still, heart-shaped confetti was falling from the pale blue ceiling. Harry went over to the Gryffindor table, where Ron was sitting looking sickened, and Hermione seemed to have been overcome with giggles.
"What's going on?" Harry asked them, sitting down and wiping confetti off his bacon.
Ron pointed to the teachers' table, apparently too disgusted to speak. Lockhart, wearing lurid pink robes to match the decorations, was waving for silence. The teachers on either side of him were looking stony-faced. From where he sat, Harry could see a muscle going in Professor McGonagall's cheek. Snape looked as though someone had just fed him a large beaker of Skele-Gro.
"Happy Valentine's Day!" Lockhart shouted. "And may I thank the forty-six people who have so far sent me cards! Yes, I have taken the liberty of arranging this little surprise for you all - and it doesn't end here!"
Lockhart clapped his hands and through the doors to the entrance hall marched a dozen surly-looking dwarfs. Not just any dwarfs, however. Lockhart had them all wearing golden wings and carrying harps.
"My friendly, card-carrying cupids!" beamed Lockhart. "They will be roving around the school today delivering your valentines! And the fun doesn't stop here! I'm sure my colleagues will want to enter into the spirit of the occasion! Why not ask Professor Snape to show you how to whip up a Love Potion! And while you're at it, Professor Flitwick knows more about Entrancing Enchantments than any wizard I've ever met, the sly old dog!"
Professor Flitwick buried his face in his hands. Snape was look
ing as though the first person to ask him for a Love Potion would be force-fed poison.
"Please, Hermione, tell me you weren't one of the forty-six, 51 said Ron as they left the Great Hall for their first lesson. Hermione suddenly became very interested in searching her bag for her schedule and didn't answer.
All day long, the dwarfs kept barging into their classes to deliver valentines, to the annoyance of the teachers, and late that afternoon as the Gryffindors were walking upstairs for Charms, one of the dwarfs caught up with Harry.
"Oy, you! 'Arty Potter!" shouted a particularly grim-looking dwarf, elbowing people out of the way to get to Harry.
Hot all over at the thought of being given a valentine in front of a line of first years, which happened to include Ginny Weasley, Harry tried to escape. The dwarf, however, cut his way through the crowd by kicking people's shins, and reached him before he'd gone two paces.
"I've got a musical message to deliver to 'Arry Potter in person," he said, twanging his harp in a threatening sort of way.
"Not here," Harry hissed, trying to escape.
"Stay still!" grunted the dwarf, grabbing hold of Harry's bag and pulling him back.
"Let me go!" Harry snarled, tugging.
With a loud ripping noise, his bag split in two. His books, wand, parchment, and quill spilled onto the floor and his ink bottle smashed over everything.
Harry scrambled around, trying to pick it all up before the dwarf started singing, causing something of a holdup in the corridor.
"What's going on here?" came the cold, drawling voice of Draco Malfoy. Harry started stuffing everything feverishly into his ripped bag, desperate to get away before Malfoy could hear his musical valentine.
"What's all this commotion?" said another familiar voice as Percy Weasley arrived.
Losing his head, Harry tried to make a run for it, but the dwarf seized him around the knees and brought him crashing to the floor.
"Right," he said, sitting on Harry's ankles. "Here is your singing valentine:
His eyes are as green as a fresh pickled toad,
His hair is as dark as a blackboard. I wish he was mine, he's really divine, The hero who conquered the Dark Lord
Harry would have given all the gold in Gringotts to evaporate on the spot. Trying valiantly to laugh along with everyone else, he got up, his feet numb from the weight of the dwarf, as Percy Weasley did his best to disperse the crowd, some of whom were crying with mirth.
"Off you go, off you go, the bell rang five minutes ago, off to class, now," he said, shooing some of the younger students away. "And you, Malfoy-"
Harry, glancing over, saw Malfoy stoop and snatch up something. Leering, he showed it to Crabbe and Goyle, and Harry realized that he'd got Riddle's diary.
"Give that back," said Harry quietly.
"Wonder what Potter's written in this?" said Malfoy, who obvi
ously hadn't noticed the year on the cover and thought he had Harry's own diary. A hush fell over the onlookers. Ginny was staring from the diary to Harry, looking terrified.
"Hand it over, Malfoy," said Percy sternly.
"When I've had a look," said Malfoy, waving the diary tauntingly at Harry.
Percy said, "As a school prefect -" but Harry had lost his temper. He pulled out his wand and shouted, "Expelliarmus!" and just as Snape had disarmed Lockhart, so Malfoy found the diary shooting out of his hand into the air. Ron, grinning broadly, caught it.
"Harry!" said Percy loudly. "No magic in the corridors. I'll have to report this, you know!"
But Harry didn't care, he was one-up on Malfoy, and that was worth five points from Gryffindor any day. Malfoy was looking furious, and as Ginny passed him to enter her classroom, he yelled spitefully after her, "I don't think Potter liked your valentine much!"
Ginny covered her face with her hands and ran into class. Snarling, Ron pulled out his wand, too, but Harry pulled him away. Ron didn't need to spend the whole of Charms belching slugs.
It wasn't until they had reached Professor Flitwick's class that Harry noticed something rather odd about Riddle's diary. All his other books were drenched in scarlet ink. The diary, however, was as clean as it had been before the ink bottle had smashed all over it. He tried to point this out to Ron, but Ron was having trouble with his wand again; large purple bubbles were blossoming out of the end, and he wasn't much interested in anything else.
Harry went to bed before anyone else in his dormitory that night. This was partly because he didn't think he could stand Fred and George singing, "His eyes are as green as a fresh pickled toad" one more time, and partly because he wanted to examine Riddle's diary again, and knew that Ron thought he was wasting his time.
Harry sat on his four-poster and flicked through the blank pages, not one of which had a trace of scarlet ink on it. Then he pulled a new bottle out of his bedside cabinet, dipped his quill into it, and dropped a blot onto the first page of the diary.
The ink shone brightly on the paper for a second and then, as though it was being sucked into the page, vanished. Excited, Harry loaded up his quill a second time and wrote, "My name is Harry Potter."
The words shone momentarily on the page and they, too, sank without trace
. Then, at last, something happened.
Oozing back out of the page, in his very own ink, came words Harry had never written.
"Hello, Harry Potter. My name is Tom Riddle. How did you come by my diary?"
These words, too, faded away, but not before Harry had started to scribble back.
"Someone tried to flush it down a toilet."
He waited eagerly for Riddle's reply.
"Lucky that I recorded my memories in some more lasting way than ink. But I always knew that there would be those who would not want this diary read. "
"What do you mean?" Harry scrawled, blotting the page in his excitement.
`I mean that this diary holds memories of terrible things. Things that were covered up. Things that happened at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. "
"That's where I am now," Harry wrote quickly. "I'm at Hogwarts, and horrible stuff's been happening. Do you know anything about the Chamber of Secrets?"
His heart was hammering. Riddle's reply came quickly, his writing becoming untidier, as though he was hurrying to tell all he knew.
"Of course I know about the Chamber of Secrets. In my day, they told us it was a legend, that it did not exist. But this was a lie. In my fifth year, the Chamber was opened and the monster attacked several students, finally killing one. I caught the person whod opened the Chamber and he was expelled. But the Headmaster, Professor Dippet, ashamed that such a thing had happened at Hogwarts, forbade me to tell the truth. A story was given out that thegirl had died in a freak accident. They gave me a nice, shiny, engraved trophy for my trouble and warned me to keep my mouth shut. But I knew it could happen again. The monster lived on, and the one who had the power to release it was not imprisoned. "
Harry nearly upset his ink bottle in his hurry to write back.
"It's happening again now. There have been three attacks and no one seems to know who's behind them. Who was it last time?"
"I can show you, if you like, "came Riddle's reply. "You don't have
to take my word for it. I can take you inside my memory of the night when I caught him. "
Harry hesitated, his quill suspended over the diary. What did Riddle mean? How could he be taken inside somebody else's memory? He glanced nervously at the door to the dormitory, which was
growing dark. When he looked back at the diary, he saw fresh words forming.
"Let me show you. "
Harry paused for a fraction of a second and then wrote two letters.
The pages of the diary began to blow as though caught in a high wind, stopping halfway through the month of June. Mouth hanging open, Harry saw that the little square for June thirteenth seemed to have turned into a miniscule television screen. His hands trembling slightly, he raised the book to press his eye against the little window, and before he knew what was happening, he was tilting forward; the window was widening, he felt his body leave his bed, and he was pitched headfirst through the opening in the page, into a whirl of color and shadow.
He felt his feet hit solid ground, and stood, shaking, as the blurred shapes around him came suddenly into focus.
He knew immediately where he was. This circular room with the sleeping portraits was Dumbledore's office - but it wasn't Dumbledore who was sitting behind the desk. A wizened, fraillooking wizard, bald except for a few wisps of white hair, was reading a letter by candlelight. Harry had never seen this man before.
"I'm sorry," he said shakily. "I didn't mean to butt in -"
But the wizard didn't look up. He continued to read, frowning slightly. Harry drew nearer to his desk and stammered, "Er - I'll just go, shall I?"
Still the wizard ignored him. He didn't seem even to have heard him. Thinking that the wizard might be deaf, Harry raised his voice.
"Sorry I disturbed you. I'll go now," he half-shouted.
The wizard folded up the letter with a sigh, stood up, walked past Harry without glancing at him, and went to draw the curtains at his window.
The sky outside the window was ruby-red; it seemed to be sunset. The wizard went back to the desk, sat down, and twiddled his thumbs, watching the door.
Harry looked around the office. No Fawkes the phoenix - no whirring silver contraptions. This was Hogwarts as Riddle had known it, meaning that this unknown wizard was Headmaster, not Dumbledore, and he, Harry, was little more than a phantom, completely invisible to the people of fifty years ago.
There was a knock on the office door.
"Enter," said the old wizard in a feeble voice.
A boy of about sixteen entered, taking off his pointed hat. A silver prefect's badge was glinting on his chest. He was much taller than Harry, but he, too, had jet-black hair.
"Ah, Riddle," said the Headmaster.
"You wanted to see me, Professor Dippet?" said Riddle. He looked nervous.
"Sit down," said Dippet. "I've just been reading the letter you sent me.
"Oh," said Riddle. He sat down, gripping his hands together very tightly.
"My dear boy," said Dipper kindly, "I cannot possibly let you stay at school over the summer. Surely you want to go home for the holidays?"
"No," said Riddle at once. "Id much rather stay at Hogwarts than go back to that - to that -"
"You live in a Muggle orphanage during the holidays, I believe?" said Dippet curiously.
"Yes, sir," said Riddle, reddening slightly.
"You are Muggle-born?"
"Half-blood, sir," said Riddle. "Muggle father, witch mother."
"And are both your parents -?"
"My mother died just after I was born, sir. They told me at the orphanage she lived just long enough to name me - Tom after my father, Marvolo after my grandfather."
Dipper clucked his tongue sympathetically.
"The thing is, Tom," he sighed, "Special arrangements might have been made for you, but in the current circumstances . . . ."
"You mean all these attacks, sir?" said Riddle, and Harry's heart leapt, and he moved closer, scared of missing anything.
"Precisely," said the headmaster. "My dear boy, you must see how foolish it would be of me to allow you to remain at the castle when term ends. Particularly in light of the recent tragedy ... the death of that poor little girl .... You will be safer by far at your orphanage. As a matter of fact, the Ministry of Magic is even now talking about closing the school. We are no nearer locating the er - source of all this unpleasantness . . . ."
Riddle's eyes had widened.
"Sir - if the person was caught - if it all stopped -"
"What do you mean?" said Dippet with a squeak in his voice, sitting up in his chair. "Riddle, do you mean you know something about these attacks?"
"No, sir," said Riddle quickly.
But Harry was sure it was the same sort of "no" that he himself had given Dumbledore.