The Day The Dursleys Came To Hogwarts
The headmaster trod, or more like stormed, around the massive frame of the dead body the Harry had had the house-elves bring up from the Chamber of Secrets. He had let the boy have too free a hand in things. True, Dumbledore had been using the time since Harry had been proclaimed Lord of Slytherin to reevaluate how best to regain control and the trust of the boy once more. He'd hoped, perhaps rather foolishly, that Harry would either ignore his new status, or at least feel it to be too overwhelming and, then turn to the headmaster for guidance.
But things are never that simple where Harry is involved. Somehow he was making amends with his cousin and aunt.
That should never have been possible.
And with Harry being in even closer contact with the muggle-born Hermione Granger due to her being able to somehow patch his magic core, romance had begun to bloom between them. Dumbledore was all for love when it comes to unattached people, of which Harry was not, even if he didn't know about the marriage contract Dumbledore had made for him as his magical guardian in order to secure a powerful ally. No, the Potter boy was going to have to have the reins of his life firmly plucked out of his hands yet again. It was for the greater good, after all.
"Harry, this has to stop!" he stated authoritatively. He had purposefully raised his tone so that at least some of the onlookers could see the headmaster bringing the boy to heel. Once seen as establishing himself as the true ruler at Hogwarts, it would be affirmed in the minds of everyone else there soon enough, and his role as leader of the Light would never be questioned again.
Harry's eyes, however, burned with a cold fire. "That is just what I did, headmaster. I put a stop to it. But it does bring a question to my mind: why didn't you stop this… travesty! This injustice! How could you just allow the dragons to be taken away to be slaughtered like that? You had the power to do something about this and you did nothing!"
Harry's harsh scolding tone had silenced nearly everyone around the dead basilisk. He had their attention now. Dumbledore now wished that all those eyes were not on them.
Gently clearing his throat, the headmaster of Hogwarts had the gears in his head running at top speed to try find the best way to come out on top in this instance. "Harry,-"
"Lord Slytherin," Hermione corrected Dumbledore.
Dumbledore paused, surprised at being corrected by one of his students, especially this particular student who normally revered teachers. "Surely we could set aside titles while discussion this matter, yes?"
The anger and hurt in her eyes let him know instantly that he wasn't going to make amends with her anytime soon. "No, headmaster. Titles are most important with any discussion you have with Lord Slytherin. Especially the discussion we are about to have today."
Harry nodded while trying to keep his face blank. "Just as Hermione said, headmaster."
The bearded older man grimaced. One of the last things he wanted to do was acknowledge Harry in his new role as the heir of one of the Four Founders of Hogwarts, but he could not see any way around it that wouldn't further damage his image among the large number of onlookers. "Very well, Lord Slytherin. As to the matter of the dragons, you must realize that sometimes concessions have to be made that do not appeal to us. I can assure you that I bore the dragons no ill will despite the damages incurred on Hogwarts by your spectacular tussle with the Hungarian Horntail."
"You have a funny way of showing it," Harry growled.
Dumbledore let a sad, and yet disappointed look settle across his features. "The hard truth is that we just don't have enough money in the school coffers to pay for the reconstruction needed. As we are trying to hurry the construction timetable along so as to not interfere with the schooling of the students or the Tri-Wizard Tournament, money needed to be obtained in a hurry. As one of the dragons was the main culprit, it was suggested by Lord Malfoy to obtain the money through the dragons."
"Let me see if I understand this, you were going to kill and render four dragons for the fault of one dragon?" Realizing he needed a moment before he could say anything else to the man that didn't include obscenities, he turned his head to his girlfriend. ~Can you believe this git?~ he asked her in Parseltongue.
~Just a moment, Harry.~ Hermione had pulled out a small section on parchment and a muggle pen from one of her pockets. Twisting towards Harry, she put the parchment against his shoulder and began to write at a furious rate. Finishing, she handed the parchment for Harry to quickly read while she put her pen away.
"Impressive," the boy teen commented. "But how can it be anything else when it comes from you." He awarded her a smile that made her blush.
"What is that?" Dumbledore asked, feeling a bit apprehensive. He knew all too well that Hermione's moments of brilliance have often times changed events; making possible that which was thought to be impossible, or more like improbable.
"This note is my-" Harry gave Hermione a quick glance with a smile. "I mean, 'our' business, headmaster."
At first she seemed to want to say something, but then gave a small shake of her head and returned Harry's smile, much to his delight.
The happy, excited house-elf burst onto the scene with a quick crack in the air, jumping up and down in joy at having been called. "Master Lord Slytherin Harry Potter sir's Hermie calls for Dobby! Dobby is so happy to serve!"
Looking a little uneasy about giving Dobby orders, Hermione nudged Harry towards the little house-elf.
Harry chuckled for a moment, amused at her discomfort as she was still trying to adjust to the roles of house-elves in the Wizarding world, then folded the parchment and politely gave it to Dobby. "Could you please deliver this, and if they are interested at all, please invite and bring them back with you to where we are now." He paused for a moment, then added, "Otherwise we will go to someone else. Remember to tell them that last part."
Dumbledore was just about to suggest they discuss whatever it was Hermione had written down first, when Harry told Dobby to go, and the house-elf disappeared along with the note he bore.
Harry was again mumbling something in Parseltongue to Hermione in a manner that suggested he was purposefully ignoring the great wizard. While seeing this type of behavior as childish, it did reaffirm Albus' belief that Harry was still too young for the responsibilities he was trying to bear. "My lord." He left off the Slytherin part of his title as he found it distasteful. "I must enquire who it was that you sent Dobby after." He raised a hand to stop any interruptions as he continued. "I ask this as I am the headmaster of this school, I am required to have a knowledge of all those within the school's wards."
If anything, Harry's angry look earlier looked mild by comparison to the killer glare he now turned on to Dumbledore. "I can think of plenty of times you didn't know who was running around on the Hogwarts grounds, headmaster. Peter Pettigrew, Voldemort. Sirius Black. Even that journalist Skeeter seems to be able to come and go without anyone knowing about it. As for who I invite here is up to me; as I am actually one of the Founders heirs."
It was at that moment they noticed that they had been joined by one of the Hogwarts teachers. Professor McGonagall, the normally reserved woman looked to be trying to shake off her bewilderment with only some success. "Mister Potter,-"
"Lord Slytherin," Hermione corrected automatically.
"Pardon?" McGonagall asked, her voice perplexed and cracking due to stress.
Dumbledore saw this as a chance to ensure Minerva siding with him. "Harry, pardon, I mean Lord Slytherin, prefers to be addressed by his title."
"For this discussion at least," corrected Harry. "Titles carry the weight of authority after all," he said with a firm nod.
Solemnly, the headmaster nodded back. "There is truth in that. But such positions can be abused in how they are used," he retorted, inferring to Harry's stances about the dragons.
Harry let out a snort. "Yes, I've seen good examples of people abusing the power of their position every time I go to class in Potions."
The headmaster frowned. "That's not what I was referring to, Lord Slytherin. Perhaps if you were to address the problem to your Potions Professor?"
"You want me to discuss the problem with Potions classes with the one who is the problem in Potions classes? That would go over as well as a thrown snowball in a hippogriff's face!"
"Harry!" Hermione hissed, pointing urgently off to one side.
"Eh?" He glanced over in the direction she was indicating. What he saw incensed him. "Bloody hell! Stop that! What do you think you are doing? You have no right to do that!"
Dumbledore could only follow after the two rushed teenagers who were headed straight towards the head of the dead basilisk where Snape was. The headmaster could only let out a tired groan. The man had the worst timing!
"I said stop!" growled Harry.
Snape looked up with a sneer. He had been kneeling down in front of the dead basilisk, his hands safely covered with dragon-hide gloves while draining one of the massive fangs of it's remaining venom into a large unbreakable glass vial. "That will be fifty points from Gryffindor for talking disrespectfully to a teacher. As for what I am doing, I am gathering whatever potion ingredients I can still scavenge from this long dead beast. In case you forgot, nearly eighty percent of my potion ingredients were destroyed when you and one of those damnable dragons crashed into the castle."
While Snape made a valid point, his means of expressing did little to endear Harry to his cause. "I killed this beast in the Chamber of Secrets! It's carcass is mine by right of conquest!"
Snape snorted in disdain. "Bah! We are all supposed to believe you managed to kill this creature? More like you came across it's dead body and decided to make up some story about how you killed it. All to gather more fame to fill your already bloated head, Potter. But either way, this carcass was obviously left abandoned so you have no valid claim to hold that this dead beast is yours to do anything with. As it was found on the grounds of Hogwarts, I, as the potions professor, am allowed to take whatever I desire from it. In fact your friend Hagrid, part of his job as groundskeeper here at Hogwarts is to bring me the dead things he finds in the Forbidden Forest so that I can render whatever is still useful down for ingredients, whether it be unicorns, acromantulas, Cornish pixies or dryads."
"This is true, Harry," spoke the headmaster as he caught up to them. "While it is nice that you brought the basilisk up, it is now the property of the school. And as such, much of it shall be used to restore Professor Snape's potion stores. Some will of course be traded for other necessary potion supplies, but when all is said and done, what remains of the basilisk's corpse will most likely not be enough to pay for all of the construction costs."
Harry grit his teeth. If Dumbledore asked for the dragons again, Harry knew he would hex him. "I'm not going to let you murder the dragons!"
"You won't have to, Lord Slytherin."
Everybody turned to see Dudley coming up to them swaying a little and looking a bit green at the closeup sight of the dead basilisk. Yet it wasn't him that had spoken, but the Sorting Hat he still bore on his head. "The basilisk is still yours to do with as you see fit, my lord. You did kill it after all. I was there and bore witness to the whole event."
"Even if what you say were true," snarled Snape, annoyed at the interference to his work, "he still abandoned it for almost two years. Thereby, voiding his right and enabling anyone to claim it, which I am!"
"Abandoned it you say?" The cloth hat chuckled to himself. "I believe he left the place sealed off and that only he could open it again. That does not constitute abandonment. It says he was storing it." With an amused grin, he turned slightly toward Harry and managed to do something that may have been a wink.
"Plus," spoke up Hermione, "Harry has already invited prospective buyers to see about purchasing the basilisk."
Realization flickered in Dumbledore's eyes as he put things together. "That note you sent off with Dobby."
As if to answer his guess, Dobby cracked into existence along with ten Goblins. Nine of the Goblins were obviously guards, or more like soldiers as they wore enough armor to cover a tank. Each of the Goblin guards were facing outwards of their ring formation, visually scanning the area in front of them for potential threats. After a moment, they began to slowly march in the direction that the Goblin was heading, straight towards Harry Potter.
Dobby was on his hands and knees, panting as if he had run a marathon. As Harry and Hermione watched, Bristy popped into being next to Dobby. The head house-elf patted Dobby gently on the shoulder with a worrisome look before disappearing with the exhausted house-elf. Harry made a mental note to check on the devoted house-elf later when things weren't so crazy.
Harry could feel the eyes of the ornately dressed Goblin leader evaluating him the closer he got, causing him to start to sweat and feel a hundred times more awkward than he normally would.
Hermione, sensing his predicament, nudged him gently with the hand she had attached to his back. "Harry," she whispered. "Bow low, but be sure to maintain eye contact with the Goblin in the middle; he should be the assayer, the one who is in charge of the group. You can smile, but whatever you do, don't show any teeth or they could take that as meaning you have hostile intentions."
"Ok. Bow low, keep eye contact. Smile, but no teeth. Got it, thanks, Hermione. I don't know what I'd ever do without you," he managed to whisper back, making her blush happily. "How do you know all this?" he whispered, while they both bowed.
She chuckled. "Believe it or not, Gringotts has pamphlets for Wizards and Witches to understand Goblin cultures."
Harry thought about it for a moment. "I don't remember seeing any pamphlets available when I went there."
"That's part of the cultural problem," she explained. "You see, you have to ask the Goblins for them, and then purchase them."
"Aren't pamphlets supposed to be free?"
She gave a small shake of her head. "Not according to the Goblins." She paused as she racked her brain for other tidbits of knowledge. "Oh, and I should add we have to stay bowing until we are addressed by the assayer or one of his guards."
Sensing movement behind him, Harry was surprised to note that his cousin Dudley was mimicking Harry and Hermione and performing a similar bow. Even the Sorting Hat seemed to manage a bow in its own manner. Harry was not at all surprised when Professor Dumbledore chose instead to walk forward to greet the small platoon of Goblins.
Harry let out a low groan. "I don't think Dumbledore bought one of those pamphlets," Harry murmured to Hermione.
The headmaster, if anything, drew himself up to his full height and gave a sparkly, toothy smile to match the twinkle in his eyes. The Goblins were such a stubborn lot that the aged wizard felt the need to put on the extra charm, though, despite all his attempts over the years, he'd never seemed to get into their good graces.
"Good day, is it not, Mastersmith Brokenhand?"
The congression of Goblins came to an immediate halt, those Goblins closest to the headmaster could be seen tightening their grip on the handles of their weapons. The Goblin in the center of his fellow Gringotts workers was old and shrunken down with age, yet his eyes held a strong fire that even Dumbledore could envy. While his armor was not as heavy as that worn by the younger Goblins around him, it was fully functional and had strike marks that bore witness to its durability.
"You have mistaken me, wizard. Not that you have much of a history at getting things right when it comes to the Goblin people," growled the Goblin.
"Ah, I do apologize," Dumbledore said, trying to sound more apologetic than he felt. "I do not have the eye for discerning the various characteristics of the Goblin people."
Harry swallowed. "Did he just say they all look alike to him?" he managed to whisper to his best friend.
"Yep," Hermione managed to squeak out.
"Isn't this exciting!" whispered the Sorting Hat, loud enough for the young couple to hear. "We may very well be witnessing the start of the new Goblin uprising!"
The elder Goblin was now bearing his teeth, several of which turned out to be made or at least encrusted with diamonds. "I am Master Assayer Screwball of Gringotts. I have been sent in answer to a request from Lord Slytherin regarding a sale."
"Ah, yes," Dumbledore nodded sagely, as he turned to look at the very one claiming the title of Lord Slytherin. In doing so, he was startled to see Harry, Hermione and several others bowing for some reason. Considering the disagreement he'd been having with Harry, he was relatively certain Harry wasn't bowing to him. Still, the only other alternative was that they were bowing to the Goblins for some reason the he himself could not fathom. Even Minerva, his deputy, had decided to follow suit, and was bowing, mimicking the others. "Now what is all this?"
Still scowling, Screwball and his company of Goblins marched right past a speechless headmaster, and right up to where Harry and Hermione were maintaining their bow and eye contact.
"Lord Slytherin," the head Goblin said in a more respectful tone, even if it was somewhat squeaky that made everyone think of Professor Flitwick. "I am Master Assayer Screwball. I have come in the name of Gringotts to examine and evaluate the item you mentioned in your letter."
"It is an honor, Master Assayer Screwball," Harry began as he and Hermione straightened up.
Hermione quickly added, "And may your gold continue to accumulate in your coffers, and may your enemies be much poorer for it."
Screwball grinned now, but showed no teeth, much to their relief. "And may your investments be profitable, and your enemies be impotent in their efforts to stop you."
The Goblin in charge regarded Harry and the young female that stood so close to him. Yes, respectful young Wizards like this he could work with, having a greater guarantee for future profits for everyone. "Well met, Lord Slytherin," said the Master Assayer. "And is this female beside you your life-mate?"
Blushes bloomed almost instantly on the cheeks of the two teenagers. "Ah," began Harry, "well, we are just starting to date." He shot Hermione a quick look and was happy to note that while she, too, had been embarrassed by the abrupt question, she didn't seem at all displeased with the assumption.
Screwball raised in eyebrow in surprise. "I apologize if my presumption caused you embarrassment," he said to the young couple. "May I speak freely?" He eyed Dumbledore warily as the headmaster looked to be trying to interpose into the exchange.
Harry, not seeing any reason not to, gave a nod. "Sure."
Before speaking, the Goblin gave the two teens a more thorough look. He then removed a monocle from his left eye that must have had some type of notice-me-not spell on it. "My people use items like this to examine magical people, creatures and items. With this I could see that your magic, which is extremely powerful I have noted, seems to have linked or merged with each other, similar to that of the soul bonds of legend."
"Ah," interrupted Dumbledore. "There is an interesting explanation for that which would rule out any possibility of a soul bond. It all has to do with young Harry's-"
Harry gave an angry cough.
Dumbledore quickly amended what he was saying. "My apologies. I do mean Lord Slytherin. There was an accident at the end of Harry's turn in the first event of the Tri-Wizard Tournament. Through what seems to me to be over-extreme use of his magical core, his core breached. Miss Granger somehow managed to stop the leak through physical contact, which she is doing even now in the hopes that Har- Lord Slytherin's core will heal."
Screwball rubbed his grizzled chin in thought. "If his magic responds to her in such a manner, then they must be soul mates. There is no other instance where their magic could work together."
"I'm sure you are mistaken," Dumbledore stated while forcing a congenial smile. Out of the corner of his eye he caught a glimpse of a young redhead female racing off after overhearing what they were talking about. The headmaster cursed himself for not taking better precautions. Now he had a conversation with an angry redhead to look forward to later to add to this already bad day.
"Per-perhaps this is something we can check on later," Harry suggested, hoping Hermione was alright with that. Hermione gave a hesitant nod, biting her lower lip as she continued to think on the matter. Off to the side, Harry could see Dudley was trying to understand what was being discussed, but for once, had the good sense to keep his mouth shut. Professor McGonagall seemed rather pleased to hear about Harry and Hermione's possible bond, but otherwise said nothing to interfere with the teens meeting with the Goblins, having determined that they were handling things quite well so far.
"Very well then," Screwball noted. "Now I take it that this is the acquisition behind you, yes?"
"Yes," Harry said, happy to have moved on to a different matter. "Please remember that I killed the basilisk nearly two years ago in May. I have no doubt quite a bit is unsalvageable. The hide and skeleton should all be good though."
Screwball adjusted his monocle. "True. I would have loved to have gotten a steak for myself out of that beautiful beast. But I agree; the meat is no longer edible. Fortunately, most of the meat could be salvageable for other things, such as specialized fertilizer. The organs, another valuable quality, are also good for nothing other than fertilizer. Pity, as we would have made the most money off of them. Likewise with the eyes."
Harry managed a weak shrug. He decided against mentioning Fawkes blinding the monstrous snake.
"The venom, however, should still be viable even after all this time, safely contained within the venom sacs."
There was a sudden outcry as one of the Goblin guards dragged someone over by their obviously broken arm. Showing strength that belied his smaller form, the guard threw the long figure over to where it tumbled end over end, getting tangled in the robes being worn. Fortunately, the figure, one Severus Snape, had passed out due to the pain from his broke arm. If the potions master had still been awake, there was no doubt in Harry's mind that he would spout enough vitriol that the Goblins would be obligated to kill him for the sake of their honor. For a moment, Harry had to fight the temptation to rennervate the vile man and let him doom himself. Fortunately for Snape, Harry didn't want to be responsible for the death of the greasy git.
The guard that had dragged Snape over said something as an explanation to his leader in the Goblin tongue, ending by handing over the glass vials that Snape had been using to collect the basilisk venom.
A snarl began to cross Screwball's craggy features, and his lips opened slightly, allowing some light to sparkle off some of the diamonds in his mouth. "Explain please, Lord Slytherin, your letter said that the basilisk had been untouched, and that the Goblin nation would have first chance at making a purchase. Yet, this oily braggart was siphoning the venom despite promises you made to us."
Harry hurriedly spoke up before Dumbledore could interfere. "My apologies, Master Assayer. This greasy git was arguing with me earlier about my claim to the basilisk. His disagreement with me mainly stems from his hatred of my father, although I am sure that part of it was due to him being a greedy bastard who refuses to take no for an answer. Again, I apologize for not having finished dealing with him earlier. Please accept the vials of basilisk venom that he has already collected as compensation for any insult you felt incurred to the honor of your people." Seeing that Dumbledore was about to say something, Harry held up one finger to point to him. "Not one word, headmaster."
The small Goblin stood there while the students and faculty members watched in silence. Screwball weighed the vials in his hand, also noting that the guard that had brought the matter to his attention still held two more vials. It was literally a fortune that the young lord was giving away. And Screwball was certain that the teen knew that, too. Perhaps he was trying to make up for the impertinent manners of his headmaster. There was definitely more to this matter than he could see right now, but at the very least Lord Slytherin will have made the Goblins friendlier to his needs. "The gift to Gringotts is accepted." Then with a stern look, asked, "And now, has anything else regarding the basilisk been taken or tampered with?"
"Not to my knowledge," Harry stated, truthfully.
"And it is your intention to sell the entire carcass to the Goblin people?"
"Not entirely, but definitely the majority," Harry answered.
"Now, Harry my boy, I really must insist that you let me take over-" Dumbledore began, as he tried to make his way to the boy and the Goblin. Almost instantly, he found his way impeded by a Goblin guard with a razor-sharp pike leveled at the headmaster's groin.
Harry was frowning now. "Headmaster, despite all the people around, this is a private matter, one that does not include you. Your services are neither needed nor required. Your attempts to be part of this matter, without being asked, are insulting. Believe me when I say that you are taking a peaceful transaction that could strengthen peaceful relations between the Wizarding world and Goblins, and potentially turning it into the start of a new war between our two peoples. Please, for the greater good, leave this matter to Master Assayer Screwball and myself."
Albus Dumbledore had not been talked to in such a manner in several decades before Harry's parents were even born. He could see the confusion in the eyes of the students watching the spectacle. While most were not sure what to make of things, a majority of the Gryffindor and Hufflepuff students present seemed to side with Harry. Those that seemed to agree that the headmaster should take charge surprisingly were mostly from the house of Slytherin. He knew he must be missing some key elements to what was going on, but he still couldn't let Harry haggle with this Goblin by himself. The boy had already given away a small fortune in basilisk venom, thus proving to the headmaster that Harry didn't know what he was doing.
Grimacing, the wizened wizard gave a small shake of his head. "I'm afraid that-"
A powerful petrifying spell struck the headmaster from behind, making him unable to continue. Dumbledore pushed with his magic to break the holding spell, but someone had followed it up with three more petrifying spell in addition to summoning his wand from him.
"I do apologize," Professor McGonagall spoke calmly, as she deftly caught Dumbledore's wand, and casually ignored the Goblin who was nearly prodding her with his pike. "The headmaster can become too interested in matters, often sticking his overlong nose where it doesn't belong. Perhaps it is part of his growing eccentricities, though I can't say for sure." She looked around while she determined her next step. "If I may have your leave, I would take the headmaster and our potions master to the hospital wing. Perhaps Madam Pomfrey could take a moment to give the headmaster a quick examination to determine… if anything is off with him."
A stunned Harry had to be gently prodded by Hermione before he could respond. "Um, yeah, sure. Have him checked out. I mean, you can't be too careful, right?" He managed to give Hermione a sheepish grin when she poked him.
Screwball waved down his guard who stepped back from the transfiguration professor, but kept his weapon at the ready.
With two levitation spells, Dumbledore and Snape were airborne. Before leaving, McGonagall gave a bow to the Master Assayer, then turned to Harry. "Lord Slytherin, as I and the headmaster will be away, if you have any questions, please seek council with Professor Flitwick. He is a treasure trove of knowledge. As Master Assayer Screwball is a just and honorable being of much renown, from what I have heard of his dealings, he has every right to be proud. You were right to offer a gift as compensation for the insult he suffered soon after arriving here. The Master Assayer could have justly taken the life of Professor Snape as a thief, but thanks to you, Lord Slytherin, our potions master's life was spared."
Harry struggled to keep from laughing when he noticed Ron in the background suddenly looking very depressed. Several of the other Weasleys were paying attention now as well since Madam Pomfrey had evidently portkeyed to the Infirmary with their brother Charlie.
"Master Assayer?" said Hermione. "Perhaps we should let you let do an examination of the basilisk before discussing any more business for now. That would give us a chance to remove the spectators."
Screwball scratched at his chin. "Let them watch for now, as long as they do not get in the way. It will give them an appreciation for the skill and thoroughness of the Goblin people." The Goblin touched something by his ear that removed a notice-me not spell that had evidently been on a headset that held a small conch shell in place at his right ear as well as another small conch shell held near his mouth and began speaking into it.
"It's like a wireless, handless telephone!" Hermione excitedly squealed as quietly as she could to Harry.
"Huh, I wonder if they modeled it after the muggle version or if some muggles had somehow gotten the idea from the Goblins? I suppose the Goblins could have created a muggle version and sold it."
Before they could speculate any further, the remaining Weasleys moved in now that Screwball had gone to examine the basilisk. Coming in with them were Harry's three competitors tournament: Fleur, Cedric and Viktor.
Ginny plowed into Harry's side, nearly knocking both him and, due to their connection, Hermione over. "Thankyou! ThankyouforsavingCharliefromtheHorntail!" the redhead blurted out as she shed tears onto his shoulder.
"Er, it wasn't just me, Ginny. Hermione also helped a lot in convincing the dragon to let your brother go. I'm not sure I could have done it without her."
Ginny let out a loud sniff as she slowly leaned back before timidly looking up at the girl attached to Harry. "Um, thank you, too, Hermione."
The Gryffindor bookworm wasn't sure what to make of Ginny. True, she was a year younger than the Gryffindor Trio as some had called them, but she had considered the redhead to be one of her friends. But ever since Harry's name had come out of the Goblet of Fire, when Hermione had gone to help him alone, Ginny had taken to avoiding her. While she knew that Ginny had had a long-time crush on Harry, as did many a girl at Hogwarts, Hermione had assumed that her infatuation had gone away since she hadn't volunteered to help Harry train for the tournament as well. Now she wasn't so sure.
"Harry, mate, you-"
"-are most definitely-"
"-the hero of the Weasley clan-"
"-for life!" Fred and George mussed up his hair but were too overjoyed to do anything else.
"You haf really killed that beast?" Viktor asked, seriously impressed.
"Yeah, about two years ago."
"How?" Fleur asked, who was simply agape at the mere thought of someone facing that thing. "You would 'ave been just a lettle boy."
"A phoenix, the Sorting Hat, the sword of Gryffindor and a lot of luck. That's the secret to my success."
"Now, now, Lord Slytherin," said the Sorting Hat. "You forget your bravery and determination to save Miss Weasley and defeat the shade that controlled her. It really was quite heroic, even for a Gryffindor."
Ginny took that as her cue to hold onto Harry even tighter while burying her head into his chest. Harry looked over to give Hermione a look of confusion only to see that she wasn't very amused with the youngest Weasley.
Ron, however, seemed very amused. "You know what, Harry? If you were to get married to Ginny, you'd be our brother-in-law; we'd be family."
Neither Harry nor Hermione were amused. "Ron, Hermione's my girlfriend. If I were to be thinking of marrying anyone, it would rightfully be her, don't you think?"
Ron, surprisingly, had sensed that he had gone too far. "Uh, no, I was just saying. I mean with Ginny in your arms and all, the thought just popped in my head. I didn't mean anything about it, really. I just didn't think."
The twins, however, were there to save the day. "It's true," nodded Fred.
"Our youngest brother rarely thinks," finished George.
Redfaced, Ron gave his brothers a look of severe annoyance. Meanwhile, Ginny reluctantly disengaged from Harry and stepped away.
"So the money from the basilisk should cover everything for fixing Hogwarts, right?" Cedric asked, deciding it prudent to change the subject. "I'm still rather angry that Malfoy had the dragon I fought killed. But I still want the school fixed, just not at the cost of the life of a dragon, you know?"
"Yeah, I hear you. And I think it will."
"Vhat did you talk to dragon about?" Victor decided to ask. "How did you convince beast to release dragon handler?"
Harry could understand their curiosity. "Well, you see she didn't know about the Malfoy plan to kill them. But someone had been stealing the eggs of the dragons so she captured Charlie in order to bring me here since I am able to talk with them through parseltongue."
"How'd Hermione speak parseltongue anyway?" Ron bluntly interrupted. "She couldn't do that before."
Harry and Hermione shared a look. "Well, we really are not sure, but it's probably due to Hermione using her hand on my back to seal the holes in my magical core."
"Zee dragon, did she say who has taken the eggs?" Fleur asked, interrupting herself from watching the Goblins work in examining the dead basilisk.
"They don't know. The eggs were summoned from their nests. Because the dragons were in cages, the dragons couldn't go after the thief," Hermione explained.
"Hey, look!" Cedric pointed. "Lovegood is talking to the head Goblin!"
The blonde Ravenclaw was indeed conversing with Screwball. Professor Flitwick was there to one side, but seemed content in letting the student and Master Assayer talk freely with one another. Instead of the usual look of annoyance associated with Goblins having to talk with a witch or wizard, Screwball seemed rather pleased with the girl.
Before they could speculate on what the young witch and Goblin could be talking about, Neville hurried over to talk to Harry and the others. "Hey, guys, I don't know if you've noticed, but I think some of the Goblins are trying to get to Bagman." He then pointed in the direction for them to look.
Ludo Bagman, holding a large leather bag close to his chest, was indeed trying to walk away from two Goblins who seemed to be herding him toward a third Goblin that was a ways in front of Bagman.
"I wouldn't think much of it," George commented.
"It's just Bagman getting his just desserts," added Fred.
"He owes the Goblins quite a bit of money from gambling debts," continued the first twin.
"And has been trying to make up the loss by gambling even more." Fred shook his head.
"He even owes us from our big bet we made at the Quidditch World Cup," George revealed.
"The creep paid us in Leprechaun gold, which of course disappeared later on," Fred said with a huff.
"So we've been taken to severely pranking him whenever we can." George gave an evil grin. "All our more devious creation we test on him."
"So far we've given him a peacock tail, boils on his rear whenever he sits, a forked tongue (his tongue actually transfigured into a fork), the ears of a donkey, and real corn growing on his feet," explained Fred.
"The way we figure it, if he isn't going to pay up what he owes us, then we can use him as the test subject for our creations, that way we don't have to pay some of the students to try them out for us."
Harry waited for Hermione to say something about the twins using Bagman as an unwilling test subject for their potions, but saw that she had a contemplative look in her face. "Hermione?"
"Just a moment, I want to try something," she said, taking her wand out of her pocket. She then cast a cushioning charm on the ground in front of them. "Everyone be ready, okay? Just in case I am right."
Before anyone could ask her what she meant, she pointed her wand in the direction of the frightened Bagman and said, "Accio dragon eggs!"
Bagman cried out in alarm as the leather bag he was holding onto suddenly burst opened. Fifteen dragon eggs flew out and sped across the distance in the air toward Hermione and the others.
"Catch them!" Hermione shouted.
Harry, Cedric, Viktor, Fleur, George and Fred immediately jumped into position using their quick reflexes to catch the eggs, then letting them drop to the cushioned ground so they could catch another. Ron even managed to snag one out of the air even though he knocked Neville over doing it.
"Hey, I got one!" Dudley shouted, holding a large dragon egg over his head in a moment of pride.
"That's good, Dudley," Harry said. "We have to try you out for quidditch next year with responses like that."
"Hey! What about me?" Ron groused. "I caught one, too."
Harry rolled his eyes. "I already knew you would, Ron. With all the practicing you've done with your brothers, you'd be a shoo in for next year's team."
Ron grinned. "See, now that's what I like to hear."
The youngest male Weasley was caught unprepared when Bagman ran up and grabbed the dragon egg from him. "You had no right! I need these!" he shouted as he moved to gather up the dragon eggs that had fallen on the cushioned ground and shove them back into his torn leather pouch.
Viktor, the twins and Ron roughly wrestled Bagman to the ground. Neville, seeing the eggs at risk, managed to take Bagman's leather bag away from Ludo despite his protests.
"What is all this then," growled Mad-Eye Moody, causing those wrestling to still as if he had used magic on them.
"Sir," Hermione spoke up. "It appears that Ludo Bagman had stolen several dragon eggs before the dragons were to be taken away in the manner Lucius Malfoy had set up. He probably assumed that no one would notice the missing eggs."
Moody looked down at a nauseous looking Bagman. Viktor removed himself from the dogpile on top of Bagman, but none of the Weasleys moved from the one that had gotten their brother in the predicament he was in.
"The dragon took Charlie Weasley hostage to get Harry here so that she could convince him to find the stolen eggs," Hermione said.
"Yes, it all seems to fall into place after that point, doesn't it," Moody nodded sagely. "There might be a place among the aurors for some of you. Being able to put things together like that is not a common skill."
"It was Hermione that figured it all out," Harry happily praised. "She's the brightest witch of her generation."
"They said the same thing about your mother," commented a contemplating Moody. "Potter men must like their witches smart."
The young couple seemed to redden at the observation, but it was noted by several observers that they seemed to cuddle into each other more than they had been.
"Vhat do ve do vith this von?" Viktor stood towering over the cowardly Bagman.
"Ze Goblins do not zeem to be as interested in talking to him now," Fleur pointed out. And she was correct. The guards that had been trying to corral Bagman before seemed to have returned to securing a perimeter around the basilisk all while shooting amused glances in their direction.
Moody chuckled. "I think that they were just trying to remind Bagman of that he owes them money. That his crime was found out was simply an unexpected bonus."
"And I could have paid them back with the dragon eggs, and had plenty left over, if it wasn't for you meddling kids!" Bagman grumped.
"Sooo… what do we do with him?" Harry asked, stating the question that was on all their minds.
"I'll hand him over to the aurors," Moody said in a threatening manner. "They probably won't keep him long as he still has friends in a lot of high places. Even so, sitting in a cell for a while, cooling his heels while his friends work their bureaucratic magic, will probably do him some good."
From the look on Ludo Bagman's face, you could clearly see he had a very different opinion of that.
As Mad-Eye Moody dragged Bagman off, the others were caught off guard when a quiet voice spoke behind them. "Is Ludo Bagman leaving? I didn't think that would happen until after the Third Task."
"Luna! Geez girl! I'm going to have to put a bell on you," jested Harry Potter.
"Oh, I couldn't allow that, Harry Potter," Luna said in her wispy voice. "The noise of a bell would be counter-productive in my endeavors to find a Crumple-Horned Snorkack or several other hard to find creatures."
Hermione's curiosity could not be denied so she asked the Fey-like girl a question. "Luna, what were you talking to Screwball about?"
Lovegood tilted her head slightly to the left before answering. "Oh, I just mentioned that the meat of the basilisk is probably not very good for consumption of more creatures. But that there were thestrals in the forest that would be more than eager to eat it all up. Then I pointed out how the dung of thestrals is known to have certain magical qualities when used as fertilizer. Their dung is especially good to make certain potion ingredients to grow to be very potent. I then concluded that if the thestrals were to eat of the basilisk, an extremely powerful magical creature, then the dung produced may have an even more remarkable effects when used as fertilizer."
"That's… brilliant!" Hermione said. "I wonder if he would let us research that?"
"I could help with whatever plants you want to try the fertilizer on," Neville volunteered, and actually looked excited to see the results. "I'm sure Professor Sprout would give us some extra space in the greenhouses in which to work."
"Um, I guess I could help," Dudley added, wanting to be a part of things. He was having problems focusing with a Veela nearby, but the Sorting Hat was helping him to focus. Ron, however, was practically stupefied by the mild Veela allure that was escaping from Fleur.
"Me, too," spoke up Cedric.
"It could be a joint project with the Goblins," Fleur pointed out. "I zink I would like to be a part of zis as well."
Viktor was not a fan of gardening, but had worked with thestrals before, so he offered to be on that end of things.
The group quickly formed a huddle as they worked out their ideas before they could present the offer to the Goblins.
They had almost finished with putting together all their ideas when Hermione gently poked him and pointed over to a clump of trees.
There, halfway behind a tree looking over at them was a large black dog.
Sorry for the delay in updating. My computer done up and died on me. Luckily I had things saved, though I don't have as much access to a computer as I used to have.
Ok, had some reveals with this chapter. Bagman is the dragon egg thief! How many people guessed that correctly?