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Katherine did not remember her O.W.L year being this difficult. Although the material itself wasn't difficult, the workload was abnormally large and abysmally thorough. She thanked her lucky stars she had been taking N.E.W.T level classes back in her time, or else she would probably be failing everything. She wasn't top of her class, but her grades were definitely not bad. In fact, her grades had never been better, though her stress levels had definitely seen better days. She'd developed purple blotches under her eyes and had taken to falling asleep in the common room, surrounded by books.

This previous night had been no different.

Katherine jerked out of her dream to find her face plastered against a piece of parchment. She sleepily read the title: "Properties and Uses of Moonstone in Potion-Making." Suddenly, she jerked upright, remembering that she'd never actually finished the essay, and it was due that same day. Her watch claimed that it was six-thirty in the morning, which was still much too early for anyone to be waking up. Katherine snatched up her book bag and school cardigan, knowing she needed to find more books in the library if she was to finish her essay on time. Rubbing sleep from her eyes, she hurried off, muttering to herself darkly.

"That is the last time I leave an essay until the night before it's due... twenty four inches of bloody parchment... as if Moonstone was really that important..." She was trudging down flights of stairs in an resigned, sluggish fashion in a futile attempt to arrive on the third floor quickly when she stopped suddenly, cocking her ear to the side. 

Katherine was almost at a turning corner on the fourth floor when she heard voices. The voices belonged to two boys who were speaking quietly but using a spitting tone of voice, their hisses echoing slightly in the morning silence. The noise carried itself around the bend and to her ears, and she stood beside a suit of armor, listening intently.

"I don't know, Mulciber, he hasn't told me anything," said a cold, deep voice calmly. "If Riddle says he's working on it, then he's bloody working on it!"

"Yes, of course," the boy named Mulciber answered, his voice free from its previous hissing sharpness. "I dunno, Lestrange. He says he's been working on it since last year, he said he almost had it. And here we are now, with nothing, as always."

"Don't let Riddle hear you say that," Lestrange warned before chucking darkly. "He'll have your head. Where is he, anyway? The other lot's been saying they don't know what he's getting up to."

"That's what I mean. He's always cooped up in his room or in the library with his nose in a bloody book-"

"Mulciber, if you ever attempted to educate yourself you would know that reading actually has its illustrious wonders. What I can't wrap my head around is why you're backing out now. We're close, can't you feel it? Riddle has never let us down. He knows what he's doing, and he'll finish the job he started," Lestrange said, the strong rigidity of his voice clearly portraying his unshakable loyalty.

After a moment's silence, Mulciber spoke again. "I was never backing out. But yes, you're quite right. Whatever plans we've devised, Riddle perfects. I dunno... I just don't think he's advanced on the whereabouts of the-"

"Shut it. Merlin, Mulciber, we're in the bloody corridor where anyone can hear our echoes," Lestrange spat, the hissing anger returning to his voice. "You really are thick, sometimes I wonder about you."

Mulciber retorted something unintelligible under his breath, for their voices were slowly dying down, moving away from the suit of armor that shielded Katherine, who was frozen with what felt like a stomach full of iced water. It didn't take a magnificent auror to figure out what Mulciber and Lestrange were referring to. 

"The Chamber," Katherine murmured out loud. 

So Tom had been searching for the Chamber of Secrets since a year prior, his fourth year. Wow, this boy really did start early. Apparently, he still hadn't found its entrance, which was definitely beneficial. Not that she had much time left to stop Tom. Mulciber's chilling voice echoed in her ears: 'Whatever plans we've devised, Riddle perfects.' Well, whatever Riddle's cronies had planned was probably not a walk through a sunlit meadow, considering they were skulking through halls speaking in hushed tones when they should have been in bed. For now, however, she had one duty, and that was to finish her Potions essay. She continued briskly walking through the rest of the corridor and descended the last flight of stairs.

Katherine knew the door to the library was locked (it wasn't an hour till breakfast), so she whipped her wand out, muttering Alohomora and trying the door handle. The door creaked open, the sound echoing eerily off the walls. Katherine tried to silence her footsteps as she trudged over to the Potions section, wishing for sleep more than anything. The aisle she walked into was full of seemingly dull books, but Katherine quickly found what she was looking for. She took the book and flipped it open to a page dedicated to the magical properties of Moonstone and unearthed her half-finished essay from her school bag.

"Well, well, well. I don't suppose you've procrastinated on Professor Slughorn's essay, Miss O'Hara?"

Katherine nearly dropped the book she was holding and swiveled around, wand out. 


"R-Riddle!" Katherine choked out, forcing her heart to return to normality before she had a heart attack. "Fuck, you gave me a fright," she murmured, stowing away her wand and kicking herself for being scared so easily, especially in front of him.

"Ooh, language," Riddle drawled, raising an eyebrow. He sat at one of the provided tables, stacks of books around him.

"It's English, in case you didn't know," Katherine snapped sarcastically. "You know, you probably shouldn't lurk around corners, Riddle. If I didn't know better, I'd think you were up to something."

"Yes, well, breaking into the library and skulking through aisles attempting to muffle our footsteps is probably the most suspicious thing one could do."

Katherine was annoyed at the condescending tone he always seemed to adopt around her. "What are you even doing here?"

"Why else would one come to the library, Miss O'Hara?"

"To stay away from people, of course," she answered, raising her eyebrow at him. "And your rhetorical questions are really quite unpleasant, you know."

Tom merely glanced at her before returning his gaze to the book before him. "And I suppose you do plenty of that?" He said, ignoring her criticism of his questions that were constantly posed as statements.

"Not me. I wouldn't say the same about you though."

Katherine's remark caught Tom's attention, and his gaze flickered back to her. "What are you referring to?"

"I dunno, I hardly ever see you around. And it seems your, er, friends, have missed your absence as well," Katherine said with a shrug, looking back down at the textbook in her arms. 

"I am going to assume you notice this because you wish to have my presence around you."

Katherine snorted. "You can assume what you like." She glanced at the thick, battered book he had propped up in front of him. "Magick Moste Evile, eh? Sounds like a lovely read. You know, for entertainment purposes," she said sarcastically.

Riddle stared at her, setting the book down so that the title was no longer visible. "Wouldn't you know," he said coldly, his eyes regaining that fierce fire she couldn't seem to rid her mind of.

Katherine fought a shiver that had rolled down her spine. "Relax, Riddle, I was only joking."

"What you should be doing is sleeping, or waiting to have breakfast with the rest of your little friends in the dining hall."

"I could say the same about you," she answered just as coldly, though she became frightened at the sudden change in his demeanor. "I don't even wish to ponder the many educational reasons as to why a Slytherin Prefect would be reading a book like that."

Riddle's dark eyes never left her own, and she felt a familiar tingling behind her eyes. Immediately, her mental wall came up, but she was extremely surprised to see how hard he worked to tear it down this time, almost with an impatient greediness. Her Occlumency wasn't the best; she felt a memory churning close to the surface before she glanced away and forced his intruding eye away from her mind with great difficulty. He curled his lip. "Leave, O'Hara."

And though she could think of a thousand smart retorts to shoot at him, now was not the time to be a clever Ravenclaw, and she fled the library with her unfinished essay in hand.
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Things are getting interesting. In case anyone is wondering, I took Katherine's first name from "The English Patient," coincidentally with Ralph Fiennes. The summary quote is also from that movie. Her last name was inspired by Scarlett O'Hara, from Gone With the Wind. Hooray for literary allusions!

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