Chapter 59 // Safe and sound
Going up was more fun than going down. Fawkes, being a phoenix and all, lifted us up into the air and brought us safely back to the surface. I didn’t know if I liked Lockhart better without his memory, but he turned out to be just as annoying. At least he lost the attitude.
‘Where now?’ said Ron, with an anxious look at Ginny. I pointed. Fawkes was leading the way, glowing gold along the corridor. We strode after him, and moments later, found ourselves outside Professor McGonagall’s office. Harry knocked and pushed the door open. For a moment there was silence as we stood in the doorway, covered in muck and slime and blood. Then there was a scream.
‘Ginny!’ It was Mrs. Weasley, who had been sitting crying in front of the fire. She leapt to her feet, closely followed by Mr. Weasley, and both of them flung themselves on their daughter. ‘You saved her! You saved her! How did you do it?’
‘I think we’d all like to know that,’ said Professor McGonagall weakly.
Mrs. Weasley let go of Harry, who gave me a quick, hesitant look, then walked over to the desk and laid upon it the Sorting Hat, the ruby-encrusted sword, and what remained of Riddle’s diary. Then he started telling them everything. For nearly a quarter of an hour he spoke into the rapt silence: He told us about hearing the disembodied voice, how Hermione had finally realized that he was hearing a basilisk in the pipes; how he and Ron had followed the spiders into the forest, that Aragog had told them where the last victim of the basilisk had died; how he had guessed that Moaning Myrtle had been the victim, and that the entrance to the Chamber of Secrets might be in her bathroom…
‘Very well,’ Professor McGonagall prompted him as he paused, ‘so you found out where the entrance was — breaking a hundred school rules into pieces along the way, I might add — but how on earth did you all get out of there alive, Potter?’
So Harry, his voice growing hoarse from all the talking, told them about Fawkes’s timely arrival and about the Sorting Hat giving him the sword.
But then he faltered. He shared another look with me. Until now, he had avoided mentioning Riddle’s diary — or Ginny. She was standing with her head against Mrs. Weasley’s shoulder, and tears were still coursing silently down her cheeks. I knew what he thought. Riddle’s diary didn’t work anymore… He couldn’t prove he made her do it.
‘What interests me most,’ I said, giving him a quick nod, ‘is how the Dark Lord managed to hide in the diary and enchant Ginny. I was there. I saw him come out of the diary. How does that work, professor?’
Instinctively, I looked at Dumbledore, who smiled faintly, the firelight glancing off his halfmoon spectacles.
‘Excellent question, miss Macmillan,’ said Dumbledore gently, ‘especially since my sources tell me he is currently in hiding in the forests of Albania.’
I closed my eye, trying to hide the tears that started building again.
‘W-what’s that?’ said Mr. Weasley in a stunned voice. ‘You-Know-Who? En-enchant Ginny? But Ginny’s not… Ginny hasn’t been… has she?’
‘It was this diary,’ said Harry quickly, picking it up and showing it to Dumbledore. ‘Riddle wrote it when he was sixteen…’
Dumbledore took the diary from Harry and peered keenly down his long, crooked nose at its burnt and soggy pages.
‘Brilliant,’ he said softly. ‘Of course, he was probably the most brilliant student Hogwarts has ever seen.’ He turned around to the Weasleys, who were looking utterly bewildered.
‘Very few people know that Lord Voldemort was once called Tom Riddle. I taught him myself, fifty years ago, at Hogwarts. He disappeared after leaving the school… traveled far and wide… sank so deeply into the Dark Arts, consorted with the very worst of our kind, underwent so many dangerous, magical transformations, that when he resurfaced as Lord Voldemort, he was barely recognizable. Hardly anyone connected Lord Voldemort with the clever, handsome boy who was once Head Boy here.’
I turned my head, leaning against the wall. Tears slowly started falling as the realization started to sink in. This horrible person, who did awful things, who killed so many people, who tried to hurt my friends… The darkest and most horrifying wizard of all times, was my father.
‘Miss Weasley should go up to the hospital wing right away,’ Dumbledore interrupted my thoughts in a firm voice. ‘This has been a terrible ordeal for her. There will be no punishment. Older and wiser wizards than she have been hoodwinked by Lord Voldemort.’ He strode over to the door and opened it. ‘Bed rest and perhaps a large, steaming mug of hot chocolate. I always find that cheers me up,’ he added, twinkling kindly down at her. ‘You will find that Madam Pomfrey is still awake. She’s just giving out Mandrake juice — I daresay the basilisk’s victims will be waking up any moment.’
‘So Hermione’s okay!’ said Ron brightly.
‘There has been no lasting harm done, Ginny,’ said Dumbledore. Before Mrs. Weasley could lead Ginny out, she turned to me and threw her arms around me. I burried my head on her shoulder and we cried for a bit.
'Come on, Ginny,' Mrs. Weasley gently said and Mr. Weasley followed, still looking deeply shaken.
‘You know, Minerva,’ Professor Dumbledore said thoughtfully to Professor McGonagall, ‘I think miss Macmillan could use a friendly conversation. Would you be so kind to alert Filius? He knows her best, as her head of house.’
‘Right,’ said Professor McGonagall crisply, putting a hand on my shoulder and moving me to the door. ‘I’ll leave you to deal with Potter and Weasley, shall I?’
‘Certainly,’ said Dumbledore.
I gave Harry and Ron an uncertain look. Would they be punished? And if they were, shouldn’t I be?
'You were amazing, Katherine,' Harry said, giving me a reassuring smile.
'I didn't do anything,' I said, trying to wipe the tears from my face, 'you are the hero of this story. Godric Gryffindor should be proud, having you in his house.'
‘Come, come, miss Macmillan,’ McGonagall shushed as she noticed my silent tears again, ‘it’s all over, now. You are safe.’