The Chamber of Secrets. It’s always lived up it to its name—for me, at least.
There are things that I remember about the Chamber that I’ve never told anybody—not even Harry.
Nothing important—at least, that’s what I’ve always told myself. What was important about what had happened to me down there Harry knew better than anyone: my mind had been taken away from me. I had been violated.
Most of the time that I spent in the Chamber, I was fully possessed, and I couldn’t remember what I’d done—how I’d got myself covered in blood and chicken feathers, or why my robes were wet, or why I woke to myself once in the Gryffindor common room with the scent of Penelope Clearwater’s perfume in my nostrils.
But bits and pieces have come to me in dreams over the years. The glint of the mirror that Hermione and Penelope were peering through when I set the Basilisk on them. The flash of Colin’s camera as he tried to record for everyone just what the monster was that was haunting the school. That dream woke me up screaming more than once in the months after Colin’s death.
The sound of my mouth speaking in Parseltongue to the Basilisk, or ordering the doors of the Chamber to open. The sound of the huge serpent speaking to me.
The sound of Tom’s voice, so warm at first, asking me about the things that I cared about. Leading my mind to places it would never have gone.
Taunting me, as he became more and more real, and I faded more and more—my attempts to resist him increasingly desperate, but increasingly feeble.
I can only be thankful that the sick bugger had no interest of his own in sex. As it is, it’s a miracle that losing myself in someone—even someone who cares for me as obviously as Harry does—doesn’t make me want to run howling into the night.
Sometimes, when I wake from a dream, hearing that voice whispering in my head (“Why would a boy like that love a scrawny little girl like you?”), it does.
Except during the nights that I wake to find Harry curled up beside me. Then I just lie there, my heart pounding. clenching my teeth to keep the sound of my sobbing from waking him.
I flew through the halls of the school, hoping that I would see someone that I could send for help, but of course, the place was empty; the dueling club finals were that night, so everyone would be down in the Great Hall.
As I reached Moaning Myrtle’s bathroom, I stopped short. That knack of mine was suddenly screaming at me: there was something on the other side of the door that I knew I didn’t want to face.
But Harry needed me. And the only way down to the Chamber was through that bathroom. Pulling my wand from my rucksack (When did I pick that up again?), I kicked open the door and peered in.
There was a dim spectral shape crouched at the base of the sink that served as the entrance to the tunnel that led Chamber. A thick, greasy, malevolent feeling rolled off of it, like the worst Dungbomb imaginable.
Whatever the thing was, it wasn’t Myrtle. She was wailing from her toilet. “Make it go away! I don’t want it here!”
“What is it?” I muttered, doing my best just to stay in the room.
“Dunno. Don’t want to know,” howled Myrtle.
“Some Ravenclaw you are,” I muttered, wand raised, forcing one foot forward and then another. “Go on,” I shouted at the thing. “Get out of here!”
The thing didn’t move, but it hissed at me, and the hiss sounded nauseatingly familiar.
“Go,” I answered in Parseltongue—the first part of the command that brought so many of my nightmares to their gut-twisting conclusion. I managed to hold back the second part of the order, though: attack.
The thing slithered away: not as shiny as most ghosts, small, vaguely human, deformed. A child. It snarled at me from the corner but it kept its distance as I approached the sink.
I was about to tell Myrtle to fetch Professor McGonagall when I heard the toilet flush. Thanks a lot, Myrtle, I thought.
Keeping the corner of an eye on the grotesque abortion of a ghost, I walked up to the sink with the serpent mark scratched into it and hissed, “Open.”
The sink slid aside, revealing a black pit that even my nightmares apparently hadn’t done justice to. I couldn’t remember how I’d got down before, but the idea of just jumping…
Don’t get me wrong: put me up in the air and I’ll do anything I have to. Ron swears I had to play for the Harpies, because I was already half madwoman and half bird to begin with.
But underground? I hate being underground. Can you blame me?
“Lumos,” I cried, and stared into the hole. The bottom was still black. What I wouldn’t give for a length of…
With a laugh of annoyance at myself, I dropped my rucksack, opened it and pulled out the coil of thick, red satin cord that I’d bought with a bit of my signing bonus. Holds anything—or anyone—for as long as they want to be held! claimed the adverts for Madam Coraline’s Restraints for Romantics. Well, I thought, we’re about to find out just how good your charms are, Coraline, luv.
Wrapping one end of the rope around the iron column of the sink next to the one that usually covered the hole, I touched it and said, “Lashio.” As when I’d practiced, the rope promptly tied itself into a very imposing, sturdy-looking knot.
The rest of the rope began to slither its way around my wrist, but I slapped at it—“Stop that!”—and it sloughed away. I dropped the rope down into the hole and was relieved to hear what sound like the rope hitting stones at the bottom.
I pulled at the rope with all of my strength. The knot held.
As I dropped over the edge, my lit wand clutched in my mouth, climbing my way down through the dank darkness, I thought, Right, Potter. When I find you and get you out of this, I’m going to tie you up for real. No more of these fun and games!
I knew better though: I was the idiot who’d fallen in love with Harry Potter. Whatever his strengths as a man, as a boyfriend—as, Merlin help us, a future husband—leading a boring, stay-at-home life wasn’t likely to be one of them.
I reached the end, and a vague memory resurfaced: bones. Rat bones. Mice. Moles. Badgers. Snakes. Staring up, I decided to let the rope stay where it was; no hope of Fawkes flying us up again this time. I tried not to look too closely at the floor as I crunched my way toward where I knew without knowing that the Chamber of Secrets lay.
Behind me, I felt the rotting, noisome presence of the ghost-child moving behind me, staying just out of my wand’s light.
Nearly sprinting down the tunnel, I saw an enormous snakeskin glittering in my wandlight, and for the first time a memory came to me that wasn’t washed in the garish colors of nightmares. I remembered Harry and me finding Ron here with that oblivious prat, Professor Lockhart. Around the next turn, a wall of rock showed where the backfire from Ron’s wand had collapsed the tunnel but there, up at the top, was the narrow passage that my brother had cleared for us to get through.
Have I said that I hate being underground? Yeah. Well, I really hate enclosed spaces. Tight, enclosed spaces.
Biting my lip and gripping my wand, I climbed up the face of the rockslide and entered the narrow channel that Ron had opened up—and that he must have widened to get back in and out when he and Hermione went hunting for the Basilisk’s fangs just before the battle. If Ron could do it—hell, if Hermione could do it, I could bloody well get through.
I may have been determined, but that didn’t mean that I didn’t have to stop once I’d climbed through and sit, gasping for air in the relatively open space of the tunnel beyond.
The thing was gibbering up in the passage, just out of sight.
I got up and started to run again, but didn’t have far to go. There stood an enormous pair of doors with a pair of intricate stone snakes carved on the front. Raising my wand once again, I hissed, “Open!” and sprinted back into the Chamber of Secrets for the first time since Harry had helped me free myself from Tom.
I asked Luna once how she had managed to stay sane—well, as sane as Luna could ever have claimed to have been—during those long months as Voldemort’s captive in the Malfoys’ cellar. She’d smiled her Luna smile, reminded me that she’d had Mr. Ollivander to talk to, told me that she’d spent much of the time considering possible locations where they might track down the Snorkack herds at last (as, of course, she had helped Rolf do just that, this past spring). “But,” she said, “mostly I thought of you lying alone in the Chamber of Secrets, fighting off Tom Riddle’s attempts to possess you.”
When I told her that seemed like an awful thing to be thinking about—I certainly thought about it as little as I could—she said, “Oh, but I found it a very hopeful image. You fought for so long. And after all, Harry did come for you.”
As he had come for her, even… As I was coming for him.
“Open!” I ran into the place where I had failed so badly in so many ways all of those years ago.
Another monstrous snakeskin lay at the far end of the Chamber, its jewel-colored shape bulky and battered: the Basilisk’s corpse.
In front of it, a figure in dark robes lay on the ground, a bright light flaring near the end of its outstretched hand.
“Harry! Oh, Merlin,” I gasped, falling to my knees beside his motionless form. He held a wand in either hand; his holly wand dangled from the limp fingers of his left, while his right seemed to thrust the Elder Wand into the heart of a blindingly bright rip in space. “Harry! Don’t be… Oh, please don’t be…!”
“He is still alive, Miss Weasley,” said a low, sneering voice that I had never thought to hear again. I blinked up in surprise. At the edge of the circle of blazing light cast by the Elder Wand stood the shockingly solid, shockingly young figure of Severus Snape. “But only just.”