Chapter 13: Slytherin's Secrets
"He's immortal," Harry repeated grimly as he slouched on his bed. "He can't die."
Ron, Hermione and Ginny all stared back at Harry with identical looks of dismay.
"But you said that Dumbledore thinks –" Hermione began.
"Dumbledore thinks that what he's teaching me now will work. That somehow I can get around Voldemort's protections if I fight him in his mind."
"Well, that should be all right then," Hermione said bracingly.
"Maybe, but I got the feeling there was more to it than that. I'd feel better if Dumbledore knew what spells Voldemort used." Harry lay back and on his bed and sighed. "I wish I'd shown him that stupid diary back in second year when I had the chance."
"Harry that wasn't your fault." Ginny said. "It was mine. I was the one who was stupid."
"It wasn't anyone's fault, but Lucius Malfoy's," Ron said firmly. "And anyway, Harry, even if you hadn't stuck a basilisk fang into it, I don't see how it could have been much use."
"Why not?" Ginny asked.
Ron hesitated, casting an uncomfortable look at his sister, but Ginny rolled her eyes impatiently.
"Ron, it was five years ago. I can stand to talk about it."
Ron didn't look entirely convinced, but he continued. "It's just that I can see it possessing someone or killing them, but I can't imagine it really sucking someone's soul out. Dumbledore has to be wrong about that."
Harry sat up. "Why?"
"Well, think about it. There are plenty of curses that'll kill and spells like the Imperius Curse that will give you control over someone, but there aren't any curses that actually suck out someone's soul."
"Of course there aren't, Ron," Hermione said. "If there were, there wouldn't be any mystery to it, would there? Voldemort invented it."
"But that's the whole point. He couldn't have done; not when he was still in school. I don't care how clever he was, he couldn't have worked something like that out by himself at sixteen. He grew up in a Muggle orphanage, didn't he? So it's not as if he had anyone to help him outside of school."
Harry had to admit that Ron's reasoning made a lot of sense, but Hermione was clearly unwilling to concede that Dumbledore could have been wrong on such an important matter. She was biting her lip and frowning in concentration. "He must have known someone… or maybe he was doing research on his own."
"Where? I don't think even the restricted section of the library carries books on how to suck people's souls out through diaries."
"I think I know where," Ginny whispered.
Harry, Ron and Hermione looked at her in surprise. She had a faraway look in her eyes and was staring unblinking into space. "That year, towards the end, I could sense some of Riddle's thoughts and feelings. When he took me down into the Chamber, I felt like he was going home. It wasn't just the basilisk's lair. It was his."
Ron shrugged. "So he liked to hang out in a creepy, underground chamber with his pet basilisk. So what?"
But Hermione's eyes had widened in understanding. "Of course! That has to be it."
"Has to be what?" Harry asked.
"It's the only thing that makes sense," Ginny agreed, meeting Hermione's eyes.
"What makes sense?" Ron said.
Hermione nodded. "And I even wondered about it at the time."
"Will you stop doing that?" Ron snapped.
The girls looked at Ron and Harry then Hermione sighed. "It's the Chamber. I spent weeks in the library searching for information on it. There wasn't any, of course, but while I was looking, I kept wondering what it could mean – what Salazar Slytherin could have hidden in it."
"He was a pure-blood lunatic who left a ruddy great basilisk there to kill Muggle-borns," Ron said.
"But that doesn't make sense."
"I never said it made sense. He was a loon, no question."
"That's not what I mean! Think. It's not the Secret Chamber or the Chamber of the Monster. It's the Chamber of Secrets."
"Plural," Harry murmured, catching Hermione's meaning. "There's more than one."
"More than one basilisk?" Ron said in horror.
"More than one secret," Ginny said. "Something else is down there and only a Parselmouth can get into the Chamber and find out what it is."
It was after dinner on Tuesday evening that Harry, Ginny, Ron and Hermione gathered in Myrtle's bathroom.
"Ginny, are you sure you want to come with us?" Harry asked as they stood around the sink that concealed the entrance to the Chamber of Secrets.
"Yes, I'm sure," Ginny said indignantly. "If you can handle it, I can."
"I know that. I'm just saying that you don't have to come –"
"You've said it four times, actually, and I'm still coming with you."
Harry sighed. "Fine." He approached the tap, stared intently at the small serpent etched on its side and hissed, "Open."
At once, the basin slid aside and a dark tunnel appeared. They all peered down into it.
"I'll go first," Harry said. "When you hear me call, send the brooms down." Harry climbed into the shaft and let himself drop. He slid down and down until he finally tumbled out into a dark cave and went sprawling on the damp, dirty ground. He got up, dusted himself off and went back to the mouth of the tunnel.
"Okay, send the brooms down," he called. A few moments later there was a swishing sound and three brooms shot out of the opening and went skittering across the cave floor. Harry picked them up just as Hermione fell out of the tube with a grunt. Ginny and Ron followed and at last they were all standing in the dark, underground passage.
"Come on." Harry and his friends lit their wands and set off. Nothing had changed since Harry had last passed this way, though the tunnel did seem more cramped and the ceiling lower than he remembered. Sooner than he expected, they arrived at the entrance to the Chamber of Secrets.
"Open," Harry hissed once more in Parseltongue and the great door swung aside.
The Chamber was exactly as Harry had left it. The skeleton of the basilisk lay in the middle of the floor with one fang missing.
"Blimey, that was big," Ron breathed. "How'd you ever manage?"
"Dunno," Harry said, "but I couldn't have done without Fawkes." He glanced sideways at Ginny to gauge how the sight of the basilisk might be affecting her, but she wore a look of stony determination.
"You don't reckon there are any more of these, do you?" Ron asked, eyeing the ex-basilisk nervously.
"If there was another one, I'm sure it would have attacked me last time."
"What if another one's moved in during the last five years?"
"Basilisks aren't that common, Ron," Hermione said. "They aren't like rats or gnomes."
Harry pointed at the statue of Salazar Slytherin. "It came out of the mouth up there, so there must be another chamber back there." Harry strode forward and began to examine the base of the statue. Ron and Hermione joined him, but Ginny remained standing where she was, staring fixedly at the statue.
"Ginny, are you all right," Harry asked in concern.
"It's through there." Ginny pointed at the gap between the statue's giant feet.
Harry moved to feel along the wall where Ginny had indicated, but found no opening. He drew his wand. "Lumos."
The wand-light shone on the ancient stone. Harry passed the wand back and forth slowly, searching. At last he spotted what he was looking for. A small snake was etched into one of the stones. Harry focused on it and whispered in Parseltongue. "Open."
There was a grinding sound and the stones split apart to reveal a dark passage beyond.
Harry turned and smiled at Ginny. She smiled back then the four of them stepped into the passage. After only a few feet if opened up into a large room. There was a sconce in the shape of two intertwined serpents on the wall to Harry's left and without thinking, he reached out and touched it.
"Light," he hissed. A bright flame burst forth from the top of the sconce and from dozens of others ringing the chamber. Harry blinked in the sudden brightness and heard Hermione gasp next to him.
"Oh, my goodness!"
The chamber was circular and easily thirty feet in diameter. Scattered around the room were various ornate standing glass cases with instruments in them that reminded Harry of those in Dumbledore's office. In the center were a large table and several chairs, all of which appeared to have intricate carvings of snakes in their designs. The floor was polished stone that glowed with the light of the torches. But Harry knew that none of this had amazed Hermione. Lining the walls all around the chamber were bookcases and alcoves reaching twenty feet high. And these were filled with what had to be thousands of books and rolls of parchment.
"These must have belonged to Salazar Slytherin," Hermione whispered reverently, stepping forward and turning around to take in the full extent of the library. "They have to be at least a thousand years old."
Harry, Ron and Ginny moved into the room as well.
"So then this must be what the basilisk was originally set to guard," Ginny said.
"I thought it was here to kill Muggle-borns," Ron replied.
Hermione had begun to examine the books, but she paused to look at Ron. "No, don't you see? Binns was right. That was only a legend. People must have heard rumors of the Chamber and a monster and they made up the rest based on Slytherin's falling out with the other Founders."
Harry, who was examining the contents of one of the cases, looked up. "I'd be willing to bet that old Slytherin invented the story himself to keep anyone from realizing what was really down here."
"Except that Riddle took the legend seriously," Ginny said bitterly.
"Hang on. These are all in foreign languages." Ron was frowning in consternation at the books on the nearest bookshelf.
"Old English and Celtic mostly," Hermione said. "Though I think some are in Old French. There are spells that will translate them – Ron, be careful!"
Ron had been about to pick up one of the books, but stopped, looking quizzically at Hermione. "They're too old," Hermione explained. "They're liable to crumble."
"How are we supposed to read them, if we can't touch them?"
"Parchment Restoration Solution," Harry answered at once. "I brewed it for Snape over summer," he added at the incredulous stares of his friends.
"Well, that's lucky," Ginny said.
"Not as lucky as it could be," Harry replied with a grimace. "It takes thirty-seven ingredients."
"Thirty-seven?" Ron exclaimed. "You're having us on!"
"I wish I was."
"But how are we supposed to nick all of that? Besides, it'd take a hundred gallons of the stuff to restore all of these books."
"We'd never be able to read them all anyway," Hermione said. "There are thousands of them. It would take years."
Harry scanned the room. "Then we have to figure out which ones Riddle read."
"Wait a minute," Hermione said. "If Riddle read any of these –"
"– then he'd have had to restore them first!" Ginny said, finishing the thought.
"That's right!" Harry said. "Everyone spread out and look for books that seem newer than the rest."
The four of them scattered to search the shelves and it wasn't long before Ginny called out. "I think I've found them."
Harry, Ron and Hermione hurried over to join her in front of an alcove with several shelves full of books. Even at a glance these were obviously in far better condition than the others in the room. Harry picked up one of the books, blew dust from it and opened it to the table of contents, but he couldn't decipher the language.
"Hermione, didn't you say there was a spell that would translate these?"
Hermione waved her wand over the book. "Ostendo Intellectus."
At once the words on the page smeared and reformed into Standard English. The title of the book, Ways to Enslave the Mind, was now perfectly legible.
"Well, that should be pleasant reading," Ron said, peering over Harry's shoulder.
Harry picked up another book and translated it as Hermione, Ron and Ginny did the same with other books. But, none of these titles proved to be any better than the first. They went through every shelf and book after book all related to the very Darkest of the Dark Arts: Possessing Beasts, Dark Creatures and Humans; Six Uses of Unicorn Blood; The Dementor's Desire: Feeding on Emotions; Sacrificial and Other Blood Magic; Special Properties of House Elf Brains; Ogre and Troll Entrails. On and on the list of macabre titles went. When they had finally finished translating the last book, they sat down at the large table carved with serpents and took stock.
"There are one hundred and ninety-six books that Riddle restored and presumably read or at least skimmed," Hermione said, checking the lists they'd made. "But none of the titles even hint at the kind of immortality Voldemort seems to have achieved or even at how he enchanted the diary."
"Do you suppose we'll have to read them all?" Ron asked with obvious unease.
"I'm not sure I'm up for that," Ginny said grimly. "Just looking at them makes me shudder."
"Harry, maybe you ought to just bring Dumbledore down here," Hermione suggested. "If anyone can figure out what Riddle was up to, he can."
Harry didn't answer. He suspected that even Dumbledore would be hard-pressed to recreate Riddle's work out of nearly two hundred disparate books, most of which seemed to have little bearing on the question at hand. They had to be missing something. Harry sighed and leaned back in his chair. It had to be very late, he knew. They'd been down here for hours, yet were no closer to discovering Voldemort's secret. Harry stared at the polished surface of the table, lost in thought as he tried to decide what to do next. Peripherally, he was aware that the flickering torchlight was making the serpents carved into the table seem to writhe.
Harry blinked and sat forward suddenly. It wasn't the torchlight. Several of the serpents were wriggling. He reached out towards one and as he did so a hidden drawer slid open on his left revealing several quills and an inkwell.
"Whoa!" Ron exclaimed, as the drawer had nearly hit him when it opened. "How'd you do that?"
"This isn't a table," Harry said. "It's Slytherin's desk." He reached out towards the serpent carved into the middle of the desk's surface and a large, shallow drawer slid smoothly out of the center of the desk in front of him. In it was a large black leather-bound book that bore no markings. As his friends gathered around, Harry picked it up.
"Careful," Ron warned.
Harry gave him a wry smile. "We have to know what's in it." Before anyone else could protest, Harry opened the book and flipped through it. It was clearly a journal of some sort. About half of the pages contained hand-written entries.
"Do you suppose these are old Slytherin's personal notes?" Ron asked.
"No, they're Riddle's," Ginny said with certainty. "Believe me, I recognize the handwriting."
Harry turned back to the first page and read the first entry.
I have at last discovered my inheritance and it is even greater than I had imagined! There is knowledge here that has been lost for nearly 1000 years and I can feel my heartbeat quicken at the prospect of what I may learn – what power I may gain from my ancestor, Salazar Slytherin, the greatest wizard to ever live.
Harry flipped through the pages, scanning the entries until another caught his eye.
Ah, the frustration! I am convinced that Slytherin knew of a way to stave off death! I have seen numerous references to this in my reading, but though I search, I have not been able to find anything but tantalizing hints. It's a test – I'm sure of it: Slytherin's little game to see if I am worthy. But I will not fail. I will find this knowledge! As the last of his heirs, I must preserve Slytherin's legacy and carry on his noble work.
I cannot die. I will not
Harry flipped more pages.
I was able to possess a silly first year boy today. He will spend a month in detention, but I dare not try this again. I am certain that Dumbledore suspected the truth. It is no matter. I will have my fun with the Muggles this summer. The important thing is that I know I am capable of transferring a part of my soul into another body and subjugating the host to my will. If I could find a way to enlist the cooperation of the Dementors then their Kiss could provide me with an endless supply of young, healthy and mindless bodies to inhabit, allowing me to live forever!
A few pages farther along Harry found:
I have made a startling discovery! Slytherin's writings suggest that there is a way to possess not only the body but the soul of another. This, truly, is the promise of immortality. While I can extend my life indefinitely by possessing others and so stave off natural death, this would still leave me vulnerable to murder or accidental death. But according to Slytherin, binding another soul to my own would prevent even the Avada Kadavra from taking my life. Slytherin, himself, seems to have never succeeded in accomplishing this feat, but I am confident that I will.
The relevant entries were coming more closely together now as Riddle seemed to have abandoned every other subject in the pursuit of what had clearly become his obsession: conquering death. Every entry made reference to some bit of knowledge he'd gained, though most of these proved to be dead ends. At last, after pages where Riddle's frustration was evident, Harry came upon an exultant entry.
At last one of my experiments in replicating Slytherin's work has proved successful! I have succeeded in imbuing a simple diary with the ability to absorb the soul of the one who writes in it. However, this is only a first step towards my eventual goal. The diary will require sustained interaction with the victim over many months to drain their soul and I had to bind a bit of my own soul to it – in effect possessing the book – in order to create the enchantment. But this does not give me what I long for, control over another's soul. The diary can manipulate a soul, but it cannot bind it. Once the soul has been extracted, the victim will simply die and their soul will be free. That will do me no good at all.
More pages of set backs and red-herrings followed this and then, abruptly, Harry came to the last entry in the journal.
The basilisk has killed a girl which is as I intended, but now there is talk of closing the school. I framed that fool, Hagrid, for the deed, but now I dare not open the Chamber again. I cannot risk the basilisk getting loose and killing another. My work is more important than killing Mudbloods now. I will take my research and Slytherin's own writings with me and find a safer place to continue my experiments.
Harry swore in frustration. "It's not here."
He tossed the book on the desk in disgust as Hermione, Ron and Ginny who had been reading along with Harry looked on sympathetically.
"But where would he have taken it?" Hermione wondered. "There's nowhere he could have conducted those sorts of experiments without being found out."
"Well, he obviously found some place to do them," Ron pointed out.
Harry shook his head in thought. "Not at school. Dumbledore was already watching him. He wouldn't have risked it."
"Surely he couldn't have worked on it at the Orphanage," Ginny said.
"No," Harry agreed. "That wouldn't have worked."
"Maybe he put off continuing the research until he was out of school," Hermione suggested.
Harry shook his head. "He was obsessed with this. I can't imagine that he would have abandoned it for two years."
"Well, either way, he still had to keep all of his books and research somewhere," Ginny pointed out. "It's hard to imagine that he kept it all in his trunk."
Ron shrugged. "Maybe he kept it at a friend's house."
Harry ran a hand through his hair. It was late and all this speculation was getting them nowhere. He stood up. "Come on, let's go. I'll read through Riddle's journal more carefully and see if there's anything there that might help us."
They were subdued and hardly spoke as they headed back through the Chamber and the cave, then up into the castle and finally to their dormitories. It was past midnight and Neville, Dean and Seamus were all asleep. Ron soon joined them, snoring gently. Harry however, lay awake. He'd been so sure that the Chamber would hold the secret to Voldemort's immortality, but Riddle's research was now long gone and Harry was out of ideas of where to look for more clues. No wonder Dumbledore had never discovered what spells Voldemort had used. Feeling frustrated and not the least bit sleepy, Harry sat up and leaned on the window sill, staring out at the clear, star-filled sky.
The moon was three-quarters full and shining brightly. It illuminated the grounds and Harry's attention was suddenly drawn to an unexpected movement in the distance. He leaned forward for a better look and there was no mistake: Someone was out on the grounds and heading towards the Forbidden Forest. Harry watched the figure intently until the person passed from the shadows of a stand of trees out into the moonlight. It was impossible to make out their features at this distance, but Harry could clearly see long black hair and knew at once that it was Snape. He'd already suspected as much. A moment later the figure slipped back into the shadows and then disappeared into the forest.
Troubled, Harry lay back on his pillow. As busy as he'd been in the last couple of weeks, he had entirely forgotten about keeping an eye on Snape and now he felt a twinge of guilt. Was Snape going to spy on the Death Eaters or did he have a darker purpose this night.
For a moment, Harry considered simply washing his hands of Snape's nocturnal activities. It was none of his business and he already had more than enough to worry about. Besides, Snape could take care of himself and if he wanted to risk getting killed or arrested, well, that was his choice. Who was Harry to stop him?
Harry sighed. He'd been through this argument with himself before and knew it was pointless. No matter that he knew it wasn't his responsibility to worry about Snape, he couldn't help it. But what annoyed him was that he wasn't sure why. In the light of day he could tell himself that Snape was important to the war effort and that they couldn't afford to lose him. But lying here alone in the dark, Harry knew that wasn't why his stomach had knotted up every time he'd heard the man leaving Grimmauld Place during the summer, nor was it why he felt that same anxiety now.
Bloody idiot! Harry turned over, angrily shoving all thought of the man from his mind and before long fell into a fitful sleep.
Harry spent the next several days trying not to think about either Voldemort or Snape. He spent his free time with his friends and particularly with Ginny. She always boosted his spirits. He enthusiastically put his Quidditch team through their paces during their first practice, Thursday afternoon and he even put out more than the minimum effort on his homework. He did take to reading the obituaries in the Daily Prophet again, but so far, and to his relief, there had been no suspicious deaths reported.
Friday afternoon, Harry arrived at Knight's office for his first session of Auror training and Knight wasted no time getting started.
"One of the most important concepts for an Auror to know – and one that is not generally taught in school – is stealth," Knight said. "There are numerous skills you'll want to learn eventually, but the one that is most important and takes the longest to master is the use of non-verbal spells.
"Most teachers here at Hogwarts won't instruct you in non-verbals because for the most part they're considered unnecessary. Verbal spells are easier to cast and generally more potent, and if you're only defending against an attack, they're sufficient. But for a wizard who intends to fight the Dark Arts, not just defend against them, non-verbal spells are crucial. The less information you reveal to your opponent in a duel, the better off you'll be.
"We'll start with the basics. I'll cast a simple Stinging Hex which you'll need to block with a shield charm. But I don't want you to cast the spell aloud. Form it in your mind and use your wand alone to trigger it. Ready?"
Harry cleared his mind and focused on the thought, Protego. Then he raised his wand and nodded. Knight raised her wand and Harry jumped as the Stinging Hex hit him. Knight smiled slyly at him. "Death Eaters know how to use non-verbal spells too, Potter. And they generally don't give notice before attacking you. Anytime someone points a wand at you, you need to assume they're casting an offensive spell."
"I'll keep that in mind," Harry said. He raised his wand once more. "Ready."
"Fodio!" Knight cried flicking her wand at Harry.
Having been expecting another silent attack, Harry was startled by the verbal one which distracted him at the crucial moment. He flinched as the Stinging Hex hit him once more.
Knight's eyes twinkled in amusement. "In addition to being easier to use, verbal spells can be handy for breaking an opponent's concentration."
"Right." Harry gritted his teeth and raised his wand for the third time. He took a deep breath and focused on the shield charm he needed to cast.
Knight raised her wand. "Ready? Fodio!"
Harry was ready for the hex this time. Protego! he thought then jumped as the Stinging Hex hit him just as it had before.
Knight's smile was sympathetic this time. "Don't worry, Potter. I told you it would take time to master this."
"But I was concentrating as hard as I could!"
"It's not just a matter of concentration. If it was then anyone would be able to cast non-verbal spells. It's not that simple. A spell has to be projected towards a target in order to be effective. A shield charm, for instance, can be projected in front of you or around you. When you cast a standard verbal spell, intent, eye contact, wand movement and incantation combine to project the spell correctly. Remove any one of those elements and the spell will fail.
"You have to re-learn how to cast spells without the verbal incantation and you'll probably never be able to cast every spell non-verbally. Some are simply too difficult. But with time and practice you should be able to cast most of the spells you'll need without speaking them aloud."
"How? If concentration isn't the key, what is?"
"Repetition, mostly. By trying over and over to cast spells non-verbally, you train yourself to do without the missing element in much the same way that a blind man learns to function without sight. That's why we'll be spending a lot of time practicing this. It also wouldn't hurt for you to practice on your own. Any other questions?"
Harry shook his head. "Not right now."
"Then let's try again."
Harry grunted as he slowly sat down at the Gryffindor table for dinner. He was stiff and sore all over.
"What happened to you?" Ron asked, regarding Harry in concern.
"Not much, unless you count getting hit by about fifty Stinging Hexes," Harry replied. He quickly told Ron and Ginny about his lesson with Knight.
"It takes a lot of work to learn non-verbal spells," Ron said around a mouthful of potatoes."
"Yeah, I've noticed that," Harry said sourly.
"Well, you couldn't have thought that training with Knight was going to be easy," Ginny said.
Harry rolled his eyes. He wasn't going to admit it, but he actually had thought that the training wouldn't be too bad. He had top marks in Defense and had already fought Death Eaters. It stung far worse than any hex to realize how inadequate his skills really were.
"Where's Hermione?" Harry asked both to change the subject and because he'd just noticed the empty seat next to Ron.
"Studying, I reckon," Ron said with a glum shake of his head. "I've hardly seen her in days. I think she's already panicking about her NEWTs."
Even as Ron was still speaking however, Hermione arrived and came hurrying over to them. She sat down then leaned forward and spoke in an excited whisper. "I think I may have a lead on how to discover what Riddle was working on."
Harry sat up, his soreness and fatigue forgotten as Hermione continued.
"I was thinking about what you said, Ron – that Riddle might have left his research with a friend. And then I remembered what you told us back in second year, Harry – about how Riddle was already using the name Voldemort with his closest friends back in school. So I dug through the school archives to see if I could figure out who his friends were. I found this."
Hermione pulled a photo from her pocket and handed it to Harry. It was a wizard's photo and there, smirking up at him, was Tom Riddle, dressed in his school robes, his Head Boy badge gleaming. He was flanked by three other boys, who were all smiling, too. They were alternately waving and pointing proudly at Riddle's badge.
"If they knew that he was going by Voldemort then they might have also known that he was doing some sort of special research and specifically where he might have kept his notes. If we could find them, they might be able to help."
"Do we know who they are?" Ginny asked.
Hermione shook her head. "No. I couldn't find anything that would help me put names with the faces."
"How are we going to find them then?" Ron asked. "That picture's fifty years old."
"Maybe Hagrid knows," Harry said. "He was at school with Riddle, so he must have known these fellows, too."
"That was a long time ago," Ginny pointed out. "He might not remember."
"It won't hurt to ask. We can go see him after dinner."
Harry and his friends ate quickly then headed out of the castle and down to Hagrid's hut. Hagrid was outside and hailed them as they approached.
"Hullo there, Ginny! I see you finally brought this lot down for a visit. Bad enough ye aren't taking my class, but not even comin' to see me…" Hagrid harrumphed in mock offense.
"We're sorry, Hagrid," Hermione said. "We've just been awfully busy."
"Aw, I know that." Hagrid dismissed the apology with a wave of his hand. "I'm glad ye came by jus' now. There's a Porlock 'round back. He's been hanging about with the herd of Thestrals for the last few months and I've finally got 'im so he don't run every time he sees me. If you're real quiet an' move slow, ye might be able to catch a glimpse of 'im."
"Actually, Hagrid, we really wanted to ask you about something else." Harry said, pulling the photo out of his pocket. "We need to know if you recognize the boys in this picture."
Hagrid took the photo from Harry, looked at it and frowned in earnest this time. "Where'd ye get this?"
"We came across it in the school archives," Hermione said. "We know that's Tom Riddle, but we were hoping you could tell us who the other boys are?"
"Now, look here. You've got more 'n enough to worry about already. You're not to go poking into stuff without Dumbledore's say so."
"Hagrid, we just want to know their names. That's all," Harry said. "You do remember them, don't you?"
Hagrid heaved a great sigh. "Aye, I remember 'em. Always following Riddle around. 'Course Riddle, he was the leader of the group."
"Sort of like Malfoy and Crabbe and Goyle," Ron said.
"Yeah, 'cept this lot was clever and they weren't all Slytherins, neither, as I recall." Hagrid pointed to a serious-looking boy with glasses in the picture. "This fella was a Ravenclaw from one of them wealthy old pure-blood families.
"This here was Laurel – no Lawrence," Hagrid said, indicating a short, stocky boy. "Mordecai Lawrence. He was a Hufflepuff – a whiz at Herbology and Care of Magical Creatures. He had a knack for handling just about any livin' thing.
"This fella was a Slytherin. Don't remember his name, but he always gave me the chills. I always thought there was somat not quite right about 'im."
"Do you know what happened to any of them?"
"Couldn't say. I never heard any news of 'em after they left school. I haven't even thought about 'em in fifty years and neither should you." Hagrid scowled worriedly. "I mean it, Harry. Whatever it is ye have your nose in this time, jus' leave it. Ye can't afford any more trouble."
"I know that, Hagrid. I promise that I'll do my best to stay out of trouble."
Hagrid heaved another great sigh then relaxed and smiled. "Good enough then. Mind, I'm holdin' ye to your word." He rubbed his hands together excitedly. "So now, who's up for seeing a Porlock?"
"I can't believe we spent an hour looking for a ruddy Porlock!" Ron complained as he, Harry, Hermione and Ginny headed back up to the castle.
"Hagrid was so disappointed that it had wandered off, Ron. We couldn't very well just leave," Hermione said.
"It was worth it to get the information about Riddle's friends," Harry said. "I'll take the photo and Riddle's journal to Dumbledore and tell him what we suspect. He probably remembers these fellows too and I bet the Order could track them down in no time."
Elated at their success, Harry and his friends hurried back to the boys' dormitory where Harry retrieved Riddle's journal and left at once to go see Dumbledore. As always, the gargoyle stepped aside as Harry approached the Headmaster's office and Harry hurried up the stairs. Dumbledore was seated at his desk and looked up from a roll of parchment he was reading when Harry knocked at his door. "Harry, what brings you here this evening?"
"I have something to show you, Professor." Harry handed Dumbledore the journal and quickly explained how he and his friends had visited the Chamber of Secrets. "Riddle was doing his research down there. That's where he invented the enchantments he placed on the diary. He doesn't go into any detail in the journal, but if you look here…" Harry pointed out the last entry in the book. "It says that he took all of his research – including the books that he was using – and went to find another place to continue his work.
"It's possible that the research might have been lost after all these years, but I can't believe he wouldn't have hidden Slytherin's books somewhere safe. If we could figure out where they are, we might be able to recreate Voldemort's research or at least figure out what sort of spells he might have invented."
Harry paused to allow all of this to sink in and waited expectantly as Dumbledore glanced through the journal. At last the old wizard closed the book and ran his fingers lightly over the cover. He was quiet a moment longer then looked up at Harry.
"Harry, I think you have misunderstood me."
"I beg your pardon?"
"Much as I admire your resourcefulness in coming by this journal, I have no need of it. As I told you when we last met, I already know the nature of the enchantment that Voldemort invented. I do not need to know the details of how he created it."
"But it can't hurt to learn more about what he did," Harry protested, surprised to have his efforts rebuffed.
"Can't it?" Dumbledore smiled sadly. "Think, Harry. What would happen if Voldemort discovered that we were hunting for information about how he has protected himself against death? Don't you suppose that would put him on his guard and make him that much more difficult to outwit? I have been as circumspect as possible in my investigations and I have shared the information that I've learnt with no one. Even so, there have been times when I feared that Voldemort knew of my intentions. Now that I know what must be done to kill him, I will not risk showing my hand by probing further. I will not pursue this matter and I do not want you to pursue it either. You already have more than enough to be getting on with. Put this out of your mind and promise me that you will not go back into the Chamber of Secrets."
Harry stared at Dumbledore in consternation, but the old wizard's gaze was steady and said clearly that Dumbledore would brook no argument.
Harry took a deep breath and let it out slowly. "All right. I promise that I won't go back into the Chamber."
Dumbledore smiled. "Thank you, Harry. Now, if there is nothing else, I will see you Monday evening."