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.