The Heir of Slytherin

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Harry's POV

I was standing at the end of a very long, dimly lit chamber. Towering stone pillars entwined with more carved serpents rose to support a ceiling lost in darkness, casting long, black shadows through the odd, greenish gloom that filled the place.

My heart beating very fast, I stood listening to the chill silence. Could the basilisk be lurking in a shadowy corner, behind a pillar? And where was Kat and Ginny?

I pulled out my wand and moved forward between the serpentine columns. Every careful footstep echoed loudly off the shadowy walls. I kept my eyes narrowed, ready to clamp them shut at the smallest sign of movement.

The hollow eye sockets of the stone snakes seemed to be following me. More than once, with a jolt of the stomach, I thought I saw one stir.

Then, as I drew level with the last pair of pillars, a statue high as the Chamber itself loomed into view, standing against the back wall.

I had to crane my neck to look up into the giant face above: It was ancient and monkeyish, with a long, thin beard that fell almost to the bottom of the wizard's sweeping stone robes, where two enormous gray feet stood on the smooth Chamber floor. And between the feet, facedown, lay a small, black-robed figure with flaming-red hair.

"Ginny!" I muttered, sprinting to her and dropping to my knees. "Ginny - don't be dead - please don't be dead -" I flung my wand aside, grabbed Ginny's shoulders, and turned her over. Her face was white as marble, and as cold, yet her eyes were closed, so she wasn't Petrified. But then she must be -

"Ginny, please wake up," I muttered desperately, shaking her. Ginny's head lolled hopelessly from side to side.

"She won't wake," said a soft voice.

I jumped and spun around on my knees.

A tall, black-haired boy was leaning against the nearest pillar, watching. He was strangely blurred around the edges, as though I were looking at him through a misted window. But there was no mistaking him -

"Tom - Tom Riddle?"

Riddle nodded, not taking his eyes off my face.

"What d'you mean, she won't wake?" I said desperately.

"She's not - she's not -?"

"She's still alive," said Riddle. "But only just."

I stared at him. Tom Riddle had been at Hogwarts fifty years ago, yet here he stood, a weird, misty light shining about him, not a day older than sixteen.

"Are you a ghost?" I said uncertainly.

"A memory," said Riddle quietly. "Preserved in a diary for fifty years."

He pointed toward the floor near the statue's giant toes. Lying open there was the little black diary I had found in Moaning Myrtle's bathroom. For a second, I wondered how it had got there - but there were more pressing matters to deal with.

"You've got to help me, Tom," I said, raising Ginny's head again. "We've got to get her out of here. There's a basilisk...and I need to find Kat! She must be here somewhere!"

Riddle didn't move. "She's right here, step forth, my child." I looked up in surprise as Kat walked out from behind Tom. Something looked different about her. I looked closer and realized her eyes were red.

"What's wrong with her! Why are her eyes red!" I slowly bent to pick up my wand again. But my wand had gone.

"Did you see -?"

I looked up. Riddle was still watching me - twirling my wand between my long fingers.

"Thanks," I said, stretching out my hand for it. A smile curled the corners of Riddle's mouth. He continued to stare at me, twirling the wand idly.

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