This chapter contains the scene that was the impetus for the whole fic.
Huge thanks to Kokopelli and Luan Mao for their help, correcting, patience and inspiration.
“I shouldn’t get any money,” Daphne objected, managing to be the loudest, and getting the others to shut up. “I didn’t do anything, except explore an empty cave!”
“I didn’t do that much,” Astoria agreed. “Just a few charms, that’s not worth thousands of galleons!”
“That boy,” Hermione groaned. “Headmaster, I’d like to make a donation to the Lily Potter Wing of the library.”
“Ooh, I’d like to donate to the James Potter Quidditch Foundation,” Romilda said.
“Library,” Astoria added with a grin.
Daphne frowned. “I don’t like libraries that much, or Quidditch. Could I donate toward a James and Lily Potter Art Room?”
“I’ll donate my part to Daphne’s idea,” Nadya added.
Albus chuckled. “Did you know that James Potter once charmed my favourite socks to run away from me?”
Everyone looked at him.
“So I think I’ll get some belated revenge on James, and donate some of my share to the James Potter Award for the Best Prefect, and the rest to the new art room.”
There were some giggles, as the Headmaster beamed.
“Revenge, a dish best served cold,” Nadya said approvingly.
“Professor Dumbledore?” Hermione called, sounding like she’d just remembered something. “How are points awarded and deducted?”
“You are asking why Severus’s points were not removed?”
“I would love to say that it was a complicated school-wide charm, but that would be a lie. The House-elves take care of it.”
Hermione’s jaw dropped, before she started to giggle. “It’s probably a good thing that Harry isn’t part of a house anymore.”
“Yeah,” Astoria agreed. “I can see House-elves accidentally mishearing, and giving Harry points left, right and centre.”
“I’d never even talked to a House-elf before, we never had them. Mum and Dad didn’t like the idea of forcing people to work for us,” Daphne said. She frowned. “Some people were really quite rude about it as well.”
“The good thing is, Daph, that all those families are now screwed. They don’t know how to cook. The Parkinsons tried hiring some wizards and witches to do it, only, they treated the employees like House-elves, and they all quit. So they’re living on bread and butter, because they don’t even know where their kitchen is, never mind knowing the spells to work their oven,” Astoria said cheerfully.
“Poor Parkinsons,” Hermione said with a giggle. She stretched. “Right, I’m about as knackered as I can ever remember. Can we please have some transportation?”
The eager House-elves appeared.
“Can you take Nadya and me to my office please?” Albus asked.
“And the rest of us to our rooms?” Hermione added.
The two weeks until the task flew by, as Harry spent every day working at the forge. Every evening he joined his friends for dinner, afterwards he’d spend some time making sure he was learning what the others were in class.
Even Hermione had admitted that standard education didn’t suit him, and this custom education did.
What he had been most amazed with was the patience of Astoria and Romilda. He knew that two years ago, he wouldn’t have had the patience to watch someone work on a forge as they had. But he appreciated their company immensely.
The two girls were good friends, they worked with him, supported him, chatted to him, and all they wanted in return was his friendship.
He never felt like he was treading on egg shells, despite the fact that Astoria’s family was rich, and that Romilda’s was comparatively poor
In a strange way, he was closer to Daphne even than to Hermione. Hermione was his best friend, but Daphne had so desperately wanted a big brother, someone to talk to, to protect her, to be her best friend, and everything else except a lover, and Harry honestly couldn’t find a single reason not to be that person for her.
It was weird, slightly, as Daphne would often come and talk to him late at night, sitting on his bed, wearing only the uniform that all girls seemed to sleep in, and not once was he tempted to try and kiss her.
He supposed it meant that Daphne really wasn’t his type, and that it was possible to have a female platonic friend like that.
He’d had to spend a few seconds looking at the French Champion’s bum, just to reassure himself that he was still straight.
And he was.
He’d missed part of the opening ceremony, a weighing of the wands. He’d been in the middle of a new sword at the time, and his work would have been completely wasted if he’d paused. With hot steel, some things just couldn’t be interrupted. So he’d simply sent Dobby with his wand.
The next day, a giggling Hermione had shown him the front page of the Daily Prophet, where it had a large blank section. It turned out that some House-elves hadn’t liked the lies a reporter had written, so the House-elves had taken steps to ensure they weren’t printed.
Harry had made sure to thank Dobby, asking him to relay the thanks as appropriate.
And so, today was the day. He was going to put his faith in his friends, and in himself. They had found the spells to give him the experience he needed, they had found runes to help him strengthen his armour, and they had made him potions to increase his strength and stamina, and increase his smithing ability.
They’d found out how to enchant dummies, so that he could learn how to wield his sword. He’d spent hours every night learning how to swing the sword, and found it great fun – if tiring.
And Daphne had redesigned his basilisk bone armour, now that she had seen the real bones.
He looked up at the dummy that was wearing his new armour, and felt a huge surge of pride. He had made that, and it looked amazing.
Dobby popped in. “Is time, Harry.”
Harry took a deep breath.
“Dobby has all his wages with bookmakers on Harry Potter,” the House-elf said. “Dobby knows Harry Potter is great and powerful.”
“I won’t let you down, Dobby.”
Dobby smiled. “Dobby knows. Now, Harry Potter needs to go and kick booty!”
Harry laughed as Dobby hopped over, and he was popped out and in front of a large tent. He entered.
“Ahh, Mr Potter,” Ludo Bagman said eagerly. “Welcome, welcome. Bang on time.”
“Your first task will be to recover a golden egg from a dragon! You will need it, as it is a clue to the next task.”
“You all knew?” Harry asked, noticing the lack of surprise on Diggory, Krum and Delacour’s faces. “Well, I’m relieved.”
“Relieved?” Diggory asked.
Harry grinned, “Yeah, we thought it was going to be a nundu, so we’ve been preparing for that.”
“That isn’t reassuring,” Diggory mumbled.
“Anyway,” Bagman said, “we’ll go in order of the dragons picked from this bag.” Harry was last, and pulled out Hungarian Horntail.
“Anyone know how big these things are?” Harry asked absently.
“About 30 feet long,” Krum grunted. “Snout to tail. Stand about 12 feet high.”
Harry made some mental calculations. “Awesome,” he cheered. “We do get to keep it, after we’ve killed it, right?”
“Kill it?” Ludo chuckled. “Oh, you won’t be able to do that, it takes many wizards to even stun one!”
“Of course,” Harry agreed politely. “But, just imagining that I could kill the dragon, would I be able to keep it?”
“Yes, yes, of course. Anyway, Mr Diggory, you’re up.”
Harry walked over to a chair and sat down in it. He pulled a small book out of his pocket and read through some past forging notes, to help pass the time.
Every twenty to thirty minutes, there was a roar from a crowd, some angry bellowing, followed by some more cheers, then another contestant was called.
Harry found that he was only slightly nervous. Compared to a nundu, a dragon really was preferable.
Eventually he was called, and he walked out of the tent and into an arena. The four judges were sat at a long table in front of a large stand. The stand stood facing over the arena itself, a rocky patch of grass, with the large dragon at the far end.
Even from here, he could see that that the dragon was not pleased to be there, and was giving him an evil stare. A stare that was suddenly switched to the handlers and then the judges.
Harry saluted the beast casually, before turning and looking to see if he could see his friends. A banner caught his eye, and he grinned. ‘ Go Team Darkest Knight ,’ it endorsed. Daphne and Romilda were each holding up one end, with Hermione and Astoria sitting between them.
He went back to staring at the dragon, as Bagman blathered on and on. Finally, the word he was waiting for. “Begin,” Ludo Bagman’s voice echoed around the stadium, and the cheers started.
Time for the first charm. He stood, with his legs shoulder-width apart, and his arms out wide. “Armour on!” he yelled.
Out of the grass, black liquid metal swelled and puddled over his feet, and then climbed up over his shins, to his thighs and hips. As it stopped, it formed the light brown greaves and boots of his armour. At the same time, more metal poured up to his hands and formed the gloves, then the basilisk leather under-armour, before forming into a cuirass. His helmet formed, with his visor open, the same time as his chest plate. The last bits of liquid formed a shield on his left arm, and a sheathed broadsword on his left hip.
There was a stunned silence, apart from Romilda declaiming, “That was the coolest thing I have ever seen!”
He smiled, and pulled out his sword, his finest work so far, basilisk bone, iron, and the heart of a wildcat. It even had small grooves where he could release some basilisk venom.
“Oh, my,” Ludo Bagman’s enhanced voice whispered.
Harry walked to the dragon, who snarled at him, moving this way and that against the chain that held it in place. With a roar, the dragon reared back against the chain, twisted, and reared back again. It took to the sky, fighting the chain, before, with a huge wrench, the chain snapped.
Harry actually smiled, and knocked down his visor. His one reservation, of not wanting to fight a chained beast, was now gone. It was just him and the dragon. And he was ready.
The dragon circled him, before launching a stream of fire straight at him. Harry crouched, holding his shield in front of him to divert the fire.
His shield heated up a little, and he was glad he was wearing magical padding, as the last thing he wanted was to be steam roasted inside his own armour. The runes quickly dissipated the heat. As the dragon screamed in protest, he could hear the screams from the crowd.
Spotting the dragon still circling, he turned, “The tournament rules mean that this is my fight, so let me compete,” he yelled at the dragon handlers, who had started to rush into the arena.
He saw Dumbledore wince, before he talked to the dragon handlers, who then worked together to throw up a shield to protect the crowd.
The dragon flew by, attacking again. The fire seemed hotter this time, and Harry had to bite down a yelp; he resolved to work on his shield design. He needed better shielding to reflect the heat and not pass it through to his arm.
While he was wishing, he also wished he had a bow and arrow to shoot the damn thing down.
With an earth shaking thud, the dragon landed about twenty feet away from him. He moved forward as fast as he could, before dodging to the side and getting his first strike in at the dragon.
The sword crashed against the dragon’s neck. It roared in pain, and swiped at him. He ducked, and thrust hard into the dragon’s unprotected belly. The sharp blade, with its basilisk poison struck deeply, leaving a trail of blood as Harry pulled it out with a corkscrew motion.
The Horntail screamed and launched itself into the air, flying around and launching another burst of fire.
Harry rolled to the right, avoiding the flame this time, and dropped his shield, before taking a ready stance, his sword in both hands, waist high, the blade pointing past his shoulder.
The dragon landed once more. Harry ran as fast as he could toward it, before ducking a blast of heat that he felt singed his hair through his helmet.
The dragon struck at him, and he jumped to the side to dodge, before passing its head, and with the hardest stroke he’d swung, he cleaved deeply into the wing. The dragon roared, and tried to take his head off with its tail.
Harry stepped back, allowing it to bypass him, before raising his sword above his head and bringing it down in a chop, right at the tail.
The dragon howled again, and turned, they stood, about two metres apart, glaring at each other. The dragon wanted him dead, and the feeling was completely mutual.
“Bring it,” he roared, before darting forward and launching a two handed strike straight into the dragon’s gaping maw. The dragon retaliated by trying to fry him. Harry ignored the burning pain as his armour overheated, as he struck again and again, exchanging finesse for wide brutal strokes.
The pain was incredible, but he gritted his teeth, jumped to the side, and twirled the blade to gain momentum, before landing it directly behind the dragon’s neck, with the grain of its scales. The blade bit in deeply, and Harry pulled back, and struck again, jumping as he did, so that all his strength, all his weight, and all his momentum, was behind the single stroke.
There was a soft thump, as the dragon’s head hit the ground, followed by a larger thump as the body did the same thing.
Harry panted hard, as he wiped his sword down with a rag he fetched from inside his armour and sheathed it in the scabbard on his hip. Ignoring the pain, he walked over to the nest and picked up the golden egg. He looked at the others, and was relieved that they were not genuine dragon eggs. It was somewhat reassuring to know that the people running the tournament were not complete idiots.
He turned to find that every single person in the crowd was staring at him in silence. He looked at his friends, just as Romilda let loose an ululating cheer as she jumped to her feet. Almost in the same movement, Astoria, Hermione and Daphne started to cheer as well.
The cheer was quickly taken up by others.
Harry grinned and knocked back his visor, before walking toward the judges. The dragon handlers let down the shield, and either gaped or shot death glares at him.
“Just so we’re clear, I claim the dragon carcass,” he stated loudly, to the judges and handlers. “Dobby, can you and some House-elves take it down to the Chamber?”
An excited Dobby appeared, with about fifty other House-elves, and they all popped out with the dragon, as well as the blood-drenched soil surrounding the carcass. Dobby popped back, and Harry handed him the golden egg, before he moved over to the judges. He unsheathed his sword, before standing at ease, with his hands over this sword’s pommel, and the tip resting on the ground.
Ludo Bagman reached up and lightly slapped himself in the face. “The scores,” he croaked. The crowd hushed.
Dumbledore nodded proudly at Harry, before his wand twitched, and a ten appeared in silver ribbon. There was a roar from the crowd. The French headmistress was next. She shook her head in disbelief, before raising her wand, and another ten appeared. Another roar.
Karkaroff was next, and he snarled, before shooting up a four. Boos and catcalls immediately started.
“Objection, biased judging,” Harry snapped immediately. “I call on the Goblet to judge.”
Karkaroff jumped out of his seat. “What is happening?” he yelled. “It hurts!”
“You swore to judge fairly,” Harry pointed out. “You are part of this tournament as well. The Goblet of Fire is judging your judging.”
Karkaroff sent up another ribbon, this one a nine, and he was able to sink into his chair, and glare at Harry.
“Don’t glare at me,” Harry said icily. “You are the one who just admitted to trying to cheat for your champion.”
Ludo Bagman was last, and he sent up another ten. Harry nodded and turned, heading to the side. The cheering was immense as he walked to the tent. He nodded politely to McGonagall and headed straight in. He was relieved to see Madam Pomfrey there, with what looked like most of the infirmary.
“Finally,” she praised, “a student who took it seriously. How bad is it, Harry?”
“Some burns, I think,” Harry said. He took a deep breath. “Armour off.”
He felt some slight tearing as the armour retracted taking some of his skin with it before transforming the padded underwear into shorts and trousers. “Ouch,” he muttered, as he took his undershirt off.
“Well, you’re quite burnt in places, but nothing we can’t fix easily. Considering you were forced to take on a dragon, you did outstandingly well. Did you make the armour yourself?”
“Yes,” Harry said, sighing in relief as the nurse started to paste some sticky green stuff on his back and chest.
“And your appetite has gone up?”
“I’m eating like a pig, at times,” Harry admitted, feeling embarrassed.
“Excellent, because I have been worried about you for a while. You had no serious nutritional damage in the tests I did when you first arrived, but I did think you were just a bit scrawny. I figured you’d just end up short. However, all this exercise and food seems to have kick-started your puberty. Could you write me up what you’ve been doing and food you’ve been eating? I think I could write a paper on you for St Mungo’s Journal.”
“Sure,” Harry agreed.
With a wave of her wand, the green stuff vanished, and Harry felt a lot better.
“Here,” Poppy said, handing him his shirt, after repairing it. “Now, get out of here, I have real patients to treat.”
“Diggory?” Harry asked, looking at the boy. Half his face was covered in the same gunk.
“I’m fine, Potter,” Diggory replied. “Major burns to the face, but nothing else. And it’s Cedric, by the way. Nice one. Did you kill it, then?”
“Yeah,” Harry said cheerfully. “Now I can make even better armour with dragon scale and bones.”
Cedric, who had half his face covered in goo, chuckled. “Well done, anyway.”
“Thanks. Catch you later.”
Harry stood and walked out, ignoring the other two champions. As soon as he set foot outside, he was mobbed into a hug with excited and cheering Astoria and Romilda. He hugged them back, before Hermione and Daphne took their places. Both girls were almost incoherently scolding him.
“That was awesome,” Romilda said, as Hermione and Daphne stepped back.
“Brilliant,” Astoria added. “Just like Romilda said, Harry Potter swung his broadsword, and the mightiest of dragons did quail before you.” She paused. “Oh, sorry, Harry, this is Mum and Dad.”
Harry looked up, to see a very good-looking older woman, whom he could see was the original that Astoria was practically a young clone of; Harry looked at the man next to her. “Gah,” he muttered, “I thought I had problems with my sexuality when Daph sat on my bed and I wasn’t interested in her. Damn, you’re pretty.”
The man laughed, showing perfect teeth. “I hear that Daphne has adopted you as a brother. Welcome to the family, Harry,” he said with a teasing grin. “I’m Derek, and this is Cressida, she’s the brains of the outfit.”
Cressida elbowed him firmly.
“She hates it when I say that,” he continued. “So, I have permission slips from the Headmaster for you Harry, and from your parents, Hermione, to take you all out to dinner, interested?”
“Yes,” Harry said instantly, as he saw the amount of people gathered beyond their group. He wanted to get away, quick. “Where are we going?”
“Our house, I’ve got some ox-cheek I’ve had braising for six hours.”
“Dobby, can we get transportation to the Greengrass place?” Harry called. Over the Greengrass’ shoulder, he could see the scrum of people heading for him. A second later they were all popped in front of a Georgian manor house.
“Wow,” Derek said, “That’s better than Apparation. And, you don’t hang around, do you?”
“Hermione,” Cressida said, looking at the girl, “When we talked to Albus about this, he asked your parents if he could give us your address. When they said yes, we popped around to ask permission to bring you here.”
“Daph, did you know that Hermione’s parents are teeth doctors? They do incredible work making sure people have good and healthy teeth!”
“Really?” Daphne asked. “That’s great.”
“It is, isn’t it,” Derek agreed. “Right, Tori, Daph, show our guests around while Cress and I finish dinner. We’ll eat in the dull room.”
“That’s ‘formal room’,” Cressida pointed out fondly.
“Dad’s name is better,” Astoria grinned.
Derek blinked, and then smiled at Astoria. “Off you trot.” Harry followed Astoria and Daphne up the stone steps and into the building.
The entrance hall had a mainly white tiled floor, with small black squares arranged in a geometric pattern. Huge wooden stairs to the second floor dominated the left of the hall, following the wall around ninety degrees, to a large double door at the top. The banister was supported by hugely ornate wrought iron.
Harry stepped forward to have a good look at it, and nodded slowly. He could do that, if he took the time, but it seemed too much like work to seriously entertain the notion.
Underneath the door, and the stairs, was another black door. Dotted around the remaining spaces were hard wooden chairs with ornate finishes, and no cushions.
They traipsed up the stairs, and through the doors. They entered a long hallway, with wooden flooring, and a slightly faded red and gold runner that followed the entire length of the hallway, and covered three quarters of the width.
Astoria led them down the corridor, opening the first door. “All the guest bedrooms are the same, just with different paintings.”
Harry stepped in, and looked around. The walls were painted in an old magnolia colour. The furniture was all old wooden mahogany. Each had a four poster bed, with white and pink bedspreads. The curtains, naturally, matched the bedspread, and the floor was wooden and stained dark brown, apart from the matching rug, that was bigger than the entire floor plan of the Dursley’s house.
The furniture was flowery, and very upright.
“It’s practically untouched and in its original state,” Astoria said.
Hermione was stroking the ornate desk. She looked at it closely, “Tori, is this genuine SwieteniaMahogani?”
Astoria smiled and nodded.
“What’s that?” Romilda asked.
“A form of mahogany that’s extinct now. And, I ask, because, at a rough guess, judging by the make, the fact it’s original, and in perfect state, I would say that the furniture in this room is worth close to four hundred thousand galleons, at the current exchange rate of five pounds to the galleon. I saw it on an episode of the Antiques Roadshow.”
Romilda and Harry both jumped away from the furniture.
“Really?” Astoria asked, looking surprised.
“Tori, you have genuine 18th century furniture, in styles that appeared in The Gentleman and Cabinet-Maker’s Directory. Even if they weren’t made by Chippendale himself, they are close enough that Muggles won’t care.”
“Oh,” Tori said. “And if we still have the receipt, signed by Thomas Chippendale for all the furniture in the house?”
Hermione sat on the floor abruptly. “I’ve heard of a desk that was just done at the time, in the style of a Chippendale, sell for a hundred and fifty thousand galleons. Genuine Chippendale furniture.” She sighed and shook her head.
“All the other guest rooms have the same furniture,” Astoria admitted. “Good to know that if we’re ever broke, we can sell this stuff. And it’s good to know that our great, great, great Granddad had really good taste in furniture.”
“The best,” Hermione agreed.
“Right, enough of the formal rooms, let’s see my room!” Daphne said eagerly, as she hauled Hermione to her feet and pulled her down the hall to the far room.
Daphne’s room was far warmer, while still maintaining the special feel of the guest rooms. The walls were painted a rich, dark green, the furniture was lighter and looked far more used, and the canopy of the bed was cream.
“I like it,” Harry said, as he wandered over and sat on Daphne’s bed. Daphne beamed and sat next to him. Her desk was covered in pencils, and other art materials neatly arranged by type.
“I’ve not been in here for years,” Astoria mumbled. “I think that was a mistake.”
“We were both busy, Tori,” Daphne said gently. “Harry can use my bathroom to shower and freshen up, you can take Hermione and Romi to yours so they can clean up before dinner?”
As soon as they left, Daphne hugged him hard, and buried her face against his chest. “I was so scared,” she whispered.
“It’s okay, we all put the work in, and it worked properly.”
“I know, but when that nasty creature broke free, I thought it was going to eat you.”
Harry patted her back softly. “I wasn’t going to be beaten by that overgrown worm.”
Daphne giggled as she pulled back. “Right, go and wash up, have a shower– you’re kindabrimstoney at the moment, I’ll get your clothes cleaned.”
“Someday,” Harry said seriously, “you are going to make the bravest man or woman in the world the luckiest person, by marrying them.”
“Bravest?” Daphne asked.
“Sure, they have to convince me they are worthy of you.”
Daphne giggled. “Go, shower.”
Harry turned and entered the bathroom. Unlike the rest of the house, it was actually very modern. There was a hanging basket next to the shower, with more bottles than he’d seen outside of a store before.
He poked his head out of the door. "Daph?"
“Could you get me something that’s not too, well, girly-smelling?”
“Oh, of course!” She dashed out of the room, and returned thirty seconds later with a bottle that was a more masculine dark brown in colour.
“Thanks,” he said with a grin, and shut the door, before climbing into the shower.
The water was lovely and hot, and it felt good to sluice away the smell of his armour and the undercurrent of singed Harry that he’d carried.
When he stepped out of the shower, his clothes were gone, and a dressing gown was next to the towels. He dried, trying not to make a mess, and put on the gown. In the bedroom was a new pair of jeans and a tight blue t-shirt. Not seeing any shoes or socks, he walked barefoot out of Daphne’s room.
“Down here,” Astoria called. She was sat on a hard-backed chair, reading from a book. He walked over to her and she led him downstairs, into a gorgeous large room. The walls were painted eggshell blue, and the large mirrors and paintings were all framed in highly ornate silver. The large table in the centre was mahogany again, with a white table cloth.
“Hideous, isn’t it,” Derek remarked mournfully. He was lounging at the head of the table, in a slightly indolent manner that was out of place in the surroundings. Everyone else, bar Cressida, was already sitting down.
“I’m British, I love this stuff,” Harry said dryly. “But I’ve only visited a place like this once, so it’s still remarkable for me.”
“I always feel like I’m drowning in my ancestral heritage. And what’s worse, is that most of them were so ugly in looks and personality that they needed to buy wives with wealth.”
“You bucked the trend then.”
“My father paid a veritable fortune for my mother,” he sighed. “She was a looker. Sadly, her intellect was somewhat lacking. Her appetites, on the other hand…”
“Dad,” Astoria scolded. “Family matters, remember?”
“Nonsense, Daphne’s adopted Harry as her big brother, that makes him part of the family. Romi’s spent as much time here as you have, and Hermione’s parents are incredibly successful at fixing teeth issues, and that’s one of the most important jobs in the world, so if she’s not family, she should be.”
“Dad hates bad teeth,” Daphne said with a giggle.
“Yes, just look at great uncle smash-mouth over there; it looks like he was hit in the face with a cricket ball.”
Harry looked at the portrait and laughed. The man did appear to only have three teeth, each of which appeared to point in a different direction.
“So how did you meet Cressida?” Harry asked, trying to steer the conversation in a different direction.
“Well, it was after I’d left Hogwarts, and I was wondering what to do with myself. I was pretty sure that there was a lot more to life than being really, really, ridiculously good looking. And I planned on finding out what that is.
“I did some modelling for a bit. I had this look – blue steel – that was all the rage. But I was never really comfortable. And then, one day, I met Cress. She was beautiful, and more, she was smarter than I’m good looking, and I’m really, really good looking.” Harry noticed that all the boasting was actually said with Derek’s tongue firmly in his cheek, which gave the story a degree of humour that Harry appreciated.
“And so, rather than dedicate my life to being professionally good looking, I dedicated my life to my dear Cressida, and helping her in any way I could.”
“And he does, a lot,” Cressida said as she entered, a series of plates floating behind her. “And all I have to do is continually hit him until he realises that he does have a decent brain, and that he just likes to play the village idiot.”
“The ridiculously handsome idiot,” Derek correct serenely.
“So, Cressida, should I be telling him that someone in his family has been working really hard, and has been pulling off feats of magic that she thought she couldn’t do?”
“Tori’s always been great,” Derek said with a fond look.
“No argument there, but I was talking about Daphne,” Harry corrected.
“Really?” Cressida asked, as Derek did an elaborate triple-take-and-pout as he looked at his elder daughter.
Daphne blushed, “Harry,” she complained. “Look, I’m sitting next to someone who is as clever as Mum and Tori, of course I’m doing better!”
“Oh, no,” Hermione corrected, “You are working hard and studying properly; you are doing the work, you get the credit.”
“Yeah, well, Tori’s been wearing make-up,” Daphne blurted.
“Daph!” Astoria complained.
“Girls,” Cressida warned.
“Sorry, Astoria,” Daphne said, looking down at her plate.
“It’s okay,” Astoria said softly. “And yes, I have used some make-up. I am a girl.”
“A very pretty one,” Derek said firmly.
“In fact, Harry, we’re very lucky to be men here, surrounded by such looks.”
“Oh, I know,” Harry agreed.
“Hermione has the most amazing cheekbones, and that hair, it adds such character. I’ll bet that when she wants to make an effort and smooths it down, she’ll be as pretty as Daph and Tori, and as for Romi, why, those dark swirly eyes and mysterious smile, and that inner heat, wowzer.”
“And of course, Cressida,” Harry agreed, “If Daph and Tori grow up to be half as pretty she is, they’ll be lucky.” He paused, “And of course, there’s Derek, who wouldn’t have needed to use armour on the dragon, he’d just have smiled at her, and the dragon would have handed over the egg neatly.”
Derek blinked, opened his mouth, and shut it again, as Cressida started to laugh. “My husband, out-flirted by a teenager. Now, act normal.”
Derek pouted, before he sat up straighter. “Sorry, everyone,” he said casually.
“Hermione, Harry,” Daphne said, “Dad does enjoy playing the ridiculously good looking air-head.”
“I do,” he agreed. “Anyway, eat.”
And they did, and it was fabulous. Harry didn’t even feel guilty that he ate three platesful.
Albus put his feet up on the desk and whistled cheerfully to himself. He was idly reading through the Quibbler , when the charm on the door told him that Minerva was entering.
He sighed and placed the newspaper down, and his feet on the floor. The door opened. “Good evening, Minerva,” he said.
“Albus,” she greeted him, before setting down. “Do you remember the first piece of advice you gave me, when I took the job as Deputy Headmistress?”
“Do consider handing Gryffindor house to someone else,” Albus said instantly.
“I refused, of course. It is only as I look back that I realise what good advice it was. Albus, I’m sorry, but I really have to resign as head of Gryffindor. I cannot do that job properly.”
Albus sighed. “What happened?”
Minerva sighed and looked at her hands. “After the first task, Harry nodded at me, as if I was just another adult that had let him down. One of my own didn’t really recognise me, and worse, had no reason to.”
“Ahh,” Albus said softly.
“I should have done any number of things, but I didn’t. I couldn’t even apologise. Did you know that the House-elves will not take anyone to his forge without his direct permission?”
“I do,” Albus agreed. “I asked to be taken myself, and was told quite firmly no.”
“You know what makes it worse? The fact that I should be so proud right now. Did you see that armour?”
“I did indeed. All of it he forged himself. He had help, of course.”
“Of course, but he was the one putting hammer to metal. And the spell where it came out of the ground and cocooned him? I had goosebumps, Albus.”
“As did I. I can’t help but think that the results of Barty Crouch Junior putting Harry into the tournament have been mostly in our favour.”
Minerva smiled faintly. “Mostly. It could have been more, if I’d actually done my job.”
“The fault is not just yours.”
“You are the Headmaster; I am his Head of House. I act in loco parentis to all the Gryffindors. As I had the highest direct responsibility, I had the highest failure.”
“Do you have a recommendation for your successor?”
“Not at the moment.”
Albus sighed softly. He picked up a piece of parchment and placed it in front of her. She looked at it, and then at him in horror. “Yes,” he said grimly. “Something I should have dealt with years ago, rather than pfaffing around with the Wizengamot and the I.C.W. I cannot tell you how embarrassed I was to sit here and have the investigators deliver the preliminary report.
“Minerva, we have students taking pillows into a lesson!”
“What have we done, Albus?” Minerva asked.
“We put ourselves in a position where we saved money that should have been spent, and we thought we could do everything, because we have magic.” Albus sighed. “We failed a generation of kids. Fortunately, despite everything, Severus has turned out a number of good Potions experts. Sadly, the vast majority of the rest of the students hate Potions with a passion.”
“Well, at least he is gone.”
“I’ve not heard from him since he left.” Albus shook himself. “So, would you like some good news?”
“I have over three hundred thousand galleons to add a new wing to the library, fund a class for a decade, and provide new brooms for all the houses.”
“Harry donated practically all the basilisk proceeds that I sold through the I.C.W. to the James and Lily Potter foundation. Basilisk venom sells at ten gallons a millilitre, and we had close to two litres of it. The South African ministry paid fifty thousand for the flesh; they have some historical potions that need it badly, and of course, all the scales and such like have gone to ministries across the world for a tidy sum.
“Harry did give some money to his friends, and to myself and Nadya, but we all donated to the school improvement fund as well.” Albus smiled, “I did siphon off a little, for a personal project.”
“The James Potter Award for Excellence in Prefecturing.”
“Did you just invent that word?”
“I love it,” Minerva said with a smile. “James will be banging his head in heaven.”
“I suspect that James wouldn’t ever come close to caring. He’d be far too busy reminding everyone that his son took down a dragon on his own!”
Minerva chuckled and nodded. “It was, by such a long way, a victory for him. He made the others look like children. Did you hear how happy Poppy was?”
“She made sure to tell me as well. So, Minerva, with you having more time, how would you like to oversee the changes?”
Minerva started to nod, and then paused. “Albus,” she said softly, “I can’t, unless I give up teaching Transfiguration as well.”
“I hoped you’d say that,” Albus said happily. “Learning from our mistakes is important. Seriously, though, it is your choice. I am happy to hire someone for a year or two, if you would like to oversee this project, on top of your duties as Deputy Headmistress.”
“Do I have to answer now?”
“Please, have a few days to think about it.”
Minerva smiled once more. “Now, get that bottle you think no one knows about, and let’s talk about the task a bit more.”
“Before we do, there is one other thing. I expect that someone will find Barty Crouch Senior dead soon.”
“Yes, he was supposed to be the fifth judge today, and the Goblet does not like it when people don’t follow the rules.”
The un-formal room, as Derek had called it, had a huge roaring wood fire, numerous comfy chairs and couches arranged around it, and was fully carpeted and insulated. Above the fire was an old-looking painting of a pond, with trees either side – which in Harry’s humble opinion, was pretty poor.
Harry was guided into one of the two arm chairs, where he sat with his feet up on a foot stool.
The room was lovely and toasty, which, when combined with the food, had Harry feeling about as relaxed as he could ever remember feeling.
“Mum, we need to light a new fire,” Astoria said into the comfortable silence. “It turns out that Sirius Black didn’t have a trial, and is actually innocent.”
Cressida leaned forward. “No trial?”
“Yeah,” Harry agreed. “It was one of the reasons we decided to go for the heroic direction to the task. We wanted to let people know that Harry Potter was also around, and that if he asks questions, people should be falling over themselves to answer them.”
“Smart,” Cressida murmured. “Well, there’s only one thing for it. In the morning, we’ll go the Prophet and speak to the editor-in-chief directly. He’ll love the fact that he’ll get a chance to launch a campaign against the Ministry. He’s due to retire next year, so one last kick at them will make him happy.”
“Sounds good,” Harry yawned. “So warm, comfy.” He closed his eyes for a second. And when he opened them, he was flat on his stomach, in a large four poster bed, in one of the guest rooms. “Oh,” he muttered. “Whoops.”
He rolled out of bed, and found that he was in some pale blue pyjama bottoms and a t-shirt. His clothes were on a dresser, so he dressed and headed out. There was no one around, so he walked downstairs to the kitchen.
“Harry,” Derek said delightedly. “Feel better?”
“Sorry about last night.”
“Nonsense, you did fight a dragon yesterday, and managed to look pretty damn smart doing so. I hope you don’t mind that I called your House-elf and we put you to bed?”
“Not at all. Thank you.”
“You’re welcome. Now sit, while I cook you something nice and filling. After that, do you want to join me in the gym? You don’t get to stay as ridiculously good looking as we two are without a bit of work.”
“You should come to my smithy,” Harry said with a laugh. “I swear that working out in the heat is best workout in the world.”
“And the sweating would act like a sauna,” Derek mused. “Romi showed me one of the daggers you did. Very impressive.”
“So yes, I would like to see the smithy,” Derek added.
“And I’d like to see the gym,” Harry replied.
“Excellent, then we can eat what we want for breakfast,” Derek cheered. “The girls will probably be up later, and will happily eat their rabbit food while inhaling coffee.”
Harry chuckled, and wolfed down the sausage, bacon, eggs, beans, hash browns, black pudding, and fried mushrooms, along with several cups of English breakfast tea.
Derek waved his wand as they finished, and the pots, pans and dishes started to wash themselves. About thirty minutes after they had finished, they headed to the gym, which was in the basement of the house, and seemed to contain every piece of exercise equipment known to man.
After some cardio, they headed to the weights.
“I have to try some Blacksmithing,” Derek said in disbelief. “Have you even lifted before?”
“No,” Harry grunted, as he lowered the bar to his chest, and pushed up.
Derek grumbled to himself, and let Harry finish his reps, before he took over.
“I’m twenty years older than you, and have been doing this all my life.”
“I have five anvils and one anvil stand. My double bick anvil is over a hundred kilos,” Harry said, as he kept an eye on Derek. “And I have several others that I use for different things, so I lug those around a lot. I also have a five kilo short pattern hammer that I tend to use as the blunt tool.”
“You don’t use magic?”
“Nah, it’s a good way to get stronger, and it’s part of the job, it makes me feel closer to what I’m working on.”
Derek raised his arms, and placed the bar back on the rack. He sat up, breathing heavily, and rubbed his face with a towel. “Done?”
Harry nodded. The clock on the wall said that it was ten in the morning.
“A quick stretch and a shower, then and we can join the ladies.”
“Sounds like a plan,” Harry agreed, as they headed through a low arch to cushioned area.
Dressed again, they headed up stairs in to the house. Astoria, Romilda, Daphne, Hermione and Cressida were sat around the kitchen table.
“Good workout?” Cressida asked.
“Yes,” Derek said cheerfully. “These good looks will not fade for at least another day. After you’ve taken Harry to start your fire, Harry’s invited me to his smithy.”
Cressida nodded. “Why not take the girls shopping, while I’m with Harry?”
“Sounds like a plan.”
“Harry, are you ready?” Cressida asked.
“Then shall we go?”
“Dobby, transportation for two to the Daily Prophet, please.” Two House-elves appeared, and they were popped away. “Thank you,” Harry said, as they arrived in a corridor.
The House-elves both beamed. “We is delighted to be helpings Harry,” the one on the left said. “Today is our day to do it, so please ask for lots!”
Harry chuckled. “I’m sure there will be, and the girls and Derek will want transportation soon.”
The House-elves popped away, as Cressida shook her head. She opened her door, and Harry followed her into the office. “Cressida,” an old balding man who was smoking a pipe said. He then glanced at Harry, and did a classic double take. “Is this going to be fun?” he asked, a spark of hope lighting his eyes.
“More fun than a blank front page,” Cressida replied.
“Benedict Crowther, Editor-in-chief for another four months, before my editor Barnabas Cuffe is going to take over, kid,” the man introduced himself, before handing Harry a piece of paper.
Harry read it, and blinked. “Point four,” he read aloud, “Rita Skeeter shall suffer no editorial restrictions, and shall be the sole authority on her own words.”
“Check the bottom.”
“Signed on behalf of the Board, by the Chairman SilusSilus the third.” He looked up at Cressida. “The ‘the third’ is actually spelt out.”
“So,” Benedict said, “my point in showing you that is that I have no control what the witch prints. The owners simply saw the money she can bring in, and allowed her to set her own terms.”
“Which was why I was utterly delighted when our presses failed to print her column about you. It was a hatchet job with no fact.”
Harry smiled slowly. “Dobby?”
The House-elf popped in.
“Do you think you could have some House-elves follow Rita Skeeter around, and ensure that she’s not allowed to lie about anyone?”
Dobby rubbed his hands together eagerly. “Dobby can be arranging that,” he said cheerfully. “Even when Skeeter turns into beetle, we cans be following her.”
Cressida raised her eyebrows. “Skeeter’s an Animagus? Oh dear, Ben.”
Benedict started to chuckle. “I don’t know which way to go,” he said. “Actually, I do. Could you replace her lies with the words, “Printing lies is bad?” he asked Dobby.
“House-elves can be doing that, leader-editor.”
“Excellent. We’ll do that, and then after she’s learnt her lesson and her reputation has gone, we’ll hand her over to justice.”
Cressida nodded. “She is a poisonous witch, but she’s always been careful not to cross the line with the people in power, Harry.”
“Ah, okay,” Harry agreed.
“So, what’s the Boy-Who-Lived and the first person since St George to actually fight a dragon single-handed – fight a dragon and win – doing in my office?”
“Sirius Black is innocent, and was never given a trial,” Harry stated.
“I knew about the trial, there were a few people in those days who were just carted off,” Benedict said absently, as his brow furrowed. “However, with Crouch being involved in this Tri-Wizard fiasco, well, maybe it’s a time for a complete check of everyone who was just locked up.”
“I think,” Cressida interjected, “that we need to ensure a law change so that it can’t happen again. Indefinite detention without trial from a state is about the worst abrogation of human rights known to man. And frankly, as a solicitor, the idea of people being incarcerated with no trial is against everything I stand for.”
“The I.C.W. will slaughter the government,” Benedict said happily. “Well, I was planning on serving my time as easily as possible, but I think I have the energy for one more crusade.”
“Good,” Harry said with a hard smile. “Sirius is my godfather, and I’d much rather live with him, than my Muggle relatives. I’m quite willing to use Harry Potter to help this,” Harry added.
Benedict bounced up, and headed to his door. He stuck his head out. “Smudgley, get your arse and quill in here,” he yelled, before returning to his seat behind his large desk.
“You yelled,” A tall and almost obscenely thin man tottered in, eyes dark and sunk into his pale face. “Greengrass, Potter,” he said with a nod.
“Black is innocent. We’re going to launch a campaign to get all those who didn’t have a trial, one before the summer. And Harry here is going to throw Harry Potter behind it.”
“The same Harry Potter who donated three hundred thousand galleons to Hogwarts recently,” Cressida added.
Harry blinked. “That much?”
“I flooed Albus this morning and asked him,” Cressida explained.
“Right,” Benedict nodded. “So we are going to want a three-part front page. More on your victory yesterday, a new one about your donation to charity, and the banner headline of Potter demands Justice – why was his Godfather not found guilty in a court of law?”
Cornelius Fudge knew when he had been manoeuvred into a corner. On one side, he had the I.C.W. asking all sorts of questions that he didn’t want to answer but had been forced to, and on the other, he had the current hero, the Boy Who Lived and Chopped A Dragon’s Head Off asking more questions.
The head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement entered and sat down.
“How many?” he asked.
“I would have said all of them this morning,” Amelia sighed. “However, I’m willing to bet my meagre pension that Potter has evidence that Black is innocent. No one asks for a trial when someone is already being punished.”
“We’re going to have to have a trial,” Fudge said. “I don’t suppose Black could have an accident?”
“If he’s innocent, or more accurately, if Potter thinks that he’s innocent, he’ll use everything he has to destroy the Ministry. And even if you were willing to risk that, he would destroy you and destroy me . And let me remind you that he can make armour and a shield form from the ground.”
“That’s what I thought,” Fudge sighed. “Who the hell donates three hundred thousand galleons to his own school?”
“Does it matter?” Amelia asked. “The very fact that he’s improving things has got even more of the public on his side. Combine that with the I.C.W. investigations, and the fact he killed a dragon while dressed in magical armour? Frankly, he could demand that we all resign, and the public would agree.”
“Things have really gone wrong this year,” Fudge groaned. “We need some positive spin for the Ministry.”
“We’ll start with the trials,” Amelia suggested, “and throw Bagnold, Crouch, and everyone else we can find under the wheels of justice. We’ll also make a fuss of signing into law some safeguards so that this can’t happen again.”
“Excellent,” Fudge agreed. “Now, what about Potter? I was thinking about giving him a reward, but anyone who donates that sort of cash without upfront publicity isn’t someone who needs it.”
“No,” Amelia agreed. “My niece is at Hogwarts. Until earlier this year, she kept a distant eye on Potter. Most of the time, he just wants to be left alone. So, maybe, we could try that?”
“Leaving him alone, and seeing if he does the same to us?”
“It’s certainly the cheapest way forward,” Fudge said with a bit of a chuckle. “Any luck with the House-elves?”
“I did manage to talk to one, and all the rumours are true. They have found a supply of magic that means they don’t have to borrow from us. And of course, without that, they have no reason to serve us.”
“I didn’t even know that was what the bond was. I’m not sure that many others did, either.”
“I didn’t,” Amelia said.
“A lot of Pure-bloods are very upset. Fortunately, they aren’t blaming me. They are blaming Potter, though, as everyone knows the House-elves are still working with him, and at Hogwarts.”
“You may have to make a decision, Cornelius, the Pure-Bloods, or Potter.”
“One group bitches and screams and expects money to get them everywhere, the other forges magical armour, kills giant dragons, and gives the biggest donation in Hogwarts’s history to the school. I know which way the wind is blowing.”
“I’d decided the same thing,” Amelia agreed.
“Do you want my job?” Cornelius asked Amelia after a few seconds of silence.
“Because the I.C.W. are going to suggest I retire. So I may as well make myself legendary by pissing off the so-called elite and putting some reforms in place while I can.”
Amelia chuckled and stood. “I’ll arrange for an emergency trial, and put out a press release guaranteeing Black’s safety,” she said.
“I’ll do a wireless interview, agreeing that justice must be done, and showing our willingness to cooperate.”
“Do come over for dinner tonight, I’ve got one of my mum’s old dishes on the go.”
“Thank you, I’d be delighted.”
“That’s it, I’ve had enough,” Romilda said firmly. “I’ve not helped curse anyone in months, months! Someone needs a good cursing, and it needs to happen now.”
Harry had to physically stop himself from picking up his hammer and starting to work. He’d just finished showing Derek around, before he’d left with the Elves to go back home.
Harry looked at Astoria, who had a little grin on her face, Hermione, who had another little grin, and Daphne, who was nodding eagerly.
“Lucius Malfoy?” he suggested. “He’s a good a target as anyone.”
The grins turned positively evil.
Lucius Malfoy was enjoying what was hopefully not going to be the last meal with his wife for a very long time. It was taking everything he had, including bribing and corrupting others to take the fall for him. There was a slim chance he’d be able to escape.
He smiled at Narcissa. He’d really lucked out with her, as she was beautiful, and most arranged marriages sometimes appeared to be betwixt man and beast.
The faint tattoo on his arm pulsed, but he ignored it with long practice, and went back to looking at his pretty wife. In fact, she was so pretty; he just had to sing her a song.
He climbed onto the table and looked around the restaurant. Everyone was staring at him, which was good. In a surprisingly high voice, he started to sing.
“When I was just a little wizard,
I asked my mother, what will I be
Will I kill Muggles, will I be rich
Here’s what she said to me
Que sera sera
Whatever will be, will be
You’ll rule the world, you see
Que sera sera
What will be, will be
When I was young, I fell in love
I asked Voldemort what lies ahead
Will we kill Muggles, day after day
This is what Voldemort said to me.
Que sera sera
Whatever will be, will be
Bend over, my friend, you see
Que sera sera
What will be, will be
Now I have a child of my own
He asks his father, what will I be
Will I kill Muggles, will I buy freedom
I tell him tenderly
Que sera sera
Whatever will be, will be
You’ll worship Voldemort, you see
Que sera sera
What will be, will be”
Lucius finished, and sat down happily.
“You slept with the Dark Lord?” Narcissa shrieked. “Do not ever come near me again, you disgusting freak! You’ll hear from my divorce solicitor as soon as possible.” She stormed out. Lucius got to his feet, but he was dropped by a stunner before he could move.
Two off-duty Aurors, who had been enjoying an evening’s meal, decided that there was enough in the song that it warranted investigation, even if the circumstances of it being sung had been a tad bit suspicious.
Daphne made her way to breakfast alone. Hermione was having a lie-in, and Romilda and Astoria hadn’t been seen yet. She was pretty sure that Harry was having a good look at the remains of the dragon.
She entered the great hall, about as happy as she could remember, when a familiar voice pulled her down.
Daphne tilted her head at Malfoy. “Tell me, are you still following your father?”
“My father is a great man,” Malfoy responded angrily. “I will be just like him!”
“My condolences,” she said to Pansy, who, as always, was hovering around Draco like some sort of pug-nosed moth near a particularly dim torch.
“Huh?” Malfoy demanded.
“You’ve not read the Prophet yet?” Daphne asked in surprise. “Oh well, makes it all the more fun for you. My mum and your mum were talking most of the night.”
Daphne turned and sat at her spot at the bottom of the Gryffindor table, leaving Malfoy standing there. He pulled out his wand.
“Draco Malfoy!” McGonagall thundered. “How dare you draw your wand on a schoolmate? That will be detention, with me, for the next two weeks. Additionally, one hundred points from Slytherin, and you are banned from Hogsmeade visits.”
“What?” Malfoy shouted. “When my father hears about this…”
“He will do nothing, as I am the Deputy Headmistress of the school, and he is merely a parent. He can, of course, pull you out of Hogwarts, but there will be no refund and he has paid your entire tuition up front. Now sit down, and be quiet!”
Cowed, Malfoy retreated to his seat. Daphne smiled, as the Daily Prophet arrived. As well as information about Sirius Black’s lack of trial, it had a picture of Lucius, along with the words, “He Who Must Not Be Named’s Boy-toy?”
Further in the story, it mentioned that Narcissa Malfoy had retained Cressida Greengrass as her divorce solicitor.
Daphne looked up at the pale and almost hyperventilating Malfoy. “Just like your father?” she mouthed.
He actually looked sick.
Daphne smiled to herself. Romilda was right. Revenge was good for the soul. With that decided, she put together a tray and decided to surprise Hermione with breakfast in bed.
Harry stood in the shadows, watching the Great Hall. After a few moments, his target exited, with two other boys. As they walked down a corridor, he pulled out his wand. Two quick stunners and the boys were on the floor.
“Armour on,” he called, as he stepped forward, and grabbed Worthington by the collar. “So we are very clear, my sister, Daphne, is not a bitch. She is not to be called a bitch. She is not to be treated in any way other than with the greatest respect. Is that in any way unclear?”
“N-n-no,” Worthington stuttered.
“I am going to let you go now. I do hope you try and curse me, because it will give me the excuse I need to remove your hands at the wrist.” He dropped the boy, and turned his back. He walked off, really, truly hoping that Worthington would give him an excuse.
The boy didn’t, and Harry allowed his armour to vanish, as he was popped away to the Chamber of Secrets.
“Morning, rich-girl,” Romilda said cheerfully, as she sat on her friend’s bed.
“Grmmeornorf,” Astoria mumbled.
“Yeah, but I think I’m a bit young to be licking spray cream off of his chest.”
Astoria’s eyes opened.
“My parents are fully human,” she added with a grin.
“Damn gypsies,” Astoria muttered.
“Slightly,” Romilda agreed. “Now, sit up, I’ve got you some coffee.”
Astoria did, and took the cup. “Thanks.”
“No problem. Today, I just want to spend the day with you.”
“Yeah, everything’s been going on at the speed of light recently.”
“Oh, I know, it’s insane, one moment we’re just two second years with a crush, and then next we’re his friends, watching Harry in armour beat a dragon, and knowing it was us that got him there!”
Romilda giggled. “Yeah, it was just, you know, amazing. But, what happens now?”
Astoria shrugged. “Hermione knows we both have a crush on him.”
Romilda wrinkled her nose.
“And the fact that while he likes us both, he doesn’t like us like that .”
“Because we’re twelve,” she finished.
“So we are friends for two years, and then we fight?”
Romilda took a deep breath. “Yes, but no. We fight for him, but not each other.”
Astoria tilted her head.
“We always laughed and said we’d never be friends for ever, because we’re both too alike and too different.”
Astoria nodded slowly.
“I don’t want that anymore. I want to relax with your mum and dad, and I want you to stay with my mum and dad and wander around Europe with us.”
“But what if one of us wins?” Astoria asked.
Romilda took a deep breath. “I asked Gran, and you know what she said?”
Astoria shook her head hard.
“That love, even real love, can’t survive on its own. It needs something to keep it going, and that if one of us loses, then it will be hard, it will be devastating, but it won’t be forever. And if we’re strong, if we believe in our friendship, we’ll get through it.”
“And if we both lose?”
“Then we’ll curse the bitch who wins,” Romilda said lightly, before finding herself being hugged by her friend.
“Yes, definitely yes. I’ve been so worried about us, because I know you, you’d do a curse without thinking about it on me.”
“And without me, you’d do something stupid to impress someone, and would ruin it, and then Mum would get some revenge as well, subtly, of course, and we’d both end up miserable!”
“Of course,” Romilda sniggered. “So, friends forever?”
“Forever!” Astoria took a deep breath, and as she pulled back, Romilda could see that she’d cried. “Let’s make a simple plan,” she said. “We’ve got eight weeks in the summer, right?”
“So, two weeks for Harry to spend alone with Sirius, settling in, and for us to spend time with our families alone, then a week where we all join him, then a week at my place for everyone, and then we join your family for the rest of the summer.”
“Ooh, ooh, ooh! We can start in Dublin, then head down to Lisbon, and across to Madrid, then Barcelona, Marseille and Milan, then head in to Zagreb, Budapest then down to Bucharest, and then head up to Moldova and finish in Minsk!”
“Let’s go check with Hermione and Daph?”
“Good plan,” Romilda agreed, pulling Astoria out of bed, and running, with her friend’s hand in hers, to Hermione’s bedroom.
Hermione and Daphne were sat on Hermione’s bed, chatting, as they burst in. Romilda dived onto the bed. “We’ve got a plan!”
Romilda quickly outlined the time scale they’d come up with, and the things they’d do.
“So many countries, so much culture,” Hermione whimpered, her eyes glazed. “Yes,” she said thirty seconds later. “Yes.”
Romilda cheered, aware that Astoria was doing the same.
“Right, Romi, you talk to Nadya, I’ll talk to Mum and Dad, and then we can all go and talk to Harry,” Astoria said.
Romilda turned and bolted out the room. She flew as fast as she could down the corridors, until she got to the potions dungeon. Panting, she let herself in. As expected, her Nan was hard at work. “Gran, can we organise a mini grand-tour for Harry?”
Nadya raised an eyebrow. “Explain in detail, dear.”
Nadya smiled slowly. “You do of course know that most of your male cousins will be after lessons in smithing from Harry?”
“And that some of your female cousins may be more personally interested.”
Romilda automatically reached under her skirt, and pulled out the dagger Harry had made. “Tori and I have an agreement that we get first shot when he thinks we’re old enough ,” she said. “I’ll fight to keep it that way!”
“And the fact that a traditional fight is done at night, in front of a fire, with both topless has nothing to do with it?”
Romilda blushed. “He might think we’re ready a bit earlier,” she mumbled.
Nadya giggled. “Give it time, child, I will inform the girls that he is off limits. Unless, of course, he approaches them.”
Romilda pouted, but she didn’t say anything. She couldn’t control Harry, as much as she might want too at times. She’d been told numerous times by relatives that controlling people only lead to misery. She wasn’t convinced, but she trusted her family.
“But yes, it’s an excellent idea. I’ll arrange for the clan to gather in Dublin, and we’ll attach the pegasi to the caravans, and fly everywhere. The clan was planning to visit a few of these countries anywhere, so no one will mind a schedule change.”
“Woohoo,” Romilda cheered, and hugged Nadya hard. “See you later, Nan,” she called, and sprinted out.
With Harry working on the dragon, Romilda and Astoria headed out to walk around the Black Lake and have fun together.
Around a quarter of the way around the lake, Astoria turned to her. “Romi?”
“Do your boobs hurt?”
“Oh, Merlin, yes, all the time! But it’s the itching that does me. Half the time I’m in lessons I just want to scratch them!”
Astoria looked relived. “Not just me, then,” she sighed in relief. “I just can’t ask anyone about it,” she confessed.
“I had to ask my sister. I was so embarrassed. It was early last year, and yeah, I was happy they were growing, but my first period, I punched my cousin, burst into tears, and then spent a day in bed hugging a warming charm. I thought I was going to die.”
“My monthlies haven’t been that bad.”
“’Monthlies’,” Romilda said, rolling her eyes. “Your breeding is showing.”
“What do you call it, visit from Aunt Flo?”
“I tend to call it my period,” Romilda said dryly. “I’m a gypsy, I don’t need pretty euphemisms. It just means my body is ready for the right boy to bend me over and go to town!”
“Romilda Vane!” Astoria shrieked.
Romilda laughed at the response.
“One, you are no way ready for that,” Astoria stated, and Romilda didn’t correct her. “Secondly, you said you didn’t need pretty euphemisms, so surely that’s ‘fuck you’.”
Romilda felt her jaw drop as she stared at her normally prim friend.
“That’s one back for me,” Astoria said smugly. Romilda pounced on her, knocking her over. “Romi!” Astoria complained.
They play wrestled for a bit, before Romilda got to her feet and helped Astoria up. “I can’t believe little miss Pure-blood Princess just swore like that!”
“I can’t believe you said that either, gypsy girl.”
They resumed their walk around the lake. “Susan Bones has huge boobs.”
“Yeah,” Astoria agreed. “They must be the biggest in the school.”
“Technically, that’s Bulstrode.”
“True,” Astoria said, wrinkling her nose. “She could crush boulders with them.”
“First she turns them to stone with that hair, then crushes them. She’d do well in Roman mythology.”
“Greek,” Astoria corrected, her tone light.
“Yeah, that too.” Romilda giggled. “I got a note from my sister, she’s got a new memory for us.”
“Of what?” Astoria asked eagerly.
“New Kids On The Block, she saw them in concert in Barcelona.”
“Awesome!” Astoria cheered. “Donnie is so hot!”
“I like Jordan,” Romilda said, as she grabbed her heart. “Hopefully it will be here tonight, and we can watch it in bed.”
“Yeah. Mum’s ordered the new John Grisham, she’s gonna send it to me as soon as she’s finished.”
“Cool. It always makes me laugh that your mum reads trashy lawyer novels.”
“I know. She likes to laugh at them, and thinks it’s all so Americanised.”
“I wanna go there.”
“America? Me too. I want to see the Grand Canyon.”
“We’ll just have to work for it!”
“We’ll hit the town so hard it won’t even remain standing!”
Astoria giggled. Romilda felt her hand be grabbed. “Come on, let’s go listen to some cheesy boy band music and make up dance routines.”
“Cheesy?” Romilda protested playfully, as she allowed herself to be dragged.
It felt good to act her age for a bit.
Harry finished dealing with the carcass of the dragon, and paused. A second later, Dobby popped Professor Dumbledore in.
“Ah, Harry,” Dumbledore greeted him.
“You wouldn’t know anything about Lucius Malfoy admitting that he was in love with Voldemort, would you?”
“The first curse we did on Voldemort,” Harry said with a grin. “We’ve got another planned for tomorrow afternoon.”
“The day before Sirius’s belated trial?”
Harry nodded and grinned. “It should help.”
The professor looked thoughtful, “Say I were to go out for a long walk tomorrow afternoon, should there be a place I should definitely avoid, so that I would not be interrupted by such a curse?”
“I would definitely avoid Diagon Alley at two-fifteen if you value your sanity.”
“Sadly, Harry, I’m afraid that my sanity went for a long walk quite some time ago.”
Harry chuckled. “So, I’m sure it’s not worth as much as a basilisk, but is the rest of the dragon worth anything?”
“Dragons do not usually die of anything but old age. I’ve already been asked by a few people if they can buy bits. I reckon we could get as much as fifty thousand galleons for the bits you have there. The intact eyes are the most valuable part. The heart is valuable as well.”
“Unfortunately, I need that.”
“Of course,” Albus agreed.
“So how about we spend this money on re-fitting all the Common Rooms?”
Albus sighed softly. “Contrary to belief, Harry, Hogwarts has been operating at a profit for a long time.”
Dumbledore nodded. “The problem is that all the senior staff felt that we could do everything ourselves, and as a result spread ourselves too thin. The arrogance of magic, if you will.”
“Well, you’d know better than I would. I guess St Mungo’s could do with a donation?”
Albus smiled widely. “An excellent suggestion.” He paused. “There is going to be a Yule Ball this year. All fourth years and above can attend, third years if they are invited. As a champion, you will be expected to open the dancing.”
Harry opened his mouth, and then shut it. He grinned at Dumbledore. “What do you expect me to say?”
“That you are not a champion, and that you would not go to a ball and leave two close friends sitting on the outside?”
Harry smiled and nodded.
“And as I thought you’d say that, my counteroffer is that you can invite Miss Vane and the younger Miss Greengrass, and attend as a normal person.”
“Thank you, Professor, I’d be delighted to attend.”
“Excellent,” Albus said. “Now, what’s this about you allowing Derek to see the forge, and not me?”
“Would you like to see the smithy, Professor?”
“I thought you’d never ask.”
Yes, a fully armoured Harry battling the dragon was the inspiration for this story. So a lot of the first few chapters was based around me trying to find a way of having that happen without straining credibility TOO much.
And yes, Derek might be a little influenced by Zoolander. Blue Steel was his look, after all. Not to mention that it (Aogami) is a mixture of Steel, Tungsten and Chromium used for making sharp corrosion free knives.
Derek and Astoria are both guilty of slight exaggeration throughout this fic. Something Astoria doesn't realise she got from him.
I wanted to show a less "saintly" Amelia Bones in this. Most of the time she's the go-to woman at the Ministry who can seize power with just a hint of corruption - corruption that she's just been waiting for a 14yr old to point out... And also make Fudge a little rounder (metaphorically, at least) and not a cartoonish villain. I have plenty of other people to fill that role.
Que Sera Sera was originally sung by Doris Day, and was written by Jay Livingston and Ray Evans and is owned by them.
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