Harry turned over in his bed and once again kicked his covers off sullenly. It was too hot, he thought. He was too tired. He wanted to sleep, and he couldn’t. His brain was charging along like the Hogwarts Express.
Why did Lupin not let him fight the boggart?
No matter how much Harry tried to think of other things, it kept coming back to that. Lupin thought he was weak because Harry had fainted on the train. Or he had listened to that git Snape and what he was always saying about Harry even though he hadn’t listened to what Snape said about Neville. Or he just thought Harry might be disastrous at it because he’d listened to stories Professor McGonagall told him.
It’s not like I mean to run into trouble. It’s not like I have a choice!
But something hard struck Harry’s ears before he could start another round of questioning himself and trying to remember every part of Lupin’s expression for an answer. He heard someone calling him. It sounded like Help, help, help, a steady sound that was far away but near enough that Harry sat up and stared wildly around. He wondered why no one else had heard it.
They hadn’t, though. They were all asleep. Ron was snoring, and so was Neville, who didn’t sleep well all that often.
For once, Harry hesitated, the image of Lupin and the way he’d stood in front of the boggart so Harry couldn’t fight in his mind. They all think that I’m some sort of troublemaker. I’d probably be proving them right if I went and got involved in this, right? I should just stay in bed and pull the curtains around me and pretend that none of this is happening.
But the voice went on calling, and it was so strange, not saying his name, but just repeating the call for help again and again. Harry argued with himself as he slid out of bed and put on his glasses and made sure he had his wand. If it was a trap for him, specifically for him, then it would be saying his name, right? It would be trying to lure him to it. Instead, it was just sitting there and calling, and anyone could have heard it.
He had the feeling that Lupin wouldn’t be impressed with that argument if he heard it, but Harry wasn’t very impressed with him right now.
He did take his Invisibility Cloak and drape it over himself. There, that would keep Sirius Black away.
Following the call was frustrating.
No matter how many steps or corridors or corners Harry walked, it was always ahead of him, and then to the side, and it never sounded like it was louder or further away. It just called, the same word over and over. Harry was starting to wonder if one of the ghosts needed help. It didn’t sound like a human voice.
Or maybe Sirius Black fell into a trap that Dumbledore set, and now he’s calling me, and I’m the only one who can hear him.
Harry clutched his wand. He didn’t know exactly how that could happen, but there were lots of things he didn’t understand in the wizarding world that people kept telling him were possible. Like Tom Riddle’s diary existing, or Dementors being on the side of good, or Snape being a good teacher.
He finally came to a halt in the middle of a corridor and closed his eyes. He would just walk along until he found the voice, he decided. Maybe it would work better if he wasn’t looking and just let his ears guide him. He didn’t think he would run into Mrs. Norris or Filch. It was too late.
Help, help, help, help, help, help…
Harry finally walked into something square and waist-height, and opened his eyes with a little yelp. He was standing in a bathroom. He’d really fallen into a trance listening to the voice, he marveled; he would have noticed the cold tile under his feet and the sound of gurgling water otherwise. He’d walked into a sink.
Then he really realized where he was, and he didn’t bother to hold back a groan. This was Moaning Myrtle’s bathroom.
He looked around suspiciously. Maybe Myrtle was in trouble, but it was just as likely she was playing a prank. And now she would probably report him to a professor or something.
But then he realized the voice, which he could hear a lot better now and which seemed like a hot voice for some reason, was coming from in front of him. He turned around and peered at the sink.
He recognized the snake carving on the top of the sink a moment later.
“Oh, no,” Harry said aloud. And he probably said it in Parseltongue, since he was looking directly at the snake.
But the voice went on calling, and there was no doubt now. It was coming from the Chamber of Secrets.
Harry backed away from the sink while he thought furiously. How could someone get down there? Wouldn’t Dumbledore have told him if he hadn’t destroyed Tom Riddle’s diary completely? Or he would have gone around possessing someone else, and Harry thought he knew how to look for the signs of possession now. There didn’t seem to be any way that someone could get into the Chamber unless they were a Parselmouth or possessed by the ghost of Voldemort.
But that made Harry wonder who was down there, helpless, just like Ginny. Maybe someone had managed to get free of the possession and call for help. Either way, Harry didn’t think it was a trick. He thought he knew why he was the only one hearing the call, now. It was in Parseltongue.
His mind made up, he leaned forwards and hissed at the snake carving on the sink. “Open.”
For long moments, the sink remained still, and Harry wondered if he had somehow lost the talent—although the voice he heard calling in the distance would suggest otherwise. Then he saw the sink fall down into the floor, and the tunnel that he had slid down once before was in front of him.
Harry bit his lip. This time, he had no phoenix to fly him out, and while he wanted to go and help the person calling him, he really didn’t want to get trapped down there and have to wait until the adults came looking for him. Once again, they would scold him and say that he was taking risks.
“Show me a way to get down,” he hissed at the sink, not sure that it would actually do anything.
The tunnel itself was what responded, flowing and humping up like a snake’s back. Harry stared at the gleaming things, as slick as the scales of the basilisk. They were purple-black and looked difficult to walk on, but he also knew that he was probably luck to get this much.
“Okay,” he said, not sure it was in Parseltongue, and then stepped forwards and onto the first stair.
It wasn’t bad, he found, as long as he kept his wand lit with the brightest Lumos Charm he could muster and didn’t look down. Well, it was hard to look down, anyway. The darkness was too deep next to the steps. He could mostly only see the one he was standing on, the one in front of him, and a little bit of the spiral of the tunnel.
He finally halted at what seemed to be the bottom, teetering a little. He could smell something powerful and dark, and he coughed, then froze. He hoped that there wasn’t anyone down here, like another Tom Riddle, who would be warned that he was coming.
Silence, though. The darkness did nothing but wait. Harry swallowed and edged cautiously forwards, in the direction of the call.
He didn’t actually get as far as the Chamber of Secrets. He got around one corner, not far from the doors, and suddenly the call was so clear that Harry gasped and turned around to point his wand at the wall.
He couldn’t see anything at first, and then he made something else out, a tiny round carving that was maybe supposed to be a snake coiled up, although it didn’t have a head or eyes. “Open?” Harry asked it.
The snake lifted and rippled along the stone; it was like watching a part of the wall animating itself, or a bug crawling. It was kind of creepy to watch, really. Harry moved back uneasily, clutching his wand and never taking his eyes from the small carved snake as it crept downwards to a thin line on the wall.
When the carving touched the line, it flowed into it, and suddenly the line was big and a crack. The edge of a door! Harry thought, with a little flare of excitement that he felt a bit guilty about—because Hermione, if not Ron, would disapprove of him being here—and he reached out and caught the edge, lifting it open.
The grating noise it made was impossibly loud, stone dragging across stone, and made Harry flinch again. But in seconds it was still, and Harry was peering down a sloping chute that looked as if he could sort of crawl along it instead of fall, the way he had fallen down the winding one last year.
The voice was much clearer now, calling Help, help, help, so steadily that Harry shook his head. He really was surprised that no one had heard it, even if they only heard hissing and not the voice that was so clear to Harry’s senses.
His wand still lit and lifted high, he inched his way along the chute. Unlike the tunnel that he’d been walking, this one was free of rat bones or slime or anything else that Harry tended to associate with the Chamber of Secrets. It was dusty, in fact, as though no one had been here for a long time, and Harry sneezed several times as he made his way towards the voice.
That voice that never altered. Harry was beginning to wonder who could call so steadily even if they could speak Parseltongue because of Tom Riddle. You’d think they’d still have to take a breath at some point.
The chute ended abruptly, on a broad lip that made Harry have to hop down onto the floor. He grimaced. He was still one of the shortest kids in his year, and he hated being reminded of it.
He turned around slowly, considering the bare room the chute had brought him to. It wasn’t even dusty. It was simply dry. There was nothing here. No water. No pipes that he could see leading out. Harry shook his head, bewildered. Where were the cries coming from? They actually sounded more muffled now that he was closer to the source.
Unless this was just a trap from Voldemort in the first place, and I was stupid to come here.
Well, Hermione would probably think he was stupid, anyway. That made Harry more perversely determined to prove her wrong. He lifted his wand until it really did fill the room with a fierce glow of concentrated light, and edged towards the far wall, where the voice still sounded relatively clear.
There was another carved snake there, this one rearing up and more recognizable, and a small projection sticking out of the wall where the mouth was. Harry was pretty sure it represented fangs. He hesitated, listening to the voice.
“Open?” he suggested again in Parseltongue.
This time, the wall did nothing. But the pace of the cries increased, as though whoever it was had heard someone there and realized that there might be a way to get out.
Harry said something that Aunt Petunia would have washed his mouth out with soap for, and then leaned forwards and did what seemed like the obvious thing at the time (although when he was trying to explain it later, somehow both the obviousness and why it was reasonable had gone away). He lifted a finger and gashed it against the fang.
The snake flushed red with his blood, and opened its carved eyes to look at him. Harry expected to see that the eyes were little jewels or something, but they were only blank holes in the stone. For a second, the snake’s tail wavered back and forth, agitating the stone of the wall, and Harry warily stepped backwards and lifted his wand. The last thing he needed was an attack from something he had fed his blood to.
But instead of attacking him, the snake turned and slithered into the wall. The wall promptly collapsed, the stone tunneling, and Harry skipped back out of the way of the dust and the falling chunks of rock. They just dropped to the ground, though, instead of flying at him.
Harry thought that was the first thing that had really gone his way since he came here. Well, maybe that and the stairs that had made it so he didn’t have to fall into the Chamber of Secrets.
“Hello?” he called, into the dark tunnel.
Help! Please help!
The word “please” galvanized him. Harry scrambled into the tunnel, brightening his Lumos when he needed to so he wouldn’t keep stumbling along the floor. Then he rounded a corner, and there was the light he had been missing: the light of a great fire, floating above the floor in a ball that was two times bigger than Harry. Harry gaped at it, tilting his head back so he could make out the source. Was it a chandelier?
But it didn’t seem to have any source. It was just fire, hovering in the air and making the room so warm that Harry already wanted to pull his robes off. But he couldn’t do that until he knew there was nothing dangerous, so he looked cautiously around instead.
A short distance away from him lay what looked like several large stones at first. They were red and grey. Then one of them moved, and the Help! call came from it, and Harry thought he understood.
They were eggs.
Harry stared for a second, then shook his head and crept closer. It seemed that the one who had been calling him for help was a snake.
That was so strange that he didn’t really know what to feel. He stopped in front of the egg and stood staring down at it, even when it rocked and called Help! again.
What kind of snake was it? It would probably be something dangerous if Slytherin had left it down here. Harry took another glance up at the huge fire. Maybe that thing hadn’t been here since Slytherin’s time, but he sort of doubted it.
Now was when he really wished he’d had Hermione come along. She at least would have been able to tell him whether this was in Hogwarts, A History.
And if it isn’t, genius? What would you do then?
The egg rocked yet again. Harry knelt down in front of it and stared at it. This close, he could make out what looked like a shadow curled up inside it, dark against the translucent shell. It looked a lot like the carved snake he had found in the original tunnel that led towards the Chamber, and now he thought he knew why. That had been an illustration of a snake getting ready to hatch, although for some reason whoever made it hadn’t carved the egg.
What kind of snake? Harry would have guessed Ashwinders, but he knew they didn’t live very long, and--well, that was all he knew about them, really. He shifted his weight and did some more staring.
But all along, he knew what he was going to do. It was stupid to come this far and then be too scared to do anything else.
In the end, he reached out and laid his wand against the egg and whispered, “Diffindo.”
The egg shimmered for a second, as though lit from the inside. Then the shell cracked with his Severing Charm, and a whole bunch of stuff came pouring out of it. Harry leaped back, his nose wrinkling. He supposed it was egg yolk, but it was even worse than the slime in the tunnel leading to the Chamber his first year. It got on his boots and on his sleeve, and it was a reddish-yellow sort of like the fire, and it smelled. It smelled like rotten eggs.
That makes sense. But it didn’t make it any less disgusting.
Harry stared at the crack in the egg when he was done, aware that the calls for help in Parseltongue had stopped. There was silence for a long, long second. Harry bit his lip. He hoped he hadn’t cut the side of the snake that was trying to call for help with his Severing Charm.
But then there was movement, and the snake came slithering out of the egg and slowly unfolded itself, with a long, shuddering stretch that reminded Harry of how he himself would wake up after a nap.
Harry stared at its dark green scales and caught a glimpse of its yellow eyes and immediately rolled back, yelping.
About sixteen things went through his head in one second--that’s a baby basilisk!, I thought you didn’t get basilisk eggs and they just hatched under a toad, why aren’t I dead right now?, what’s it doing down here?, why am I still alive?
The thoughts stormed through his head until the last one became the most important one. Harry stood up and stared at the floor, trying to watch the basilisk out of the corner of his eye.
But something else was happening. Something was sort of popping up at the corner of his mind, rippling along with his thoughts, almost tickling him.
Harry shook his head, and then shook his head again. He had to keep an eye on the basilisk, and he had to get out of there, and he had to figure out what was going on in his head, and he didn’t know how to do all of those at once.
But then the basilisk stirred again, while keeping its head aimed carefully away from him, and Harry heard a delighted voice in his head.
Harry stared with his mouth open. The basilisk turned its head slowly towards him, thick clear eyelids pressed into place over the eyes. Harry realized that he could still see a dim yellow glow from beneath those eyelids, but not the actual killing stare, and the basilisk could apparently see him, too.
My bond, said the basilisk. It was about five feet long. No, he was five feet long, Harry understood abruptly. There was a slick red line down the center of the basilisk’s head that might have been a crushed plume still held flat by the yolk slime. The basilisk wriggled energetically towards Harry and twined around his legs. Mine! You helped me. So you’re mine.
Harry just stared some more, and then said helplessly, “You just hatched. How can you know anything about that? What’s your name?”
Your name’s Harry! This is mine.
For a second, Harry thought he was once again talking about whatever mysterious thing he had already mentioned, but then images began to pour through his head, and he understood them in the same way that he had understood the basilisk was male. The images featured running four-legged things, and flying things, and scurrying spiders, and running humans, and a basilisk following behind them all as fast as this young one. Dignity was for older snakes. Other snakes, maybe.
Your name is—Run? Harry hazarded slowly. But that didn’t seem right. The basilisk sent another image of himself curling around and flowing back like living water over himself, and Harry caught it better this time.
Your name is Dash?
The basilisk sounded as delighted as before. That is the right human word! I like your name. And your language. I wish I could speak it. But at least you can speak to me aloud, too, in my language. And we can think to each other!
That had to be what the tickle and the voice in Harry’s head was, this thinking to each other. But Harry still shook his head and didn’t understand. I’m not the Heir of Slytherin. How can I command you?
No one commands anybody! Dash sent through the bond like a flick of his tail against Harry’s back. He was twining slowly up Harry’s body now, incredibly heavy, although he kept shifting his coils so that he could balance better and Harry could bear the weight better. Maybe being in Harry’s head let him know how he should do that. You’re my human. I’m your basilisk. We are bonded. That’s how it is.
Harry still didn’t know what was going on, how he had landed here, or how there could be a basilisk egg here—or a row of them—without someone to hatch a chicken egg beneath a toad and bring the basilisk to life. But he did understand one thing.
I am in so much fucking trouble.
Then just bring me to them, and I’ll bite them, Dash offered at once. Then I can eat them. I’m hungry. Where’s breakfast?