Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
As suddenly as it had started, everything stopped. Harry lay facedown on the stone cold floor, listening to Myrtle gurgling morosely in the end toilet. With difficulty, he kicked off his shoes and stood up. So this was what it felt like, being Goyle. His large hand trembling, he pulled off his old robes, which were hanging a foot above his ankles, pulled on the spare ones, and laced up Goyle’s boatlike shoes. He reached up to brush his hair out of his eyes and met only the short growth of wiry bristles, low on his forehead. Then he realized that his glasses were clouding his eyes because Goyle obviously didn’t need them—he took them off and called, “Are you two okay?” Goyle’s low rasp of a voice issued from his mouth.
“Yeah,” came the deep grunt of Crabbe from his right.
Harry unlocked his door and stepped in front of the cracked mirror. Goyle stared back at him out of dull, deep set eyes. Harry scratched his ear. So did Goyle.
Ron’s door opened. They stared at each other. Except that he looked pale and shocked, Ron was indistinguishable from Crabbe, from the pudding bowl haircut to the long, gorilla arms.
“This is unbelievable,” said Ron, approaching the mirror and prodding Crabbe’s flat nose. “Unbelievable. “
“We’d better get going,” said Harry, loosening the watch that was cutting into Goyle’s thick wrist. “We’ve still got to find out where the Slytherin common room is. I only hope we can find someone to follow…”
Ron, who had been gazing at Harry, said, “You don’t know how bizarre it is to see Goyle thinking.” He banged on Hermione’s door. “C’mon, we need to go—”
A high pitched voice answered him.
“I—I don’t think I’m going to come after all. You go on without me.”
“Hermione, we know Millicent Bulstrode’s ugly, no one’s going to know it’s you—”
“No—really—I don’t think I’ll come. You two hurry up, you’re wasting time—”
Harry looked at Ron, bewildered.
“That looks more like Goyle,” said Ron. “That’s how he looks every time a teacher asks him a question.”
“Hermione, are you okay?” said Harry through the door.
“Fine—I’m fine—go on—”
Harry looked at his watch. Five of their precious sixty minutes had already passed.
“We’ll meet you back here, all right?” he said.
Harry and Ron opened the door of the bathroom carefully, checked that the coast was clear, and set off.
“Don’t swing your arms like that,” Harry muttered to Ron.
“Crabbe holds them sort of stiff…”
“Yeah, that’s better…”
They went down the marble staircase. All they needed now was a Slytherin that they could follow to the Slytherin common room, but there was nobody around.
“Any ideas?” muttered Harry.
“The Slytherins always come up to breakfast from over there,” said Ron, nodding at the entrance to the dungeons. The words had barely left his mouth when a girl with long, curly hair emerged from the entrance.
“Excuse me,” said Ron, hurrying up to her. “We’ve forgotten the way to our common room.”
“I beg your pardon?” said the girl stiffly. “Our common room? I’m a Ravenclaw.” She walked away, looking suspiciously back at them.
Harry and Ron hurried down the stone steps into the darkness, their footsteps echoing particularly loudly as Crabbe’s and Goyle’s huge feet hit the floor, feeling that this wasn’t going to be as easy as they had hoped.
The labyrinthine passages were deserted. They walked deeper and deeper under the school, constantly checking their watches to see how much time they had left. After a quarter of an hour, just when they were getting desperate, they heard a sudden movement ahead.
“Ha!” said Ron excitedly. “There’s one of them now!”
The figure was emerging from a side room. As they hurried nearer, however, their hearts sank. It wasn’t a Slytherin, it was Percy.
“What’re you doing down here?” said Ron in surprise.
Percy looked affronted.
“That,” he said stiffly, “is none of your business. It’s Crabbe, isn’t it?”
“Wh—oh, yeah,” said Ron.
“Well, get off to your dormitories,” said Percy sternly. “It’s not safe to go wandering around dark corridors these days.”
“You are,” Ron pointed out.
“I,” said Percy, drawing himself up, “am a prefect. Nothing’s about to attack me.”
A voice suddenly echoed behind Harry and Ron. Draco Malfoy was strolling toward them, and for the first time in his life, Harry was pleased to see him.
“There you are,” he drawled, looking at them. “Have you two been pigging out in the Great Hall all this time? I’ve been looking for you; I want to show you something really funny.”
Malfoy glanced witheringly at Percy.
“And what’re you doing down here, Weasley?” he sneered.
Percy looked outraged.
“You want to show a bit more respect to a school prefect!” he said. “I don’t like your attitude!”
Malfoy sneered and motioned for Harry and Ron to follow him. Harry almost said something apologetic to Percy but caught himself just in time. He and Ron hurried after Malfoy, who said as they turned into the next passage, “That Peter Weasley—”
“Percy,” Ron corrected him automatically.
“Whatever,” said Malfoy. “I’ve noticed him sneaking around a lot lately. And I bet I know what he’s up to. He thinks he’s going to catch Slytherin’s heir single handed.” He gave a short, derisive laugh. Harry and Ron exchanged excited looks.
Malfoy paused by a stretch of bare, damp stone wall.
“What’s the new password again?” he said to Harry.
“Er—” said Harry.
“Oh, yeah—pure blood!” said Malfoy, not listening, and a stone door concealed in the wall slid open. Malfoy marched through it, and Harry and Ron followed him.
The Slytherin common room was a long, low underground room with rough stone walls and ceiling from which round, greenish lamps were hanging on chains. A fire was crackling under an elaborately carved mantelpiece ahead of them, and several Slytherins were silhouetted around it in high backed chairs.
“Wait here,” said Malfoy to Harry and Ron, motioning them to a pair of empty chairs set back from the fire. “I’ll go and get it—my father’s just sent it to me—”
Wondering what Malfoy was going to show them, Harry and Ron sat down, doing their best to look at home.
Malfoy came back a minute later, holding what looked like a newspaper clipping. He thrust it under Ron’s nose.
“That’ll give you a laugh,” he said.
Harry saw Ron’s eyes widen in shock. He read the clipping quickly, gave a very forced laugh, and handed it to Harry.
It had been clipped out of the Daily Prophet, and it said:
INQUIRY AT THE MINISTRY OF MAGIC
Arthur Weasley, Head of the Misuse of Muggle Artifacts Office, was today fined fifty Galleons for bewitching a Muggle car.
Mr. Lucius Malfoy, a governor of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, where the enchanted car crashed earlier this year, called today for Mr. Weasley’s resignation.
“Weasley has brought the Ministry into disrepute,” Mr. Malfoy told our reporter. “He is clearly unfit to draw up our laws and his ridiculous Muggle Protection Act should be scrapped immediately.”
Mr. Weasley was unavailable for comment, although his wife told reporters to clear off or she’d set the family ghoul on them.
“Well?” said Malfoy impatiently as Harry handed the clipping back to him. “Don’t you think it’s funny?”
“Ha, ha,” said Harry bleakly.
“Arthur Weasley loves Muggles so much he should snap his wand in half and go and join them,” said Malfoy scornfull
y. “You’d never know the Weasleys were pure bloods, the way they behave.”
Ron’s—or rather, Crabbe’s—face was contorted with fury.
“What’s up with you, Crabbe?” snapped Malfoy.
“Stomachache,” Ron grunted.
“Well, go up to the hospital wing and give all those Mudbloods a kick from me,” said Malfoy, snickering. “You know, I’m surprised the Daily Prophet hasn’t reported all these attacks yet,” he went on thoughtfully. “I suppose Dumbledore’s trying to hush it all up. He’ll be sacked if it doesn’t stop soon. Father’s always said old Dumbledore’s the worst thing that’s ever happened to this place. He loves Muggle-borns. A decent headmaster would never’ve let slime like that Creevey in.”
Malfoy started taking pictures with an imaginary camera and did a cruel but accurate impression of Colin: “‘Potter, can I have your picture, Potter? Can I have your autograph? Can I lick your shoes, please, Potter?’”
He dropped his hands and looked at Harry and Ron.
“What’s the matter with you two?”
Far too late, Harry and Ron forced themselves to laugh, but Malfoy seemed satisfied; perhaps Crabbe and Goyle were always slow on the uptake.
“Saint Potter, the Mudbloods’ friend,” said Malfoy slowly. “He’s another one with no proper wizard feeling, or he wouldn’t go around with that jumped up Granger Mudblood. And people think he’s Slytherin’s heir!”
Harry and Ron waited with bated breath: Malfoy was surely seconds away from telling them it was him—but then “I wish I knew who it is,” said Malfoy petulantly. “I could help them.”
Ron’s jaw dropped so that Crabbe looked even more clueless than usual. Fortunately, Malfoy didn’t notice, and Harry, thinking fast, said, “You must have some idea who’s behind it all…”
“You know I haven’t, Goyle, how many times do I have to tell you?” snapped Malfoy. “And Father won’t tell me anything about the last time the Chamber was opened either. Of course, it was fifty years ago, so it was before his time, but he knows all about it, and he says that it was all kept quiet and it’ll look suspicious if I know too much about it. But I know one thing—last time the Chamber of Secrets was opened, a Mudblood died. So I bet it’s a matter of time before one of them’s killed this time… I hope it’s Granger,” he said with relish.
Ron was clenching Crabbe’s gigantic fists. Feeling that it would be a bit of a giveaway if Ron punched Malfoy, Harry shot him a warning look and said, “D’you know if the person who opened the Chamber last time was caught?”
“Oh, yeah… whoever it was expelled,” said Malfoy. “They’re probably still in Azkaban.”
“Azkaban?” said Harry, puzzled.
“Azkaban—the wizard prison, Goyle,” said Malfoy, looking at him in disbelief. “Honestly, if you were any slower, you’d be going backward.”
He shifted restlessly in his chair and said, “Father says to keep my head down and let the Heir of Slytherin get on with it. He says the school needs ridding of all the Mudblood filth, but not to get mixed up in it. Of course, he’s got a lot on his plate at the moment. You know the Ministry of Magic raided our manor last week?”
Harry tried to force Goyle’s dull face into a look of concern.
“Yeah…” said Malfoy. “Luckily, they didn’t find much. Father’s got some very valuable Dark Arts stuff. But luckily, we’ve got our own secret chamber under the drawing room floor—”
“Ho!” said Ron.
Malfoy looked at him. So did Harry. Ron blushed. Even his hair was turning red. His nose was also slowly lengthening—their hour was up, Ron was turning back into himself, and from the look of horror he was suddenly giving Harry, he must be, too.
They both jumped to their feet.
“Medicine for my stomach,” Ron grunted, and without further ado they sprinted the length of the Slytherin common room, hurled themselves at the stone wall, and dashed up the passage, hoping against hope that Malfoy hadn’t noticed anything. Harry could feel his feet slipping around in Goyle’s huge shoes and had to hoist up his robes as he shrank; they crashed up the steps into the dark entrance hall, which was full of a muffled pounding coming from the closet where they’d locked Crabbe and Goyle. Leaving their shoes outside the closet door, they sprinted in their socks up the marble staircase toward Moaning Myrtle’s bathroom.
“Well, it wasn’t a complete waste of time,” Ron panted, closing the bathroom door behind them. “I know we still haven’t found out who’s doing the attacks, but I’m going to write to Dad tomorrow and tell him to check under the Malfoys’ drawing room.”
Harry checked his face in the cracked mirror. He was back to normal. He put his glasses on as Ron hammered on the door of Hermione’s stall.
“Hermione, come out, we’ve got loads to tell you—”
“Go away!” Hermione squeaked.
Harry and Ron looked at each other.
“What’s the matter?” said Ron. “You must be back to normal by now, we are—”
But Moaning Myrtle glided suddenly through the stall door. Harry had never seen her looking so happy.
“Ooooooh, wait till you see,” she said. “It’s awful—”
They heard the lock slide back and Hermione emerged, sobbing, her robes pulled up over her head.
“What’s up?” said Ron uncertainly. “Have you still got Millicent’s nose or something?”
Hermione let her robes fall and Ron backed into the sink.
Her face was covered in black fur. Her eyes had turned yellow and there were long, pointed ears poking through her hair.
“It was a c-cat hair!” she howled. “M-Millicent Bulstrode m-must have a cat! And the p-potion isn’t supposed to be used for animal transformations!”
“Uh oh,” said Ron.
“You’ll be teased something dreadful,” said Myrtle happily.
“It’s okay, Hermione,” said Harry quickly. “We’ll take you up to the hospital wing. Madam Pomfrey never asks too many questions…”
It took a long time to persuade Hermione to leave the bathroom. Moaning Myrtle sped them on their way with a hearty guffaw. “Wait till everyone finds out you’ve got a tail!”
13. THE VERY SECRET DIARY
Hermione remained in the hospital wing for several weeks. There was a flurry of rumor about her disappearance when the rest of the school arrived back from their Christmas holidays, because of course everyone thought that she had been attacked. So many students filed past the hospital wing trying to catch a glimpse of her that Madam Pomfrey took out her curtains again and placed them around Hermione’s bed, to spare her the shame of being seen with a furry face.
Harry and Ron went to visit her every evening. When the new term started, they brought her each day’s homework.
“If I’d sprouted whiskers, I’d take a break from work,” said Ron, tipping a stack of books onto Hermione’s bedside table one evening.
“Don’t be silly, Ron, I’ve got to keep up,” said Hermione briskly. Her spirits were greatly improved by the fact that all the hair had gone from her face and her eyes were turning slowly back to brown. “I don’t suppose you’ve got any new leads?” she added in a whisper, so that Madam Pomfrey couldn’t hear her.
“Nothing,” said Harry gloomily.
“I was so sure it was Malfoy,” said Ron, for about the hundredth time.