hermione, showing a shocking lack of caution, snapped, “Harry, will you stop encouraging him?”
Ron scowled. “I just don’t get why a bunch of Slytherins would help us.”
Parkinson disdainfully glanced at the slime dripping from the walls and the Weasley walking behind her. “I’m beginning to wonder that, as well.”
Crabbe grunted, “The Dark Lord killed my father.”
Was that my fault? That might have been one of my killing curses. I shrugged off the question. “That monster.”
The hulking boy sniffled. “Everything’s worse with him here…‘Cept the Creature Rights’ laws. Those are very progressive.”
“They’re a travesty, if you ask me,” Parkinson said.
“Nobody did,” Ron snapped. “Why are you helping, anyway?”
“I owe Ginny a favor. Besides, Harry is an honorary Slytherin.”
Ron paled. “He’s a what, now?”
Parkinson smirked, a slight sway in her step. “Oh, yes. He did win us the House Cup, in Third Year.”
“But that doesn’t make him –”
“Snape thinks it does,” she purred. “Of course, he thinks that everyone who beats him at something is supposed to be in Slytherin. That man takes house loyalty way too far.”
“I feel obligated to point out that, though I have the best traits of all four houses, I am more brave and noble than all of them combined,” I announced.
Hermione rolled her eyes. Ron said, “That can’t be it, though. There’s gotta be some other reason –”
A slim figure stepped out of the darkness, red hair dazzling under our lumos. “They’ve been a lot more helpful since I explained that I’m the Heiress of Slytherin.”
Ron’s jaw dropped. “Ginny?!”
“Hi guys!” Ginevra chirped.
Hermione smiled. “How are you doing?”
“Great! We’ve taken back most of the classrooms, three of the common rooms, and possibly the North Tower, depending on whether or not Trelawney’s still a Death Eater.”
“I guess you still haven’t got the snake’s den,” Ron said.
“Nope. That was easy,” Ginevra said. “The problem is that we lost Hufflepuff.”
“Castle moved after the Death Eaters showed up,” Crabbe grunted.
“I had to share a bedroom with six Puffs.” Parkinson shivered with perfectly justifiable disgust.
Ginevra said, “We’re staging expeditions into the dungeons to find it, but no luck so far.”
The Slytherins departed as we entered an enormous room. Piles of rubble leaned against its filthy walls, and beds were scattered about the rock floor, some holding bandaged and unconscious students. The Chamber of Secrets had certainly changed since the last time I’d visited.
We passed several cauldrons as we walked. I peered into one. “Felix Felicis?”
Neville approached us, grinning. “I figured we needed all the luck we could get.”
“Hey, Nev!” one of the injured students yelled. “Get away from the potions before they have another go at ‘cha.”
“Neville makes the potions explode just by looking at them,” Ginevra explained.
Neville laughed, and the Sword of Gryffindor banged against his side with each guffaw. “Came in handy in the Potions classroom that one time.”
An arm crawled over Neville’s shoulder and down his chest, and Lavender’s face appeared in the crook of his neck. “You shouldn’t stay here too long, Nevi, sweetie.”
Hermione stepped forward to protect Ron from the potential explosion. Not surprising, her shield has always been superior. She regarded Lavender coolly. “You’re dating Neville now.”
“I think he is just sooo brave for taking on all those Death Eaters,” she cooed. “Also, he’s got the Sword of Gryffindor, so he’s the bravest guy in the whole wide world!”
“I could have the Sword of Gryffindor,” Ron muttered.
Hermione elbowed him, and he smiled nervously. I shoved Neville’s old wand at his chest. “This is yours. I found it in my trunk and was compelled by my inherent nobility to return it.”
Neville stared down at it, smiling softly. “Wow. Thanks. I don’t really use magic much, and my new wand’s a better match, anyway. But this was my Dad’s. Good to have it back.”
I nodded. “Yes.”
Ginevra spun in place, short hair twirling around her head like a dress. “Welcome to the Chamber of Secrets!”
Hermione glanced around. “So you’re really the Heiress? I’d just assumed you had caught Harry’s sense of humor.”
“Of course I am,” Ginevra said. “I command the Basilisk.”
She hissed, “Come.” _Or possibly “_Strangle.” Her accent was terrible. The Basilisk slithered towards us, students scrambling out of its way. It came to rest beside Ginevra, eyes closed and waiting for instructions.
“Go sleep twice,” Ginevra said. “Only need look terrifying.”
I would like to reiterate the horror that was Ginevra Weasley attempting to speak Parseltongue. The Basilisk silently accepted this butchery of the language, returning to an empty corner where it curled into a ball.
Ron had the look of a man whose entire world had been destroyed, and even Hermione appeared a bit faint. I responded in the only way I knew how, “Hah! I told you I wasn’t the Heir.”
What a fool I had been. I’d let my guard down in enemy territory, and, now, here I was: Cornered.
I eased my hand towards my pocket, hoping I could reach my wand before she did any irreparable damage. But, no, my plan had been foreseen and my arm grabbed.
“Harry, I just wanted to thank you for giving me a second chance,” Ginevra said. “You know, back in my First Year.”
I frowned, unsure of how she’d come to this conclusion. Ginevra Weasley was being possessed by my younger self while opening the Chamber of Secrets. At least, I think she was. “You remember being the Heir?”
Her lips flitted upwards, and she murmured, “Bits and pieces. The bathroom. The Chamber. Speaking Parseltongue. You.”
She squeezed my arm a little tighter, and her voice softened to a whisper. “I’ve reformed. I really have, but sometimes I still think about killing Muggleborns.”
“That’s perfectly natural,” I assured her.
Ginevra giggled. “That’s what Pansy says, too. Anyways, I just wanted to thank you for not sending me to Azkaban and…”
Using her height advantage against me, Ginevra leaned forward. Her breath fanned my lips. “…tell you that…”
I jerked away. “You’re very welcome. However, I need to go kill Voldemort. Goodbye!”
Grabbing Hermione, I fled towards the Girls’ Loo.
“We should have gotten Ron,” Hermione muttered as we hurried through the hallways.
I shook my head. “There wasn’t time.”
Hermione raised an eyebrow. “What do you mean?”
I mentally shoved away images of Ginevra, though they would no doubt haunt my nightmares for years to come. “We need to get the Diadem of Ravenclaw.”
“So we couldn’t wait thirty seconds to call over Ron?”
“Exactly. This is a quick, easy mission, and getting Ron would take more time than bringing him would save. Besides, someone has to watch the trunk, and, frankly, it’s hard enough fitting you under the cloak.” I pulled at the starry fabric surrounding us. If Hermione didn’t hunch forward, the passing Death Eaters could see our shoes.
We reached the third floor, and I began pacing. Hermione asked, “The Diadem is in the Room of Requirement?”
I turned on my heel, heading back up the hallway. “Technically, everything that’s in Hogwarts is in the Room, if you wish for it hard enough.”
Hermione rolled her eyes. “Didn’t you lock that?”
“I did,” I said. “But I can get in.”
I finished pacing, and an impressive, oak door shimmered into existence. A silvery lock sat in its center. I sauntered up to it. “All I need is faith in myself, which I have in abundance, and to have learned lessons from the trials. Thankfully, I set up the trials, so I already know everything.”
“Of course you do,” Hermione muttered from close behind me.
I turned the knob and –
I turned the knob again. And again. It didn’t open.
“Alright, new plan,” I said. “We need to convert Malfoy.”
“He’s already done half the trials. With our help, he could be through the door in hours…I suppose it would be too much to ask for you to charm him with your feminine wiles?”
She groaned. “Harry, that’s…no.”
I leaned against the wall, the stone’s chill dulled by my cloak. “Right, right. The break-up’s still too fresh. That’s fine. Draco is rebellious enough without your influence.”
“When has Malfoy ever rebelled?” Hermione said. “He practically worships his father.”
“And yet his hair tells another story,” I said.
Hermione blinked, her mind slowly churning over my amazing deduction. “His…I’m sorry?”
“Lucius Malfoy is very proud of his long, luxurious hair. He even cloned himself just to ensure its continued existence, yet what has Draco done? Cut it and hardened it with harsh gels. If Draco was truly so devoted to his father, why would he spit upon his very reason for existence?”
Hermione buried her face in her hands. “I think I liked this plan better before you explained it.”
I grinned and took off towards the Dungeons. “Let’s go find Malfoy.”
A/N: It’s common in fanon for snakes to obey Parselmouths for very flimsy reasons. At first, this seemed silly. Then, I realized something:
If, while walking down the street one day, a cat turned to me and said, “Hand me your umbrella,” I would give the cat the bloody umbrella. You don’t just ignore the talking animal. That’s the very foundation of magical girl series…
Also, I sometimes think that my Tom Riddle is merely a series of bad decisions executed well.< Previous Next >