As they entered Professor McGonagall’s office, they found that many people were already waiting for them. Dumbledore and the Weasley family were among them, who had recently returned to Hogwarts.

The atmosphere inside the office was somber as they walked in, with a heavy silence enveloping the room.

Suddenly, a voice erupted from the fireplace, crying out, “Ginny!”

Mrs. Weasley had been sitting by the fire, her face marked with tears.

She jumped up in a sudden burst of emotion, followed by Mr. Weasley.

Both of them stretched out their arms, embracing their daughter tightly.

Harry’s gaze shifted from the heartwarming family reunion to the room, where he noticed Professor Dumbledore standing with a gentle smile by the mantelpiece.

Professor McGonagall’s voice cut through the tension as she asked sternly, “Who can explain what happened?”

Skyler smiled slightly, speaking candidly, “Professor, here’s what happened. I encountered Miss Weasley on the third floor, and she led me into an abandoned girls’ bathroom. Her behavior struck me as quite unusual and instinctively wrong. It seemed like she was under the influence of some dark magic unknown to me.”

“Concerned for her well-being, I discreetly followed Miss Weasley into the bathroom, unaware of what I was about to witness—an unbelievable scene. Miss Weasley uttered words I couldn’t comprehend to a tap, the language sounding somewhat like Parseltongue, though I can’t be certain. Suddenly, the entire basin vanished, revealing an entrance within the pipe. Frankly, I was rather frightened at the time. Acting impulsively is not characteristic of a Slytherin like myself. My initial thought was to exit and report the incident to Professor Snape.” He continued while looking at the Weasleys empathically.

“Mr. Malfoy, you indeed should have done just that! You’re a student, and venturing into an unknown and potentially dangerous place is not advisable. But can you explain why you didn’t follow through?” Professor McGonagall inquired.

Skyler’s response puzzled her, as he had always been a mature and sensible student.

His actions seemed more befitting of a Gryffindor.

Skyler explained further, “Professor, that’s because I was concerned that the entrance might disappear if I left, and I had no knowledge of how to reveal it again. Delays could have placed Miss Weasley in jeopardy, and you know, Professor, there’s a history between the Malfoy and Weasley families. But when I considered that a fellow student younger than me might be at risk of death due to my inaction, I couldn’t bear that burden on my conscience. So I made the decision to follow her and enter the pipe.”

Upon hearing Skyler’s account, Professor McGonagall’s stern expression seemed to soften, and her eyes appeared less severe. She commented, “While your response was indeed reckless, it is understandable given the circumstances. Let’s set that aside for now. Now, can you describe what happened once you entered the pipe passage?”

Dumbledore maintained a watchful gaze on Skyler but opted to remain silent.

Mr. Weasley, after recognizing Skyler as Lucius’s son, displayed a hint of unease.

Skyler proceeded, paying little attention to the reactions around him, and continued his narrative. “Perhaps the great Salazar Slytherin was blessing me, as I’m also a Slytherin. Inside the chamber was a colossal yet undeniably ancient basilisk. Fortunately, it was still in slumber. I knew the basilisk’s vulnerability resided in its brain. I employed Transfiguration to create a sharp awl-shaped boulder on the ceiling and maneuvered it to pierce through both of the basilisk’s eyes, ultimately vanquishing it.”

“Subsequently, a spectral apparition emerged from Ginny. He introduced himself as Tom Riddle and seemed malevolent, interrogating me with a multitude of questions. I observed that he materialized from a diary within Ginny’s grasp. To err on the side of safety, I employed the summoning curse to retrieve the diary, then cast it into the basilisk’s venom before he could react. Strangely, he vanished abruptly. I escorted Miss Weasley out of the chamber and, on the way, encountered Mr. Potter and Mr. Weasley in the bathroom.” He explained firmly while looking at Mr. and Mrs. Weasley.

The spotlight then turned to Harry, who recounted his experiences, speaking for roughly ten minutes.

Everyone present listened attentively, and a heavy silence enveloped the room.

Mr. Weasley’s face reddened when he heard about Ron’s misguided spell on Skyler, who was holding Ginny.

Meanwhile, Mrs. Weasley cast an apologetic glance at Skyler.

Dumbledore broke the silence with an intriguing inquiry: “What piques my interest the most is how Voldemort managed to control Miss Weasley. According to my sources, he’s currently hiding in the Albanian forests.”

“What?” Mrs. Weasley exclaimed in astonishment. “Voldemort? Controlling Ginny? But Ginny isn’t… Ginny wouldn’t… would she?”

“Professor,” Skyler interjected politely, carefully retrieving a soaked diary from a container in his arms, “I suspect that this diary might be connected to it. It could harbor some unknown dark magic.”

Dumbledore spoke softly, “It’s astounding. He may be the brightest student Hogwarts has ever seen.” He turned to face the bewildered Weasleys.

“Few people know that Voldemort went by the name Tom Riddle before. Fifty years ago, he attended Hogwarts, where I personally taught him. After he left school, he vanished… wandering, delving into the depths of dark magic, mingling with the darkest wizards in the wizarding world. Following numerous perilous magical transformations, he resurfaced as Voldemort. At that time, he was nearly unrecognizable. Almost no one could equate Voldemort with the smart and charming chairman of the boys’ student council.”

“But Ginny,” Mrs. Weasley inquired, “What does Ginny have to do with him?”

“It’s his diary!” Ginny sobbed, her voice trembling. “I’ve been writing in it for a whole year, and he kept writing back to me…”

“Ginny!” Mr. Weasley said, aghast. “Haven’t I taught you? How many times have I told you? Never place trust in anything that can think for itself unless it’s absolutely clear and you hide your thoughts. What place does a thing like that have? Why didn’t you show me or your mother the diary? Something as suspicious as that undoubtedly reeks of dark magic.”

“I, I don’t know,” Ginny continued to cry, her tears flowing. “I found it in a book Mother gave me. I thought someone left it there and forgot…”

“Miss Weasley should be taken to the school hospital immediately,” Dumbledore interjected compassionately. “This has been a painful ordeal for her, and the school will not punish her. Resourceful wizards, both young and old, have been blinded by Voldemort. Many older and more experienced witches and wizards than her.”

Dumbledore walked over to the door, opened it, and with a kind, reassuring look at Ginny, added, “You’ll find that Madam Pomfrey isn’t asleep. She was distributing Mandrake Restorative Draughts just a moment ago. I dare say the basilisk’s victims could wake at any time.”

Mrs. Weasley led Ginny out, followed by a visibly shaken Mr. Weasley.

After Professor McGonagall also departed, Dumbledore commended Harry for his decisiveness and bravery with a warm smile and awarded him some house points.

As Harry was about to exit the office, the door burst open abruptly, slamming against the wall.

Lucius stormed into the room, visibly furious. Clutched under his arm was a house-elf, Dobby, wrapped in bandages.

Lucius rushed in so hastily that he nearly collided with Harry, who had to somersault to avoid the collision. In a state of panic, Dobby cowered behind Lucius, staring at the floor in desperation, fear etched across his face.

“All right!” Lucius addressed Dumbledore with a frosty glare. “You’ve returned. The board suspended your position, yet here you are, back at Hogwarts on your own terms.”

“Yes, Lucius,” Dumbledore replied with an unruffled smile. “Today, the other eleven directors contacted me. Upon hearing of Arthur Weasley’s daughter’s mishap, they insisted I return. It seems they believe that I’m the best candidate for the job after this long. They also shared some rather peculiar tales with me. Some seem to think that you threatened to curse their family members if they didn’t agree to suspend my duties.”

Lucius’s face grew even paler than usual, though his eyes blazed with anger. “So—did you stop those attacks?” he inquired sardonically. “Did you apprehend the culprit?”

“We have,” Dumbledore replied with a composed demeanor.

“Oh?” Lucius questioned sharply. “Who is it?”

“The same individual as before, Lucius,” Dumbledore revealed. “However, this time, Voldemort acted through another person. He employed his diary.” He scrutinized Mr. Malfoy’s reaction closely.

On the other hand, Harry kept his gaze on Dobby, the House-elf’s odd behavior catching his attention.

With his tennis ball-sized eyes locked onto Harry’s, Dobby repeatedly pointed at the diary and then back at Mr. Malfoy, thumping his head with his fists.

A sudden realization flashed in Harry’s mind, and he spoke up. “Mr. Malfoy, wouldn’t you like to know how Ginny came into possession of this diary?”

Lucius regarded Harry with disdain. “My time is precious, and I have no interest in the affairs of an ignorant girl. How she acquired such a foolish diary is of little concern to me.”

“It’s because you gave it to her,” Harry asserted. “At Flourish and Blotts, you slipped the diary into her damaged textbook without her knowledge, didn’t you?”

Lucius clenched his pale hands into fists and then slowly relaxed them. He hoarsely inquired, “Do you have any proof?”

“Well, no one can provide concrete evidence,” Dumbledore chimed in, casting a meaningful glance at Harry. “Riddle has vanished from the diary now. But, Lucius, I’d like to offer you some advice: refrain from distributing Voldemort’s old possessions from his school days. Should these items fall into the hands of innocent people, at the very least, Arthur Weasley might be able to trace them back to you…”

Lucius paused for a moment, veins pulsating at the corners of his eyes, and then turned his gaze to Skyler, his voice seething, “Why are you here?”

Skyler nonchalantly shrugged and replied, “Dear Father, I happened to come across Harry and the others while practicing magic independently, so I offered some assistance and then tagged along.”

Lucius’s face darkened, and as he prepared to reprimand Skyler, he shot a disdainful glance at Dumbledore and snorted, venting his dissatisfaction.

He then ordered Dobby to leave.

Swinging the door open, Lucius kicked the House-elf out, and Dobby’s anguished cries echoed down the corridor.

Harry stood there, still pondering the diary and its implications.

“Professor Dumbledore!” Harry exclaimed urgently. “May I return this diary to Mr. Malfoy?”

“Of course, Harry!” Dumbledore replied calmly.

He tapped the diary with his wand, causing the snake venom to visibly disappear.

Harry seized the diary and hastily left the office.

In the blink of an eye, only Skyler and Dumbledore remained in the office, creating an atmosphere of quiet awkwardness.

Skyler broke the silence, saying, “Um, Professor, if there’s nothing else, I should be going. I have final exams to prepare for.”

Dumbledore responded, “Don’t rush off. In fact, I have something to discuss with you. First and foremost, I must express my gratitude for your rescue of Miss Weasley in the secret room. Aside from Riddle, it’s been quite some time since I’ve encountered a young wizard as promising as you. Your presence reminds me of an old friend.”

Although Dumbledore’s words seemed casual, Skyler couldn’t help but feel cautious.

He knew about Dumbledore’s complicated history, and the old friend was likely a reference to Grindelwald, which was far from a flattering association.

Their last encounter had not been a friendly one.

“Thank you for your kind words, Professor,” Skyler responded modestly. “I simply worked hard and, perhaps, had a bit of luck. Escaping the secret room unscathed was indeed fortunate.”

“It’s not as simple as that,” Dumbledore continued. “I’ve been observing you for some time, even before today. Your performance in the Dueling Club and your involvement in the Slytherin faction duels have demonstrated strength far beyond what a second-year student typically possesses. I’ve also heard about the declaration you made in the Slytherin common room. I find it thought-provoking. You possess qualities shared by my old friend – vision and… ambition.”

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Published On: December 4, 2023

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