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Author Notes:

Huge thanks once more to Luan Mao and Kokopelli for the sheer armount of work and effort they've put into this.

“Would yous be liking dinner here?” Cully asked.

Harry looked up from the table in the library where they’d been sitting. None of the other students had been in the library today, so they’d had free rein. They hadn’t seen any of the professors since breakfast, either.

“Please,” he said. “You do know you don’t have to serve us, right?”

Cully tilted his head. “House-elves are liking work, but House-elves are not liking being forced to punish selves. Harry Potter sir treats House-elves as friends, and if Harry Potter who is great and powerful wizard can nice the House-elves, then others should nice House-elves too.” He nodded firmly, his long ears flapping. “So Cully, and all other House-elves, do work and is prideful of it, but can now have judgements and not serve nasty people.” He paused. “Old Malfoy House-elf now working in my kitchen, him is cooking your foods, him so happy.”

Harry laughed. “Thank you, we’d love some dinner.”

Seconds later, four slate tiles appeared, each bearing four fried scallops on the shell and puréed peas. In the middle of the table, a basket home-baked bread appeared, along with a dish of olive oil with balsamic vinegar floating in the middle of it.

“Wow,” Romilda muttered.

“Yeah,” Astoria added. She used her fork to spear a scallop and bring it to her mouth. Her eyes widened in pleasure.

Harry took a bite as well, and as the taste exploded in his mouth, he couldn’t help grinning. After swallowing, he thought back over the day, and had a nagging sensation that they’d been a little unfocused.

“Okay,” he said. “I’m getting nowhere really fast. What are we really looking for here?”

“Something to help you reclaim the item?” Hermione said, after finishing her scallops.

“Yeah,” Harry agreed. “But isn’t the point the style, not the action?”

Romilda nodded.

“So how do I do that?”

Astoria frowned. “Speed?”

“No, no, no,” Romilda said, shaking her head. “It needs to be dramatic, it needs to be powerful, it needs to show the world that Harry is The Harry Potter, and make it so that bad guys fear The Harry !”

Harry chuckled at her enthusiasm. “And how do I do that?”

“With a sword, you should attack it!”

“He’ll get flattened,” Astoria said dryly. “Even with a really powerful shield. Say it’s a Nundu, it would blast through it.”

“Then he needs some armour!”

“You’d need some armour made out of a creature just as powerful,” Astoria pointed out, rolling her eyes. “And we’d need to find a blacksmith. And there hasn’t been a magical blacksmith in years, as everyone uses magic, and we’ve not exactly got a powerful creature laying around willing to give us its bones!”

Cully popped in, with another House-elf. “This is being Beaty,” he said. “Beaty was being House-elf to last work for Wizarding Blacksmith.”

“Beaty is being willing to show The Harry how to smith,” the grey-haired House-elf offered shyly, looking at his feet.

Harry blinked. Fire, hammers, noise; Blacksmithing sounded fun.

“Hoggywarts smithy,” Cully added, “it not being used for many many moons.”

“Still,” Astoria pointed out, “we don’t have the material anyway.”

“I think I might know where there’s a dead basilisk,” Harry said softly.

“What?” Romilda and Astoria demanded in unison.

“I killed one in my second year.”

“That would do it,” Hermione said. “We’ll tell the story later, Harry. But really, Blacksmithing isn’t something you can just pick up overnight.”

“No,” Astoria agreed. “However,” she murmured, “there are experience spells and potions that you can use.”

“True,” Hermione muttered. “If we found the spells, and found the extra knowledge from books…”

“Then bam!” Romilda yelled, jumping to her feet. She mimicked a sword, and danced around wildly, “Bash, crash, wallop!” She jumped and slammed the imaginary sword down. “Take that, foul beast!” she declared.

Harry started to laugh at her enthusiasm, and clapped at her portrayal.

Hermione and Astoria clapped as well. With no sense of embarrassment, Romilda bowed, and re-took her seat, just as the next course arrived.

“That’s the way forward,” Romilda said happily. “We’ll have to find a cool spell so that it looks good when The Harry armours up, and then he’ll go out there; slay the beast and poof, we now have one bad-arse public hero who can get poor Lord Black free!”

Harry nodded in agreement, feeling the excitement at the idea of having a home shoot through him again.

“It’s a good job that Madam Pince isn’t here, or we’d be thrown out,” Astoria said.

“I wonder where she is,” Hermione agreed, before she shrugged. “Doesn’t matter, I guess.”

---

“Mum?” Astoria called happily as she jumped on her new bed. She turned the mirror around, so that her mother could see the new place. “This is my bedroom in our little wing. Romi and Hermione have their rooms next door. Harry’s downstairs in the opposite wing. And, we all have en-suites!” She flopped down.

“That’s great, dear,” Cressida Greengrass said with a smile. “I’m so proud of you, my little spark.”

“Spark?” Astoria asked. “You’ve never called me that before.”

“What’s my fourth golden rule?”

“If you have information, use it where it will gain the most reward,” Astoria recited instantly.

“Your little spark about the Goblet kicked off an enormous explosion,” Cressida said with a happy look. “In one day, you’ve got Dumbledore off of the I.C.W., Delores and Lucius under a merciless I.C.W. investigation, along with Fudge, scared away a Death Eater who was impersonating Mad-Eye Moody, caused the downfall of Barty Crouch senior, dragged the whole Tri-Wizard Tournament through the mud, and last, but not least, gotten rid of Snape.”

Astoria blinked. “Oh,” she said. “I didn’t know that.” She paused, and then giggled. “Cool.”

“Very cool, my little spark. Daph’s sorry she wore the badge. She didn’t think about it.”

“I know,” Astoria sighed. “Harry’s really nice, you know? And he’s got such wonderful eyes.”

“And does my little spark have a crush?”

Astoria blushed and nodded. “Yeah, Romi too, but we’re not being stupid about it. We’ll fight over him in a few years. For now, we’re just going to have fun and enjoy being friends with him and Hermione.” She smiled. “The smelly one is gone from his circle of friends!”

“You and Romilda have the strangest friendship I have ever seen,” Cressida sighed.

“We both know that it’s unlikely to last, but until something happens, we’re just best friends.”

Cressida nodded. “Anyway let me bring you up to date in detail.”

When her mother had finished, Tori placed her mirror away, and looked at the time. It was eleven o’clock. There was no chance she could go to sleep without talking about this. She walked out of her room, and in to Romi’s. The girl was face down, her body spread eagled under the cover, as she slept. “Yo, Gypsy,” Tori yelled.

“Bugger off, I’m gonna curse you so bad,” Romilda mumbled into her pillow.

“Mum gave me some incredible news. I’m gonna grab Hermione then go wake Harry up.”

“Harry in pyjamas?” Romilda asked, perking up. “No curses for you, not today,” she decided.

“Why thank you,” Astoria responded dryly. Romilda got out of bed, wearing the pyjama bottoms and tank-top that she always slept in. Together, they went into Hermione’s room. The girl was sitting up, reading from a large book. “Mum just gave me some really important news about repercussions from today, we need to discuss it.”

“It can’t wait until morning?” Hermione asked. “Harry’s pretty tired.”

Astoria shook her head. “Seriously, it could affect his Sirius thing.”

“Right, let’s go.” Hermione was wearing a similar tank-top to Romi, but with shorts instead. The three of them of them padded to Harry’s room. “Harry?” Hermione called.

“Greeomslasd,” Harry mumbled.

“Sorry, Harry, but we need to talk,” Hermione tried again. Harry sat up slowly, and Astoria felt like puberty chose that exact moment to kick in, as Harry sat up, showing that whatever else he wore in bed, it didn’t come with a shirt.

Hermione climbed on the side of Harry’s bed, and sat, crossed legged, next to him. Harry raised himself up against the headboard. Romilda collapsed on her stomach next to Hermione’s feet, and Astoria took the last spot.

“So, basically, our little thing this morning? Well, Snape disappeared before dusk, Fudge, his bitch of an undersecretary, and Malfoy’s daddy are all under serious I.C.W. investigation, and Dumbledore’s had to quit the I.C.W. as well.”

“Crikey,” Harry muttered.

“Yeah, it’s because the Ministry has kept secret the fact that the Goblet is illegal for hundreds of years.”

“You were right,” Hermione said absently. She put her right elbow on her right knee, and rested her cheek against her palm. “This does change things. Harry could just make an appeal to the I.C.W. about Sirius.”

“What?” Romilda cried, looking up. “No!”

“Why not?” Harry asked.

“Because then you’ll have no reason to go nuts on the beast, and there’ll be no armour, no fun, and we’ll just end up watching something dull like people transfiguring rocks into wombats or something!”

Romilda jumped to her feet, “I want action, daring, bravery, excitement. I want Harry standing there, with his sword aloft, challenging the world, giving a message to Death Eaters that he won’t allow them to take over, and that he knows that his friends are there for him to help.” She bounced, “I want politicians afraid to work against him, I want the Prophet to know that they’ll be lynched if they lie about him, and I want things in this stinking backwater of a country to get better!

“Harry’s great, he’s powerful, he’s got deep green eyes, and he’ll look awesome in armour. I want Harry to have fun, to be excited, to really go for it, and to embrace that out there, to the people, he’s The Harry Potter , while he knows that he can come home and be Harry to us, his friends.” She flopped down and sighed deeply. “It’s just, you know, everyone’s still scared of the Dark Lord, and his Death Eaters, and I’m fed up with it. And now you have a chance, and there’s no reason for you to do it, except to have fun, to be revered, to be everything you can be – you can be The Harry.

“I wish I had your power,” she finished on a sigh, before burying her face in the duvet cover.

Astoria blinked as her best friend finished her rant. She checked Harry’s face, to see him thinking hard. And considering the unfettered bouncing that had just occurred, she was both relieved and hopeful for her own chances in the future – not to mention impressed. She licked her lips slowly. “Erm, Harry?” she said in to the silence.

“Yes?”

“I’m with the gypsy girl.”

“Me too,” Hermione said after a few seconds.

Harry sighed loudly. “Fine,” he groaned. “I’m with the gypsy girl as well.”

Romilda looked up. “Really?”

Harry smiled, a light smile, one Astoria didn’t remember ever seeing from him before. “Yeah, I’m convinced. We’ll check out the smithy tomorrow, and see if we can get the forge lit.”

“Oooo, ooo,” Astoria said, bouncing herself from her seated position. “Hermione, there’s no way you’ll skip classes, right?”

“Absolutely not,” Hermione replied immediately.

“But, as Champion, Harry doesn’t have to go to classes. So, you can share the learning with him, Romi and I can do the same with the classes we are doing so that he really knows them! If he wasn’t trying to hard last year, then a good recap will be great for the future!”

“Yeah,” Romilda interrupted, “My left toe knows more about divination than that fraud.”

“Anyway,” Astoria continued with a wink and a huff. “Harry can then spend his time with that blacksmith House-elf; we’ll do all our homework down there and spend time whenever we can, so he’s not lonely.”

“So Harry can learn a new skill, will be able to survive the tournament, and still be able to keep up with his education?” Hermione asked.

“Yes.”

Hermione’s face went blank for a few seconds. “I approve.”

“Yes!” Romilda yelled, jumping back to her feet, and doing a little dance. Astoria tried really had not to be jealous as the unfair result of her friend’s genetics did some more really distracting bouncing.

“Right, bed,” Hermione decided.

“Oh, wait, I almost forgot! Moody, he wasn’t the real one; he was being impersonated by someone, while the real one was locked in a trunk!”

“A trunk, poor man; must have been cramped,” Harry said.

“Nah, it was one of the expanding ones, with a room in it, like a tent,” Astoria replied.

“An expanding trunk?”

“They were all the rage a few years ago, but fell out fashion,” Romilda said.

“Why?” Hermione asked. “They sound useful.”

“Because at the end of the day, who wants to live in a trunk?” Astoria questioned.

“No one, it’d be like sleeping in a cupboard,” Harry chuckled. “Night, all.”

“Night,” they chorused, and headed out. “Nox,” Harry called, sending the room into darkness behind them.

---

“Tori, Tori?”

Harry turned, to see Daphne Greengrass heading toward their little group.

“Daph?” his new friend asked her sister.

“Snape’s gone!”

Astoria nodded. “So I’ve heard. It’s good news.”

“So are you coming back to Slytherin?”

Astoria shook her head. “I’m staying with my friends.”

“Oh,” Daphne said, and her face fell.

“That doesn’t mean you’re not welcome to visit your sister,” Harry offered.

Daphne gave him a blinding smile. “Thank you.”

Harry shrugged. “That’s an offer just for you.”

“Okay,” Daphne agreed. She paused, and stood up straight. She then curtseyed, “I am very sorry for wearing that ugly badge, Mr Potter.”

Harry blinked. “You are forgiven,” he said softly.

Daphne beamed again as she stood up. “Right, time to go back to being a Slytherin.” The expression dropped off of her face, and she put her nose in the air and separated from them, heading to the Slytherin table.

“Thanks, Harry,” Astoria said.

Harry sat down, and waited for the others to sit as well. “Hermione,” he said in a low voice, “you know that feeling you get when I do something stupid, and you want to protect me?”

“Far too well,” Hermione responded dryly.

Harry flicked his eyes to the older Greengrass. “I have deep suspicion that there is a really nice, sweet, innocent girl over there, and that I need to show her that she has a big brother.”

“She’s older than you are,” Romilda said with a cheeky tone.

Harry didn’t look at her. “She might be older by the calendar, but, she’s like a puppy playing a role.”

Astoria giggled. “My sister wouldn’t hurt a fly, and yes, she is a bit naïve, it’s why Dad has her playing the role. He was a bit like that at school as well. Only, he made some mistakes because of his naïveté.”

“Right, time for something stupid,” he decided.

“It has been hours, so you’re due,” Hermione agreed.

Harry chuckled, and walked around the table, over to the Slytherin side. There were some glares, but Malfoy looked far too distracted to even acknowledge him. Knowing that your father was probably going to lose almost everything that made him a respected member of society would probably do that to a boy like Draco. “Miss Greengrass,” He said, crouching before her seated form. “Would you like to join us, properly?”

Her expression didn’t change as she stared at him.

“You’ll have three sisters and a brother looking out for you, so you can be yourself.”

Hope appeared in her eyes. “You don’t want to, you know, with me?”

He reached out, finding it easy to deal with a girl he had no interest in shagging, and put his hand on her shoulder. She didn’t flinch. “You are a very pretty girl; Daphne, but you are not my type.” He didn’t think that mentioning that his type at the moment was “female” and “boobs” and after the last day, “his age” would help him achieve his goal.

Suddenly, Daphne smiled as she had earlier. “Okay.” She wrinkled her nose. “What was that house thingy again?”

“I, your full name, hereby renounce my claim to Slytherin House,” Harry said in a soft voice, “And then you say why.”

Daphne nodded eagerly. “I, Daphne Eugenie Greengrass, hereby renounce my claim to Slytherin House because most of the boys smell, most of the girls are bitches, no one ever smiles and all the boys want to get into my knickers.”

Harry had to stop himself from laughing, as the colours left Daphne’s robes and she stood. She didn’t look back as she strode with a happy jaunt to her step toward her sister.

“Hi,” she said brightly. “Hi Romi, Tori. And Hermione, we’ve never really spoken, but it’s good to see you.”

Hermione slowly smiled. She moved over. “Take a seat,” she invited Daphne.

“Oh, this is so much fun,” Daphne said as she sat down. “Our own little group.” She paused and looked down, “Although, I’m not as smart as you guys are.”

Harry watched as Hermione’s face went through several expressions, before she smiled and hugged Daphne. “It doesn’t matter, I’ll help,” she promised. “We all will.”

Daphne’s face lit up once again, and once more, Harry thought of an excitable puppy being given the attention it desperately wanted.

The doors to the great hall opened, and the professors walked in. Harry waited for them to sit before approaching the table. Professor Dumbledore looked at him and sighed. “Mr Potter?”

“As per the rules of the Tri-Wizard tournament, I hereby inform you that I will be spending class time up to the first task preparing for it.”

“And your schooling?” Dumbledore asked.

“I have smart friends,” Harry replied.

“Then good luck, Harry,” Dumbledore said with a slight smile. “Actually, Harry, I would like to make a public statement here.” He stood.

“I, Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore, hereby formally apologise to Harry James Potter for not securing the Goblet of Fire properly.

“It took the real Alastor Moody less than five minutes to discover that a Confundus charm had been placed on the Goblet, tricking it to think that there were four schools participating. The magical signature of the charm matched the person who had captured Alastor. Your name was torn from a defence essay you wrote at the start of term. I have also heard testament from the House House-elves that you did not go near the Goblet. All of this is more than conclusive proof that you did not enter yourself.

“So, I am very sorry, Harry, that you have to compete in the challenges ahead, as laid out in the rules submitted to the Goblet.”

Harry blinked. “Thank you, Professor Dumbledore,” he said in to the silence. “I accept your apology.”

“I have seen what Hogwarts is becoming, and I feel the guilt that it is happening under my watch. As such, I will be fixing it; I will not go down in history as the headmaster who let Hogwarts fall. Over the next few weeks, an independent team from the I.C.W. will be auditing Hogwarts, and we will be following their recommendations.

“I have also seen that it appears that we condone bullying. We do not. And as it is better late than never, fifty points from every student who wore those badges yesterday morning. Some of these points will be returned if the originator steps forward and accepts his or her culpability.”

Harry slowly smiled, and nodded at the headmaster. He was satisfied with the outcome.

“And finally, Professor Snape has tendered his resignation, with immediate effect. I will be covering his lessons until an I.C.W. approved Potions Master can be found.”

“Ooo, ooh!” Romilda shouted, before dashing up and standing next to Harry. “I can get Gran to do it, if you want? Nadya Vane from P.U.P.P.E.T.”

“If you could approach her, I’d be most grateful, she is notoriously difficult to contact.” Albus said with a thoughtful nod.

Romilda smiled, and together, she and Harry walked back to their small part of the Gryffindor table. Harry could feel a lot of very regretful looks from students, but he ignored them. The worst was the Hufflepuff table, where quite a few members were crying.

As Harry sat down, Cully appeared. He looked at Dumbledore. “You is doing goods,” he decided. “Yous getting better foods now. House-elves dislikes bullies, thems remind House-elves of how House-elves treated by some peoples,” he said, with a glare at several pureblood students from various houses. “House-elves free, House-elves work, but House-elves not work for bullies.” He paused. “And smelly students still not getting laundrys done. House-elves have opened student laundry room.”

Dumbledore nodded. “Thank you, Cully. I apologise to you as well, as I should have taken your complaints far more seriously than I did.”

Cully beamed and gave a firm nod. “Cully is pleased that Great Albus Dumbledore is following in Greater Harry Potter’s footsteps. If theys can be honourable to House-elves, then there is no excuse for others.” With another nod, Cully vanished, and food arrived.

“So,” Daphne said cheerfully, “what are you going to be doing instead of classes?”

In a low voice, Harry said, “I’m going to be learning to forge, so I can make some armour.”

“Really?” Daphne gasped.

Harry nodded.

Daphne dived from the table and dashed over to the Slytherin table, where she picked up a bag from under the seat where she’d been sitting, and dashed back. She dropped into her seat, and picked up a notebook. “Plate metal?” she asked in a whisper.

“Bone, we think, basilisk.”

She flicked through the notebook, and then smiled. “A-ha!” She placed it down on the table. Harry blinked, and then looked at Daphne, and then at the drawing.

Romilda whistled slowly.

“Daph,” Astoria said in a shocked voice, “what…how?”

“I’ve had to have a hobby,” Daphne said with a little shrug. “It’s something I picked up while you were with Mum, learning stuff. Dad and I would draw. We went through a phase in the summer where we’d draw armour and weapons. This is one where we thought about dragon armour.”

The picture was incredible. Done in pencil, it showed a tall man in a suit of deep brown armour. He had a helmet with two horns bent at ninety degrees coming out of it. The cuirass had claws on the shoulders to protect the neck, then a hefty chest piece. The gauntlets went up to the elbows, and were made of the same bone. Underneath, it had heavy leather, with iron bands that would offer some protection but still allow movement.

The groin and thighs were covered by bone cuisse, and the boots came to the knees, with the same look as the rest of the armour.

“It’s going to be a lot of work,” Harry said slowly.

“We’ll need to find out how to work leather, as well as bone,” Astoria agreed.

“And maybe some runes to enchant the armour,” Hermione agreed.

“And some potions to help increase Harry’s skill,” Romilda added.

“You’re going to use this?” Daphne asked in disbelief.

“Yes,” Harry said simply. “Absolutely.”

“No, no, no,” Daphne said, grabbing it. “That’s just a silly sketch.”

“Daph,” Astoria started.

“No,” she said firmly. “If you like it, I’ll do one for you properly, not just a sketch.” She smiled. “I’m part of this, so I want to help.”

Astoria smiled and looked proudly at her sister. Daphne’s back straightened, and another smile came over her face.

“Right, eat, then we can explore,” Harry said. He was now eager to see the room where he’d be working. Harry ate more than he usually would, as he expected he’d be working hard today.

When they had all finished, Harry called for Beaty.

The House-elf appeared instantly. “Great Harry Potter sir wants to go?”

“Could we drop the ‘Great’, the ‘Potter’ and the ‘Sir’, and just call me Harry?” Harry asked. “I’ve seen the work you all do, and the effort and pride you put in, and you make my life so much easier. So if anyone is worthy of respect, it is you and your fellow House-elves. And no one I respect so much needs to call me anything other than Harry.”

Beaty’s eyes widened. “And if you could get all the other House-elves to do the same, I’d be grateful,” Harry continued.

Beaty vanished suddenly, and Harry found himself engulfed in a Hermione hug. “I am so proud of you,” she said solemnly.

Harry grinned at her. “Thanks.”

“Can I be proud as well?” Daphne asked. “Dad always says that we should try and treat others as we would be treated ourselves.”

“Yes,” Hermione said with a little laugh. A few seconds later, Harry found himself in a hug from Daphne, and he hugged her back, like he had with Hermione. Daphne pulled away, “You really don’t want to do me,” she said happily. “It’s just like you are with Hermione.”

Harry blushed. “I love Hermione,” he said in a rush, in as low a voice as he could. “She’s always there for me.”

Hermione sniggered and blushed at the same time. “Poor boy,” she said in a teasing voice. “And what he means, Daphne, is that he could be like that with you.”

Daphne nodded eagerly as Beaty returned.

“We are ready,” Harry said to the House-elf. Four more House-elves popped in, and they were literally popped out of the Great Hall, and in to a cavernous room that felt like it was in the bowels of Hogwarts.

A series of torches sprang into life, revealing something resembling a round kiln as the centrepiece to the room. A large anvil stood close to it, with a bench to the right of that. In the left corner was what looked like a piece of hide attached to a metal frame. To the right of that was a metal bench table that was coated in dust, and further to the right of that were piles and piles of differently coloured ingots, round bars, square bars and flats of dark metal.

The ceiling was high, with a small skylight to the right of a giant chimney that disappeared through the roof. Finally, to the left, was a series of tables that looked like they had just been moved in.

“Wow,” Harry said slowly.

“Yeah,” Hermione agreed, looking around.

Astoria and Romilda both took a seat at the new tables. “Nice,” Astoria said happily. “We can do all our homework here.”

“It is a bit cold,” Hermione pointed out.

“Harry,” Beaty said, and then cringed.

“Yes, Beaty?”

Beaty relaxed as Harry didn’t take offence. “First lesson – yous know yous wizard letters?”

“Yes.”

“Here be hammer – for each letter yous hit this bar, turn it and then hits it again. Do this quicklestyouscan.”

“Okay,” Harry said, stepping towards the anvil. He picked up the hammer, hefting its weight, and then picked up the rod with his left hand.

“A,” he said with a grunt, hitting the rod and then turning it ninety degrees for another smack.

By the time he got to “O” the rod was smouldering. It was glowing red by “U” and was white and sparkling at “Zed.”

Beaty waved to the forge – “Now light it,” he commanded.

Harry did as asked, thrusting the rod. Nothing happened for a few seconds. “It’s coming,” Beaty called excitedly, before there was an audible whoosh , and the forge caught alight.

An orange glow appeared in the middle, and a wave of heat washed over him. The smoke from the smith went straight up into the chimney, despite the complete lack of wind in the room.

“Much better,” Hermione announced.

“Agreed,” Daphne said.

“So,” Harry asked, “what do I do first?”

“Knife,” Beaty said. “Knife is being easiest hard thing, use least metal and leather, is cheap, and is good to practice on. The first knives will beings useless, but yous will learning. Beaty thinks traditional making of hook first boring and not helping Greatest Harry beat beast.”

Harry smiled. He took off his robes, and dumped them on one of the desks.

“Harry!” Daphne tsked, as she dashed over and folded his robe neatly. She huffed playfully at him.

Harry grinned at her, as he rolled up his sleeves of his shirt. “Right,” he said to the House-elf. He took a deep breath. “Teach me.”

"First things is being right clothing,” Beaty stated.

---

“Harry?”

“Come in,” Harry called, as he sat up with a groan.

Daphne entered. She was wearing some silky shorts and a tank-top. She moved over and sat by his feet, curling her legs under herself.

“Hey,” she said with a smile.

“Evening,” he replied, curious to see what she wanted.

“It happened again today,” she sighed. “Chris Warrington.”

“Sixth year, Slytherin Chaser?” Harry asked.

Daphne nodded. “He said he wanted to do me and then he called me a bitch when I said no. The House-elves jumped in and stopped any more from happening. Am I a bitch, Harry?”

“You are definitely not a bitch, Daphne,” Harry said firmly. “And once the first task is out of the way, I’ll have a quick word with Mr Warrington myself.”

Daphne tilted her head to one side. “You could just ask the House-elves nicely?”

Harry shook his head. “This calls for a more personal touch. No one calls my sister a bitch for being true to herself.”

Daphne beamed, before she sighed. “I’m not even sure if I like boys,” she whispered.

“Oh?” Harry asked.

“Well, every boy I’ve met has smelled, or been rough. I don’t like being touched much at the best of times, and sometimes, I find myself looking at other girls and wondering what it would be like to kiss them.”

Harry was quickly realising that this conversation was heading into areas that he had absolutely no experience in. “Well,” he said, trying to work out what, if anything, he could say to her. “From what little I know, it could just be that you’ve not found the right boy yet. Or it could be that you do like girls. I know I like girls.” He shrugged. “It doesn’t really matter.”

“It doesn’t?” she asked.

“Whatever you decide, your family will always stick by you.”

“Promise?” she asked, looking very vulnerable.

“Daph, as long as you are happy, you could date the entire Bulgarian cheerleading squad and nothing would change. Sure, I’d be worried, but what a decent family wants is for you to be happy, and that’s it.”

Daphne exhaled slowly. “I’ve never told anyone that,” she confessed.

Harry smiled at her gently. “You don’t have to tell anyone, but if you ever want to talk, I am here.”

“And that goes to you as well, Harry. So, why don’t you tell me what life was like with those Muggles?”

“It’s not a very pretty story.”

“I’m strong enough to handle it,” she assured him. “You don’t have to, but I’ve always found that talking about what happened lets me let it go.”

“Well, okay. Unless you bring in dementors, my earliest memory is a cupboard…”

---

It was close to two in the morning, and Harry had walked to the smithy to use the fire.

“Harry,” Sirius said, his face appearing. “I’ve heard the rumours, are they true?”

“Probably, look, Sirius, we have a plan. I’m going to play at being the great Harry Potter, so we can ask why you didn’t get a trial, and then get you one.”

“Harry,” Sirius said, “you don’t have to do that!”

“I want to, and it’s my life. So, what I need from you is a promise that you will get the hell out of the country, so you are not Kissed before I can ask the questions.”

“But…”

“Sirius, everything goes wrong with us. Look at what happened when we had Pettigrew!”

Sirius nodded slowly.

“So please just get out of the country and trust me. Go some warm, look at birds in bikinis, and eat well.”

“That’s supposed to be my advice to you.” He grinned. “And there was this rumour about you and four girls.”

“It’s not like that. Look, Sirius, for the first time in my life, I feel like I know what I’m doing.”

Sirius took a deep breath. “Okay, Harry. I’ll be in Bermuda. There’s a hotel that your parents stayed in for their honeymoon that they raved about. I always wanted to see it anyway.”

Harry smiled massively. “That’s great. With you safe, I won’t have to worry, and I can concentrate on what I need to do.”

“You’ve convinced me, Harry. Please, be safe in the stupid tournament.”

“I will be. I have clever friends, and they’re going to help me play Harry Potter . It will be great.”

“Okay, I’ll be following the press as closely as I can.”

“See you soon, Sirius.”

“See you soon, Harry.”

---

Hermione was sitting with Daphne in all her classes, and to her surprise, didn’t mind that fact one bit. Now that she wasn’t playing the Slytherin, Daphne was a lot of fun to be around. And while not the brightest of witches, she was a hard worker, and that was something that Hermione appreciated.

With the de-housing of the girls, Hermione requested classes with Daphne, and Astoria joined Romilda in her classes. For various reasons, they were all following the Gryffindor schedule.

House points no longer mattered to her. With all the houses in serious negative points, it was going to be a “who is the least worst” as winners. Not something that anyone could be proud of.

The effect of their little revolution had shaken the entire school. Hermione was in awe of the Greengrass Book of History, and hoped to be able to read it one day. Some of the snippets she’d been given had been awesome. Unabridged documentation of behind-the-scene deals and bribes, written down by a family dedicated to gathering all the information that could be had.

The only real issue she had was that people kept asking her if they could see Harry. Unfortunately, the only way to the forge was via House-elf transport. And the House-elves had no interest in helping anyone get to Harry.

The fact that he was working, well, like a House-elf, had the girls delirious with delight. It was the first time that she’d seen her friend actually enjoy something productive. Sure, he loved flying, but that was fun, this was something else.

Whenever she popped down, he was hard at work, wearing a leather apron and his trousers and shoes, melting or hammering on something.

"Hermione!” She looked up, as Hannah Abbot moved in front of her. “Look, I, uh. Oh, this is really hard! You know the badge thing? It wasn’t really my fault, everyone else was… I mean, could you tell me where Harry is, so I can, ah, tell him I’m really, really sorry and I hope he forgives me?”

Hannah was the fourth person in the last two hours to approach her, incoherently and illogically asking for forgiveness.

“Harry’s in the Hogwarts Smithy,” Hermione said, being both polite and factually correct. “The only way in is via House-elf transport, and Harry has asked the House-elves not to let anyone he doesn’t approve off into it, and that includes professors. I will be asking Harry to join us for dinner soon, so that people will get a chance then.”

Hannah’s face fell, and then lit up, as Hermione recited her response by rote. Unlike Romilda, who wanted them to drop dead, she felt that the more formal approach would be better for Harry’s reputation in the long run if he could accept the apologies and move on.

Admittedly, she was pretty sure that he had already moved on.

Her current class, History of Magic, finished, and even before she could ask, two House-elves popped in, to see if they were ready.

She smiled at them. They did so love to help out and be useful. A second later, she and Daphne were in the forge, near her desk. Daphne sat down next to Tori, who was already there with Romi. The two second years were watching Harry intently. It was obvious that they had not done more than five minutes’ worth of work despite having been there for at least an hour.

For the first time, she realised that both of the younger girls had crushes on her friend. And she also knew that Harry simply didn’t think of either of them like that – not yet. At the moment, they were friends, and until everyone was older, that’s how things would stay.

She watched as Astoria turned and met her eyes, and in them, she could see that she was right, and that both Romilda and Astoria knew it, so were just enjoying the friendship while they enjoyed the shirtless Harry hard at work.

Hermione nodded slowly at Astoria, who smiled lightly, then returned to her Harry watching. Hermione did as well, and had to blink several times herself.

It had only been four days, and yet she could see a difference. His appetite had increased, and all the time he spent hammering away at hot metal was showing in his body. She actually noticed the start of some visible muscles. He’d also burned off all the hair on his left arm.

There were rivulets of sweat pouring down his back, making bright ribbons through the soot. “Oh my,” she murmured.

“Yeah,” Daphne agreed. “If other girls could see him like this, they’d be over him like bees on flowers.”

Hermione giggled. “Poor Harry. He’s such a delicate little flower, they’d tear him to pieces.”

Daphne leaned in closer, and whispered, “You think he’d enjoy it, though?”

Hermione looked at Daphne and smiled and nodded. “He is a teenage boy.”

Harry moved over to a whetstone, and sat, slowly grinding the item he was making. It took him twenty minutes, but when he finished, he handed it to Beaty.

“Harry Potter has done good; this is not rubbish,” Beaty pronounced.

“Alright!” Harry cheered, as he removed his ear protectors. He stood and stretched. “Hey,” he called to them, as he moved over. He placed the knife in front of them. It gleamed darkly on the table, with a leather handle and a thick blade with a curved front and back. “Iron, quicksilver, leather and a refined moonstone,” Harry explained. “It’s my hundred and twenty sixth dagger, and my fifth try with Elven techniques.”

“It looks vicious,” Daphne said.

Harry nodded. “Those spells you and Astoria found, Hermione, have been amazing. I really feel like I understand what is happening when I forge now. And Romi, that potion to help with my forging is amazing. Not to mention the one that lets me keep going all day.”

“It’s just Blisterwort, a glowing mushroom, a sabre cat tooth and some Spriggan sap.”

“I’ve not even heard of the last one,” he said cheerfully.

Daphne pouted, before smiling. She reached into her bag, and pulled out a piece of parchment. On it was a full blown design for armour, with each part blown out in detail.

Harry reached across the table and pulled Daphne over it, to give her a huge hug.

“Harry!” Daphne protested, before she giggled, as Harry kissed her forehead. “You’re all sweaty!”

“That looks brilliant,” he praised.

“Tori helped me research Basilisks, so I knew what the bones would look like.”

“Beaty, what do you think?”

The House-elf wandered over. “Beaty thinks that Beaty likes being asked what Beaty thinks.” The House-elf looked it over, before nodding. “Beaty is thinking that Daphne is being good armour witch.”

Daphne beamed happily.

“So,” Harry said, “who’s up for a trip to the Chamber of Secrets?”

“Harry,” Hermione called, “Seriously, I think you need to make an appearance upstairs.”

“Why?” Harry asked, as he wrinkled his nose.

“Because it’s gotten to the stage where the requests to deliver apologies are getting irritating,” Hermione said.

“They are very sorry,” Daphne added.

“As much as I think they were idiots, most of them only got caught up,” Romilda said with a sigh.

“Pfft,” Astoria grumbled. “I agree, but only because I’m fed up of the looks.”

“Fine, fine,” Harry said. “I’m over it now. Let’s go.”

“You need a shower, first,” Hermione said firmly. There was no way in hell she was going to be dealing with the social repercussions of a public appearance of a sweaty, top-less Harry.

Harry looked down, “Oh, yeah,” he agreed. “Beaty, you mind taking me to our rooms?”

“Of course,” Beaty said happily, and they vanished.

“That is a beautiful dagger,” Daphne said, picking it up.

Romilda held out her hand, and as Daphne placed the handle in, Romilda hefted the knife and then she began to spin it between her fingers, before thrusting out a few times, and finally slamming it, point first, into the table and then pushing the handle to the side.

“Very good balance, and decent spring,” she stated, and as the other three girls looked at her, she continued, “What? When you were playing with dollies, gypsy girls were learning to fight with knives and daggers. It goes with the eyes and the dark hair, darlings.”

“Scary, Vane, scary,” Astoria said.

“That from a family that makes it a point to always carry stilettos?”

“What?” Hermione asked.

Astoria pulled a thin blade from somewhere, as Daphne fished one out of somewhere else. “Last resorts,” Astoria explained.

“Your mum teach you that?”

“Dad, actually,” Daphne said proudly. “He believes that it’s best to have something non-magical to rely on, just in case.”

“And he’s right,” Astoria agreed.

“You don’t have a stiletto?” Hermione asked Romilda.

Romilda put her left leg on chair, and lifted her skirt. Attached to her thigh with a garter belt were three different knives. She grinned, “You can see why Tori and I are such good friends.”

Hermione laughed.

“You think it’s funny,” Astoria said, “but there were rumours a few years ago about men grabbing girls, and then wiping their memories afterwards.”

Suddenly, Hermione no longer found it funny.

“If that happens to me, I’m taking some of them with me, and I will do enough damage to the survivors that my clan can find them,” Romilda stated.

Astoria and Daphne nodded in agreement. Hermione was about to ask Romilda and Astoria for help, when she paused. “Daph, will you teach me how to use one?”

The smile on Daphne’s face was breath taking. “I’d love to! I’ve still got my practice knives!”

Hermione knew she’d made the right choice. The knives on display vanished, and there were now just three pretty, harmless girls in front of her.

Four House-elves appeared, and they were quickly popped to their rooms, where Harry had was drying his hair. He was wearing a light khaki shirt and a pair of dark khaki trousers, with some brown boots on his feet.

“New clothes?” Astoria asked.

“Yeah, I asked some of the Elves, and they made me some.” He paused and looked at Hermione, “I did try to pay.”

“I know,” she said, with an eye roll. “Come on, it’s dinner time.”

Together, they exited their rooms and went down two flights of steps to get to the Great Hall. There was an audible hush as they entered, and Hermione surmised that some were surprised to see Harry looking fit and healthy.

“Ahh, Mr Potter,” Dumbledore called cheerily, from the Professor’s table.

Harry waved at the headmaster.

“Things are going well, then?”

Harry nodded. “Extremely.”

“Good to hear it.”

Before Harry finished sitting down, the doors opened, and an old woman swept in. She had long, grey hair and was wearing brightly coloured robes.

“Gran!” Romilda cheered.

“Hello, dear,” she said, walking over to their table. “Astoria, Daphne,” she said to the others with a nod. “And this must be Hermione and young Harry.”

“Delighted to meet you, ma’am,” Harry said, standing and walking around the table. “Romilda has told me much about you.” He took her hand, and bowed over it. Hermione hurried after him.

“Outside of class you will call me Nadya,” the woman declared. “I am pleased that you listened when Romilda spoke.”

“So am I, Nadya,” Harry agreed.

Nadya frowned, and peered at his scar. “What is that?”

“A scar?” Harry replied.

“Hmm,” Nadya murmured. “We will talk later.” The old women then looked at Hermione, who suddenly felt like she was completely naked.

“Charmed,” Nadya said with a slight smile, and the feeling vanished.

She nodded to them all, and headed up toward the professors. “Albus,” she said with a nod.

“Nadya,” Albus returned.

“So, my great-granddaughter tells me you’ve finally decided to get some competent tuition in here?”

Albus winced. “Severus…”

“You, girl, what happens when you mix vampire dust with dragon’s tongue?”

The girl in question, a seventh year Hufflepuff blushed and shrugged.

Nadya rolled her eyes, and pointed at one of the Beauxbatons students. “You, boy?”

The student stood. “Mixing an item from the Curative group with another from the Linguistic Improvement group causes a combustible reaction,” the student recited.

“You learnt that when?”

“First year, Ma’am.”

“Excellent,” Nadya said calmly. “First year lessons on basic ingredient interaction, and how different types combine?”

The boy nodded.

“Please give my compliments to your professor.”

“I will,” the boy agreed, as Nadya turned back to Dumbledore.

Albus sighed.

“So yes, I have read your letter,” Nadya confirmed, “and will cover the classes until the end of the year, on the condition that you hire a P.U.P.P.E.T. approved professor after that.”

Albus smiled and nodded. “Welcome to the staff, Madam Vane.”

Nadya sniffed. “I will sit with my great-granddaughter for this evening, and will work from tomorrow.”

She turned, and slowly returned to them, where Harry helped her on to the bench. “So, come out of your work place, then?”

Harry nodded. “My friends pointed out that a few people wanted to apologise, and that it was causing more problems for me to be busy.”

“But you no longer care?”

“It’s in the past, if I keep worrying about it, all that will happen is that I feel bad.”

“Good,” Nadya said, looking around. “And now you don’t know how to deal with it, without sounding the braggart?”

Harry blushed and nodded.

“Excellent,” Nadya approved. “Shows your heart is in the right place, and that you’re not here just to accept apologies so you can feel better.” She turned, “Anyone who wants to apologise can do so later,” she stated. “Anyone who doesn’t want to, that’s fine as well. False apologies make me sick.”

Harry actually chuckled, and Hermione found herself smiling as well, at this blunt old gypsy. “So, food?” Nadya asked.

“Ahh, yes, Romilda’s been working with the House-elves,” Hermione said. “Taft?”

A tall house-elf appeared. He looked around, spotted Nadya, and then bowed. “Mistress is liking some Papricaş?”

“Yes, please.”

The House-elf rubbed his hands together. “Taft has been practising with Romilda,” the House-elf said, and popped out. A few seconds later, six empty bowls of food, with a two much larger bowl, one of pasta and the other of a meat dish appeared in the middle of the table.

Hermione didn’t start, and met Harry’s eyes. He nodded and followed her cue, and waited for the old gypsy to try it first. She did, and then she smiled at Romilda. “You’ve done well, child.”

“Thanks, Gran,” Romilda said.

Hermione took a bite, and smiled. She could taste the paprika that gave the dish its name, along with the onions, bell peppers, tomato, marjoram and garlic.

“Last time I was in England, House-elves were poor scrawny little things. They seem happier now.”

“They are,” Harry agreed. “Of course, you should ask them.”

Nadya sniggered. “Harry, we’re gonna get on just fine, my lad. So, when do I get to see your work area?”

“Well, as soon as we finish, we have a surprise. We can do the work area after that,” Harry offered.

“Harry,” Daphne said softly, “the apologies?”

“Oh, yeah, forgot,” Harry said with a bashful smile.

“Well, then, let this be a challenge to you, young lad,” Nadya said, “You can be coming up with a speech to say that they are forgiven, without sounding like a braggart.”

Harry paused, and then looked at Astoria. “Help?”

“Smart,” Nadya praised. “If you don’t know how to do it yourself, find someone who does and learn from them.”

Astoria pulled out a notebook and started to scribble.

Hermione concentrated on the wonderfully exotic food.

When they had all finished, Harry took the proffered notebook and stood. There was a hush as everyone looked at him. Harry flushed slightly, and then started to speak. “Quite a few of you have approached my friends asking to give me an apology.

“To be honest, I don’t want one. It wasn’t the wearing of the badges; it was knowing that the entire school was against me that upset me. I do accept that emotions were high, due to my unexpected and unwilling entrance in the Tournament, and it felt like I was usurping Mr Diggory’s position.

“I fully endorse Mr Diggory as the Hogwarts champion. I am an outsider now, through choice and through action, and I am happy with that. So please, do continue to show your support for Mr Diggory, the real Hogwarts champion.

“So, I thank everyone with the same degree of sincerity that you offer your apology, and hope that in future we can put this behind us, having learned the lessons it has taught all of us.

“Thank you.” Harry nodded briefly, and sat down. “Thanks, Tori,” he added softly.

Hermione joined in the applause that spontaneously started around the hall.

Harry blushed and looked at Nadya. “So,” he said with a little grin, “how would you like to join us on an expedition down to the Chamber of Secrets where we are going to harvest a thousand year old basilisk carcass?”

“Hello.”

Hermione blinked. Standing next to them was Professor Dumbledore. The same professor whom she could have sworn was at his seat less than a second before.

“Professor?” Harry asked, sounding as surprised as she was.

“Hello,” he said again cheerfully. “Apropos nothing, I was just wondering how I would spend my evening, now that Hogwarts has a replacement Potions professor.”

“Professor,” Harry said slowly, “Would you like to join the expedition as well?”

“Why, thank you for offering. I’d be delighted,” Professor Dumbledore beamed, as he conjured a chair, and sat down. Romilda shrugged, and offered him a bowl, that she had magically cleaned. “No, thank you, my dear,” he replied, “I should not have eaten already, because that does look quite remarkable.”

“I am ignoring old men with ridiculously good hearing,” Nadya murmured, “I’d be delighted to, Harry.”

“Yes, it’s something most old people pick up,” Dumbledore agreed serenely. “I’ve been meaning to ask Harry to take me down there for a while, but I kept being busy, and didn’t want to bring back bad memories.” He sighed. “I also have a disturbing habit of coming to an erroneous conclusion, and not bothering to check my facts.”

“A man whose mind is closed misses out on the wonders of the world,” Astoria said, a little shyly.

“You are quite right, my dear,” Dumbledore admitted. “When you get to my age, it takes something quite dramatic to make you realise you’ve closed your mind.”

“The important thing,” Harry said, “is that it’s happened, and you’ve made some positive changes.”

“Thank you,” Dumbledore replied, looking happy.

“Right,” Harry said decisively. “Ready to go adventuring?”

Daphne hopped to her feet. “Harry needs a hat,” she announced. She concentrated hard, her tongue poked out slightly from the side of her mouth, as she waved her wand precisely. A wide brimmed felt hat appeared, in a sable colour.

Harry shrugged and put it on at a jaunty angle.

“Excellent conjuration, Miss Greengrass,” Dumbledore said. “Take ten points to…” he trailed off, and then shrugged, “to your group.”

Harry grinned. “Come on, I’ve not been down to the chamber since it happened, and we need to explore.”

Nadya and Professor Dumbledore led them out, with Hermione bringing up the rear with Daphne.

“That is a nice hat, one I wouldn’t expect a Pure Blood to have seen. And it’s definitely a crime that Harry didn’t recognise it.”

Daphne giggled. “I’ll tell if you can keep a secret?”

Hermione nodded.

“Dad and I have been sneaking out to the cinema since I was six! I’ve always been Daddy’s girl, while Tori is definitely Mum’s girl.”

“I was Daddy’s little girl many years ago,” Hermione agreed with a slight sigh. She looked around, “Dad would do the same for me, and I’d have to promise not to tell Mum about the popcorn.”

Daphne’s eyes were bright and happy. “Oh, I’m so pleased to have a real girl friend,” she said, and Hermione found herself being hugged.

They arrived in Moaning Myrtle’s bathroom, where Harry was whispering at a sink. A second later, it seemed to sink into the floor, revealing a tunnel.

“You slid down that?” Romilda asked.

Harry nodded. “It’s quite long.”

“Does it have stairs?” Hermione asked.

Harry turned to look at her.

“They’d be more practical,” she pointed out.

“Hermione,” Nadya said softly, “life is not always about practicality. What seems more fun, climbing down endless stairs, or sliding down a giant pipe in the darkness, at speed?”

Hermione pouted. “The slide,” she sighed. “I’ll bet it’s messy.”

“We are witches,” Nadya pointed out.

“And wizards. Right,” Harry said. “I’ll go first, as I’ve done it, and I can set up somewhere soft for you to land. Hasta Mañana.” And with that, he turned and dived into the tunnel.

“As Headmaster, I’m pulling rank,” Dumbledore announced around thirty seconds later as they heard a muffled whump. “Cowabunga!” He dived in after Harry, and they heard his cries of delight.

“Me next,” Nadya declared. “Yippie-ki-yay, motherfucker,” she called, as she did a feet-first dive into the pipe.

Astoria and Romilda burst into laughter, as Hermione found herself giggling with Daphne.

“One small step for a woman, one giant slide for womankind,” Astoria misquoted, as she headed after them.

Romilda shrugged. “Geronimo!” she yelled, diving headfirst into the hole.

Daphne looked at Hermione, and ran one hand slowly through her hair, “Smoke me a kipper, luv, I’ll be back for breakfast.” The light in the bathroom suddenly seemed to bounce off of her teeth, before she too dived in.

Hermione looked around. There was no one else with them, and therefore absolutely no need for her to say anything. “Sod it,” she muttered. She pulled out her wand, and conjured a pair of sunglasses. “Well,” she drawled, “It’s a hundred and six metres to the bottom, we’ve got a full group of crazy students, half a pack of crazy octogenarians, it’s dark, and I’m wearing sunglasses.” She paused. “Hit it!” She dived into the tube, and screamed in pleasure as she swooped down.

It was better than any waterslide she’d even been on, and it seemed like it lasted a good three minutes. She was disappointed when she exploded out of the end, and landed on Harry’s cushioning spell. She jumped to her feet. “You should charge people a fee to ride that, make it a charity event for Hogwarts.”

“An excellent idea, Miss Granger,” Albus said cheerfully. “If we can find a safe way up, we’ll do exactly that.”

Hermione blinked, as she looked at a giant snake skin. “Is that…?”

“An old skin,” Harry agreed cheerfully. “Is it worth anything?”

Nadya poked it a few times. “A fortune,” she said dryly.

“Professor Dumbledore,” Harry called. “Have you ever considered a Lily Potter library wing, full of Muggle science, art and entertainment?”

“As of about twenty seconds ago, yes,” Dumbledore replied.

Harry pointed to the snake skin.

The headmaster smiled and nodded.

Hermione squealed happily, and hugged Harry hard. “So many new books,” she said, breathing fast. “Movies! Science demonstrations!”

“Come on, Hermione,” Daphne said, taking her hand. “We’ve got more to see yet.”

Hermione nodded, and they headed down a dark tunnel. Harry and Professor Dumbledore worked together to clear a path from fallen masonry. It struck her suddenly how confident Harry was with only a few days of not trying to be normal gone.

They finally walked up to a door that had two snakes intertwined as the décor. Both snakes had emerald eyes.

Nadya jumped to the fore and examined them closely, before she pouted. “They are fake,” she sniffed. “Glass, powder and a few charms.”

Harry opened the doors, and then entered. Hermione followed, and looked around eagerly, before her eyes landed on the basilisk.

Hermione actually felt her mind stop. She looked at the beast that had petrified her, then at Harry, remembering how small he had been two years ago, and then looked at the beast again. Even now, much larger, he was still dwarfed by the snake’s head. “That self-centred, obnoxious, little bitch,” she snarled.

“Hermione!?”

Hermione felt herself blush. “Sorry, Professor Dumbledore, Professor Vane,” she apologised deeply.

“Quite alright,” the headmaster chuckled. “Perhaps you should explain?”

“I was just thinking that Harry took that thing on two years ago to save Ginevra Weasley’s life. How dare she spit on Harry like she did over this tournament?”

Romilda rubbed her hands together gleefully. “I could give her such a cursing for that – another betrayal.”

“Just like your mother,” Nadya said fondly. “Any chance for a good curse.”

Romilda nodded proudly. “I’m proud to keep my family heritage alive!”

Harry waved his hand airily. “Not today. Even though Tori wrote the words, I agree with them totally. Look, things happened, it was bad, but people have apologised, and now I’m here with four good friends, everyone’s favourite nutty professor, and a new friend in Nadya. So what if Ginny joined in with everyone else? It doesn’t matter, and I’d rather be here now, like this, than anywhere else.”

Hermione noticed that professor Dumbledore stood a little straighter, and his face showed that he’d just made an important decision.

Harry crouched down. “It was here,” he said, his voice a little distant, “that I knew I was going to die. I’d just had one of its fangs go through my arm, I’d defeated the diary that was possessing Ginny, stabbing it with the fang, and I could feel the poison burning inside me, it hurt so much that I wanted to die, before Fawkes cried on my wound.”

“A diary that possessed a student?” Nadya asked, “That’s some very serious magic to make a book that powerful.”

“Yes,” Albus agreed.

“And it took basilisk venom to defeat it?”

Harry nodded.

“Albus,” Nadya said slowly.

He held up his hands, “Only an inkling, I was going to discuss it later, honest.”

“Now,” Nadya grunted. “Kneel down,” she ordered Harry, who shrugged, and did as he was told, ignoring the mess on the floor.

She moved over and placed her hands on his scar, and her eyes went blank.

Nadya stated to giggle a few seconds later. “Horcrux,” she stated.

“A what?” Dumbledore gasped in horror. “No!”

“What’s a horcrux?” Romilda asked, looking between her giggling Nan and the horrified Dumbledore. Hermione felt unable to decide what to feel either.

“It’s a soul container,” Dumbledore said softly, “created with the very evilest of acts. It is what allowed Voldemort to survive. He split his soul in to pieces, so that he could evade death.”

“Wait,” Romilda said, “Harry’s got a piece of the Dark Lord’s soul trapped in his scar? And Dark Lord is still alive?”

“I am afraid so,” Dumbledore intoned solemnly.

Romilda started to giggle as well, closely followed by Astoria. Harry looked confused at the two giggling girls, then at the giggling woman.

“So,” he said slowly, “Professor Dumbledore is horrified, but two gypsies think it’s funny, and Tori, who knows the gypsies really well, think it’s funny as well. Now, I know they are not laughing at me, or my misfortune, because we’re friends, so that means Voldemort did something stupid that Professor Dumbledore just doesn’t understand. And I’ve just remembered what we are going to do to Pettigrew, with just some of his rat-hair, I’m betting that Romilda is already thinking of the cursing we can give Voldemort when we have access to a piece of his very soul?”

Romilda and Astoria looked at each other, cheered, and then pounced on Harry, giving him a huge hug.

“Well done, young man,” Nadya said with a clap of her hands. “With a piece of his soul, there’s not much we can’t do to him.”

“Oh,” Professor Dumbledore said slowly. “I didn’t think of that!”

“So we can kill him, properly, right?” Daphne asked hopefully.

“Wait,” Harry said. He pulled out of the hug from the two young girls and started to pace. “I think I’ve been infected with Gypsy,” he muttered, before looking at Nadya. “We could kill Voldemort right now?”

She nodded.

Harry frowned and continued to pace. “No,” he eventually stated.

“What?” Hermione yelped, closely followed by Dumbledore and Daphne.

“Killing him doesn’t fix things, it just pushes the problem away. We need to do more. It needs to be public; we need to humiliate him, make all his followers look like idiots, destroy reputations, get the filth out of our society so that we can all live how we want to live!”

Hermione blinked. “We curse Voldemort to run down the streets naked, and force all his followers to do the same?” she asked slowly.

“Naked, apart from a bright pink tutu and matching tube socks. We get Malfoy to do a song and dance act proclaiming his love for Voldemort’s trouser snake. We get other Death Eaters to think they are invisible, and show their true feelings.”

“Show tunes!” Hermione exclaimed. “There's nothing more humiliating than being caught singing show tunes,” she continued, getting into the spirit of things.

“We curse Voldemort to demand all of his followers’ money, and then donate it to charity,” Harry went on. “We get him to boast about all the Ministry people he’s corrupted. We break them, in every way, shape and form, and then, only then do we kill him.”

Daphne slid forward and hugged Harry, before dancing him around the room in a strange dance that would have had any competent dance instructor horrified. Astoria and Romilda looked at each other, and then joined in, moving next to the two, and taking their hands so that there were four of them appearing to randomly fling body parts around.

Hermione wondered if this travesty of motion was deliberate or if they were all having some form of seizure.

Nadya moved over, and put one of her arms around Harry, the other around Romilda, and guided them into a circle.

“I used to be so sane,” Hermione groaned, as she joined the circle. She found that whirling in a circle, and crouching and jumping was a lot of fun, and she was truly unsurprised when Dumbledore joined in.

After a minute or two, they all dropped to the floor, dizzy as hell.

“So you approve, then?” Harry asked breathlessly.

“Yes,” Nadya replied primly.

Harry stretched his legs in front of him, and used his arms as support behind him. “That is one big snake.”

Hermione giggled. “It is,” she agreed. They all spent a few minutes looking at it, marvelling at the sheer size of it. The scales alone were enormous.

“Does anyone know how to deal with it?” Daphne asked.

Romilda raised her hand.

“I do as well,” Nadya said. “I think we’ll split tasks now. Hermione, Daphne, and Albus, why don’t you explore? I’ll teach Harry and Astoria the charms, while Romilda starts to work.”

Hermione jumped to her feet. She looked around again, looking at the huge statue, and the gaping hole in its mouth. She paused and looked at the statue again. “Creepy.”

“Yeah, he looks like he should be rubbing his hands and cancelling Christmas,” Daphne agreed.

Albus laughed softly. “His portraits were deemed most flattering by Godric, in a letter Godric sent to Helga after she had retired.”

“You have letters from the founders?” Hermione asked.

“A few are kept in the Headmaster’s office. As they have no real value, apart from curiosity, they tend to be treated as a perk of the job.”

“Can I read them?”

“Of course, just become Headmistress.”

Hermione paused. “Deal,” she agreed cheerfully.

Daphne blinked. “You’re going to work to become Headmistress here?”

Hermione nodded.

Daphne hugged her. “That’s great! Now, how are we going to get into the mouth?”

“We’ll float,” Hermione replied.

Daphne pouted, “I’m not that good.”

“Nonsense,” Hermione replied. She looked at her friend. “I’ve been sitting with you for a few days now, and you are far better than you think. Sure, you’re not your sister, but that doesn’t matter, because you are you. And you are a very hard working individual, doing everything you can with what you have. You work incredibly hard, and it is that effort that is going to allow you to be successful when some more talented but lazy people, like a non-to-be-named ex-friend, will end up achieving nothing but existence.

“Now, you know the spell?”

Wingardium Leviosa ,” Daphne said solemnly.

“And you know the wand movements?”

Daphne nodded and mimed them.

“Then put them together, Daph,” Hermione encouraged. “And while I doubt you’ll need it, I will be here to catch you.”

Daphne had a determined look on her face as she concentrated hard, and waved her wand, before saying the words. Slowly, but surely, she started to rise, up the statue, until she alighted daintily at the top.

“Woohoo, way to go Daph!” Harry yelled, “Knew you could do it!” Astoria, Romilda and Nadya were applauding and cheering.

Daphne beamed, before looking down at Hermione, and mouthing “Thank you.”

“I believe,” Dumbledore said slowly, “That you may have just taken your first step to being a Headmistress. Of course, dealing with dedicated students like Miss Greengrass is easy, it is the difficult ones, the ones that do not want to learn that are often the most challenging.”

Hermione nodded slowly. “I have some time to grow up.”

“It will be a long and arduous road, Miss Granger.”

“But fulfilling?”

The headmaster looked over at Harry, Astoria and Romilda, who were casting spells at the dead basilisk. “Immensely.”

Hermione smiled.

“Come on, slow pokes!”

“After you,” Albus offered cheerfully.

---

Harry collapsed, looking at the remains of the Basilisk. They had five piles, one of meat, carefully preserved, one of bones, two of scales (one fresh and one from the abandoned skin), and one pile of venom in stoppered bottles. He was utterly exhausted. “Dobby?” he called as he sat with Romi, Tori and Nadya.

The House-elf appeared with his usual enthusiasm, and looked around. “Wow,” he said, his eyes huge as he stared at the parts.

Harry chuckled. “Can you get some help, and move the bones and fresh scales to the forge? And then get some House-elves to give us a lift back up? We’ll sort out the venom, old scales and the flesh when we know what to do with it.”

Dobby nodded eagerly. He paused. “Harry?”

“Yes, Dobby?”

“Some students are refusings to do their own washings, even when theys smells.”

Harry nodded. “Use the Black Lake,” he suggested.

Dobby tilted his head to the side. “Dobby is not understanding?”

“If they are refusing to clean their clothes, dump them, and their clothes in the Black Lake. One way or another, they need to bathe.”

“Dobby is being allowed to do dump students in the lake?”

“I don’t want to deal with them smelling.”

Dobby smiled. “Harry Potter is greatest,” he announced, before popping away.

“Harry,” Dumbledore said slowly, as he joined them with Daphne and Hermione. “Just for my own curiosity, are you responsible for the current happiness of the House-elves?” he asked as he eased himself down. “Oh, just so you know, there wasn’t much to find. Just some old bones of food that the basilisk ate back there. It looks like Salazar had plans, but never had the time to implement them.”

“Pity,” Harry said. “It would have been nice to find something undiscovered for an eon. As for the House-elves, speaking strictly off the record, yes, I am.”

“Can I ask how?”

Harry shrugged. “I just let them take the magic they want from me.”

Dumbledore looked shocked. “Oh,” he said softly.

“You know,” Harry said slowly, “I read this phrase once, in a magazine in a waiting room while Dudley was getting his weight checked.” He paused. “And there was a lot of weight to check. Anyway, it described how people who lived in Ivory Towers often got caught in self-referential spirals.”

“I’m the smartest person I know therefore my advice is always the best,” Dumbledore said with a sigh. “I believe you may be right.”

“Then, you old fool, you can spend this summer traipsing around Europe with us in wagons,” Nadya offered.

“I will have free time for the first time in years,” Albus agreed slowly. “Now that I’m out of the I.C.W. and will be resigning from my ceremonial position as Chief Warlock. And it would get me out of here. Thank you. It sounds scary and wonderful at the same time. I can’t ask for much more than that out of a summer.”

“Oh, speaking of summer,” Harry continued. “I’m going to donate as much blood as is needed to get me out of the Dursleys.”

Albus passed a hand in front of his face. “It was that bad?” he asked softly.

Harry nodded firmly.

“Should I be informing the authorities?”

Harry frowned. Daphne moved next to him, kneeling, so that she could hug him. “Tell them,” she whispered.

“Probably, but is it bad of me that I think the worst punishment is letting them be? They can never be happy, never be content, they will just continue to be horrible people pretending to be something they are not.”

“No, no, no, no, no, Harry,” Romilda said. “You are talking to people who believe in revenge, not just punishment.”

“And letting them go is not just,” Daphne added. “They deserve far worse.”

“In that case,” Romilda said eagerly, “I think you need to practice. You do three simple curses, one to each of them, perhaps that emphasises a particularly bad part of their personalities?”

“My aunt likes to gossip,” Harry said slowly.

“Then the old standard Cassandra curse, Muggle style. She’ll speak the truth for the rest of her life, but no one will believe her.”

Harry smiled. “My uncle is an overweight bully. He broke my arm once, and didn’t allow me to get it looked at for a few days.”

Magic exploded out of Dumbledore, and he looked furious. He regained control. “Cully, is there a chance I can have the bottle I keep in my desk?”

The House-elf appeared with it a second later, along with two glasses. Dumbledore poured a measure into each glass, and handed one to Nadya. They clinked glasses before he downed it, and flames came out of his ears.

“Harry,” he said softly, “I swear that I will do everything I can to make up for my mistakes. In my hubris I thought that all I needed to do was protect from outside interference. It was a dangerous and naïve mistake from an old man who did not realise he was too busy and believed his press.”

Harry nodded. “I didn’t say that as a dig at you,” he said to the professor. “I can understand that you thought that family would do the right thing.”

“They should have,” Hermione said strongly. “Or taken you to an orphanage, or called in social services and said that they couldn’t cope. They should not have taken their frustrations in life out on you!”

Harry felt Romilda looking at him for a moment. “So, the curse?” she asked.

He smiled at her, grateful for the distraction.

“Hmm,” Astoria said. “How about a sped up metabolism?”

“Huh?” Daphne asked.

“He eats, he poops. And he barely gets the nutrients he needs, so he loses weight as well.”

Harry grinned. “How fast?”

“Instant?”

Harry chuckled. “You mean that Vernon would have to eat every meal sitting on the toilet?”

“Unless he wants to wear a nappy,” Romilda suggested.

“I like that,” he agreed. “Dudley is a chip off the old block.” Harry looked at Dumbledore, “Not getting at you again, but Dudley’s favourite game was Harry Hunting with his gang. It was running from him that I teleported the first time.”

“Apparated,” Hermione corrected absently. “A lot of kids do it if they are in serious danger.”

“Indeed, it keeps our population going,” Nadya said.

“And yet I am upset that you needed to do so,” Albus said. “I think that I will launch an investigation anyway, not at your family, but at the people around you. Your teachers and medical professionals should have noticed and done something.”

“The Dursleys told them I was a troublemaker.”

“An educator does not listen to such nonsense,” Albus said firmly. “How many other children might be suffering?”

“I hadn’t thought of that,” Harry admitted. “My problem with cursing Dudley is that he behaved as he was raised, so it’s not exactly his fault.”

“You are too nice,” Astoria said with a smile.

“So we do something simple,” Romilda said. “Every time he acts like a bully, he feels like he’s been kicked in the balls.”

“Can you do that?” Harry asked.

“Gran?”

Nadya nodded. “It is a just little curse,” she agreed.

“There we go then, we’ll curse them all later.”

“Harry,” the headmaster said, “Would you like me to use my contacts to try and find some buyers for this?”

“Yes, please,” Harry said, “and I want Nadya, Astoria, Romilda, Hermione, you, and Daphne to get five percent of the proceeds each. The rest of the money I want donated to the school, to the Lily Potter Library Wing, and if there is any left, then I’d like a James Potter Quidditch Foundation, to ensure that the school always has good brooms.”

There was an explosion of noise, as everyone tried to protest at once. Harry smiled lightly. “This wasn’t up for discussion,” he said, sliding away from Daphne. “Dobby, take me to the smithy, please.”

He was immediately whisked away. “It’s been a strange day, Dobby,” Harry announced, as he stripped off his shirt and moved to the forge.

Dobby sat on a table and watched, his legs swinging back and forth.

“But I think I did the right thing.”

“Harry is making good friends into better wizard and witches, and is making school better,” Dobby said. “Not many wizards could do thats.”

Harry picked up a couple of thick bars. “There enough money in my account to last me through school,” he said, “When I leave school, I want to work for my own upkeep. I want to be needed. I don’t want to just be rich – and the Basilisk money would take that away.”

“Lots of wizards think that lots isn’t enough.”

“I think it is,” Harry said.

“And that’s why Harry Potter sir is a great and powerful wizard,” Dobby said softly. “Harry Potter wants to be himselves first and foremost.”

“And it’s partly thanks to you, Dobby.” Dobby practically fell of the table. “If you hadn’t pointed out what I was doing, we wouldn’t be here.”

“Harry is giving Dobby too much credit. Dobby helped a little with magic relaxing, but what makes Harry Potter the Harry Potter was always there.”

Harry smiled at his small friend. “Do me a favour? I just want to work this evening. Keep the others out?”

Dobby nodded, and continued to watch, moving to the anvil from time to time to hold the tongs when Harry needed both hands to move hammer and tool.

Harry found his silent company quite pleasant.

The smithy rang with the sound of hammer on anvil until well after midnight.

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Author Notes:

Those with a game-playing background might notice the odd homage to Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim.  As much as I like a bit of realism, sometimes you need to be able to level up a characters skills without showing endless repetitive work.

Initally, it was much more video gamey, but that was before I discovered Kokopelli's skills - so I was happy to go back and edit it.

The Vane clan are somewhat based on a weird merge of the Kalderash clan from BtVS and the Gypsy clan from Ian Fleming's From Russia With Love.

 

 

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