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The silhouette of a solitary figure framed below the iron and stone gate drifted to and fro, barely illuminated by the day's fading light. As Harry approached the school grounds, the excitement of seeing Ginny and the prospect of being back at Hogwarts played a duet that made his heart race. Harry's shoes scratched softly against the cobblestones, making just enough sound for Ginny's acutely tuned ears to pick up. She spun and raced toward the sound, throwing her arms around Harry's neck the moment his features emerged from the grey of the evening.

Harry and Ginny talked rapidly in hushed tones as they walked hand-in-hand toward the castle, and once they entered, they wound their way toward the late Professor Dumbledore's office. Only four people at Hogwarts knew that Harry would be arriving this evening, and he made sure that only Ginny actually met him. Harry hoarded each and every precious moment with her that he could. They arrived at the gargoyle-guarded entrance to the office, and Ginny spoke the password, "Quidditch Tabby."

Like Dumbledore's, Professor McGonagall's chosen passwords brought a smile to Harry's face. The rotating spiral staircase with the golden eagle at the top delivered them to the impressive old oak door of the office, and Harry knocked. The door swung open immediately, and there stood the Headmistress adorned in her new gold and black robes. Even the old bent hat she'd worn for years had been replaced to better represent her new office. Professor McGonagall strode forward at the sight of Harry and gave him a massive hug that would have made Hagrid proud. The sincerity of her warmth pleased Harry, and her emotions were equally reflected in her watery eyes as she stood back and looked at him.

Professor McGonagall motioned Harry and Ginny into neighboring chairs and then gave Harry a brief overview of the goings-on at school. Harry's attention grew keen when the Headmistress came around to their shared passion of Quidditch and how Gryffindor was fairing in its quest for the Cup. Throughout the previous months, Harry had kept Professor McGonagall abreast of all things war related and appreciated her counsel whenever she offered it. The time they now spent talking brought smiles and laughs as Hogwarts was truly home to both. When all the pleasantries were finally finished, Professor McGonagall pointedly asked what she could do for Harry, knowing full well there was a specific reason for his journey.

Harry took Ginny's hand as she sat in the chair next to his and explained his ideas to the Headmistress. The thought had occurred to him that since both he and Ginny had suffered mental connections with Voldemort, perhaps there were subconscious bits of information buried deep in their minds they were not aware of - memories and information that perhaps had entered without their knowledge or even Voldemort's. Harry became introspective, "What I would like, Professor, is for Ginny and me to use the Pensieve to see if we could retrieve those memories and somehow put them to use." Professor McGonagall's eyebrows rose in surprise, and then she smiled.

"Harry," she offered, "I think that is a brilliant notion. However, seeing Professor Dumbledore retrieve memories is not nearly the same as doing it yourself. Pick up your wands, both of you, and follow me." Professor McGonagall rose to her feet and walked straight to the cabinet containing the Pensieve which she threw open and then turned to face them. "Now then," she said, as a silver aura traced her outline from behind, "let's have at it." Harry recalled how imposing Professor McGonagall had looked the day of the final competition for the Triwizard Cup when she and Professor Dumbledore and Snape had saved him from certain death at the hands of Barty Crouch, Jr. At this moment, with the silver light riding her shoulders, the Headmistress looked majestic, and Harry would have followed her anywhere.

The next hour was spent in lessons on how to retrieve memories, and both Harry and Ginny needed every minute to get it just right. Each in turn began to pull the silver threads of 'Voldemort' memories from their minds. The process proved to be slow and frustrating as the young minds didn't have the mature development necessary to focus properly. Finally, both Harry and Ginny had extracted every memory they could root out. They discussed each one they could recall retrieving then both slumped in their chairs. Ginny was the first to verbalize what both she and Harry were thinking, "That was awful. Not nearly enough. Those memories were ones we already knew were there. How can what we already knew help us? There must be more, lots more!" Ginny jumped out of her chair and continued to ramble on as she paced the floor out of frustration, arms gesticulating and fists clenched. Professor McGonagall stood up, an understanding smile on her face. "Both of you come with me."

She led them up the winding metal staircase to the second-floor room of her office, explaining her ideas the whole way while expertly guiding ahead of her the levitated Pensieve. Once in the room, Professor McGonagall placed the Pensieve next to the brown, cracked-leather couch toward the back of the room by the bookcase. She motioned Harry onto the couch, and he lay down. Professor McGonagall walked over to the couch and slowly waved her wand the length of Harry's body, and then twice around his head.

Harry instantly fell asleep, and as soon as he did, Professor McGonagall placed her wand to his temple. She withdrew it slowly, and a set of fine interlaced silver tendrils containing many subconscious memories wove their way through the air from temple to tip. She guided the memories to the Pensieve and repeated the process over and over until her wand told her all was done. Harry was awakened, and Ginny then took his place. Soon the expert hand of the Headmistress completed the task.

Back downstairs in the Headmistress' office, the three decided the following day would be a good time to discuss how best to use these memories. Clear minds would make the best decisions. Ginny stood up and went to the door, but pressing down on the large handle she found it locked. She turned and looked to Professor McGonagall with wide-eyed alarm. Immediately, the Headmistress swept from behind her desk with a commanding sense of urgency, her wand at the ready.

Up in the Owlery, three owls were landing at that very moment, including a tawny owl whose wingtip had apparently been clipped.


Up in the Owlery, the elder Crabbe, Draco Malfoy and Peter Pettigrew used Dark Magic to transfigure back into their normal forms. The three figures moved to the landing at the top of the stairs where Pettigrew took his silver hand from his pocket and reattached it to the stub of his arm. They paused a moment to look over the stone balustrade and down upon a dark Hogwarts, accented by the occasional brightly-lit window and outlined only by a half-moon now dropping toward the horizon. If Vincent Crabbe and Gregory Goyle had completed their assignment successfully, Professor McGonagall would now be sealed in her office. Nonetheless, they knew that time would be of the essence, so they rushed down the stairs and headed for the main building.

Harry reached into the pocket of his robes the instant that Ginny spun around from the door. Hesitation was no longer an issue for Harry, and before Professor McGonagall could even utter a word he had grasped his DA Galleon and sent out an alarm. Experience and great depths of magic had finely honed Harry's intuition, and he knew that danger was at hand.

Ron and Hermione received the alarm instantly and sprang into action. All those sessions of practicing charms and all those meetings on procedure would now be put to the test. Hermione raced from the Gryffindor dorm and went to get Luna while Ron had but a short run up the stairs to get Neville. Established procedure dictated that only five would do the initial response to any emergency. The rest of the DA were aware of the alarm, though, so everyone knew to prepare.

Crabbe, Malfoy and Pettigrew threw open the large wooden double doors of the building and went straight up the main staircase. Malfoy took the lead at the top of the wide stairs, a place where he had once made overtures of 'friendship' to Harry at the start of their first year. The group went up one more flight and then turned down the long hallway where, three-quarters of the way down, they turned once again and burst into the second-floor girls' bathroom. It appeared empty, as expected, so they went straight to the sink that contained the engraved snake on the brass faucet. Crabbe had been taught the necessary amount of Parseltongue by Voldemort, so he uttered from memory the correct phrase to open the surface entrance to the Chamber of Secrets. The rumbling of all the sinks moving aside sent vibrations throughout the whole room. Moaning Myrtle, disturbed by the commotion, poked her head through the wall of the last stall as Crabbe, Malfoy and Pettigrew jumped down the entrance into the Chamber.

Myrtle was astonished to see that blonde-haired boy back here at school. She was infuriated and hurt by all that had transpired at Hogwarts the previous year, not only the murder of Professor Dumbledore but also the pretense of Malfoy's poor pitiful acts as well. Angry and aghast, she stretched her ethereal body through the wall and out into the hallway. The first live person she came across was Neville Longbottom as he ran around checking the second floor. At Myrtle's behest, Neville charged into the girls bathroom, only to find the entrance to the Chamber of Secrets open and no one else around. He stood there waiting. Two years of dedicated practice had made his mind keen, but his shaking wand hand told the story that his experience battling at the Ministry wasn't quite enough.

Professor McGonagall raised her wand as Ginny moved back away from the door. Silently, she uttered the same charm that Professor Dumbledore had used to blast Mad-Eye Moody's door open two years earlier. When nothing happened, Professor McGonagall stood there as wide-eyed as Ginny had been moments before when she found the door unexpectedly locked. All three feverishly began to think about what to do next.

Crabbe, Malfoy and Pettigrew dodged the piles of loose boulders that littered the subterranean entrance to the Chamber of Secrets and made their way to the locked vault door. Crabbe once again uttered his rote phrase of Parseltongue, thus sending the bewitched metal snake on its journey to unlock the vault. Pettigrew squeaked as the long line of stone snakes came into view. One could not help but be awed and intimidated by the sight. It was now Pettigrew's job to finish the mission, so he left the others behind and waddled down the stone path to the main chamber.

As he emerged from the tunnel, he looked up at the giant serpent's stone head that loomed menacingly above the pool of mirror-like water. Pettigrew worked his way around the pool to the stone wall and clambered up the rocks to the serpent's head itself. The mouth was beyond his reach, so he took out his wand and charmed it into a long pole with an adjustable noose on the end. Balancing precariously, Pettigrew reached out and placed the loop around the nearest large fang. The loop tightened around the stone tooth, and he yanked with all his might. The stone fang came loose far easier than expected, so much so that he nearly fell backwards at the release of the tooth. Catching himself, he contracted his wand and took hold of the fang. He scurried back to his nefarious companions, and they headed up to the girls' bathroom with all possible speed.

Harry looked from Professor McGonagall to Ginny, as perplexed as they were by the fact that all of them were still standing there. Quickly, they tried the same opening charm, together this time. The door did not budge. Harry thought a moment and then spoke Parseltongue. The door quietly opened. "Stupid Slytherin gits," Harry muttered. "Neither they nor Voldemort had any idea I would be here." Without another word, Harry, Ginny and the Professor rushed out of the office and into the main corridors of Hogwarts.

Luna was urgently checking the outer buildings of Hogwarts while Hermione checked each of the houses, and Ron took up his post outside the Great Hall. Neville's post was now dictated by circumstance as he waited, but a nervous placement of his free hand into the side pocket of his robe chanced upon the DA Galleon. Exasperated by his foolishness, he sent out a call for the DA to come to the second-floor girls' bathroom and none too soon, for moments later three people emerged from of the Chamber of Secrets.

Luna and Hermione screeched to a halt at Neville's call while Ron, the nearest member of the DA, leapt up the stairs three at a time and made his way down the second-floor hall.

Neville's wand hand shook even more as he now tried to stare down Crabbe, Malfoy and Pettigrew. Realizing the odds, the three slowly separated across the bathroom, forcing Neville to look back and forth and hesitate even more than he already had. Crabbe made eye contact with Malfoy, then immediately called, "Longbottom." At that, Neville turned his head toward Crabbe. That one moment of miscalculation was all Malfoy needed as he forced his voice to speak the most horrible of the Unforgivable Curses, a curse that sent a jet of green light into Neville's right side. Moaning Myrtle, peeking through the transom out of pure living habit, screamed.

Ron stopped well short of the girls' bathroom, completely horrified when he saw the streaks of green light flash across the hall as they escaped through the cracks around the door. He didn't need Myrtle's scream to tell him what happened. Taking a deep breath, he raised his wand and aimed it down the hall. Three figures scrambled through the door, turned right and headed toward the end staircase that led to the building's side entrance. Knowing what had just happened made Malfoy's back a perfectly justifiable target; years of torment made this easy. Ron screamed, "Avada Kedavra," and Malfoy fell right on the heels of Pettigrew.

Pettigrew froze in his tracks as a second jet of green light shot past Ron's left shoulder and slammed into Crabbe's chest as he turned to look at Malfoy. The Killing Curse from Professor McGonagall's wand sent Crabbe's lifeless body tumbling down the stairs.

The scene outside the girls' bathroom was almost surreal as Hermione and Luna came charging down the hall, wands at the ready. Myrtle wailed, Ron stood in the hall muttering, "Bloody hell." to himself over and over, and Professor McGonagall stood tall over a cowering Peter Pettigrew, who clutched in his only real hand the ruby-handled knife of Godric Gryffindor himself.


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© Copyright 2006, Jeff Starr