Fawkes to the rescue

Fawkes comes to Harry's aid in his hour of need as he faces Tom Riddle in the Chamber of Secrets

Extract from Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

by J.K. Rowling

A crimson bird the size of a swan had appeared, piping its weird music to the vaulted ceiling. It had a glittering golden tail as long as a peacock’s and gleaming golden talons, which were gripping a ragged bundle.

A second later, the bird was flying straight at Harry. It dropped the ragged thing it was carrying at his feet, then landed heavily on his shoulder. As it folded its great wings, Harry looked up and saw it had a long, sharp golden beak and beady black eyes.

The bird stopped singing. It sat still and warm next to Harry’s cheek, gazing steadily at Riddle.

‘That’s a phoenix ...’ said Riddle, staring shrewdly back at it.

‘Fawkes?’ Harry breathed, and he felt the bird’s golden claws squeeze his shoulder gently.

‘And that –’ said Riddle, now eyeing the ragged thing that Fawkes had dropped, ‘that’s the old school Sorting Hat.’

So it was. Patched, frayed and dirty, the Hat lay motionless at Harry’s feet.

Riddle began to laugh again. He laughed so hard that the dark chamber rang with it, as though ten Riddles were laughing at once.

‘This is what Dumbledore sends his defender! A songbird and an old hat! Do you feel brave, Harry Potter? Do you feel safe now?’

Harry didn’t answer. He might not see what use Fawkes or the Sorting Hat were, but he was no longer alone, and he waited with mounting courage for Riddle to stop laughing.

‘To business, Harry,’ said Riddle, still smiling broadly. ‘Twice – in your past, in my future – we have met. And twice I failed to kill you. How did you survive? Tell me everything. The longer you talk,’ he added softly, ‘the longer you stay alive.’

Harry was thinking fast, weighing his chances. Riddle had the wand. He, Harry, had Fawkes and the Sorting Hat, neither of which would be much good in a duel. It looked bad, all right. But the longer Riddle stood there, the more life was dwindling out of Ginny ... and in the meantime, Harry noticed suddenly, Riddle’s outline was becoming clearer, more solid. If it had to be a fight between him and Riddle, better sooner than later.

‘No one knows why you lost your powers when you attacked me,’ said Harry abruptly. ‘I don’t know myself. But I know why you couldn’t kill me. Because my mother died to save me. My common Muggle-born mother,’ he added, shaking with suppressed rage. ‘She stopped you killing me. And I’ve seen the real you, I saw you last year. You’re a wreck. You’re barely alive. That’s where all your power got you. You’re in hiding. You’re ugly, you’re foul!’

Riddle’s face contorted. Then he forced it into an awful smile.

‘So. Your mother died to save you. Yes, that’s a powerful counter-charm. I can see now – there is nothing special about you, after all. I wondered, you see. Because there are strange likenesses between us, Harry Potter. Even you must have noticed. Both half-bloods, orphans, raised by Muggles. Probably the only two Parselmouths to come to Hogwarts since the great Slytherin himself. We even look something alike ... But after all, it was merely a lucky chance that saved you from me. That’s all I wanted to know.’

Harry stood, tense, waiting for Riddle to raise his wand. But Riddle’s twisted smile was widening again.

‘Now, Harry, I’m going to teach you a little lesson. Let’s match the powers of Lord Voldemort, heir of Salazar Slytherin, against famous Harry Potter, and the best weapons Dumbledore can give him.’

He cast an amused eye over Fawkes and the Sorting Hat, then walked away. Harry, fear spreading up his numb legs, watched Riddle stop between the high pillars and look up into the stone face of Slytherin, high above him in the half-darkness. Riddle opened his mouth wide and hissed – but Harry understood what he was saying.

‘Speak to me, Slytherin, greatest of the Hogwarts Four.’

Harry wheeled around to look up at the statue, Fawkes swaying on his shoulder.

Slytherin’s gigantic stone face was moving. Horror-struck, Harry saw his mouth opening, wider and wider, to make a huge black hole.

And something was stirring inside the statue’s mouth. Something was slithering up from its depths.

Harry backed away until he hit the dark Chamber wall, and as he shut his eyes tight he felt Fawkes’s wing sweep his cheek as he took flight. Harry wanted to shout, ‘Don’t leave me!’ but what chance did a phoenix have against the king of serpents?

Something huge hit the stone floor of the chamber, Harry felt it shudder. He knew what was happening, he could sense it, could almost see the giant serpent uncoiling itself from Slytherin’s mouth. Then he heard Riddle’s hissing voice: ‘Kill him.’

The Basilisk was moving towards Harry, he could hear its heavy body slithering ponderously across the dusty floor. Eyes still tightly shut, Harry began to run blindly sideways, his hands outstretched, feeling his way. Riddle was laughing ...

Harry tripped. He fell hard onto the stone and tasted blood. The serpent was barely feet from him, he could hear it coming.

There was a loud, explosive spitting sound right above him and then something heavy hit Harry so hard that he was smashed against the wall. Waiting for fangs to sink through his body he heard more mad hissing, something thrashing wildly off the pillars.

He couldn’t help it. He opened his eyes wide enough to squint at what was going on.

The enormous serpent, bright, poisonous green, thick as an oak trunk, had raised itself high in the air and its great blunt head was weaving drunkenly between the pillars. As Harry trembled, ready to close his eyes if it turned, he saw what had distracted the snake.

Fawkes was soaring around its head, and the Basilisk was snapping furiously at him with fangs long and thin as sabres.

Fawkes dived. His long golden beak sank out of sight and a sudden shower of dark blood spattered the floor. The snake’s tail thrashed, narrowly missing Harry, and before Harry could shut his eyes, it turned. Harry looked straight into its face, and saw that its eyes, both its great bulbous yellow eyes, had been punctured by the phoenix; blood was streaming to the floor and the snake was spitting in agony.

‘No!’ Harry heard Riddle screaming. ‘Leave the bird! Leave the bird! The boy is behind you! You can still smell him! Kill him!’

The blinded serpent swayed, confused, still deadly. Fawkes was circling its head, piping his eerie song, jabbing here and there at the Basilisk’s scaly nose as the blood poured from its ruined eyes.

‘Help me, help me,’ Harry muttered wildly, ‘someone, anyone!’

The snake’s tail whipped across the floor again. Harry ducked. Something soft hit his face.

The Basilisk had swept the Sorting Hat into Harry’s arms. Harry seized it. It was all he had left, his only chance. He rammed it onto his head and threw himself flat onto the floor as the Basilisk’s tail swung over him again.

‘Help me ... help me ...’ Harry thought, his eyes screwed tight under the Hat. ‘Please help me!’

There was no answering voice. Instead, the Hat contracted, as though an invisible hand was squeezing it very tightly.

Something very hard and heavy thudded onto the top of Harry’s head, almost knocking him out. Stars winking in front of his eyes, he grabbed the top of the Hat to pull it off and felt something long and hard beneath it.

A gleaming silver sword had appeared inside the Hat, its handle glittering with rubies the size of eggs.

‘Kill the boy! Leave the bird! The boy is behind you! Sniff – smell him!’

Harry was on his feet, ready. The Basilisk’s head was falling, its body coiling around, hitting pillars as it twisted to face him. He could see the vast, bloody eye sockets, see the mouth stretching wide, wide enough to swallow him whole, lined with fangs long as his sword, thin, glittering, venomous ...

It lunged blindly. Harry dodged and it hit the Chamber wall. It lunged again, and its forked tongue lashed Harry’s side. He raised the sword in both his hands.

The Basilisk lunged again, and this time its aim was true. Harry threw his whole weight behind the sword and drove it to the hilt into the roof of the serpent’s mouth.

But as warm blood drenched Harry’s arms, he felt a searing pain just above his elbow. One long, poisonous fang was sinking deeper and deeper into his arm and it splintered as the Basilisk keeled over sideways and fell, twitching, to the floor.

Harry slid down the wall. He gripped the fang that was spreading poison through his body and wrenched it out of his arm. But he knew it was too late. White-hot pain was spreading slowly and steadily from the wound. Even as he dropped the fang and watched his own blood soaking his robes, his vision went foggy. The Chamber was dissolving in a whirl of dull colour.

A patch of scarlet swam past and Harry heard a soft clatter of claws beside him.

‘Fawkes,’ said Harry thickly. ‘You were brilliant, Fawkes ...’ He felt the bird lay its beautiful head on the spot where the serpent’s fang had pierced him.

He could hear echoing footsteps and then a dark shadow moved in front of him.

‘You’re dead, Harry Potter,’ said Riddle’s voice above him. ‘Dead. Even Dumbledore’s bird knows it. Do you see what he’s doing, Potter? He’s crying.’

Harry blinked. Fawkes’s head slid in and out of focus. Thick, pearly tears were trickling down the glossy feathers.

‘I’m going to sit here and watch you die, Harry Potter. Take your time. I’m in no hurry.’

Harry felt drowsy. Everything around him seemed to be spinning.

‘So ends the famous Harry Potter,’ said Riddle’s distant voice. ‘Alone in the Chamber of Secrets, forsaken by his friends, defeated at last by the Dark Lord he so unwisely challenged. You’ll be back with your dear Mudblood mother soon, Harry ... She bought you twelve years of borrowed time ... but Lord Voldemort got you in the end, as you knew he must.’

If this is dying, thought Harry, it’s not so bad. Even the pain was leaving him ...

But was this dying? Instead of going black, the Chamber seemed to be coming back into focus. Harry gave his head a little shake and there was Fawkes, still resting his head on Harry’s arm. A pearly patch of tears was shining all around the wound – except that there was no wound.

‘Get away, bird,’ said Riddle’s voice suddenly. ‘Get away from him. I said, get away!’

Harry raised his head. Riddle was pointing Harry’s wand at Fawkes; there was a bang like a gun and Fawkes took flight again in a whirl of gold and scarlet.

‘Phoenix tears ...’ said Riddle quietly, staring at Harry’s arm. ‘Of course ... healing powers ... I forgot ...’

He looked into Harry’s face. ‘But it makes no difference. In fact, I prefer it this way. Just you and me, Harry Potter ... you and me ...’

He raised the wand.

Then, in a rush of wings, Fawkes soared back overhead and something fell into Harry’s lap – the diary.

For a split second, both Harry and Riddle, wand still raised, stared at it. Then, without thinking, without considering, as though he had meant to do it all along, Harry seized the Basilisk fang on the floor next to him and plunged it straight into the heart of the book.

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

by J.K. Rowling