Chapter 35 : The Chamber of Secrets
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Their one night off occurred the night before their first exam. O.W.L.s and N.E.W.T.s had been going on for a full week, but none of the fifth or seventh years were taking any nights off, including James. Despite Rose's insistence that he take a night off, James insisted upon studying. It was quite a switch.
Albus and John spent the evening playing chess with Kaden. Matt had turned in early, still tired from the full moon, which had taken place two days earlier. Rose and Amanda had disappeared into their dormitory, clearly set upon having some time away from the boys.
The common room emptied as the night progressed, and eventually John and Albus were the only ones left. It hadn't taken long since most people went to bed early because of exams. It was probably fairly stupid of Albus and John to stay up so late, but neither of them cared.
They waited an additional fifteen minutes in case somebody decided to return to the common room, but no one did. Albus glanced at John and then pulled the Invisibility Cloak and the Marauder's Map out of his bag. He carefully unfolded the map and set it out on the table. The coast was clear.
Albus and John stumbled out of the portrait hole and once they righted themselves, Albus threw the Cloak over them, under the Fat Lady's stern gaze.
“Don't expect me to let you in when you return,” she said. “I'm quite exhausted.”
The Fat Lady was always threatening this but she never seemed to make good on any of her threats. Ignoring her, Albus and John set off along the corridor. John led the way while Albus kept his eyes glued to the Map, but the corridors remained empty. It seemed everyone, both students and professors, were getting a good night's rest before exams. Everyone that is, except for Albus and John.
Moaning Myrtle was the only occupant of the second floor girl's lavatory. John quietly pushed the door open and Albus followed him in. Once inside, Albus pulled the Cloak off and held it under is right arm.
“Myrtle?” John shouted as he stepped into the room.
A splashing sound came from the last stall and then Myrtle's ghostly form floated through the closed stall door. “Boys? Why don't you go use your own-” Myrtle cut herself off with a giggle. She floated toward Albus and John and rested on the sinks. “Oh, it's you. Albus Potter. And his friend John. Where's Matt? I rather fancy him....”
“He, er, wasn't feeling well,” Albus said, hoping that Matt's absence wouldn't put Myrtle off from talking to them.
On the contrary, Myrtle's face lit up. “Oh my! I've been feeling rather awful today myself. It's a side effect of dying, you know.”
Albus didn't think dying had any side effects other than dying and had always assumed being a ghost wouldn't be painful, but Myrtle was very odd.
“But why are you here?” Myrtle asked. “You never visit me unless you're in detention. It's rather disappointing. No one ever thinks to visit poor Myrtle. Oh, Myrtle's dead, they think, so she doesn't need any visitors. Myrtle doesn't need any friends! All because she's dead!”
“No, Myrtle, that isn't it at all,” Albus said quickly. “It's just, you live in a girl's loo. We can only visit you now, in the middle of the night.”
Myrtle let out a loud sigh. “I suppose. You aren't the only boys who talk to me, you know. Some of them even dare come during the day. I suppose they're a bit braver than you are, which is odd since they aren't Gryffindors.”
Albus glanced at John. Maybe this was going to be easier than he thought. Myrtle probably didn't have any loyalties to Scorpius Malfoy.
“Which boys?” Albus asked carefully, taking a step closer to Myrtle.
“I only know one of their names,” Myrtle said with a giggle. “I know his name because his father used to come and talk to me when he was in school. But his son isn't quite as talkative and he didn't seem to care at all about me or my death. He only wanted to know about the Chamber of Secrets-”
“The Chamber of Secrets?” Albus exclaimed. “Scorpius Malfoy wanted to know about the Chamber of Secrets?”
Myrtle brightened. “Oh, you know him, too! Yes, he did. He wanted to know exactly where the entrance was. He'd already done quite a bit of research on it in the library. Rather odd, I thought, for a Slytherin, spending so much time in the library, but not in a bad way. But yes, he came in and asked me about the Chamber and I told him about my death and he didn't quite understand the connection at first. So I showed him the entrance and told him that he had to speak like a snake to get in but he couldn't figure it out.”
“He tried to speak Parseltongue?” Albus asked.
Myrtle nodded. “Sounded awful. Your dad was much better at it. Even that freckled boy managed to figure it out during the Battle of Hogwarts, but Scorpius Malfoy was truly awful at it. That's when I met the other boy. Scorpius left and came back a few days later with this other boy. He showed him the entrance and then they started talking about this girl named Elsie and the other boy thought that she would be able to open the Chamber.”
“And when was this?” Albus asked. The other boy must have been Felix Willinson.
“Two weeks ago, maybe?” Myrtle said. “Do you know why he wanted to get into the Chamber of Secrets? He refused to tell me.”
“No,” Albus said, shaking his head. “We want to know, too.”
“Well,” Myrtle began as she floated up to the ceiling. “Please tell me when you find out. And next time, make sure that Matt comes to visit, too.”
“Er, sure,” Albus muttered. “Is there anything else you know about Malfoy?”
“No,” Myrtle said. “You're going to leave now, aren't you?”
“Yeah,” Albus said. “Exams tomorrow.”
Albus threw the Cloak back over himself and John and they left. On the way back Albus explained the Chamber of Secrets to John, who only knew the place by name. By the time they returned to the common room John was just as shocked as Albus was about why Malfoy seemed to want to get into the Chamber of Secrets.
“Do you think Elsie Willinson can speak Parseltongue?” John asked as they climbed through the portrait hole (the Fat Lady had not refused them entry).
“I don't know,” Albus said. “It's very rare. I think we're going to have to ask Rose.”
“Bet she'll love that, in the middle of exams,” John said with a laugh.
“Of course I have no idea if Elsie Willinson is a Parselmouth!” Rose exclaimed the next day during their lunch break in between exams. Albus had just finished explaining what Myrtle had told them last night, as well as explaining the Chamber of Secrets for Matt, Amanda, and Kaden's sake.
“Are you sure she hasn't mentioned anything?” Albus pressed.
“Positive! And honestly, Albus, you need to get this out of your mind. It's exam week. It's not the time to be focusing on Malfoy. Whatever he does, it really doesn't affect you.”
Albus knew that, but it didn't do a thing for his curiosity. The fact remained that Malfoy was acting oddly, and if Felix Willinson was involved, it couldn't be anything good.
“They're up to something, Rose,” Albus said. “I'm telling you.”
Rose groaned. “Albus, I don't care.”
“Oi, Albus!” James shouted as he jogged over to Albus's seat. “Did you see the Prophet this morning?”
“No,” Albus replied. He, Matt, and John had both slept too late to have breakfast before their first exam.
James slapped a copy down on the table in front of Albus. “That bloke, Robert Johnson? The one who took Dad's place? He's revamped the entire department, claiming that they're going to have a 99% capture rate.”
“99%?” Albus repeated as he looked at the paper. “That's crazy.”
JOHNSON REVAMPS AUROR DEPARTMENT
Newly appointed Head Auror, Robert
Johnson, has spent the past month
revamping and reorganizing the Auror
Department. Johnson has rewritten
rules and regulations for the department
as well as reorganized how Aurors
work together. All Aurors have
attended workshops over the past month
to familiarize themselves with the
new rules and policies.
'The hope is that we will be able to
capture criminals faster and easier,'
Johnson said. 'The department has
been disorganized for years and this
has resulted in many criminals going
free for far longer than they should.
Between the new Auror Department policies
and the reinstatement of the dementors
in Azkaban, we should be able to capture
more criminals and keep them where they
belong- behind bars.'
While Johnson did not go into specifics
of the policies and rules, stating that
these are sealed documents, he assured
the wizarding public that they have
helped to streamline the department.
'With these new policies I don't see why
we shouldn't have a 99% capture rate
within a year.'
“What does that even mean, 99% capture rate?” Albus asked after setting the paper down.
“No idea,” James said. “But I thought you'd want to see it. I've got to go. Transfiguration practical this afternoon and I need to practice.”
“I wish they'd say what the changes actually were,” Albus said as his brother left.
“They can't,” Rose said. “The paper is right about that.”
“It's not like the department was awful when Dad was in charge,” Albus continued. “He captured Greyback, didn't he?”
“I think Laurentis is crediting Matt's dad with that,” Rose commented. “As much as it was both of them.”
“That's not fair,” Matt said.
“No, it's not,” Rose said as she glanced at her watch. “We'd better get going. History of Magic exam.”
Albus found it incredibly difficult to focus on his History of Magic exam, and while he was fairly sure he passed it, he knew he hadn't done well. There was just too much to focus on. Between Malfoy and the Auror Department, the last things Albus wanted to think about were goblin rebellions and giant wars.
Later that night Rose held another study session in the library. Albus managed to sit next to Elsie Willinson, who ignored him completely. Albus spent more time staring at the Marauder's Map and figuring out the best way to bring up the topic of speaking Parseltongue with Elsie than any actual studying, but Rose didn't seem to notice.
The following two days were nearly identical to the first day of exams, with the exception of the subjects they were tested on. Exam in the morning, lunch, exam in the afternoon, studying, dinner, then more studying. The monotony was starting to get on Albus's nerves, but they were only halfway through exam week.
Elsie Willinson didn't show up to the study session Wednesday evening. Albus was disappointed since he was finally going to bring up the topic of speaking Parseltongue with her, no matter how effective it would be. Instead, he looked over his Potions notes while glancing at the Marauder's Map every so often.
“Albus, what exactly are you looking for?” Rose asked.
Albus didn't really want to say because he knew Rose would just roll her eyes, but he also knew she wouldn't let go of the subject until he explained. “Malfoy. He's going to go back to the girl's loo, and when he does, I want to follow him.”
“That would be stupid,” Rose said. “Look at the past three years. You've gotten yourself involved with something stupid at the end of every year. Following Malfoy would just be asking for trouble.”
Rose had a point, Albus knew, but he didn't care. “It's just Malfoy. He's not going to kidnap me.”
“Famous last words,” Rose muttered. “He's probably just in his common room.”
Albus checked the Map. Malfoy's dot was definitely not in the common room. Albus's heart sped up as he checked the rest of the Map. It took him a while, but then he spotted Malfoy's dot, making its way down the second floor corridor. He was accompanied by none other than Felix and Elsie Willinson.
“He's going,” Albus said. “And he's got Felix and Elsie with him. I'm following him and you can't stop me.”
Rose groaned. “Albus, don't-”
Albus ignored her and turned to the rest of his friends. “Are any of you coming with me?”
“I am.” Albus was shocked to see that the voice belonged to Amanda. Usually Amanda agreed with Rose.
“Amanda, really?” Rose asked.
Amanda shrugged. “I want a break from studying and I'm just as curious as Albus is.”
“Count me out,” Matt muttered, turning red. “I'm not going anywhere near Myrtle.”
“She asked about you last time,” John said with a grin.
Matt turned even redder. “I'd rather not know that.”
“We're in,” John said, speaking for himself and Kaden.
“You've got an hour,” Rose said. “If you're not back by then I'm sending Professor Longbottom after you.”
“We'll be back,” Albus said as he stood up. As if to further convince Rose of this, he left his books sitting on the table. John, Kaden, and Amanda did the same.
Albus didn't bother with the Invisibility Cloak since it wasn't past curfew. They'd just have to lurk near the loo until the coast was clear and sneak in when no one was looking. All they needed was the Map for that.
The corridors were unusually empty and Albus attributed it to the fact that most of his fellow students were doing some last minute revision before the next day's exams. It certainly made it easier to sneak into a girl's loo.
Albus watched the Map as they went and Malfoy and both Willinsons' dots entered Moaning Myrtle's bathroom. They remained there for only a few minutes, and then disappeared off the Map.
“They must've gotten into the Chamber of Secrets,” Albus explained. “I bet the Marauders didn't know about it so they couldn't have put it on the Map.”
It took another five minutes for Albus, John, Kaden, and Amanda to get to the loo. Once there Albus burst the door open and ran inside. He stopped short in front of the sinks.
One of the sinks was gone, having sunk into the floor. In its place was a large, pitch black hole. Myrtle was floating above it, her eyes bright.
“They did it,” Myrtle said excitedly. “Are you going to follow them?”
“I guess this answers the question of whether Elsie Willinson can speak snake,” John said.
“Is Matt ill again?” Myrtle asked.
“Er, yeah,” Albus said.
“He's ill an awful lot of the time,” Myrtle said. “Tell him to come see me when he's better.”
“Sure,” Albus said as he crept closer to the hole. “I'm going down there. You three are welcome to join me.” Albus was determined. He'd come this far and he wasn't going to stop now. He needed to figure out what was going on.
“Is it a far drop?” Amanda asked hesitantly.
“I think it's more of a slide,” Albus said. “That's what my dad said, anyway.”
“There isn't a basilisk in there, is there?” John asked.
“No,” Albus said. “It's dead.”
“Then I'm in,” John said.
“Me, too,” Amanda agreed.
“I'd go down there even if there was a basilisk in there,” Kaden said. “I'll go first, if you want.”
“Be my guest,” Albus said, gesturing to the hole.
“If you die, you can live here,” Myrtle said, giggling. “I told Scorpius that and he told me that was another reason why he can't die down there. I don't think he likes me.”
Albus ignored Myrtle and stepped aside so Kaden could jump into the hole. Kaden did so without a second glance.
“Are you okay?” Albus asked once he heard a thud.
“Yeah, I'm fine!” Kaden shouted back.
Neither John or Amanda seemed inclined to go next, so Albus stepped to the very edge of the hole and looked down. He couldn't see a thing. Deciding that it was better to just do it and not think too hard, he took a deep breath and jumped.
His dad had been right about it being more of a slide than a drop down. The hole was more of a sloping pipe and it wasn't a bad slide at all. Soon, Albus landed at the bottom and saw Kaden, who had lit his wand.
Albus lit his own wand and took a look around. The place was very wet and it smelled awful. The walls were dripping with murky water and the floor was covered in rock, mud, and what looked like old snake skin.
“I think we're near the lake,” Albus said, nodding to the dripping water.
There was a whooshing noise behind Albus and something crashed into him, knocking him over. Albus let out a scream and turned to see it was only John, who hadn't landed gracefully.
“Sorry,” John muttered as he lit his own wand. There was now enough wand light to see clearly. The place was creepy. That was the only word for it.
Amanda landed without knocking anyone over and lit her wand. Albus and Kaden waited for John and Amanda to take a look around.
“What do we do now?” Kaden asked.
“Does anyone hear anything?” Albus asked. It seemed dead silent to Albus.
John shook his head. “Matt should've come. We need his werewolf hearing.”
Albus nodded in agreement. “I guess we just follow the pipe. It looks like it only goes one way.”
The others agreed. Albus led the way, his wand pointed in front of him, and they set off. No one spoke. No one made any noise whatsoever. Albus had his ears poised to hear even the quietest noise, hoping to hear some clue as to where Malfoy and the others had gone.
Ihey walked for what felt like miles before they heard even the faintest of noise. Albus noticed numerous snake skins and the bones from decades-old animals. Then, just when Albus had a feeling they were reaching the end of the passage, he heard a voice, clearly, as if it was right next to him.
“Albus Potter. Well, well, isn't this a pleasant surprise.”
Albus recognized the voice. It was Jarrett Willinson.
Cliffhanger! I know. I'm evil. Thank you for all the wonderful reviews! I will respond to them, but I've been quite busy lately.
And now I'll take a few moments to brag. On the 16th I went to NYC for J.K. Rowling's event for The Casual Vacancy. I got to meet her and get a signed copy of the book! It was absolutely amazing. I blogged about it on the forums, so please check it out!
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