Harry Potter - Series Fan Fiction ❯ Harry Potter and the Werewolf Prophecy ❯ THE CHAMBER OF SECRETS ( Chapter 30 )
“I consider that in general, I have been ‘on top’ of the situation with regard to Lord Voldemort and his machinations. Indeed, you might well be shocked when you hear to what extent this is true. Alas, Harry, even though I am very wise and very clever, I am not infallible. I am particularly vulnerable to the grave mistake of assuming that other people are as wise as myself.”
“After the adventure of the so-called ‘Philosopher’s Stone’ – I assume that another incarnation of myself has already debriefed you about that – I assumed that Lord Voldemort was effectively subdued for the time being. Indeed, I was correct. The shapeless creature that he had become was even further damaged when his host, Quirrell was destroyed. It would take him several years to begin to be a threat again.”
Dumbledore shook his head sadly. “Never underestimate human folly and spite, Harry. Had Lucius Malfoy done as his master wished, and kept Tom Riddle’s diary safe until his return, then it would have been a significant threat. Imagine the basilisk stalking the school while Voldemort assailed it from without. A terrifying prospect.”
“But Lucius Malfoy is a trivial, vain creature. For all his pomposity and family pride, he is desperately insecure. His son has far greater talent and intelligence. Lucius was afraid to wait, and afraid to act. He dreaded the fate suffered by Bellatrix or Barty Crouch, trapped in Azkaban – but he also feared what might happen if his master returned, and he had done nothing. The ultimate vanity was failing to ensure that his house elf did not overhear his plans.”
“So he slipped the diary among Ginny’s books,” said Harry.
“Yes. A foolish plan. Once out of his hands, the diary would act on its own – directed not by the mature Voldemort, but the boy Tom Riddle. As perverse, as evil, but far less experienced.”
“Mr Weasley once said,” said Harry, “never to trust anything that thinks if you can’t see where it keeps its brain.”
“Uncommonly insightful for Arthur. Oh, I’m being unkind. Put it down to Peevesishness. Yes, the diary was malignant and dangerous, but it had no plan, no strategy. If it had succeeded, what then? Some students would have been murdered, perhaps the school closed, and then a squad of Aurors would have descended. I would have directed them to the Chamber of Secrets…”
“You knew about the Chamber!” interrupted Harry.
“Harry, Harry, Harry. You and your friends discovered the Chamber after a few weeks investigation. I am far cleverer than all of you put together, and I have lived in this school for nearly all of my life. Of course I knew about the Chamber. I even know a number of the secrets, which I do not intend to divulge.”
“But why didn’t you…” began Harry.
“Act when I realised that the Heir was summoning the basilisk? Well, perhaps I should give a little background.”
Harry shifted uncomfortably in his chair. He was conflicted between the desire to hear the truth, and the effects of the tea.
“You have no doubt heard the legend that Salazar Slytherin introduced the basilisk into Hogwarts in order to purge the school of the Muggle-born. That is true, as far as it goes. Slytherin did indeed have an irrational, senseless hatred of the Muggle-born, and he did leave instructions that the basilisk should be used for their eradication. He did create a secret chamber. But that is not what the basilisk was for, Harry.”
“But what could it have possibly…”
“Pest control. Simple pest control. Tell me, how was your experience in the forest when you went to visit Aragog and his kin? Pleasant?”
Harry shuddered. “I still get the horrors. Ron… well, he doesn’t like even small spiders. So…”
“The prospect of being eaten alive by giant spiders is not a pleasant one for any of us. Tell me, Harry, in the course of the excellent education which you received in this establishment, was it explained to you why magical creatures are seen only by wizards?”
Harry shook his head. “Hagrid covered magical creatures from a more, er, practical point of view, Professor. He wasn’t one for…”
“Not one for theory, no.” Dumbledore smiled. “You see, Harry, magical creatures, whether created by wizards or not, are attracted by magic, and repelled by the mundane. That is why Privet Drive, among its other no doubt excellent qualities, is entirely free of dragons and hippogriffs. Had you lived there your whole life, you would never have seen a single magical creature – with the exception of the Dementor which was dispatched to find you. Even in that case, it was your own magical power which helped draw it there.”
“Now, Hogwarts, as I’m sure you are aware, is one of the most magical sites in the world. The founders chose this place because it was already magical, and since then it has become ever more so. There was a risk that it might become infested with every kind of magical beast, from Blast-ended Skrewt to giant carnivorous spiders. That would not, I think you will agree, be a suitable environment in which to train young wizards.”
“When a Muggle family finds itself plagued with pests, they will often acquire a cat, which enjoys disposing of them. Our own Mrs Norris performs valiantly against the more trivial creatures, but she would find even the least of the giant spiders rather too much for her. So the founders, in their wisdom, asked Salazar Slytherin to supply a creature that would fulfil the same role.”
“Hang on, Professor,” Harry interjected. “Are you saying the basilisk was brought in as a kind of… pet?”
“Well, Harry, it was there to do a job, and it did it remarkably well. I admit that the same could have been done using magic, but that would have required a huge effort. The basilisk was ideally suited to the purpose. It was able to manoeuvre through the pipes and floor spaces, keeping out of sight, and kill any of its natural enemies. Very soon, the mere threat of the basilisk was enough to keep the castle clear of pests, and it was able to spend its time in an enchanted sleep.”
“But wouldn’t it have been just as dangerous as the spiders?” Harry recalled his battle with the creature – the foulest he’d ever encountered.
“Indeed, it would have been,” replied Dumbledore. “Basilisks are forbidden creatures. The fact that the Ministry of Magic positively encourages dragons indicates just how dangerous basilisks must be. No, three of the founders placed powerful charms on the creature to ensure that it would be unable to harm a human being.”
“It did harm someone, though, Professor. Myrtle died.”
“Yes, the one person killed by the basilisk in a thousand years. That was the first time I realised the power of Tom Riddle’s will. He was able to force the beast to kill, in spite of the host of prohibitions placed upon it.”
Harry frowned. “So, professor – you knew that it was Tom Riddle who had controlled the basilisk.” Dumbledore nodded sagely.
“Then how could you let Hagrid be kicked out of the school when it wasn’t his fault!” Harry felt a sudden spurt of anger at the injustice. It wasn’t just Hagrid, but other unfair punishments. Sirius, unfairly imprisoned for all those years for a crime he hadn’t committed. Harry himself, punished by Dolores Umbridge for no more than telling the truth.
“Firstly, Harry, while I knew what had happened, there was nothing I could do to prove it. Secondly…wait, Harry, let me finish…secondly, the basilisk was safe again. Tom Riddle was gone. The basilisk needed to be kept secret, or the fools and knaves who make up the board of governors and the Ministry would have demanded that it be killed. They were able to condemn a perfectly harmless hippogriff to death, after all. And thirdly – and this is the most important point – Hagrid was not expelled unfairly.”
“But he didn’t do anything WRONG!” shouted Harry.
“Yes, he did, Harry,” said Dumbledore, quietly but firmly. “He brought Aragog into this school. You’ve seen him, full grown, in his power. His thousands of offspring. Hagrid was concealing the beast, feeding him.”
Dumbledore shook his head, slowly. “Do you know, Harry, there isn’t a man or woman in the world I admire as much as Rubeus Hagrid. Not even you, Harry. He has a generosity of soul that encompasses everything. To him, that horrific creature Aragog was as worthy of love and friendship as you or I.”
Dumbledore reached up and wiped away a single tear. “If we were all like Hagrid, the world would be a better place, or at least, far more interesting. Alas, those of us charged with the care of our own young have to protect them from being eaten. Hiding giant spiders in the dungeon is not something that can be allowed to happen.”
“You kept him on, though.”
“Of course. Hagrid is the only indispensable member of staff here. His performance as a Professor is somewhat lacking. I would have hoped that he might have finished his first lesson without one of his pupils suffering a serious injury, for example. But his importance as gamekeeper cannot be overestimated, Harry, as I’m sure you will come to realise.”
“Now, when I found that the basilisk was again carrying out attacks, I realised two things. It would have had to have been the Heir of Slytherin directing the creature. And yet, it could not be. Voldemort lived, and was crippled, hiding far away. While he lived, there could be no further Heir. So, it had to be Voldemort – but in some limited, some other form. The restrictions on the Basilisk were still in place. One of the victims might have been saved through coincidence, but all of them?”
“So, you let things go on,” Harry said flatly.
“I knew that some force related to Voldemort was operating, but I did not know what. I knew that you would be following your own enquiries – as you always do – and I hoped that you would unearth some clue that had evaded me. And I prepared for the possibility that the basilisk might have to die.”
“So, you had the sword ready.” Harry felt a chill in the pit of his stomach. He knew that Dumbledore could be ruthless and calculating, but he didn’t realise to what extent.
“The sword, and Fawkes. We had lost Myrtle, many years ago, and I was determined that it would not happen again. I knew that in the event that someone – and I suspected it would be you – confronted the basilisk, that Phoenix tears would save the day.”
Dumbledore caught Harry’s gaze and looked away. “I know that you will think the worse of me for this, Harry. I only ask you to consider what was at stake. By exposing the diary, we found Voldemort’s weakness. It was the clue that led us to the Horcruxes.”
“Ginny nearly DIED!” Harry’s voice was high, nearly sobbing.
“And she would have done, had we not found the diary!” replied Dumbledore, his own voice emotional. “We might have killed the basilisk, but she would still have been in thrall to Tom Riddle. It was his control that was killing her. She might have brought it home to her family, passing it on one to another, as each of them succumbed to the baleful influence.”
Harry thought of Ron, wearing Slytherin’s Locket, becoming drained and less like himself from day to day.
“It was Ginny Weasley who saved the victims of the basilisk. Riddle’s control of the creature was through her, and he could not make her overcome the protective spells. Even when manifested, he could not make the creature kill you.”
“He came bloody close!” Harry remembered the sickening certainty that he was going to die – the desperate need that Ginny would live.
“A basilisk determined to kill would have destroyed you in seconds, Harry. You were able to kill one of the most terrifying beasts who has ever lived, through your own undoubted courage, yes, but through Ginny’s restraints. If you saved her life, she surely saved yours.”
She has, many times, thought Harry.
“In any case, all is now well,” said Dumbledore. “All is well, except for one thing. We no longer have a basilisk at Hogwarts.”
“Eh? You want another basilisk?”
“I think the need is well-established, Harry. The threat of the creature has been enough for the last few years. Indeed, the stench of the putrefying carcass has repelled most creatures trying to infiltrate the castle sewers, but this cannot last. The offspring of Aragog are at the gates. Something must be done.”
“But… Professor, why me? Haven’t I…” Harry almost wailed.
“Calm yourself, Harry. This is not an unduly onerous task. I suggest you seek assistance from Miss Granger and Hagrid. Hagrid’s universal compassion will surely extend to a basilisk. The new-borns are considered cute, I believe, and do not develop their more anti-social abilities until they are some months old. Miss Granger will have all the information you require, and if she doesn’t know it, she will find it out.”
“As to why I have chosen you – well, Harry, it’s for the same reason that the founders chose Salazar Slytherin to direct his basilisk. You speak Parseltongue, and I am not aware of any other person who has that ability. The young basilisk must be given direction and guidance, like any other child.”
Harry felt helpless and overwhelmed. “Sir… I have no idea what to…”
“Don’t worry, Harry. I will explain what you need to do. First, you will need to find a basilisk egg. I have some ideas that might help you there, Potty. Ooh, Potty’s… excuse me, Harry, I seem to be…”
Dumbledore’s features appeared to be melting and reforming. “Dark magic…don’t make one yourself…hee hee hee! The staff must not know, Harry, that is imperative. I cannot imagine that Professor McGonagall would permit a new basilisk in her school, even for the best… wheeee!”
And suddenly Peeves was back, cackling and bouncing. “Missed the important message, didn’t we, Professor Potty! Can’t keep Peeves locked up for long!”
Harry stared at Peeves, hoping that somehow he would turn back into his friend.
“Poor old Potty, waiting for Dumb Old Bore! He’s not coming back, Happy Harry! That was a one-off offer, no repeats! It’s Peeves forever now!” Peeves shot up in the air and began to circle the room. “Don’t wet yourself! Do you need a potty, Potty? The Wee-Wee Tea was my idée. Wheeee! Pee Pee Peeeeves!”
“Peeves. Shut up, and don’t touch my wand,” said Harry, grabbing it from the table. He pointed it at the giggling poltergeist. “Confringo!”
There was a huge blast, and pieces of poltergeist were sent flying to every corner of the room. Each of the pieces screamed individually in a cacophony. “Aaaah! You’re tearing me apart!”
“That’s you all over, Peeves,” said Harry as he ran to the girls’ bathroom. He flung open the door and ran to a cubicle.
The Wee-Wee Tea was remarkably effective. Harry remembered when Fred and George were first planning it. They had a considerable ability to devise potions that had never translated into exam results. Harry was extremely relieved to have made it on time.
That was until a familiar voice sounded in his ear. “Ooh! Harry Potter, all grown up!”
He quickly fastened his trousers. “Myrtle, you need to learn boundaries.”
“It’s my bathroom,” Moaning Myrtle replied. “It’s not my fault if you wander in.”
She passed through Harry, and he gave a shudder. She materialised in front of him. “Though I am glad to see you. Why do you never visit me, Harry?”
“I’ve been… very busy,” said Harry awkwardly. His shirt was hanging out and he tried to tuck it back in.
Myrtle swooped around him. “When you say things like that, it makes me very sad.”
“I’ll try to call in on you again soon,” said Harry, trying to move to the door.
“Now that you’re here, you could stay for a while,” wheedled Myrtle.
“I really can’t,” said Harry. He grasped the handle of the door, then heard a noise. He half turned, and saw a shadow. A voice spoke – a voice Harry half thought he recognised – and then he saw only blackness.