Monday, November 22, 2010

a scandal in the bohemian chamber of secrets

 (This is a combination of Harry Potter and Sherlock Holmes)

Harry and Ron sat next to Hermione’s bed in the hospital wing, Harry having just come from Quidditch practice and Ron having come from lunch. They are still trying to figure out how in the world Hermione figured out that the Basilisk was the thing attacking students and hiding in the Chamber of Secrets.  Hermione has a pleased smile on her face despite having just been revived from her petrified state.
“But how,” Harry asked, bemused, “how did you figure it out? Of all the things it could have been… How did you know?”
            “I saw it, and I deduced it. How do I know that you had a hard time at Quidditch practice today, and that Ron had too much treacle tart at lunch?
            “Wh—Hermione, how do you know that?” Ron asked. “You really are a witch, aren’t you?”
            Harry looked out the window to see if the Quidditch pitch could be seen from where Hermione lay in her bed.  All he could see was the vast lake.
            “Unless someone told you, I do not see how you worked that all out,” Harry said.
            “It was so simple,” Hermione said, smiling. “My eyes just tell me that on the handle of your broomstick, just below where you hold on to it, there are several nicks and cuts that were not there yesterday.  Obviously they have been caused by your captain, who likely sent Bludgers your way as a way to keep you on your toes.  Since you usually deftly miss the balls, this is an obvious sign of your head not being in the game this afternoon.  As to Ron’s treacle-eating, if a boy walks into the hospital wing smelling of syrup, with a dark brown stain on his shirt and breadcrumbs on his mouth, I must be as dull as Crabbe and Goyle if I do not call him an over-zealous eater of his favorite dessert, treacle tart.”
            “You never fail to amaze me, Hermione,” Harry said, shaking his head and smiling.
            “But wait. You still haven’t explained how you knew it was a Basilisk, Hermione,” Ron interrupted.
            “The facts were all in front of me. I just had to piece them together. I knew the victims: Mrs. Norris the cat, Colin Creevey, Justin Finch-Fletchley, and the ghost Nearly Headless Nick. I thought, if this is pre-meditated and not random, what do these people have in common? Well, I couldn’t think of a single thing.  Colin is in Gryffindor, Justin is in Hufflepuff, Mrs. Norris is a cat and Nearly Headless Nick is a ghost. While I could not find any parallels between them that would make them targets for the attacker, I thought about what united them inadvertently. In other words, how had the attacker accidentally made a pattern of his victims by attempting to attack randomly?”
            She paused, and Harry and Ron stared intently. “Well?” they asked in unison.
            “Well, I began again with what I knew. And I knew that there was water on the floor where Mrs. Norris was found, Colin had his camera with him when he was found, and Nearly Headless Nick and Justin were found together.  Most conveniently, Colin was found petrified in the position he was in the moment he was petrified, making him literally frozen in time. His camera was held up to his face, meaning that he was attacked while in the middle of taking a photo.”
            Hermione paused again, and Ron broke the silence: “So?”
            “So there I was stumped. Was I going down the right track? Did it matter Colin was looking through his camera? What about the water? Well, I started over. What else did I know? I knew no one had seen this attacker somehow. Also, Mrs. Norris the cat wasn’t frozen in the typical arched-back stance that cats assume when they feel threatened. Assuming she was petrified in the position in which she saw her attacker, she did not even know what hit her since she never felt threatened. So, was this assailant invisible?”
            “Well? Was it?”
            “Maybe, maybe not. I wasn’t sure. I began to think of what other strange occurrences there had been that might have seem unrelated but in fact held the key to everything.” She looked at Harry meaningfully. “Then I remembered Harry just recently finding out he had the rare ability to speak to snakes, and that he had heard voices around the castle.”
            “What does that have to do with anything?” Harry asked.
            “Everything! Whose voice did you think you were hearing?”
            “I dunno… a ghost or something.”
            “Then Ron and I could have heard it, too. But only you could hear it.”
            “I’m not following,” Ron said.
            “Well, at this point I was almost positive I knew what it was. But I needed to be sure. So I went to the library—”
            “Big surprise,” Ron interrupted.
            “—And found after a few hours’ searching a book on rare magical creatures. I found what I was looking for, and sure enough, the creature I suspected it to be fit the description perfectly.”
            “The Basilisk,” Harry said.
            “Yes. This giant snake would explain how Harry could hear it and understand it and no one else could.”
            “But, a giant snake! Surely we would noticed it?” Ron asked.
            “That’s the beauty of it; it traveled through the plumbing. That is why it seemed to be a disembodied voice when Harry heard it, because it was just on the other side of the wall, inside the piping.”
            “That is disgusting.”
            “So this begged the question—how is the snake attacking people? Well, of course, Basilisks have the ability to kill anyone who looks it in the eye.”
            “But—no one died,” Harry pointed out.
            “Ah, yes, because no one did look it in the eye. Not directly.”
            “I’m still in the dark,” Ron asked.
            “Everyone who was attacked only saw the snake’s reflection, and therefore were only petrified and not killed. The puddle near where Mrs. Norris was found saved her life.  What likely happened was that the snake burst a pipe, catching the cat’s attention. The cat would have wandered to the leaking sound, perhaps lapped up some water, and seen the snake’s eyes through the reflection in the water, and before even knowing what she was looking at, was petrified on the spot without any warning.”
            “Makes perfect sense,” Harry said, smiling in awe.
            “Colin only saw the snake through his camera, and the lens protected him from being killed. Justin saw the snake through Nearly Headless Nick. Nick did see the snake directly, but he’s a ghost, and he certainly couldn’t die again.”
            “You did it all very nicely, Hermione,” Harry said, laughing at the ease at which she explained her process of deduction. “When I hear your reasons,” he remarked, “it always sounds so ridiculously simple that I could do it myself, but every time you figure out something else I am baffled until you explain your process.”
            “That’s because you see, but you do not observe,” she said with a smile.
            “Well, I am indebted to you, Hermione. You’re discovery saved my life in the Chamber of Secrets. How can I reward you?” Harry asked.
            “Do you have the torn out page from the book I ripped out with the information on the Basilisk?”
            Harry stared at her in amazement. “Yeah, if that’s what you want.”
            “I want to keep it as a reminder for any time in the future when you two complain to me that library research doesn’t pay off,” she said, smirking.          
And that was how a great snake threatened to affect the castle of Hogwarts, and how the best plans of Lord Voldemort were beaten by a woman's wit. He used to make merry over the cleverness of women, but his followers have not heard him do it of late. And when he speaks of Hermione Granger, it is always under the honorable title of “the woman.”

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