As the leaves fell and the air chilled, the rift between Severus and Harry grew wider and neither party showed any inclination to repair it. At first, it was merely an uncomfortable relationship but when Severus did not back Harry up after the second attack, Harry became legitimately angry at the man. Ron and Draco were lucky in that they had gotten off by telling Dumbledore the truth: they had simply been in the wrong place at the wrong time. Harry however had no verifiable excuse and no alibi. Rather than stay to help Hermione clean up the cauldron in the girls' bathroom, he had begged off, citing an essay to write. Instead, he had headed towards the dungeons so as to meet Draco and Ron on their way back. Therefore, just moments after the attack was discovered, Harry was found in the immediate vicinity. Dumbledore did not seem to think that he was truly behind it and his excuse of going to visit Snape had turned many of the teachers' sympathies towards him. Nevertheless, he got nothing but suspicious glares from Snape.
Harry had not talked to him since that night about a month ago. It was very close to Christmas now and Harry felt lacking. He recalled the fight with Snape that had happened around this time the previous year and hoped that this was not a recurring pattern. Though they had mended fences the year before, Harry was not sure that he could do it again. Lost in his thoughts, Harry was unaware that he had fallen into a brooding silence.
"Harry, snap out of it, mate," Ron said with a nudge.
Harry came to awareness and realized they were in the middle of a Transfiguration class.
"You've been doing that more and more, are you alright?" Hermione piped up from his left.
"Yeah, I'm fine," he said. His eyes wandered over Seamus's empty chair and his chest tightened. The most recent attack had taken its toll on everyone, especially the Gryffindors. Everyone handled it differently, however: Hermione had delved even farther into her studies while Ron simply mitigated his jokes. Harry noticed that Draco had simply seemed on edge as of late, and Harry found it odd that he had stopped writing in his journal. Personally, Harry had simply withdrawn and become more distant, even with his closest friends. He dearly hoped that this would be resolved soon.
Later that night, Harry sat with his friends in the common room. They were chatting aimlessly about the upcoming holidays.
"So what are you doing for Christmas?" Hermione asked Ron.
"Going home I think. Anyone want to come?"
No one volunteered. Ron shrugged. "How about you?"Hermione replied, "I think we are going on a ski trip. Draco?"
Harry realized they were going around the circle and tried to make up a plausible story as to why he was staying at Hogwarts. In truth, it was because he was still angry at Severus and did not want to ask him if they could go to Spinner's End for what would be his first real Christmas at home.
"Staying here," Draco stated. "I don't think my dad would be too happy to see me back at home."
Hermione nodded in sympathy, then turned to Harry. "And you?"
"Uh, I think I'm staying here," he said.
"Snape doesn't want to leave, huh?" Ron asked.
"No," Harry replied, thinking he had dodged a bullet, in muggle terms. He should have realized that his quick witted friend would see right through him.
"You haven't even talked to him, have you?" Hermione asked, or rather, demanded.
"Um, no," Harry said, for he could not lie to her face.
She rolled her eyes. "Harry, you have to reconcile with him. I thought you would fight harder for your new family."
"I thought he would too," Harry muttered darkly. "We'll see."
Harry considered following Hermione's advice but simply could not bring himself to do it. After about his fourth try, Harry had made it all the way down to the first floor but simply could not take those extra steps to the dungeon. He sighed and paused outside the girls' bathroom door.
"You idiot, Crabbe!" a familiar growl echoed from around the corner. Harry panicked, he did not want to be caught by him in this state. He glanced around and seeing no other choice, he slipped into Myrtle's bathroom. He pressed his ear to the door and listened for their footsteps. It seemed as if Crabbe had been responsible for a spillage of some kind. Harry would be stuck here a while, for with their inferior magic skills, whatever it was would take some time to remedy.
"Hi, Harry," Myrtle said in her high pitched voice, causing Harry to jump.
"Uh, hi Myrtle."
Her smile morphed into a frown. "Did you come to visit me or just to pick up that stupid book?"
"What book?" Harry asked with a furrowed brow.
"A man dropped a book in here and said not to let anyone take it but his son. Are you his son?"
"Yes," Harry said without asking who it was. He didn't want her to try and stop him from getting the book, whatever it was. "Where is it?"
"Over there," she said, pointing.
Harry's feet splashed in a puddle of water. "Why is there water everywhere?"
"I don't know," she said indignantly then started to sniffle. "But it reminds me of the night I...died!" She wailed and shot towards the ceiling.
"Did you drown?" Harry asked, mainly to get her to stop.
"No," she huffed. "Everybody knows why I died. There was water everywhere from... from my tears!" she started crying. Or well, as close as a ghost could get seeing as she couldn't produce tears.
Harry had picked up the book at this point. He turned it over and found it to be unremarkable. Slowly, it dawned on him that this looked an awful lot like Draco's little book. Perhaps that was why he had stopped writing; he no longer had the book in which to write.
"Oh, sure. Find your stupid little book and ignore poor, moaning, moping Myrtle," she whined.
"Sorry," Harry said, suddenly wanting to get out of there. "Bye." Harry called, flitting out the door. He could hear her wails as he opened the book to read.
The book was blank. It was only marred by the words T.M. Riddle. Harry frowned. He could have sworn that this was the book that he had seen Draco writing in. It was late and he looked down the corridor. It was silent. To eager to find a more secure place, Harry kneeled on the floor and laid the book open beside him. He opened his pack and was rummaging for his wand when the sleeve of his robes caught on something. He pulled it out quickly and with it came a bottle of ink, the steel edge of which had snagged his robes. The ink well fell to the floor and silky black droplets sprayed everywhere. Harry sighed and searched harder for his wand. While his hands were preoccupied, Harry noticed that there were droplets all around the book but none on its clear, blank pages. He frowned and at last grasped the familiar wooden handle. Before cleaning up the mess, he dipped one finger in a pool of ink and dabbed it on the page. It was absorbed so that not a trace of the black liquid remained.
Harry had just wiped off his finger when he heard footsteps from down the hall. In one fluid motion, he flipped the book closed and swept it into his bag. Just as he latched it closed, Draco rounded the corner. His expression upon finding Harry kneeling immediately outside the girls' bathroom was one of alarm.
"Harry?" he asked.
"Hey Draco," Harry said casually. "Just dropped an inkwell."
With a wave of his wand, the mess had been cleaned up. "What are you doing down this way?" Harry asked. "It's almost curfew."
"Oh, you know, just taking a walk," Draco hedged.
Harry saw his cue and rose. "I don't suppose you want company?"
Draco shook his head. "Not tonight."
"Okay, see you later."
Draco merely nodded and stood still until Harry was out of sight.
Harry walked back up to the common room while reflecting on how odd that confrontation was. If Draco had been going to pick up the book, then did that mean his father was here? Why was he here? Harry had thought that they wanted nothing to do with each other. Somehow, Harry knew that it all stemmed from the book. He had to figure out what was going on with that strange little book. As soon as he was through the portrait hole, Harry hurried up to his dorm room where he drew the curtains even though he was alone. He ran a few revealing spells on the pages but to no avail. The book resting on his pillow, Harry retrieved a new ink well and a quill. He took a deep breath and wrote.
The ink was absorbed and nothing happened. Perhaps this was some kind of frustrating joke book. Just as he was about to close it, words faded into view.
Hello. With whom do I have the pleasure of speaking, or in this case, writing?
Harry breathed in sharply. It seemed to be intelligent. Of all the things he had seen since he was enlightened by magic, he had never seen an inanimate object think. He decided to be careful.
That is not important. Who are you?
My name is equally as unimportant. I, myself, am not, it replied.
On a whim, Harry asked, What do you know about the Chamber of Secrets?
Everything and nothing.
Well which is it? Harry scribbled impatiently. Can you tell me?
My knowledge depends on who is asking.
Fine. I am Harry Potter.
Ah. I cannot tell you, it wrote. There was a lengthy pause during which Harry felt disappointed.
But I can show you.
Okay, Harry wrote as his surroundings disappeared.
What Harry saw made no sense. He simply saw flashes, like photographs, of the past. He saw spiders scurrying towards the forest in one scene, then a younger Dumbledore in the next. In one confusing flash, a very large boy with a strikingly familiar voice was cooing to a giant spider. Then he saw a plaque with the name Tom Marvolo Riddle on it. He saw a group of students dressed in black huddled over a coffin covered with a Ravenclaw banner. Then, in a disorienting spin, Harry was back. He closed the book shakily.
Harry was sure that the boy with the spider was Hagrid, but what was going on with the spiders? He had seen them himself, crawling up the wall after hearing the voices. Harry assumed that Hagrid had been trying to keep his pet spider from running away with the rest. Was that it? What would cause a spider to run? Harry shivered, he would hate to meet that thing.
Harry pulled back the curtains around his bed, relieved to see sunlight after that unnerving experience. With nothing left to do, he went to tell Ron and Hermione. Ever the loyal friend, however, Harry said nothing about Draco Malfoy. Perhaps if he had, things would have turned out differently.
AN: Well, how is it going so far? Do you like it? Don't forget to review and let me know what you think! I am shooting for at least 21 chapters; a little shorter than As it Began. This is partly because it bothers me when things are drawn out much longer then necessary and partly because I am dying to reveal everyone's secrets at the end ;) Thanks to everyone who reviewed and be sure to keep reading!