THE VERY SECRET DIARY
Hermione remained in the hospital wing for several weeks. There was a flurry of rumor about her disappearance when the rest of the school arrived back from their Christmas holidays, because of course everyone thought that she had been attacked. So many students filed past the hospital wing trying to catch a glimpse of her that Madam Pomfrey took out her curtains again and placed them around Hermione’s bed, to spare her the shame of being seen with a furry face.
Harry and Ron went to visit her every evening. When the new term started, they brought her each day’s homework.
“If I’d sprouted whiskers, I’d take a break from work,” said Ron, tipping a stack of books onto Hermione’s bedside table one evening.
“Don’t be silly, Ron, I’ve got to keep up,” said Hermione briskly. Her spirits were greatly improved by the fact that all the hair had gone from her face and her eyes were turning slowly back to brown. “I don’t suppose you’ve got any new leads?” she added in a whisper, so that Madam Pomfrey couldn’t hear her.
“Nothing,” said Harry gloomily.
“I was so sure it was Malfoy,” said Ron, for about the hundredth time.
“What’s that?” asked Harry, pointing to something gold sticking out from under Hermione’s pillow.
“Just a get well card,” said Hermione hastily, trying to poke it out of sight, but Ron was too quick for her. He pulled it out, flicked it open, and read aloud:
“To Miss Granger, wishing you a speedy recovery, from your concerned teacher, Professor Gilderoy Lockhart, Order of Merlin, Third Class, Honorary Member of the Dark Force Defense League, and five-time winner of Witch Weekly’s Most Charming Smile Award.”
Ron looked up at Hermione, disgusted.
“You sleep with this under your pillow?”
But Hermione was spared answering by Madam Pomfrey sweeping over with her evening dose of medicine.
“Is Lockhart the smarmiest bloke you’ve ever met, or what?” Ron said to Harry as they left the infirmary and started up the stairs toward Gryffindor Tower.
Snape had given them so much homework, Harry thought he was likely to be in the sixth year before he finished it. Ron was just saying he wished he had asked Hermione how many rat tails you were supposed to add to a Hair Raising Potion when an angry outburst from the floor above reached their ears.
“That’s Filch,” Harry muttered as they hurried up the stairs and paused, out of sight, listening hard.
“You don’t think someone else’s been attacked?” said Ron tensely.
They stood still, their heads inclined toward Flich’s voice, which sounded quite hysterical.
“even more work for me! Mopping all night, like I haven’t got enough to do! No, this is the final straw, I’m going to Dumbledore —”
His footsteps receded along the out-of-sight corridor and they heard a distant door slam.
They poked their heads around the corner. Filch had clearly been manning his usual lookout post: They were once again on the spot where Mrs. Norris had been attacked. They saw at a glance what Filch had been shouting about. A great flood of water stretched over half the corridor, and it looked as though it was still seeping from under the door of Moaning Myrtle’s bathroom. Now that Filch had stopped shouting, they could hear Myrtle’s wails echoing off the bathroom walls.
“Now what’s up with her?” said Ron.
“Let’s go and see,” said Harry, and holding their robes over their ankles they stepped through the great wash of water to the door bearing its OUT OF ORDER sign, ignored it as always, and entered.
Moaning Myrtle was crying, if possible, louder and harder than ever before. She seemed to be hiding down her usual toilet. It was dark in the bathroom because the candles had been extinguished in the great rush of water that had left both walls and floor soaking wet.
“What’s up, Myrtle?” said Harry.
“Who’s that?” glugged Myrtle miserably. “Come to throw something else at me?”
Harry waded across to her stall and said, “Why would I throw something at you?”
“Don’t ask me,” Myrtle shouted, emerging with a wave of yet more water, which splashed onto the already sopping floor. “Here I am, minding my own business, and someone thinks it’s funny to throw a book at me…”
“But it can’t hurt you if someone throws something at you,” said Harry, reasonably. “I mean, it’d just go right through you, wouldn’t it?”
He had said the wrong thing. Myrtle puffed herself up and shrieked, “Let’s all throw books at Myrtle, because she can’t feel it! Ten points if you can get it through her stomach! Fifty points if it goes through her head! Well, ha, ha, ha! What a lovely game, I don’t think!”
“Who threw it at you, anyway?” asked Harry.
“I don’t know… I was just sitting in the U-bend, thinking about death, and it fell right through the top of my head,” said Myrtle, glaring at them. “It’s over there, it got washed out…”
Harry and Ron looked under the sink where Myrtle was pointing. A small, thin book lay there. It had a shabby black cover and was as wet as everything else in the bathroom. Harry stepped forward to pick it up, but Ron suddenly flung out an arm to hold him back.
“What?” said Harry.
“Are you crazy?” said Ron. “It could be dangerous.”
“Dangerous?”said Harry, laughing. “Come off it, how could it be dangerous?”
“You’d be surprised,” said Ron, who was looking apprehensively at the book. “Some of the books the Ministry’s confiscated Dad’s told me — there was one that burned your eyes out. And everyone who read Sonnets of a Sorcerer spoke in limericks for the rest of their lives. And some old witch in Bath had a book that you could never stop reading! You just had to wander around with your nose in it, trying to do everything one-handed. And —”
“All right, I’ve got the point,” said Harry.
The little book lay on the floor, nondescript and soggy.
“Well, we won’t find out unless we look at it,” he said, and he ducked around Ron and picked it up off the floor.
Harry saw at once that it was a diary, and the faded year on the cover told him it was fifty years old. He opened it eagerly. On the first page he could just make out the name “T M. Riddle” in smudged ink.
“Hang on,” said Ron, who had approached cautiously and was looking over Harry’s shoulder. “I know that name…T. M. Riddle got an award for special services to the school fifty years ago.”
“How on earth d’you know that?” said Harry in amazement.
“Because Filch made me polish his shield about fifty times in detention,” said Ron resentfully. “That was the one I burped slugs all over. If you’d wiped slime off a name for an hour, you’d remember it, too.”
Harry peeled the wet pages apart. They were completely blank. There wasn’t the faintest trace of writing on any of them, not even Auntie Mabel’s birthday, or dentist, half-past three.
“He never wrote in it,” said Harry, disappointed.
“I wonder why someone wanted to flush it away?” said Ron curiously.
Harry turned to the back cover of the book and saw the printed name of a variety store on Vauxhall Road, London.
“He must’ve been Muggle-born,” said Harry thoughtfully. “To have bought a diary from Vauxhall Road…”
“Well, it’s not much use to you,” said Ron. He dropped his voice. “Fifty points if you can get it through Myrtle’s nose.”
Harry, however, pocketed it.
Hermione left the hospital wing, de-whiskered, tail-less, and furfree, at the beginning of February. On her first evening back in Gryffindor Tower, Harry showed her T. M. Riddle’s diary and told her the story of how they had found it.
“Oooh, it might have hidden powers,” said Hermione enthusiastically, taking the diary and looking at it closely.
“If it has, it’s hiding them very well,” said Ron. “Maybe it’s shy. I don’t know why you don’t chuck it, Harry.”
“I wish I knew why someone did try to chuck it,” said Harry. “I wouldn’t mind knowing how Riddle got an award for special services to Hogwarts either.”
“Could’ve been anything,” said Ron. “Maybe he got thirty O.W.L.s or saved a teacher from the giant squid. Maybe he murdered Myrtle; that would’ve done everyone a favor …”
But Harry could tell from the arrested look on Hermione’s face that she was thinking what he was thinking.
“What?” said Ron, looking from one to the other.
“Well, the Chamber of Secrets was opened fifty years ago, wasn’t it?” he said. “That’s what Malfoy said.”
“Yeah…” said Ron slowly.
“And this diary is fifty years old,” said Hermione, tapping it excitedly.
“Oh, Ron, wake up,” snapped Hermione. “We know the person who opened the Chamber last time was expelled fifty years ago. We know T. M. Riddle got an award for special services to the school fifty years ago. Well, what if Riddle got his special award for catching the Heir of Slytherin? His diary would probably tell us everything — where the Chamber is, and how to open it, and what sort of creature lives in it — the person who’s behind the attacks this time wouldn’t want that lying around, would they?”
“That’s a brilliant theory, Hermione,” said Ron, “with just one tiny little flaw. There’s nothing written in his diary.”
But Hermione was pulling her wand out of her bag.
“It might be invisible ink!” she whispered.
She tapped the diary three times and said, “Aparecium!”
Nothing happened. Undaunted, Hermione shoved her hand back into her bag and pulled out what appeared to be a bright red eraser.
“It’s a Revealer, I got it in Diagon Alley,” she said.
She rubbed hard on January first. Nothing happened.
“I’m telling you, there’s nothing to find in there,” said Ron. “Riddle just got a diary for Christmas and couldn’t be bothered filling it in.”
Harry couldn’t explain, even to himself, why he didn’t just throw Riddle’s diary away. The fact was that even though he knew the diary was blank, he kept absentmindedly picking it up and turning the pages, as though it were a story he wanted to finish. And while Harry was sure he had never heard the name T. M. Riddle before, it still seemed to mean something to him, almost as though Riddle was a friend he’d had when he was very small, and had half-forgotten. But this was absurd. He’d never had friends before Hogwarts, Dudley had made sure of that.
Nevertheless, Harry was determined to find out more about Riddle, so next day at break, he headed for the trophy room to examine Riddle’s special award, accompanied by an interested Hermione and a thoroughly unconvinced Ron, who told them he’d seen enough of the trophy room to last him a lifetime.