Chapter 67 - Preparations

Start from the beginning

The plan was for Snape to send additional details once the initial story had been sold to the Death Eaters.

"I was rewarded for the information," Snape replied, "although the Dark Lord's idea of a reward leaves a great deal to be desired. He is no doubt studying the Pensieve even as we speak. I have been instructed to find out all I can about the possible escape plan. He was furious at Dumbledore for suggesting sneaking you away."

"You have done a superb job, Severus," Dumbledore said, smiling, but eyes serious for once.

Snape simply nodded his head.

"When do you think we will know if he's taken the bait?" Harry asked.

"After I have sent the additional details and am once again summoned," Snape said, for once not being remotely obstreperous about handing over the information. "He will want to question me directly and that is when I will find out what he is planning."

It wasn't quite what Harry had hoped, but he was something of a realist under the optimistic exterior, so he realised it was as good as they could hope at the moment.

"Thank you, Professor," Harry said; "there's no way we could do this without you."

Snape's eyebrow twitched just slightly, as if he was surprised by the acknowledgement, but that was all.

"Is there anything else I need to know?" Harry asked.

"I believe that is all the pertinent information, Harry," Dumbledore replied.

"Then, thanks for letting me know so soon," Harry said, "but I have a pack of second years trying to learn how to play Quidditch that are probably killing each other by now."

"Of course, My Dear Boy," Dumbledore said, "as much as Quidditch related injuries are a necessary hazard, it is much better to keep them to a minimum. I will see you later at dinner."

Harry only hoped he didn't return to a complete mess on the Quidditch pitch.

* * *

The first thing they had had to do with the Chamber of Secrets was to repair the damage on the tunnel done by Lockhart's wayward spell. That had taken a few days and they had at the same time increased the size of the entrance. Then they had cleared out everything they could find, including the basilisk skeleton, some of which made its way to Dumbledore's study and Snape's quarters. Bill had given the whole place a once over and declared it safe, which meant the rest of them could get on with the physical side of things.

As it turned out there had been a mechanism that could flood the whole place using the lake, so they'd plugged that, which just left one thing, other than stocking the place with supplies. They needed the emergency exit.

Even with magic that was asking a lot.

The first idea had been a hidden Portkey, but something about the Chamber interfered with the magic. Ron had appeared in the middle of the lake rather than Hogsmeade while testing one and had to be rescued from the giant squid.

There was no time to build a physical tunnel, even given that a wand was a lot faster than a spade. Making it safe would take too long.

Transferring worked, when the wards were down, but it had exactly the same drawbacks as Apparating. Taking one or two pupils at a time would take forever, far longer than they would probably have by that point.

The attack was coming soon and Harry was more than a bit frustrated. He had not anticipated the problems with the emergency exit.

While Hermione, Pansy, Dumbledore and Draco debated yet more possibilities, Harry wandered to the back wall, past the likeness of Slytherin. Every time he touched the rock it felt almost alive. The magic was old, almost as old as Hogwarts and it had been left alone for a long time. He wasn't sure what Slytherin had had in mind when the founder built the whole place, but it didn't feel evil. It might have been used that way, but the more time Harry spent in the Chamber, the more he thought the legends had been exaggerated.

He placed both his hands on the wall and closed his eyes, letting his other senses open. He felt warm even though the stone was cold as the magic wrapped around him like a giant snake. It moved over his skin and through his mind and, rather than threatened, he felt safe.

It was then he had a revelation and he had an inkling where the crazy idea to use the Chamber might have come from. He remembered the Sorting Hat's song from the beginning of the year and it finally made sense. This wasn't a place of evil that a mad basilisk and despotic heirs had tried to make it, this was a place of safety. Slytherin had feared Muggles and their prejudices, been afraid of what they might do should someone lead them to Hogwarts. The Chamber hadn't been made to kill Muggleborns, it had been made to save purebloods.

"For the children," he hissed quietly, Paseltongue coming naturally to him as he felt the magical snake in his mind.

The wall shimmered under his hands and starting from the floor about twenty feet apart, two beams of silver light shot up the stone, curving until they met several feet above his head. The solid surface he was leaning on was suddenly spongy and, before he could pull his weight back, it seemed to disappear entirely and he was falling. He landed with a thud on grass.

[Harry?] Draco's voice was panicked and a little distant, but still close enough that Harry wasn't worried.

[I'm fine,] he said, [just give me a second.]

Standing up, he realised he was in a sheltered glen. In the distance he could see the lights of Hogsmeade in the twilight. The exit had brought him somewhere safe.

[I'm coming back,] he said and sent a mental image of where he was to Draco at the same time.

He Transferred to the edge of Hogwarts' grounds, in a very secluded spot, and then set off towards the castle at a jog. Draco was going to kill him, he was pretty sure, especially since he was getting the silent treatment now Draco knew he was alright.

"What were you thinking?" Draco demanded when he finally made it back to the Chamber.

"All the legends are screwed up," he said by way of explanation as everyone stared at him. "Remember what the Sorting Hat sang? This isn't a lair, it's a Chamber to keep students safe if the Muggles ever found a way to attack. The basilisk was the protector, but it went mad being left alone so long. Not saying Slytherin wasn't a paranoid bastard, but I don't think he's anything like the legends make out. I spoke to the magic here in Parseltongue and it responded. That is our emergency exit."

He pointed at the still glowing wall.

"All we have to do now is figure out how to hide it," he added.

"How lovely," Dumbledore said and Draco just rolled his eyes.

"You and talking to strange magic," Draco muttered and Harry shrugged and gave him a small smile. [Do not frighten me like that,] Draco added for good measure.

[I do try not to,] he replied, [I didn't mean to fall through. If I hadn't been leaning on it I would have convinced Ron to go first.]

That made Draco laugh.

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