When Harry had first laid eyes on Hogwarts, he’d felt nothing but awe. He’d never seen a building quite like it. A thousand-year-old castle, complete with gargoyles, suits of armour, statues, hundreds of windows, half a dozen towers, and enough innate magic to set his senses alight. As interested as he was in the classes, Harry’s first thoughts had been regarding how long it would take a person to learn the whereabouts of all the hidden rooms a place like Hogwarts was sure to have.
The downside which he hadn’t considered at the time, was just how big and confusing the old castle was. There were one hundred and forty-two stair cases at Hogwarts. The main ones moved. At random too, unless a member of staff was present. Rooms came and went on a whim, some places required verbal passwords to open, or something even more ridiculous to become accessible. Like that room that required students to step into the doorway with their left foot. Or that room behind an old portrait of Ravenclaw house from the 1600th century. To get to that room you had to spin around three times. Some corridors were only open for certain times of the day, and the trick steps which were located on some of the stair ways moved around according to the lunar cycle. That's what Percy Weasley, one of the Gryffindor prefects, had told him. Harry didn’t think that Percy was the kind of person who joked around. He seemed to take his responsibilities very seriously. So, it was probably true.
There were no maps of Hogwarts. It wouldn’t be practical given how often the places within it moved around. Students were just expected to figure it out themselves, and while the professors didn’t punish tardiness within the first-year students yet, all of them were warned repeatedly that that leniency would not last long.
That was why Harry had adopted a policy of not travelling alone anywhere. As a group there was a higher chance of someone knowing where they were meant to go next, and there was a higher chance of avoiding trouble that way. By either wandering into a place they were not meant to, or meeting people that they would rather not be seeing. A lost group of first-years was also much more likely to receive assistance than a lone one.
It wasn’t a policy he enjoyed much. Before Hogwarts he had been quite isolated from his peers and the rest of the world. That had been a lonely existence, one he hadn’t wanted to continue, but now he was living in a castle with hundreds of other people. Even just sleeping in a dorm with four other boys was a bit much for him. He didn’t like being lonely, but he now realised that he didn’t quite know how to cope being with other people either.
By the time November came around, Harry was nearly vibrating with the need to get away from his peers. Ron was a good friend, as far as Harry could judge someone being his friend seeing as he’d never had one before. Hermione, that girl he and Ron had rescued from that mountain troll during the Halloween feast, was also fast becoming their friend. They had rushed to warn her (and then miraculously saved her), but Ron had been the one to put her in danger in the first place. Still, she’d lied to the professors for them. And that, Harry knew, coming from her meant a lot.
Harry needed a break from them though. He felt like they were always crowding him and monopolizing his time.
It was, unfortunately, too cold for him to go and spend time outside. He hadn’t thought there would be much difference seeing as it wasn’t that far away, but northern Scotland was colder than Surrey, which is in southern England. He also didn’t have much in the way of clothes warm enough for him to spend time outside; he'd only brought his school uniform and some of Dudley's hand-me-downs. Anything more than ten minutes outside had his lips turning blue. It was lucky that flying class had stopped at the end of October and would not be picked up again until the end of February. He’d freeze otherwise.
It was the weekend. No classes. They still ate their meals in the Great Hall though, and so after lunch Harry ducked out to go to the bathroom. By himself.
It shouldn’t have been a problem. He was quite familiar with the immediate area surrounding the place he ate at every day. Somehow though, he’d gotten turned around along the way. He was now in an unfamiliar corridor, and he was pretty sure that he shouldn’t have gone down those stairs back there. Worse still, he hadn’t seen another student for quite some time and none of the portraits he was walking passed were willing to help him.
He stopped and sat down against the wall. He felt like such an idiot. This was going to be even worse than that time where Aunt Petunia had lost him in a supermarket. His celebrity status meant that most of the school paid him too much attention. He could easily imagine what they would say if they learnt the “Boy-who-lived” got lost looking for the bathroom.
A noise echoed down the corridor. Harry sat up immediately. It sounded like someone, a girl probably, was in pain. It was a bit hard to tell, the distance meant the sound was echoing strangely.
He got to his feet though and started jogging towards the noise. If someone was hurt, then he couldn’t just leave them there. They would also hopefully be able to help him find his way to a bathroom.
He rounded the corner and to his surprise he realised that he had found a bathroom. A girls’ bathroom. Also, that noise which he had mistaken for someone in pain was actually a girl singing.
She sounded like she needed a lot more practice.
He hesitated for a moment before stepping into the doorway and called out.
“Hello?” He didn’t actually go into the bathroom, he just wanted to make sure that the person inside would hear him.
The singing stopped.
“Who’s there?” He tried again after nothing happened for a few moments.
“What’s a boy doing outside a girl’s bathroom?” A voice answered him at last.
“I’m lost,” He said honestly.
“Lost?” She didn’t sound like she thought he was lying, just that she wanted him to explain further. It was a bit hard to tell without speaking face to face with her.
“My name’s Harry. I’m a first year Gryffindor, and I was trying to find a bathroom that I could use. But I got lost, and then I heard you singing,” He explained, giving his name and year because he didn’t want her to think he was a creep.
“Oh… My name’s Myrtle. Did you like my singing?” She asked.
Harry didn’t want to be rude and say that he’d thought that she was in physical pain when he had first heard her, but he also didn’t want to lie. He thought quickly.
“You’re a lot better than my aunt. She can’t carry a tune in a bucket,” He answered. The corners of his mouth had twitched up. Not a lie. Aunt Petunia could make a banshee cry with her singing. Even Uncle Vernon couldn’t keep a pleasant face on when she decided to sing along to the radio.
Myrtle giggled at him. That was good. It didn’t seem like she knew who he was, which was even better.
“Did you recognise the song?” She asked suddenly.
“No, sorry. I don’t really know many songs,” He hoped she wasn’t offended. It was true too. At Privet Drive the only music he got to listen to was football chants, classical music (which his aunt seemed to think playing would help improve Dudley’s mental capacities), and the occasional 60’s and 70’s classics over the radio.
“That’s alright Harry. It is a song my grandma taught me, an old Irish one. Most of the words aren’t in English so unless you’ve got a reason to speak that language you’re unlikely to know the song,” Myrtle went on to say.
“What’s it about?” He asked, suddenly very curious.
“Um. There’s this woman who’s jealous of another for marrying a man she fancies. She’s sort of wishing for some really horrible things to happen to her. It’s kind of gruesome to be honest,” If he could see her he would bet she was blushing at this point. He didn’t understand why. It wasn’t like he was going to judge for the lyrics that he couldn’t even understand.
Actually, he thought that singing about jealousy was a remarkably honest thing to do. There were lots of songs about love and heartbreak, but rarely were there any songs which were brazenly about a personality flaw. And it wasn’t like people wouldn’t be able to relate to it either.
“It’s cool that you can sing in another language though. I can barely sing in English,” He said, just to encourage her a little. She shouldn’t be ashamed of her hobby, even if she wasn’t very good at it.
“Don’t talk down to yourself Harry. I’m sure you could learn to sing beautifully if you tried,” It was sweet of her, but he wasn’t interested in developing a musical talent. What he really needed to do was relieve his bladder.
“Thanks Myrtle. Say, could you tell me where the nearest boys’ bathroom is? I really need to use the toilet,”
“Well, there’s one on the floor below us. But you’d have to walk all the way down the eastern corridor, take the stairs, and then turn around and walk back. Why don’t you just use one of the stalls in here?” She asked without hesitation and Harry felt his insides freeze. He couldn’t do that.
“Oh, Myrtle. I really shouldn’t do that. It’s probably breaking lots of school rules,” He tried to reason with her.
“It’s just us here though. And I won’t tell anyone,”
“Myrtle I really-” He tried again but was cut off by the air suddenly growing colder.
She then stuck her head through the wall, and Harry realised that Myrtle was a ghost.
“You’re a ghost!?” He couldn’t hide his shock.
“Are you surprised?” She asked, her head tilted to one side and eyes narrowed behind the huge glasses she wore.
“A little, yes. I didn’t know there were ghosts of students at Hogwarts,” He gave a reason, a pretty good one too, and peered at her more closely.
She appeared only a few years older than him, and like him she wore glasses. Her hair was done in pigtails, and when she smiled at him he could see that she had braces in her mouth.
“I’m the only one currently… So, you going to use a toilet or not? I’ll keep a lookout for you if you want,” She moved so that she was completely free of the wall and was slowly circling him, giving him the same inspection he had done her.
“Uh, yeah actually. You’ll warn me if someone comes, right? And you won’t tell anyone about this?” Harry really needed to go, and so long as no one else found out about this then he didn’t care.
“Of course, I'll watch over you Harry,”
“Thanks Myrtle.” He said over his shoulder as he rushed into a stall.
Myrtle kept talking to him from where she was standing (or maybe he should say floating?) near the door. It was a little distracting but given that she was doing him a favour he wasn’t going to tell her to be quiet.
“Students don’t die at Hogwarts that often. Which is kind of surprising given how many injuries the infirmary deals with each year,” She started to explain.
“Huh. I know what you mean,” He called back out to her.
“Really?” She sounded curious, and Harry wondered how much she was aware of the current going-ons in the school. Given how eager she was to talk to him when he leant her his ear, he thought she must be quite isolated. Like he had once been.
“Well, one of my classmates fell off his broom during our first flying class. He was lucky he only broke his wrist. And a troll broke into the school on Halloween,”
“A troll? Wow Harry. Your first year is a lot more exciting than mine was. Though you are a Gryffindor,” She mused. Harry was a little bit offended. Gryffindors weren’t always getting into trouble like that.
“What house were you in Myrtle?” He asked, just to change the topic while he finished up.
“Me? I was a Ravenclaw. A third year when I died to be exact,” She said it with some pride, not Malfoy’s “I’m-better-than-you” sort of pride, but an “I’m-happy-to-be-a-part-of-this” sort of pride. He could respect that.
“May I ask how you died Myrtle? Unless I’m being rude by doing so,” He asked, opening the door and moving onto to wash his hands.
“Oh no Harry. You’re not rude at all. In fact, you’re the politest boy I’ve ever met. My death is a bit of a long story… You see, I wasn’t very popular at Hogwarts. I did well in class, but so do all the Ravenclaw students. And my chunky glasses, braces, and pimples didn’t do me any favours. A lot of the students bullied me. The worst of which was Olive Hornby. She was always looking for a way to hurt me. One day what she said was too much for me, and so I came into the bathroom to cry for a bit. I was busy crying when I heard footsteps. I thought it was Olive, come back to try and make me feel worse. So, I slammed open the door, ready to shout at her. And then I died,” She finished the story abruptly.
“What? Just like that?” Harry asked, shocked.
“Well, I did manage to see these huge yellow eyes before I died. And I think I heard some hissing noises, but I’m not too sure on that last part,” She added with a shrug.
“So, do you know what killed you?” He asked after an awkward minute. He was done, he could leave, but he didn’t want to. Not yet.
“No. I did get to have fun haunting Olive after I died though. And these toilets aren’t so bad,” She sounded very blasé about the whole death thing. A lot of ghosts were like that though, from what he had seen.
“Didn’t the professors find out what had happened?” He was frankly appalled by this. If a student died he would have thought more people would have cared. He also didn’t believe her "I don’t care" tone. He thought she cared quite a bit.
She frowned at him but he didn’t move. He wanted to get to the bottom of this.
“Everyone was told that I’d been bitten by an acromantula that someone had been keeping as pet,” She revealed at last.
Harry gaped at her. He had not been expecting that.
“But that’s stupid! You would remember if something bit you, and the only way an acromantula kills is through their venomous bite,” He said in a rush. Myrtle’s eyes lit up.
“I know! But no one listens to me anymore,” She ranted, her arms flapping about. But he understood her frustration perfectly. How many times had adults refused to listen to him over the years, despite the evidence that said he was speaking the truth? He’d bloody lost count, that’s how many.
“I listen,” He told her seriously. The "I will listen to you" went unsaid, but he thought she heard it anyway.
“Yes, you do. But I think you’re very unique Harry,” Her voice was equally serious. Harry didn’t know what exactly was going on between them, what to call it. "An understanding" seemed too vague.
“Thanks Myrtle. I know you don’t know for sure what killed you, but do you have any ideas? Something that kills with just a look sounds very dangerous,” He prompted her. She was a Ravenclaw, and a Ravenclaw always has a theory. Though getting them to voice it can be hard. One of their house’s weaknesses was their fear of being wrong. They often kept silent when they shouldn’t.
“Well, there are couple of magical creatures that could do it. A cockatrice can kill a person with the smallest dose of their poisonous breath. So, you could theoretically see one just in time to die,” She explained a little hesitantly.
“How big can they get?” He asked when she naturally paused for breath.
“Only about seven feet tall, and their heads are about the size of a quaffle,” She answered him swiftly.
“So too small to be what you saw?” He guessed.
“Yes. The eyes I saw were larger than dinner plates. Another possibility would be a gorgon. They look sort of human, except they have snakes for hair, and they can kill with just a look. Well, the older ones can. Young ones only paralyse you. But you have the same problem as with the cockatrice,” She went on.
“Correct. Which leaves one last option, and the one I think is the most likely. A basilisk,” She revealed, giving him an expectant look.
“What’s a basilisk?” He had to ruin her grand reveal because his knowledge of magical creatures was quite limited. He gave her an apologetic look.
“The most dangerous type of snake in the world, and the rarest. Their venom is the most potent in existence, so potent in fact that even a bezoar can’t beat it. Their direct gaze is enough to kill any living being. Their scales form an armour so strong that blades cannot cut through it in most places and they are highly resistant to all forms of magic. It also fits in with the legend of Slytherin’s monster,” She explained patently to him. He then understood why she had expected a stronger reaction from him.
“What is 'Slytherin’s monster'?”
She gave him a look which said he really needed to catch up on his reading, but still she continued answering his questions.
“Supposedly Salazar Slytherin left a monster in the school. One that would wipe out all the muggleborn students. Basilisks are a species that endure. No basilisk has ever died of old age. So, if Salazar Slytherin did leave a basilisk in the school when he was alive, there is no reason it couldn’t still be alive today. He and his family alone would also be the only ones to be able to control it too,”
“Control it? How?”
“Salazar was a parselmouth of course. He, and his descendants. That means they could talk to and control snakes. That’s why snakes are the symbol of their house,”
Harry had a horrible feeling in his gut. He could talk to snakes. He’d done it before at the zoo. His hands clenched by his side.
“And you recall hissing sounds just before you died…” He trailed off, understanding dawning on him.
“Yes. To those who don’t speak it, parseltongue sounds just like a hissing snake,”
“How’d it get in here though? If it’s eyes were that big it must have been huge,” The bathroom was large. The ceiling was high enough that the 11-foot mountain troll hadn’t had any issue walking around, and there were eight toilet stalls, five sinks, and space to move around the bathroom or queue up, but that didn’t leave much room for a snake that big.
“You know what? I don’t know. I know I was in the second stall from the end when I died, and I’d been facing the sinks when it happened. That’s all I can say.”
Harry moved forward and began examining the wall and sinks. He wasn’t sure what he was looking for exactly. It was highly unlikely he’d find anything useful. Myrtle’s glasses and braces looked to be very old fashioned, and while some of it could be summed up by the wizarding world’s habit of using outdated technology, he was nearly certain that she had been dead for a long time. There wasn’t going to be traces left. No arrows pointing towards where the snake had been.
He froze when he caught sight of the underside of one of the sinks. Unlike the other sinks in the room, this one had snakes carved onto it. It couldn’t be that easy, could it?
He reached out and touched the snakes. Poked them first, and then ran his fingers over them. There was nothing for him to press or grab and twist. He thought for a moment. It needed a password then, and one in parseltongue most likely. Seeing that Harry was poking around one of the sinks, Myrtle went back towards her favourite toilet and told Harry to call for her if he needed anything.
He concentrated on the snakes. He’d never tried to intentionally speak parseltongue before, hadn’t even known there was a word it before today. But he thought he could do this, and sometimes in the magical world, belief was enough to get you through things.
“Show me your secrets?” He tried.
“No that was in English,” He muttered to himself.
“Reveal yourself?” He tried again.
“English again dang it,”
“Show thyself. Okay, that was hissing I’m sure of it,”
Still nothing happened.
“Reveal yourself to me,” He tried again.
“Show me your secrets,” And again.
“Death to muggles,” Okay, that last one wasn’t good. But Slytherin did have a reputation.
“Please open,” He begged, tired of guessing.
With a creak and a groan, the sink sunk back into the wall, and the stone shifted to reveal and long dark tunnel that angled sharply downwards. Harry couldn’t believe that that had worked. “Please open” was the simplest password he’d ever heard of.
“Harry, what was that noise?” Myrtle said, floating back out from her toilet from where she had been resting. “You found something!” She said, astonished. She peered into the black hole in the wall.
“Yeah, I did. I can’t believe that worked though,” He muttered the last part to himself, as he to peered into the dark hole.
“…Are going to jump in or what?” She asked after a few minutes of neither of them moving.
“What do you mean 'jump in'?” He asked her, his voice cracking slightly. Was she crazy?
“Well, you’ve found something you were searching for. Aren’t you going to go on and solve the rest of the mystery?” She asked him in typical Ravenclaw fashion.
“I don’t have a way to get out of there if something goes wrong!” He argued.
“I thought you were a Gryffindor,” She had placed her hands on her hips and was frowning at him again.
“Bravery is not the same as thoughtlessness Myrtle,” He shot back at her.
“Oh, come on Harry. If that tunnel was built by Salazar Slytherin of course there’s going to be more than one way out. Slytherins are paranoid like that. They always have back up plans. And if worst comes to worst just call a house elf to come and rescue you,”
“…You have a point,” He admittedly grudgingly. He refused to ask her what a house elf was.
“Clearly. If you do die though, come back up as a ghost after. You can share a toilet with me,”
“Ah, thanks Myrtle. That’s very generous of you,” He said it dryly, but could see that she was genuine. If she noticed than she didn’t comment on it.
“Only for you Harry.” She said with another giggle, and she floated back to her toilet.
Harry turned back towards the tunnel. It didn’t look very enticing. He was a Gryffindor though, and likely the only person in the school who could speak the password. He was sort of obligated to find out what he could about it. Especially if something dangerous was down there. He pulled out his wand and held it securely in his hand.
Knowing that if he waited any longer he was going to doubt himself more, he jumped.
The tunnel which had appeared to be a straight drop turned out to be more like a slide. The further down he went, ignoring the slime, dust, and pitch-black darkness that surrounded him as best he could, the more it levelled out until he was moving along quickly but comfortably. It didn’t feel dangerous at all.
He came to a stop not long after. Cautiously he got up onto his feet, and the sudden crackling sounds from beneath his shoes made him freeze once more. He tightened his grip on his wand.
“Lumos,” He called out.
His wand lit up, and he got his first good look at the place he was now in. As with the rest of the school, the walls, floor and ceiling were made from stone. Unlike the rest of the school though, the stones weren’t as… finished as the rest of the school. The stone floor was entirely smooth. Not made from rectangular blocks or slates but looking as though someone had simply carved into the rock. The ceiling was much the same, though not flat like the ground. This place had clearly once been a natural cave because you could see the natural way the rock was shaped, and Harry could follow the grain of the rock with his eyes. The walls were much more similar to what he had seen in the rest of the school. There were places for torches to rest as well as snake murals carved into them.
It would have been beautiful if it weren’t for all the dust and skeletons. Skeletons which he was standing on.
There were no human skeletons (that he could see). There were lots of rats, small birds, rabbits, goats, and what he thought must be a cow or two, but he wasn’t certain. The place was also dirty and dusty, and the boy who had been raised to help enforce Aunt Petunia’s battle against germs and such nearly wailed at the sight.
Harry made a note to himself. If he came back here he would teach himself cleaning charms first.
He stepped away from the small skeleton he was standing on, and slowly started walking away from the end of the tunnel. He wouldn’t deny that he was very curious what he would find at the end of it.
He kept walking. He found many more skeletons, as well as massive skins that had been shed by what was clearly an enormous snake. Myrtle’s theory was proving true. A few minutes turned to into ten and he still hadn’t found the end of the corridor. He wasn’t going to back out now though. Not when he had come so far.
He came upon a door. A large one, close to nine feet high. It was solid stone, with an incredibly life-like sculpture of a mass of snakes on the front of it. It was locked. Harry thought for a moment. He may as well try the same password as before.
“Please open,” He hissed, and amazingly enough the door opened immediately.
Once he was through the doorway the corridor he had been walking through opened into a huge hall. The floor was stone bricks now, the walls likewise appearing like the rest of the walls at Hogwarts. Only the ceiling remained raw looking, with stalagmites hanging from it. There was a statue in front of the far wall. It was a wizard, with long hair, a trimmed beard, and traditional robes. It looked kind of ugly though. If the statue was accurate, then the man it was based on hadn’t done well in the genetic lottery that was for sure.
There were pools of water around the edges of the room, sort of like a moat. And what he had first believed to be oddly placed stones on the walls turned out to be some sort of glowing crystal which lit up once he had entered the room. It was otherwise empty. Not another being in sight, human or other. No dust or skeletons even.
Well then. That was a little boring.
Seeing as it was the most notable feature in the room Harry walked over towards the statue to examine it further. There was nothing of interest, until he got around to the side of the statue. In the corner, close the wall, something was written in the stone.
He examined it closely. It wasn’t a language he immediately recognised. When he stared at it for too long, it started to give him a headache. He blinked and backed away. The words called to him though, in a way he couldn’t quite explain. He turned his attention elsewhere, and in that moment when he wasn’t looking at it directly, the letters moved and changed shape. Suddenly, he could read what was written there.
Call out: Speak to me Slytherin
There was nothing else to find. Harry thought a moment. This could be very dangerous. He didn’t know what kind of traps had been laid here. He had come a long way though. Too late to back down now.
“Speak to me Slytherin!” He hissed out as loudly as he could.
There was a grinding of stone as the statue’s mouth opened, and the largest snake Harry had ever seen emerged from it. He quickly shut his eyes, despite every instinct he had telling him not to.
“Who called for me?” A deep voice boomed. Harry took a moment to gather his courage.
“I did,” His voice only trembled a bit. He heard the snake as it turned to face him, and Harry froze. His heart was thundering in his chest. The snake was huge!
“Greetings Speaker. I am Jormy, defender of Hogwarts.” It (he?) announced proudly. Harry fought back the amused snort at both the name and title.
“Greetings Jormy. I am Harry, student of Hogwarts.” The last part was hard for him to say with a straight face, it just sounded so ridiculous to announce himself like that. Jormy seemed content with it though.
“What can I do for you Speaker-Harry? And please, do open your eyes. You are safe from my gaze.” Jormy’s voice was calmer now, less demanding. Hesitantly Harry opened his eyes. He kept his gaze on the ground for a moment before he slowly worked his eyes up. It was indeed safe for him to look. Jormy’s eyes were closed. Harry scrambled for something to say.
“Could you tell me where I am?” It was all he could think of.
“You are in Master Salazar’s hidden hall. Though I do believe it is more commonly referred to as the 'chamber of secrets'. That’s what the last Speaker told me.” Harry frowned to himself. He wasn’t at all familiar with either term.
“What’s it for?”
“Protection of course. In the event of a siege, students come down the tunnel and wait it out in here. I meanwhile, leave this place and go into battle if the students are sent here.” Jormy sounded very eager talking about the last part. Harry’s mind then latched onto the word “siege”.
“Siege? Who would lay siege to Hogwarts?” He didn’t know much about history, but surely, he would recall if the castle itself had ever been invaded or attacked by an army.
“What are they teaching you hatchlings these days? Muggles obviously. They try to kill witches and wizards all the time. Hatchlings are especially vulnerable because they can’t control their magic yet.” Jormy stated bluntly. Harry then understood.
Salazar Slytherin hadn’t been a bigot like he was often portrayed as today, instead he was highly practical. It was easy to forget what the times he had lived in had been like. It all suddenly made sense. Why the password to the doors was so simple, why the entrance was so close to the Great Hall, which was the heart of Hogwarts, and why the entrance was a slide that could move lots of people very quickly if need be. It wasn’t a dungeon, it was a-
“It’s a panic room.” He said out aloud.
“What is a 'panic room'?” Jormy asked, cocking his head to one side. Harry took a moment to think of the words he needed.
“Uh, it’s a place where people go in an emergency to hide. Usually only rich people can afford to build one, and they are made so that it’s very hard to force your way inside.”
“That is a very apt description of this place.” Jormy agreed.
“Is there a way out?” He asked his next burning question.
“There are several. One way leads out into the forest, another to the library, and of course it is possible to return through the way you came in,”
“Good. Because I can’t fly without a broom,”
Jormy hissed with amusement. “You are going to visit the side room before you leave though, aren’t you Speaker?”
“Side room?” He looked around confused. He couldn’t see a side room.
“Yes, there is a hidden room attached to the hall. It holds some supplies. What that room holds is no longer sufficient for the number of students this school now boasts. Recent speakers have not been interested in replenishing it though,” Jormy explained.
“I understand. However, I am only a first-year student currently. There isn’t much I can do yet.” He warned the basilisk. He didn’t want Jormy to be disappointed.
“I had thought that you were very small, but I wasn’t sure if it was just my immense size which confused me,” Harry felt himself twitch at the reference to his lack of height. “Very well then, have it fixed later. Do examine it today though, please. Just so you know what the problem is,”
“Alright.” He readily agreed.
“Walk to the end of the hall and place your hand on the lowest snake’s head. When you do so, push. It will make the wall less solid, and then you can pass through.”
He followed Jormy’s instructions. Inside was a room roughly the size of his house’s common room. There were stacks of scrolls, crates of preserved foods, a large pile of blankets, and what appeared to be potions ingredients. All perfectly preserved.
With magic helping you, it was easy to see how this would sustain dozens of people. Which made sense given that the student and staff population had been much smaller when the school first opened.
It wouldn’t support the numbers Hogwarts now held though, that much was clear. He would do something about it when he could afford to.
As interesting as this was, he needed to return to the surface. It had been hours since he’d set out to find a bathroom, and his friends were likely to get worried if he was gone for much longer. Hermione would definitely tell a professor, and then he’d have to answer their questions. Which he wasn’t willing to do.
“Hey Jormy? You mentioned a way out of here that didn’t require me to develop wings?”
“Use the pool to your right,” Jormy pointed to the one he meant with his tail.
“Yes. Step into it. The water is merely an illusion. Climb down the drain there and you will find yourself outside the school library,”
“Thank you,” He meant it sincerely.
“You’re welcome Speaker. Be sure to come back soon and talk to me soon,”
“Of course, Jormy.”
It felt strange to step into something that looked and felt like water, but that didn’t leave him wet and he couldn’t drown in it. He'd have to learn to make something similar when he got older. Magic was so cool.
“Hey Harry! There you are mate. Where’d go?” Ron called to him loudly.
“Uh, I. I got lost looking for the bathroom,” Harry made sure to duck his head in “embarrassment”. It was his eyes that gave it away when he was lying.
“Oh, yeah I understand mate. This castle’s a bloody labyrinth. You up for some chess?”
Chapter 2: Second Year Part 1
Things took me longer than planned, but here you go anyway.
There will be a part 3 that covers the second part of his second year but I don't know when that will come out.
Being back at Hogwarts was such a feeling of relief for Harry. It was a combination of actually being back at the school that reaffirmed that there was a place for him in the world where he belonged, and also the opportunity to speak with Jormy and Myrtle again. Those two had become some of his closest friends and most trusted confidants during his first year.
The end of his first year had been a mess. The hidden philosopher’s stone, the “incident” with Professor (should he be called that?) Quirrell, and the week that followed in the infirmary. It had been an intense period of fear, confusion, and disappointment for Harry. There had been no real resolution for it either. After he’d been allowed to leave Madam Pomphrey’s infirmary, he’d been sent straight to the leaving feast, and then onto the Hogwarts Express. He’d been given no chance to speak with Myrtle and Jormy, and his Gryffindor friends weren’t what he needed. Hermione and Ron may have gone on their adventure with him, but in the end, he’d faced Quirrell on his own. They couldn’t understand what it was like to have killed someone, and make no mistake that was what he had done. It didn’t matter what flowery language the headmaster had used to try and soften it. Harry had killed a human being. It would have been nice if he could have talked to someone trustworthy about the ordeal.
And that wasn’t even mentioning the trick the headmaster pulled with the house points. Even though Harry didn’t have any friends in Slytherin, and didn’t think much of their house, he thought it was very cruel of the old wizard to wait until the last moment before giving Gryffindor the cup. His relatives had pulled similar tricks on him in the past; making him think that all his hard work had earned him the reward they had promised until they snatched it away at the last minute and gave it all to Dudley. Harry had been awake for a few days before the feast; the points could have been awarded at any time. And now the animosity between the lions and the snakes was going to be even worse than ever. The whole thing had left a sour taste in Harry’s mouth.
He'd endured his summer with the Dursleys. He hadn’t wanted to be there, and they hadn’t wanted him there. It didn’t stop them from keeping him though and forcing him to “earn his keep”. He’d been given an unreasonable number of chores to complete each day (he knew it was unreasonable because Dudley and Uncle Vernon never did any, and Aunt Petunia did less than him), and was kept locked away in Dudley’s former spare room the rest of the time. He’d gotten in trouble for another being’s magic, cursed (not literally) the person who sent that letter as it revealed to the Dursleys that he wasn’t allowed to do magic over the summer. They weren’t afraid of him after that. He’d then been locked away for the entirety of the next week, without even chores to break his boredom. It had occurred to him that he really might not get back to Hogwarts, which due to the lack of letters from his peers, had been the only thing giving him hope at that stage.
Ron and his twin brothers had come to his rescue thankfully. Things had been looking up. He had a wonderful time at the Weasleys’ home, gotten his shopping done, and been ready for school. Then the barrier had refused to open. Ron had panicked a bit, but then suggested they “borrow” his father’s car. Harry had been tempted to agree to the plan. So very tempted. He didn’t put much trust in adults as experience showed him that they always were a disappointment. They never listened when it mattered most, they never acted when they should. Teachers in particular. Harry though, he’d developed a soft spot for Ron’s parents. They had been so good to him, even when feeding and housing him had been a strain. Even if Molly had dismissed what the Dursleys had done he had wanted to give her and her husband a chance. So, he’d convinced his friend to wait.
The adults did return not long after, and the group had floo’d directly to Hogsmeade, the village that lay next to Hogwarts. Arthur and Molly Weasley had explained the situation to Professor McGonagall (which was good because Harry was certain that she wouldn’t have believed him or Ron if they had been the ones speaking).
During the time Harry had sat down to wait for the other students to arrive he had concluded that his life was more ridiculous and convoluted than one of Aunt Petunia’s soap operas.
It was three days before Harry got the chance to sneak away without his friends noticing.
It was funny, he thought, how unexpected his friendship with Myrtle and Jormy had been. The thing about ghosts was that they were generally unconcerned with the plights of the living. They tended not to notice the passing of time. The four house ghosts were a little more in tune than the other ghosts at Hogwarts, but that was because the position of house ghost was a respected and desired one. They weren’t always chatty with students, but they did take their responsibilities seriously. The other ghosts didn’t spend much time with the students. Harry had thought that Myrtle would be much the same. He was wrong.
The ghost of the third year was lonely. She was forever stuck in puberty, which included mood swings, acne, and she hadn’t much in the way of social skills. Even in death she was ostracized by others. Students would tease her, the staff ignored her, and the other ghosts were only marginally better. So, by showing her some respect and interest, it didn’t take Harry long to become her best friend. She wasn’t his best friend, but he definitely considered her to be a close one. She was a fountain of information, both from an academic and historical perspective, and once she was loyal, she stuck to a person like glue.
Harry liked Hermione and Ron a lot, but there were some drawbacks to their friendship. Hermione always believed in doing “the right thing”. She had absolute faith rules and authority figures, particularly adults. This wasn’t always a bad thing, but it was very different from what Harry believed. He’d lost faith in the good nature of adults and teachers a long time ago. Harry was very aware that Hermione would do what she believed was right, to the point where she would disregard his own opinion. And privacy. That meant he tended to keep her at arm’s length.
Ron was loyal to him, and for all that he lacked in academic prowess, he still knew a lot about wizarding culture and such. Things that he and Hermione didn’t due to their heritage and circumstances. But, he was prone to jealousy and doubt. He would turn on Harry if he suspected for even a second that Harry had turned on him. Which in turn made Harry a little wary of trusting him. He’d been betrayed many times in the past.
Myrtle though, she didn’t get jealous of him at all. She was happy when he succeeded, she gave him the encouragement he had never received before, and she wouldn’t reveal his secrets to anyone. Not even the headmaster.
As for Jormy, well that had been even less planned on Harry’s behalf. He’d of course gone down into the chamber again, this time carrying supplies for the storage room, and promptly gotten distracted by conversation. Jormy wanted to know what the year was, what the muggles were up to, who the headmaster was, etc. Harry had had a few questions of his own, questions that he felt were stupid or potentially controversial if he asked them in class. It wasn’t like Jormy could tell anyone that Harry had asked what dark magic was, or why the school celebrated Christmas. The next time he came down he was armed with a book on cleaning charms, and he’d gotten rid of the dust, the skeletons, and the mould. At Jormy’s insistence he had also collected the shed skins, and then sold them through Gringotts. He got less money that way, as the goblins got a cut of it, but he got to keep his identity anonymous, and gained some money for his vault.
Some of which he had spent on birthday gifts for his friends, and some he'd spent on himself. A bookbag to carry his things between classes. New underwear and socks so that he didn’t have to wear Dudley’s hand-me-downs. A book on magical snakes and a book on European magical customs. A journal charmed with secrecy spells so that only he could read and write inside it, and more.
He kept going down to the chamber every week or so. Every time the noise from the other students got to be too much, he’d vanish off for an afternoon in the chamber. Jormy was wise in many ways and offered his own unique perspective on life. One that Harry enjoyed very much. It helped make sense of many things. Whereas before Harry might just accept something as the way it was, Jormy would be blunt with him and say that it was wrong. Or that it should have been handled differently. Harry struggled to see himself as important at times. He was very used to being singled out for all the wrong reasons, and he’d stopped fighting it for a while. Too jaded to try and change it. Jormy pointed out the ways in which Harry had been wronged, and when Harry tried to argue, Jormy would point out that Harry would be horrified if it were happening to one of his classmates or friends. This encouraged him to stand up for himself, and to seek out those who did treat him properly.
The two of them didn’t judge Harry, they didn’t mock him when he didn’t know something, and they never held him up to the imaginary “Boy-who-lived” standards that everyone else in the castle seemed to. They also got along really well with each other, even though Harry needed to translate sometimes. Jormy understood spoken English, even if he couldn’t speak it back. It was also good practice for Harry, switching between the two languages and maintaining them when necessary. The hardest part of a magically acquired language was knowing and controlling when it was being used, and Harry definitely didn’t want to be outed as a parselmouth to the school.
Myrtle didn’t hate Jormy for his part in her death, which seemed to relieve the basilisk of most of the guilt he’d been carrying for her unexpected death. The two then got along like a house on fire. They discussed politics and spells, played chess with each other, and even took to seeing each other when Harry wasn’t around. The language barrier didn’t seem to bother them most days.
Harry knocked on the bathroom door and waited. It was the signal he and Myrtle had developed. If another student was in there or caught him, then he could easily claim to be looking for Hermione.
A feeling of cold rushed through his hand. All clear. He slipped inside quickly. Myrtle flew out of her toilet and came straight towards him.
“Harry! I’m so happy to see you,”
“Hey Myrtle. I’m so sorry I took so long,”
“It’s alright, I know that you tend to get unexpectedly busy at times,” He had told them both about the troll incident, about Norbert, and the detention in the forbidden forest that followed (Jormy had snarled at that one, cursing the staff who had thought of the idea in the first place; sending first years into a forest only accompanied by a man with only three years’ worth of education and who was not legally allowed to use his wand was ridiculously dangerous). It was still embarrassing to hear about it.
“Yeah, I was in the infirmary for a week,”
“Oh,” She said stunned. For all the crazy things that had happened to Harry last year, he hadn’t needed to stay in the infirmary often. “You’re okay now though, right?” She asked, concerned.
“Yeah yeah, but, I had promised to see you before the end of the year, and I never got the chance. I didn’t want you to think that I had abandoned you or something,” He finished in a rush.
“I understand Harry, though by now I think I know the kind of person you are. You don’t abandon people,”
“Maybe I should have been in Hufflepuff,” He said jokingly. Myrtle gave him a look.
“You could have fitted into any house Harry, if that had been what you wanted. Now, let’s go down and visit Jormy. I want to hear the full story,”
“… And that’s what’s happened since I last saw you both,” Harry finished at last. His voice was a little strained. He hadn’t been able to stop himself from getting emotional at points throughout his account, but he knew that that was okay. They wouldn’t mock him for it. They all used this place to safely vent at times.
“I’m glad you and your friends survived Harry,” Myrtle said without hesitation.
“Me too,” Jormy added.
“How are you coping though?” Myrtle asked.
“With which parts?” He asked jokingly, but it wasn’t really a joke.
“Killing a teacher firstly,” She answered, not letting him continue to deflect.
Harry scuffed his shoes on the ground. He wasn’t sure how best to explain. Emotions were hard.
“I’m not sure… At the time I was too busy trying to survive to really think about what I was doing, then over the summer I had a few nightmares. Now I’m, sort of, numb? I guess. I’m really glad none of the other students are asking me questions,”
“It’s okay if you feel guilty Harry. You didn’t have a choice at the time, but you can’t control what you feel. You’re a good person, no matter what other people might say-” Myrtle started, but he had to cut her off.
“I don’t feel guilty though! I never did. So, what does that make me?” This was something that had been eating away at him. He was meant to feel something. Hermione had sat him down before, under the assumption that he was feeling loads of guilt. He hadn’t felt much guilt though and had made the mistake of saying he was “fine”. Hermione had then assumed he was lying to her. She hadn’t given him a chance to get a word in edgewise after that.
“A natural fighter. Godric was much the same. He never regretted the lives he took in battle, for those were his enemies who had raised their weapons towards him first. He never regretted the lives he took in protecting his students either. History likes to forget how violent and cruel many muggles were back then. On many occasions Godric went off to kill those that threatened young witches and wizards, even those who were related to the ones in danger. Salazar might have had less tolerance for muggleborns, but Godric killed plenty of muggles to secure his students,” Jormy answered. Stunned by the words, it took Harry a moment to translate them for Myrtle, who was patiently waiting.
“You’re right. We don’t talk about that in history class,” Harry said after he’d repeated Jormy’s message in English.
“Did you enjoy killing Quirrell?” The ancient snake then asked.
“What? No, of course I didn’t enjoy it. I never wanted to be in that situation,” Harry felt himself recoil from the very thought.
“Then there’s nothing to worry about. You were acting out of necessity. It’s only when killing those that are weaker than you becomes enjoyable that something must be done,” Jormy explained.
“…I understand. Thanks, you guys,”
“You should start carrying a weapon Harry. One that you can use in a fight,” Myrtle said, seemingly out of nowhere a week later. Harry nearly spat out his tea.
“Myrtle, you know that’s against the school rules. Not to mention the law in places,”
“Harry, you have some of the strangest luck I’ve ever encountered. Possessed teacher or not, I doubt that last year was the end of your 'adventures'. Plus, you can’t use magic over the summer break, and I don’t trust your relatives or those so-called 'blood wards'. You should do your best to protect yourself,”
“You will have to train to use it though. Carrying a weapon you are unfamiliar with is worse than being unarmed. You’re more likely to injure yourself than your enemies.” Jormy cut in. As much as he didn’t want to admit it, they both had a point.
“What did Jormy say?”
“That I’d need to train so I won’t injure myself with it,”
“Jormy is correct,”
“That still doesn’t make it legal though,” Harry pointed out.
“You’ll have to carry it concealed. I’d use that charmed pouch of yours.” She retorted
Last year Harry had gone on a bit of an owl ordering shopping spree. One of the things he’d bought had been a moleskin pouch. It was feather-light, charmed to be fire and water-proof, had a bunch of anti-theft charms, and was bigger on the inside than the outside. He’d used it to smuggle the food down into the chamber, and then later to store all his most prized possessions. His photo album, his cloak, his wand, and his Gringotts key. Since he’d first bought it he’d taken to always wearing it. Keeping a weapon inside there wouldn’t be a challenge.
“Alright. What kind of weapon were you thinking of?”
“Knives,” She answered immediately.
“They would be the easiest for you. Easy to obtain, easy to conceal, and you already have some familiarity with them.” Jormy added with a thoughtful rumble.
“Okay. I’ll look into knives then,” He assured them with a sigh. He had a bad feeling that by carrying weaponry around with him he was in fact fulfilling the criminal stereotype.
Oh well. Not like he cared what his neighbours and relatives thought.
They were all blind anyway.
“Harry…” The ancient snake hissed at him. Harry turned towards his oldest friend and cocked his head.
“There’s another speaker in the school. They claim to be Salazar’s heir,” Harry could hear the tension in the other’s voice.
“Is it the truth?” He asked, his brows narrowed.
“…I don’t know how to answer that. Their magic corresponds to a student I knew many years ago. The one who accidently got Myrtle killed,” Jormy answered. Harry blinked in surprise. He knew enough magical theory to know that specific magical auras tended to run in families, but not much beyond that.
“So they are a descendant then,”
“No, I don’t think so. When I say their magic matches, I mean it matches perfectly. But the last speaker was down here 50 years ago, and the new one is very small and young. It shouldn’t be possible,” Harry had to stop what he was doing with his hands and think for a minute. This could be very bad.
“Well shit. Are we dealing with a necromancer?”
“Possibly,” Was the slightly unhelpful answer.
“Alright, here’s what we’re going to do. You should play along for now, for your own safety if nothing else. See what you can learn about this speaker. I’ll talk to Myrtle. She’ll enjoy spying for us. Meanwhile, I’ll head back up top. I’ve been meaning to speak with the Hogwarts elves about protection against foreign elves, and while I’m there I’ll see if they know anything or can help. Let’s see if we can handle this quietly.”
Harry sat alone in the Gryffindor tower. The Halloween feast was on, but he wasn’t going to attend it. Going to that feast last year had been a mistake. He’d never celebrated Halloween before that year. All the costumes and trickery and general strangeness was too much for the Dursleys, so it was banned at number four Privet Drive. They never decorated, or dressed up, or went out trick-or-treating. Not even Dudley was allowed out to participate. Instead his aunt and uncle just bought their son a few bags worth of sweets to placate him.
So, Halloween never meant anything to him growing up. Upon his arrival into the wizarding world he’d found out how his parents had really died. It had left him feeling very confused. Was he meant to feel sad? Be grieving? But, how could he? He didn’t even remember them.
To add to that, he hadn’t known what to expect at the Halloween feast. How did magical people celebrate Halloween? It had made sense to him that they would take it more seriously than the non-magical part of the population. After all, the Halloween he had seen had mostly been mocking parts of the magical world.
His imagination had run wild and he’d been very excited. Perhaps they used much more realistic costumes. Perhaps there was some truth to the tales of divination games, and that the “veil between life and death” was thinner on that day. Perhaps there was even some religious aspect to the celebration; one that Harry had never seen in muggle Surrey before. He’d been very disappointed by the truth. Everything about the feast had been just what he’d seen in the muggle world before. Decorations that were more humorous than frightening, costumes that were predictable, and (in his opinion) too many sweets. He liked sweets just as much as the next person, don’t get him wrong. But, he’d just wanted something more that night. It had felt… what was the word he was looking for? Commercialised. Yes, it had felt commercialised. Like it was all just a performance and that there had been no real meaning to any of it.
Between that, the troll, and the lack of respect for the dead, he’d just decided that he was never experiencing that again. He’d had to ask for Professor McGonagall’s permission to skip out, but she had thankfully granted it without too many questions. If anything, she looked to be sadder than he was. It was odd to think that she would have been his parents’ head of house too. She probably grieved more deeply than he did.
He and his two Gryffindor friends had been invited to Sir Nick’s death-day party, but he had politely turned the ghost and his friends down. They were going along but he was staying behind. He was going to use this opportunity to mourn his parents properly.
Halloween at Hogwarts might resemble the muggle version these days, but according to Jormy and Myrtle, that hadn’t always been the way. Oh, it hadn’t been anything too wild. Students at Hogwarts came from a variety of cultures and backgrounds and the staff had tried to be as inclusive as possible. So, in the past there had still been a feast, but the food served was of a much greater variety. There had been more vegetarian options, and more seasonal options. All the decorations were all made by the students during their charms classes during the previous week and they were a little more traditional. After the feast the groundskeeper had then gone outside and lit a huge bonfire out in the courtyard. Students were then given the option to go outside and enjoy themselves, stay inside and participate in a séance that the divination professor would hold, or to return to their dorms. Curfew would be set back an hour later that night too.
Harry wished straight away that things were still like that. In fact, it had been until Dumbledore had become the headmaster. Unfortunately at the time, Grindelwald had just been defeated. Magical Europe as a whole was now terrified of anything “dark”, and many families which were traditionally dark were doing their best to distance themselves from that image. It had been easy for muggle traditions to replace the magical ones at the behest of the headmaster. Harry was nearly certain that this was one of the main reasons that so many families had supported Voldemort in the beginning. They really had been losing their culture to muggleborn witches and wizards.
He was going to hold his own séance tonight.
Jormy had spoken to him about meditation. How he would need to focus on his breathing and on the fluctuations of his magic. Myrtle had guided him through the library so that he could read up on his family history. He had wanted to go into this at least knowing the names of his paternal grandparents. He wasn’t sure he knew what he was doing exactly, but he was willing to give it a go.
“Serpensortia!” Draco Malfoy yelled as he summoned a snake with his magic.
Harry rolled his eyes and banished it with a flick of his wand before anyone else could panic.
He’d been learning and practicing many kinds of spells with Myrtle’s help. This one was so simple he already could do it with the incantation.
He ignored the stunned surprise from nearly everyone else in the room and Lockhart’s floundering. The blonde fool was really starting to annoy him. Maybe he could ask Jormy or Myrtle to do something about him...