Later in the week, Harry went once again to see Professor Snape. With all of the recent distractions, he had forgotten to ask Severus about what he had seen during the brief time he had the diary. Harry found Severus at his desk grading papers. Though the door was open, he knocked on the doorframe.
"Can I come in?" Harry asked.
Severus nodded curtly. Harry approached gingerly.
"Well? What is it you need?" Severus asked after a moment, laying aside his papers.
"To talk," Harry said. He waited for Severus's reaction. There was none; Severus's face remained stonily unresponsive.
"Um, well, I got my hands on this diary that had a...mind of its own," Harry said. Again, Severus did not respond. "I asked it about the Chamber of Secrets."
"Naturally," Severus said when Harry paused. "Go on."
"Well it showed me some stuff. Like spiders running from something, a plaque that had the name "Tom Marvolo Riddle" on it and a coffin with a Ravenclaw banner. Do you know what any of that means?"
Severus sat completely still. "Where is the diary now?"
"Gone," Harry said. "I don't know where."
"How did you get it?" Severus asked.
Harry hesitated in telling the truth. Severus definitely knew something but he seemed reluctant to share. "I found it. But do you know what it means?"
"No," Severus said simply. "I will think about it."
Harry could see no benefit from pushing him so he left the words hang in the air.
"Do you not have Quidditch practice to get to?" Severus asked after a moment.
"Er, yeah," Harry responded, wondering how he knew that. Severus always knew everything. Harry stood and made it to the door before he paused.
"Harry," Severus had said. Harry turned around.
"Do not do anything foolish without at least telling me first," Severus said.
Harry weighed that in his mind. If he did decide to do something that Severus considered foolish, he would inevitably be stopped or incapacitated if he alerted his guardian first. Nevertheless, he did not want to outright refuse because the concern was touching and it did make sense to tell someone what was going on in case he got hurt...
"What if I use the alarm you gave me last year?" Harry said as a compromise. That would give him at least enough time to get away before Severus could come after him but it would let him know that Harry was up to something.
Severus's eyes narrowed ever so slightly as they searched Harry's face. "Very well."
Harry nodded and left. He did not see the look of befuddlement upon Severus's face after he had gone nor the thorough search of the office that followed.
Quidditch practice was uneventful and many of the Gryffindors' hearts were not in the game. Wood was frustrated.
"Come on, guys!" he said, exasperated. "Just because we won two matches doesn't mean we can just slack off from here on out. Slytherin is up in just a few weeks."
"Let's just hope our whole team is there to see it," Fred muttered darkly. He and George were some of the most disturbed by the attacks, perhaps because it was their prerogative to wander the castle after hours. Now, no one would dream of such a thing.
"Optimism, people!" Wood emphasized. "We could still win the house cup."
Angelina scoffed. "Yeah, if Snape stops taking points from Gryffindor and giving them to Slytherin. He took twenty points from me for dropping a ginger root in Potions, did I tell you that?"
Outraged mutters caused Wood to roll his eyes. Alicia turned to Harry. "Can't you talk to him? He is being pretty unfair."
Harry shrugged. "I could try," he said, refraining from voicing doubt as to how much difference it would make.
She touched his arm lightly. "Thanks, Harry. We really want the cup again this year."
"Hey! Hey!" Wood shouted. "Attention up here. Let's run through this new set of drills, shall we?"
With a collective groan, the team grabbed their brooms and headed to the center of the pitch to try out whatever new form of torture Wood had devised for them while McGonagall supervised. It was only then that Harry realized Draco was missing.
They had only been practicing for about twenty minutes when a silvery form shot towards McGonagall then dissolved before her. She waved at Wood and he signaled the team to land. They formed a half circle around her.
"Gather your things, this practice is over," she said sternly.
"Why?" Wood asked.
"Hogwarts is no longer safe. All students are confined to quarters until further notice," she said and refused to elaborate. They gathered their things and followed her up to the hall. Harry felt around in his Quidditch bag. His hands closed around a familiar silky smooth garment. He pulled it to the top of the bag and waited for a good opportunity. Once inside the castle, students were everywhere, climbing the stairs to the common room. Harry could easily be lost in the confusion. He removed the invisibility cloak and his wand and nudged Fred.
"Will you take this up to the common room for me?" he asked.
Fred gave Harry an approving look. "Sure, mate. Make all the trouble you like but do avoid getting injured. Mum would be so angry..."
"Thanks," he said simply before disappearing.
Harry wove his way through the crowds looking for his red haired friend. At last, he spotted him and made his way over. Harry stuck one hand out from under his cloak and grabbed Ron's arm. Ron jumped and turned. Seeing the hand, he put two and two together and whispered, "Harry?"
Harry pulled the cloak over Ron. "Do you know what's going on?" he asked, ignoring pleasantries.
Ron shook his head. "All I heard was another attack but different somehow."
"How?" Harry asked rhetorically. He spotted several teachers herding students away from the corridor that held Myrtle's bathroom. "Come on."
Moving as one, they made their way over to the haphazard line of teachers. Holding their breaths, Harry and Ron slipped between Flitwick and Sinistra into the corridor. Harry was about to barge into the knot of teachers halfway down the hall when Ron stopped him.
"Harry, wait," he whispered. "I was coming back from visiting Hermione when you found me. I found this in her hand."
Ron pressed a piece of paper into Harry's hand. Lighting his wand with a lumos, Harry read it.
"A basilisk," he said thoughtfully. "spiders flee before it...the pipes... hang on. Mrytle! She was a Ravenclaw, wasn't she?"
"I think she was," Harry said, half to himself. "Hermione mentioned it one time. This all fits! She was the one who died last time, the one in the coffin I saw. The entrance to the chamber must be in her bathroom!"
"Keep your voice down," Ron hissed.
"Come on," Harry whispered and he drug Ron over to the group of teachers to see what they were talking about.
On the wall, a new message glimmered in fresh blood.
HIS SKELETON WILL LIE IN THE CHAMBER FOREVER.
"Oh Merlin," Ron breathed.
"Draco," Harry said. "We have to go save him."
"Ron," Harry said. "He would do the same for you."
"Would he?" Ron asked a tad skeptical. "Fine, let's go. But shouldn't we get one of the professors this time? Like Lockhart?"
"What would he do? I'll tell Snape," Harry promised. "Let's go."
They waited until no one was looking and slipped into the girl's bathroom. Harry dug the little button out of his pocket and activated it.
"Myrtle?" Harry called.
A wispy figure dried her ghostly tears and came floating over. "What do you want?"
"To know how you died," Harry responded. "What do you remember?"
"The eyes. Bright yellow eyes. Huge," she sniffed. "Then that was it."
Harry nodded. That fit the information he had on the basilisk. "Where did it come from?"
Her quivering hand pointed to one of the sinks. Harry and Ron examined it.
"Here, Harry," Ron said. "It's a snake."
"So now what?"
"I don't know. Tell it to open?" Ron said sarcastically.
"Open," Harry said. The sink slid back then folded in on itself and disappeared revealing a cement tunnel at what seemed to be a vertical drop. "Hey, it worked." Harry said, a lighthearted attempt to mask his fear.
"So, er, who should go first?" Ron asked. They looked at each other. Myrtle floated up behind them.
"I think Harry should go first," she said. "That way, maybe he will die and he can share my toilet."
Harry looked concerned at the hopeful tone in her voice. Ron shrugged. "Well, you heard the girl, go ahead."
Harry took a deep breath, reminded himself that he was a Gryffindor and jumped.
The ride was long but not unpleasant. Though he felt like throwing up by the time he was spit out onto a pile of sticks, Harry was otherwise unharmed.
"It's okay!" he called up the glorified slide.
He heard Ron's scream and he assumed he was on his way. Harry lit the tip of his wand and looked around. He gagged. He was not standing on a pile of sticks, but rather, a pile of bones. He extinguished the light. Harry stood motionless, flinching at every drop of water from the roof above him, until Ron arrived. His ejection was much less graceful than Harry's and he was forced to pick bones off of his robes. Harry did not tell him they were human remains.
"This is really creepy," Ron said, referring to the pitch black darkness around them. Ron lit his wand. He let out a short, girlish shriek. "These are bones! They're human!"
Harry nodded grimly. He lit his own wand once more and explored the area that they were in. The walls were stone; damp and covered in moss and mildew. The air was musty and the bones crunched beneath his feet. They stood in a large circular room with one hallway leading off of it, not counting the tunnel through which they came.
"That looks like the only way out," Harry said. "He must have taken Draco through there."
"He?" Ron asked.
"The snake," Harry replied.
"Oh, right." Ron gulped.
"Come on," Harry said. "We don't even know if he is still alive. We have to hurry."
Ron's pale face was made even more evident by the dim light. "Um, maybe I should just stay here."
"Are you a Gryffindor or no-" Harry was cut off by a body landing on the pile of bones at the bottom of the slide.
The dark figure leaped up agilely, wand raised. "Don't move," Severus said. "Drop your wands."
Harry stepped forward and Severus's wand whipped to lock on him.
"Severus, it's me. Harry," he said.
Snape's generally blank visage was marred by a horrible approximation of a smile. "I know. Drop your wand."
Harry did not do so, nor did he drop Severus's gaze. His mind was fiercely occluded. Severus pointed his wand at Ron who whimpered.
Ron's wand had long since clattered to the ground amidst the skeletal remains. Harry looked at his shaking friend and, against every instinct, let the wand fall from his fingers.