So, its been a long time for this story to be updated, and I bet your all excited. This is one of the more difficult stories for me to write, as the plot is hard to grasp in my mind, and the characters are slippery in thought, but I think I've just pinned down one of the major characters, so it will be somewhat easier. Thank you all for being the most dedicated of my readers. Enjoy...
Hermione felt that time seemed to just slip away from her after meeting her Angel. Before she knew it, the first Quidditch match of the season was upon them, and Harry Potter from Slytherin had invited her to join him at it. Normally she wouldn't go, but Harry was very kind to her, and she felt that her Angel wouldn't disapprove a friendly game.
So there she sat, in the stands between the Slytherin and Gryffindor groups, as she was not particular in who won, just that she was there with a close friend. A brisk cold wind blew around the pitch that day, and Hermione shivered. Thankfully, Harry noticed, and put his arm around her, letting her share the warmth from his heavy cloak. A goal sounded, and the fans around them started cheering.
As the fans died down to the normal level of shouting and cat-calling, Hermione heard someone calling her name. Turning she saw Ronald bloody Weasley looking at her with anger in his eyes.
"What are you doing with the slimy Slytherin?" he demanded. Harry looked at him, a small flash of irritation crossing his face briefly.
At the same time, from the opposite direction, some of the Slytherin noticed Weasley's approach, and singled out the cause of his intrusion. "Oy! Potter," one called, "Take your Mudblood girlfriend somewhere else… we don't want her to soil the seats." The rest laughed coldly. Hermione felt a flash of hot angry tears, and Harry was on his feet, starting down the Slytherins, still not speaking.
Suddenly, several things happened at once. Some of the Slytherins got bold enough to cast a curse at Hermione, just as Weasley did the same at Harry. Hermione shrieked, as even crazier still, one of the Bludgers came pelting away from the players at Harry. "Watch out!" she screamed. Flicking his wrist, Harry conjured a shimmering green shield around them both, deflecting both spells wildly and causing the Bludger to bounce back into the game field. Unfortunately, the iron ball was more determined than the students, and inverted back at the shield, striking it again and again, trying to break through by force.
Students all around them scattered. Hermione was frightened, but at the same time she heard something purely melodious. Looking around at Harry, she heard him clearly singing in Latin, chanting out defensive spells into a melody, reinforcing and empowering his shield, battling out the blows of the Bludger. But slowly, the shield was giving way from the repeated attacks. Hermione didn't know what she could do, but drew her wand regardless. What spells would work on the enchanted ball?
She didn't have long to think, as moments later the shield fractured completely, leaving them exposed. The Bludger came straight for her, but Harry pushed Hermione out of the way at the last minute. The metal ball caught him in the arm, and Hermione heard the telltale snap of the limb breaking clean. As the Bludger came in for the kill, Hermione panicked. Swinging her wand wildly at the ball, she let out a piercing note, almost a scream, high and resonant. In a bright flash, the iron ball exploded, raining them with shrapnel. Professor McGonagall and Snape came swooping in just then, as the other fans that hadn't seen this event cheered for one of the players. One team had apparently won. Last Hermione saw of Harry, he was being carried out of the stadium on a stretcher guided by Professor Snape.
Tom Riddle fumed silently as Ginny Weasley left the Quidditch pitch, quite confused as to how she got there. He had hoped to been able to shake things up with Harry Potter, give him some reason to be uneasy while he, Lord Voldemort, worked toward figuring out why this boy was so important. Through Ginny, he had learned that his older self had been destroyed by the boy when he was but a child, but how no one knew.
Alas, the Mudblood girl that Potter was with had protected him. But no matter, the damage was done. All he had to do now was send the Basilisk up to the hospital wing to collect Potter and bring him back down to the Chamber for questioning and more than likely his demise by the hands of Lord Voldemort.
The evening could not come swiftly enough, but for the Horcrux who had waited in shadows for decades, it was but a passing moment. Once the first year Gryffindors were sound asleep, he went to work. Possessing the Weasley girl was easiest while she slept, and suddenly Voldemort felt controlling her body like a puppet master. Silently she stalked down to the third floor, into the bathroom where the secret entrance lay. Hissing open the Chamber, Voldemort summoned his serpentine minion, and together they made their way to the hospital wing.
They were just mounting the final stairs, when Voldemort heard a strange clicking noise, and a sudden flash of light startled the Basilisk. A violent scream, and hissing of the Basilisk, and it was all over. Turning a moment later, Voldemort saw the prone body of a first year boy. It was Ginny's friend Colin, who had been most annoying to learn about Potter as much as possible. He had apparently been carrying food to Potter, perhaps in hopes of garnering a friendship with the mysterious Slytherin. Foolish Gryffindors, Voldemort thought, retreating with his servants as footsteps approached. His blundering had nearly cost him his life, but had unfortunately managed to foil the Dark Lord's plans for the time being.
'What tragedy is befalling our castle,' Albus mourned as he helped Minerva carry the petrified form of young Colin Creevey into the Hospital Wing. The boy had been found just down the stairs. Minerva had been patrolling the corridors just one floor below, and had come running at the boy's frightened scream, just to find him this way. As they entered with the boy's body, Albus' eye flashed momentarily to where Harry had been that afternoon, but the best was vacated. The boy's arm had been healed swifter than anyone had expected, Severus performing an excellent job in mending the boy.
"Get Madam Pomfrey," Albus whispered to Minerva, being as quiet as possible for the sake of anyone who might have been in the ward. She hurried to the office and out of sight, only to return moments later, urgently talking with the Hospital matron. As she saw the student, she gasped, putting a hand over her mouth.
"What happened?" Poppy whispered to Albus, bending over Colin herself to inspect him.
"Another attack," Albus said briefly explaining what the Transfiguration Mistress had told him prior.
"Petrified?" Poppy asked direly.
"Yes," Minerva said, the crushing weight upon them all. "But I shudder to think…" she broke off, unable to voice her fears.
The three of them looked down at the poor First year boy. Albus realized that the boy had a camera in his hands, held in such a way as though he was taking a picture. Could he…
Reaching forward quickly, Albus wrenched the camera out of the boy's rigid grip.
"You don't think he managed to get a picture of his attacker?" Minerva said eagerly. Albus did not respond, too wary to give hope to the idea. It would have been dashed as a plumb of smoke erupted out of the camera when he opened the back.
"Good gracious!" Poppy exclaimed, shocked.
The smell of burnt plastic engulfed the room. "Melted," Poppy continued, gazing with wonder at the camera, "it's all melted…"
"What does this mean, Albus?" Minerva said, her voice shaking in her urgency to have answers.
"It means," Albus said, the pieces falling into place for him as he spoke, "that the Chamber of Secrets is indeed open again."
Both witches looked at him dumbfounded. Minerva only recovered the ability to speak, albeit very shakily, "But, Albus… surely… who?"
"The question is not who," Albus said finally, not tearing his eyes from Colin, "The question is how…"
Minerva and Poppy left not long afterward, as there as little they could do for the boy now, but Albus remained to try and discover any clue from the stiffened body that he could. The hour grew late, the light of the torches getting dimmer, but Albus didn't move from his vigil over Colin Creevey. It was there in the near darkness, shadows looming from the dwindling lights, that Albus felt more than heard another presence enter the Infirmary. Seemingly by way of announcement, music started to flow around the room, and eerie sound that danced and echoed from every corner of the room.
"Who is there," Albus said, straightening up and readying his wand. His personal suspicions of who it was, was confirmed by the flow of disembodied song-like voice that emerged from the haze of musical sounds.
"I am here, the Phantom of Hogwarts… Beware the Phantom of Hogwarts…"
"Phantom…" Albus said flatly, refusing to lower his wand but choosing to attempt a more diplomatic solution to his troubles with the supposed spirit. "Are you here to finish what you started with this poor boy? or to torment me further in this time of terror?" he accused.
The music ceased abruptly, as did the sing-song tone of the Phantom's voice. Flat and completely serious, he answered. "I am not here to harm the residents of my school, Albus… I do remind you that Lockhart needs to be removed from the grounds, and that I will deal with this supposed 'Heir of Slytherin'. Whosoever it may be will learn to fear the Phantom of Hogwarts.
"And what of Miss Granger?" Albus added impulsively.
"Her fate is beyond your concern…" tittered the Phantom, his voice dipping back into musical tones. "She is my Angel of Music, and she is being taught by the Master…" the voice grew fainter, until it vanished entirely. Albus had not seen even a hint of the Phantom, but more worried were the thoughts of his parting words.
From what the aged wizard gathered, this Phantom of Hogwarts was learned in the ancient arts of Magical Music, and was teaching it to students. Albus feared this, as Magical Music was considered a Dark Art, not due to any destructive nature of the magic it wove, but the addictive nature of the music itself. The Bards of old as they were called had long since died out, their passion of Magical Music consuming them to the point that they ceased to be physical beings at all, or were driven into insanity in long pursuits of forgotten lore or powerful spell-songs.
It was dangerous magic, and it was not to be taught at Hogwarts. Albus' predecessors had seen to that, and while Albus lamented the loss of any knowledge of the ancients, some dark secrets were better left alone.
Steeling his resolve, Albus left the Hospital wing for a few hours of rest before the school awoke for the next day. The sun was rising already and he had much in his mind to ponder yet. 'At least,' Albus thought as he entered his office, 'the Phantom was indeed not responsible for the attacks on the students.'
The Phantom stalked through the twisting tunnels of his domain, seething in suppressed rage. The old fool of a Headmaster thought his advice and threats as nothing more than the sound of the wind in the air around is over inflated head. He did not know whom he was mocking with the pitiful sham of a Defense against the Dark Art's teacher as Lockhart. They were as bad as those who had made his life into the darkness that had become his calling in life. An example must be made, the Phantom decided, but being merciful he would give the faculty of his school one last chance to atone for their misgivings and outright wrongs towards his guidance.
Turning his attention to the massive statue of Salazar Slytherin and his home, The Phantom of Hogwarts regarded the monkey-like features of the ancient wizard, and contemplated the supposed heir of the man who was wreaking havoc in the halls of the castle, harming the students under his protection, and The Phantom's heart filled with darkness and anger. Spurred by the tone of his mood, his magic reacted, and deep within his lair, the massive organ that The Phantom created surged to life. Rage and Anger became personified in music, cascading around the subterranean tunnels known as the Chamber of Secrets.
The darkness deepened around The Phantom. The music spoke to him, telling dark secrets and offering all manner of promises. To subject the world to the suffering that he had suffered, to make them know his lifetime of pain. The music drew him in, soothed all the hurt, and within it The Phantom was nearly consumed, until a ray of light blasted through his mind. The music spiked as he thought of his dear sweet Hermione, his angel, the light to his darkness, his balance.
The darkness began to abate, and music quieting to small ambience, and the mind of The Phantom cleared. Hermione was worth all his suffering, for she, despite his darkness, saw light within him, and for her he would be content with his school, and no more than was his lot.
Ascending from the darkness of his mind, up to return to the land of light above, The Phantom heard the sounds of a child poking his aristocratic nose where it didn't belong. By now the Phantom would have simply removed the persistent ant, but with the love of his angel flooding through him, and he felt conflicted between sparing the twerp one more time and making an example. Melding into the darkness around him, The Phantom stalked toward the blond student who was attempting to investigate the secret bathroom entrance of his domain.
Draco knew that Potter was out of the hospital wing for over a week now, no bludger attack was too much for magic to cure, but the boy had still managed to completely disappear from every social setting after the match. So Draco was working to figure out the mystery again. This is why he was now snooping around the second floor bathroom again to finds where the boy was hiding. Draco had come to the conclusion that Potter's hiding place had to be somewhere nearby this point, as every time he had followed him their path had led towards, if not directly to this bathroom.
Draco was just investigating the line of sinks across from the bathroom door when he discovered something... odd… the far end sink didn't work, and etched into the tap was a tiny snake, completely unnoticeable unless you leaned over the sink and specifically looked for it. Draco stepped back, puzzled.
Just then was when he saw something that made him jump out of his skin. There was another person's face in the mirror, black hair and piercing green eyes behind a pale white mask. There was a hissing sound, and Draco leapt back in shock as the entire sink separating the pair of them sank into the floor. Mist seemed to emanate from somewhere behind the masked boy, and Draco's body seemed to freeze where he stood, entranced by the faint humming the mysterious personal was making. He was around Draco's own age but Draco did not know him or recognize what part of the boy's face he could see.
"There will be precious little of this that you remember Mr. Malfoy, so best pay attention…" the masked boy said. "You are prying where you are too young and inexperienced to belong. My servant Harry is under my protection, as is Miss Granger. You are not to interfere with my plans or with anything that they do, nor follow them, nor tell anyone of this. And trust me, I'll be watching. Consider yourself warned…"
The person, Draco could only guess that this was the fictitious Phantom, stretched out a single finger, and with a small trill of music, touched Draco between the eyes. The last thing Draco saw was the smile on the masked face as he blacked out.
Gilderoy Lockhart couldn't believe how lucky the students were, as he surveyed the gathered crowd in the Great Hall for his Dueling Club. Dumbledore had graciously and quite energetically agreed to his little pick-me-up from all the doom and gloom that these strange attacks had caused.
Wave a casual arm, Gilderoy called for silence, flashing a wide grin as he was immediately obeyed. "Gather round, gather round," he called jovially, "Can you all see me? Can you all hear me?" the silence that answered was perfect, "Excellent!"
He loved this, the attention, the respect, everything, all the adoring eyes on him. Just before being carried away, Gilderoy remembered that he was not the only teacher here to instruct the children in dueling.
"Let me introduce my assistant, Professor Snape!" he said, beckoning the man over. "He tells me he knows a tiny bit about dueling himself and has sportingly agreed to help me with a short demonstration before we begin."
The Potions Master could only have been smiling at the warm introduction, or at least Gilderoy thought he was smiling, the man clearly lack practice with the facial expression. They turned to each other to begin the demonstration. Gilderoy graciously bowed and raised his wand in the combative position.
"On the count of three, We will cast our first spells. Neither of us will be aiming to kill, of course…" he said. Severus tried to smile again, but gave it up as a lost cause and returning to his serious focus. He'd need it if he was facing the great Gilderoy Lockhart.
"One… Two… Three…"
A plume of smoke enveloped the Great Hall with the flash of a spell, and the children went screaming for cover. In the chaos Gilderoy lost a hold of his wand, and was forced to go searching for it. When the smoke cleared, two people were hovering over the dueling area, both rather young, but only one wearing the robes of a Hogwart's student. The other had a long black cloak and a white mask covering the majority of his face.
"This is your final warning Hogwarts…" shouted the masked boy, while the student dangled limply from an unseen wire. "See what happens when you go prying into the business of the Phantom of Hogwarts!"
Suddenly the student dropped, plunging to the stone floor with a dull thump. Several students ran to the body, and Gilderoy swallowed hard. Dumbledore had informed him of the specter in the castle, and its apparent vendetta against him. Naturally he had thought it a joke for the newest member of the staff and paid it no mind. Chuckling to himself at the extension of the joke for his behalf, Gilderoy scooped up his wand and stood, inclined to go and 'face-off' with this phantom for the benefit of the students.
Severus however, caught his arm and held him back. "Do not go off to your death in front of the students Lockhart, be silent and do nothing." He hissed in Gilderoy's ear, which made the great wizard smile all the more.
"If my demands are not met, a disaster beyond your imaginations will occur!" the ghostly apparition shouted finally, and with another large explosion of sound and smoke, vanished into thin air.
Gilderoy and Snape approached the crowd around the fallen student, who turned out to merely be unconscious. Gilderoy said nothing, for the benefit of the students, and thought of how well it would go for him when he 'defeated' the Phantom of Hogwarts before the end of the year. He might have to consider writing another book about it… the title 'Horror at Hogwarts' sounded good to him.
Snape took the unconscious lad up to the hospital wing, and Gilderoy, his dueling club completely disarranged, dismissed the rest of the frightened crowd, smiling and comforting them be telling them how all was well in hand. There was hardly the need to fear with Gilderoy Lockhart as their Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher anyway.