I coughed, breathing dust in and out as I try to stand and survey what this place was that I had fallen into. The drop had not been that deep, though the air above me was darker than black, and one of my ankles gave a twinge as I put more pressure on it.
However, Tom Riddle was nowhere to be seen; I had fallen into an underground area of Hogwarts with a tunnel stretching out beyond where I was sitting; there was nothing more than darkness beside me, darkness that carried on down the tunnel. But there was not going to be another way out, so forward I would have to go.
Forcing myself to ignore the pain, I hurried along the tunnel that stretched out over cement and bricks, rocks, chunks of strange, unidentifiable things, and what seemed to be the remains of small animals; bones crunched under my hurried footfalls, and, at one point, I slipped on a slimy rock and found myself face to face with a rat's skull, cracked and eerie. There was something worse than the giant squid down here.
After about five minutes’ walk, I encountered a change in the light and space of the tunnel; where before it had been deathly dark and I had had to lower my head to get through, I was now able to stand straight and see what lay ahead of me. There, sat a large door, a portal into another world. It was circular and metal, ornamented with thin metal snakes, their tails locked into the curve of the door. I peered through the gloom of the opening and into a spacious chamber, lit naturally from above. Cautiously, I plodded forward, keeping my eyes on the architecture of the strange place; the walls were stone, towers seeping out the earth, but also disappearing deep below it, and the ceiling was nothing but mud and slime high above me.
In the distance, a large stone face loomed out the wall. I jumped, startled, before realising that it was just a statue-head, disembodied and larger than life, and the head of Salazar Slytherin, if my memory served me right.
Then I felt moisture about my feet and heard the splashes as I walked along.
"More water?" I whispered, looking down at the hem of my robes. The water that had soaked through my clothing was spreading onto the tiled floor; and ahead lay a raised walkway surrounded by channels of water, which must have been diverted from the lake. Here and there, unearthed from the walls, I noticed archways that must have led off to a series of waterways, rather like a darker version of the city of Venice.
Well that explains the flooded corridor, I pointed out to myself.
As I crept forward, I noticed Tom standing beside the head, his voice softly singing with sibilance as he spoke in Parceltongue again. He wove the words through the air, but ceased quickly, poised as if he knew more about these surroundings than I did. Too, I stopped, listening out as the sounds of water running became more prominent to me.
With a hydraulic hiss, the mouth of the giant’s head began to slide downwards, a green tongue snaking down and detaching itself from the grey statue. It took a few more seconds for me to see that it wasn't a tongue.
Now a real fear began to spread through my bones. I had tried to keep hidden before, but, as the snake awoke from its chamber, I had to reach out to the next living human.
"Tom?” I cried, not daring to move. “Tom, where are we?"
What was he doing in this watery tomb with a creature so mythological I thought I was in one of my nightmares?