“Hermione,” Calla said, breathless from running. “I saw it.”
“Saw what? What are you—” Hermione cut herself off as realization struck, her eyes going wide. She grabbed Calla’s hand her pulled her off to the side of the hall, out of the way of students moving past. She looked Calla up and down, hands hovering. “Are you okay? Why aren’t you Petrified?”
“No, I mean I saw it. Like, in a vision. Not for real.”
“Oh,” Hermione paused, shoulders dropping as she seemed to come to conclusion that Calla wasn’t about to keel over at any moment. “Well, what was it?”
“It was a snake,” Calla said, though the description was weak—like calling Hogwarts just a school building. She remembered the sick yellow eyes, the teeth like daggers, the scales gleaming as it moved its massive body. It was a monster, not a snake, but she didn’t know quite how to say that, so she settled on, “A huge snake.”
“A snake…” Hermione furrowed her brows. Calla could practically see the gears in her head turning as Hermione said, “I have an idea.”
Grabbing Calla’s hand again, Hermione took off at a run, forcing Calla to skip every few steps to keep up. As they raced down the halls, Hermione explained:
“I was researching what it could be a bit ago. I wasn’t sure, but I found something it could have been, but I just didn’t understand how it might be getting around. But if you saw it, you’d be able to confirm if I’m right.”
God, Hermione was smart. Calla knew that, but moments like this were big reminders. She was glad she’s the one she sought out immediately.
They turned a corner, and the doors to the library loomed straight ahead. Hermione practically crashed into them, releasing Calla’s hand to shove the great oak things open far enough for them to slip inside.
The vast amount of time that Hermione had spent in the library was clear by the way she didn’t even have to search for the book she was looking for. She just walked down an aisle, grabbed a book, and took it back to a secluded table while flipping through to find a certain page.
It didn’t take long for her to find it. “Calla, look; is this it?”
Hermione pointed to a drawing that took up the greater part of two pages. It was a drawing of an enormous, snake-like creature, writhing and glaring on the page, bright green with yellow eyes and teeth that spoke solely of death. It was the monster from her vision, without a doubt.
The title at the top of the page read Basilisk.
“That’s it,” Calla said, chewing her bottom lip.
Hermione smiled, but it was a grim thing. “That’s what I thought. Spiders fear them, which explains the spiders fleeing to the forest. The dead chickens are because a rooster’s cry would kill it, and an indirect view of the basilisk’s eyes causes petrification rather than death.” She paused, looking back down at the book with a frown. “I just don’t know how it could be getting around without being seen. They’re supposed to be massive.”
Calla thought a moment. “In my vision, the, erm, basilisk was sliding through some sort of… I don’t know. Tube?”
“A tube,” Hermione repeated, furrowing her eyebrows. “Tube… oh! Pipes! It must be in the water system!”
Hermione was the smartest person Calla had ever met.
“That must be it!”
“We need to tell the headmaster,” Hermione said. She took two steps forward, but then slammed to a stop. “Wait. If its on the move, we need to be careful. A direct look will kill us. Here,” Hermione drew her wand, “Specularum.”
With a flick of her wrist, Hermione summoned a small mirror in her hand. She looked at her reflection in it and grinned.
“We’ll use it for corners. Come on.”
They set off at once, scurrying town the halls. Every time they would get to a corner, Hermione would stop and hold out the mirror, checking that the way ahead was clear before they would make the turn.
“Almost there,” Hermione said when they were just a few turns away. She held the mirror up around the corner. “Just two more—”
And then she just… stopped.
Calla knew what that meant.
She slammed her eyes shut and pressed herself up against the wall. She reached out blindly to try to maneuver Hermione closer, but she was so stiff. She wasn’t moving at all—it didn’t even feel like she was breathing. But that wasn’t—she looked through a mirror. She wasn’t dead. She couldn’t be.
Was she aware in there, then? Could she see it now? Calla could hear it, now, the smooth sound of scales sliding against the stone floor, the quiet hissing breaths. It was close—far too close. Passing through the hall they were in. Calla had the strangest urge to open her eyes, this awful curiosity burning her up, but she only squeezed her eyes shut tighter, so hard it hurt.
The basilisk kept passing by. She couldn’t imagine how long it might have been. It seemed like it was moving past them for hours.
Eventually, the noise faded, but—God. She was too scared to open her eyes now. What if it was right there, waiting for her?
She could imagine it, her opening her eyes only to stare directly into its golden gaze, then—nothing.
No. She couldn’t. She couldn’t. She couldn’t.
“Miss Granger! Miss Potter!”
Calla’s eyes snapped open in surprise as Professor McGonagall’s voice echoed down the hallway, nearly a shriek. She did not immediately die. Instead, she saw Professor McGonagall rushing over to them, her eyes wide and her face pale, wand held at the ready.
“Miss Granger—oh. Miss Potter, are you alright? Can you move?”
Calla looked at Hermione. She was wide eyed, face an expression of pure surprise as she looked at the hand mirror she held aloft. She was not moving. She couldn’t even see her chest rise and fall.
“What’s going on here?”
There were more people arriving, more teachers. Calla didn’t look at any of them. Just Hermione, cut out of marble. Just Hermione, who was Petrified. Who wasn’t moving.
Calla should have been holding the mirror. She should have gone first. What if Hermione was stuck like this forever? Hermione was so smart, so kind, so clever. She would know exactly what to do. She should be the one who’s okay, not Calla.
She blinked. That was Harry’s voice.
“Cal, you okay?”
With backbreaking effort she would only ever put forth for her brother, she managed to wrench her eyes away from Hermione to look at Harry. He was crouched over her—when had she gotten on the ground?—holding her wrists gently, his green eyes so big and worried. He was smiling, but it was that smile that he wore when he was trying to keep both her and himself calm.
“Harry,” she breathed, and she burst into tears. “I-It g-got Hermione.”
“I know,” he said, voice grim, and he rubbed at her face with the sleeve of his robe.