EAD rules apply to this story: Wrote hard and put up wet. If you don't like it, hit the back button.

So my post on (which I use to write my stories) got wonky around the 25k mark and that's the reason why I'm parking the first part of this story here. It hasn't seen a beta, I'm not a native speaker and I'm not looking for someone to correct the text at this point. Read it as is or leave it, your choice.

For the peeps waiting for news on Misfits: I'm sorry. Sincerely sorry. But the HP fandom grabs me every couple of years, hard, and then I'll just have to ride it out. As I'm having a lot of fun writing right now, it might be awhile until the bug leaves me.

Title: Dobby's Deceit

Genre: Gen, romance, adventure

Pairing: Harry/Hermione

Warnings: Gratuitous use of clichés, Weasley bashing, Dumbledore bashing and whoever-else-needs-bashing

Am I sorry? Nope, I'm not.

What if Dobby bound himself to Harry without Harry knowing about it? How would that influence the story?

Dobby's Deceit

Part 1

"Master gave Dobby a sock," Dobby said in wonder, staring at the smelly old sock in his hand. "Dobby is free!"

"What? No-" Lucius Malfoy's grey eyes flashed with fury as he understood what had happened. "You'll pay for this, Potter!"

He raised his wand and started to intone a curse - and then he suddenly flew backwards through the corridor, hitting the stone wall at its end with a meaty smack and crumpling into a sorry heap, much like a fallen ragdoll.

"Wow, thank you Dobby!" Harry exclaimed after a shocked second. "That was awesome!"

Dobby's small chest proudly puffed up. "Anything to help the great wizard Harry Potter."

They grinned at each other, but the moment of exhilariation faded away quickly.

"Er, maybe it wouldn't be so good to be caught out here, what with Mr. Malfoy lying there," Harry said. "We could go up to my dorm. I have a chocolate frog, if you want it. To celebrate your freedom?"

Dobbys large, green eyes became wet with grateful tears. "Harry Potter is too kind, wanting to celebrate with lowly Dobby!"

Uncomfortable with so much adoration, Harry shrugged. "Well, if anyone knows how much it sucks to be unappreciated, it's probably me. So, do you want the frog? It's really good."

"Dobby would very much like to try it," the little elf proclaimed. "Harry Potter sir should take my hand. Dobby can take us right to Harry Potter sir's dorm room."

Harry's wide-eyed exclamation of surprise was abruptly cut off as they vanished from the corridor.

Reappearing next to his bed felt like stepping off a very fast carousel … which meant that Harry absolutely loved it.

"Awesome!" he cried. "We have to do this again, Dobby! Now, the frog …" After a moment of rummaging in his school trunk, he produced the small box with the frog and grinned. "Thank god it's still there. Ron'll eat anything if he finds it."

Dobby took a few moments to coo over his present. He inspected the colourful carton and inhaled the faint chocolate aroma. Only then, very carefully, did he take the frog out of the box and watched it wriggle in his hands.

"Dobby really likes the frog," he said. His big eyes were glued to the sweet. "Harry Potter is the greatest wizard alive for giving Dobby such a present."

In that moment, Harry realized how bad Dobby's life with the Malfoys must have been. Even he had been able to eat chocolate and other sweets throughout his childhood, even if these moments were rare. But to never have had anything of the sort at all … it made him feel beyond bad.

"Hey, why don't you eat this frog and I'll give you some money for more?" he asked, already hunting for his money bag. "Also, you're now kind of unemployed, so here …" He emptied out the bag and counted three galleons, a handful of sickles and three knuts. "Hang it, I thought I had more left. Do you think you'll get by with this for a while?" He raised his eyes to gauge Dobby's reaction, hoping that the elf wouldn't start wailing or screeching.

Instead, he was met by a suspiciously broad smile.

"Harry Potter sir is very, very generous," Dobby said cheerfully. "Dobby would like to shake hands with the great Harry Potter, please. This is the happiest day in all of Dobby's life!"

"Oh, er, sure." Nonplussed but pleased that he hadn't insulted Dobby somehow, Harry stuck out his hand for a hearty shake.

He wasn't disappointed; Dobby immediately latched onto him and shook his hand vigorously. So vigorously in fact, that a sharp tingle travelled along his forearm, over his shoulder and into Harry's chest.

"Wow, wow, calm down!" Harry laughed. "I need that hand, you know. Though I'm happy that you're happy, Dobby. What will you do now?"

Dobby looked shifty for a second before answering in a remarkably nonchalant tone, "Oh, Harry Potter sir knows, find things to clean and people to look after."

"I hope you'll find a good home soon. Or, er, employment, if the Malfoys have turned you off the family thing."

Dobby beamed as he bounced on his toes. "Dobby will, Harry Potter sir!" His tennisball-sized eyes landed on Harrys trunk and money bag. "But before Dobby goes, he will ward Harry Potter sir's things. Too many grabby hands on Harry Potter sir's belongings. Dobby won't stand for thieves going through the great Harry Potter sir's precious possessions."

With a snap of his small fingers, the contents of the trunk neatly packed themselves before the trunk closed shut. Dobby then repeated the procedure with Harry's money bag and even his school bag.

Bewildered and concerned about what Dobby had just said, Harry nonetheless thanked the elf.

"Dobby is happy to help Harry Potter sir," Dobby replied. "If Dobby can somehow help the great Harry Potter, he just has to call. Dobby will hear and find him anywhere."

He looked so eager and determined that Harry didn't have the heart to refuse.

Having a friend over during the holidays would be really nice, he thought to himself. Even if it's a house elf that tried to kill me.

"But only if you're not busy," he said aloud and smiled as Dobby's bouncing began anew.

Footsteps sounded from the stairway. It was time to say goodbye.

"Stay safe, Dobby!" Harry called, and then, with another snap of his spindly fingers, the house elf was gone from Gryffindor Tower.


On the Hogwarts Express, Harry didn't have any money for a snack, having given it all to Dobby, but as he scrounged for a few lost coins in his school bag, he suddenly had a couple of richly topped sandwiches in his hands.

The little guy is the best, Harry thought, happily munching on his treat. Though he really did enough just by keeping Mr. Malfoy from killing me.

"Why don't you have any money, Harry?" Ron whined. He nibbled on his smuggled, dry breakfast roll in disgust. "This is the worst. I'll starve before we reach London."

Hermione, who had carrot sticks and something that looked a lot like clay in a bowl in her lap, looked up from her book. "Why didn't you ask for a doggie bag, Ron? Katie Bell told me that students just have to ask for it at breakfast."

Ron turned red. "I did."

"Oh?" Hermione looked expectantly at him. "Well then, where is it?"

"Uh, I already ate everything," Ron admitted. "When we were riding in the carriages, Seamus, Dean and me."

"Oh, Ron." Rolling her eyes, Hermione pushed her carrot sticks over. "Help yourself."

Ron pulled a face. "Naw, thanks. I'll hold out until I'm home."

"Fine, suit yourself," Hermione replied with a shrug.

"What is that brown stuff, anyway? Looks like mud or something."

Unconcerned about Ron's disgust, Hermione dipped a carrot stick into the bowl. "Hummus. It's a puree made of chickpeas, sesame paste, garlic, lemon juice, salt and a few spices. It's oriental and very good."

"If you say so," Ron said dismissively. He then eyed the sandwich in Harry's hand. "Hey, you wouldn't mind sharing, would you, mate?"

Harry minded, quite a lot in fact, but he was curious about Hermione's exotic food choice. After she had agreed to share, Harry let Ron have the rest of his sandwich and settled into the seat next to Hermione.

The first taste of hummus was strange, but, as Hermione had said, also very good. Harry liked the slightly earthy flavour with the high points of garlic and lemon. The splash of olive oil and powdered red pepper didn't hurt, either.

Seeing how much Harry enjoyed her food, Hermione produced a small loaf of perfectly baked and still warm pita bread.

"If you like this, you'll love falafel and other oriental foods," she said, smiling. "We have a bistro in the neighbourhood that has the best grilled vegetables."

Food from abroad was something that Harry was very interested in, and since Hermione didn't seem to mind putting her book aside, he asked her about all the different foods she had eaten so far. Italian sounded divine, but so did Thai food, Indian and even African cuisine.

"I'll have to try all that sometime," Harry declared. "Pity that I can't get away during the summer. We could've gone together."

Hermione's pleased flush made her smile extra brilliant and Harry was pleased that they managed to spend time together without finding themselves in mortal peril first.

Once her carrot sticks and the hummus were gone, Harry decided to stay by her side and read along with her. He hadn't chosen Arithmancy for next year but began to regret his choice after a few pages of Hermione's book. He even blew Ron off when he whined about being bored.

"This is really interesting," Harry said when they had finished the chapter. "I wish I could take Arithmancy instead of Divination."

"Really?" Hermione asked.

"Yeah, I mean, warding and spell creation sound cool. I'd need to take runes, too, but then I could ward my things against the Dursleys," Harry said. Or people at Hogwarts, he added silently. "It'd totally be worth it."

"Well, if you really want to, you can write Professor McGonagall," Hermione said. "She told me that many students change their minds during the summer, that's why we only get our timetables at the beginning of term."

"You really want to drop Divination?" Ron asked, aghast, and nearly dropped his pet rat. "Why? It's an easy OWL!"

"Yes, but one without any practical application, unless you have a true gift." Hermione handed her book to Harry and got a muggle notepad and a pencil out of her bag. "In fact, now that I think about it, I don't think I'll take Divination up, myself. If I had the gift, I'd have noticed by now." She scribbled a few lines onto the notepad, ripped the page off and gave it to Harry. "Here, I've listed the course books for Runes and Arithmancy, if you'd like to read ahead some more. They're not very expensive."

"Reading ahead, what rubbish." Ron petulantly crossed his arms over his chest. "It's the summer, it's when we're finally allowed to do something fun."

"Yeah, maybe you get to do something fun," Harry said quietly. "I'm pretty sure my uncle has reattached the bars in front of my window and won't let me out for a while."

"What?" Hermione stared at him. "What are you talking about, Harry?"

"Didn't Ron tell you?" Harry asked. "The twins and Ron came to get me last summer and had to break me out. They used a flying car."

Hermione's mouth dropped open.

"Tore the bars right off the window," Ron explained, pride evident in his voice. "Your muggle relatives are the worst, mate."

"Yeah." Harry's shoulders slumped. "And now I have to go back to them. I wish I could stay at Hogwarts."

"Will they hurt you?" Hermione wanted to know. "Have they hurt you in the past?"

Harry squirmed under her scrutiny. "Um, they did, sometimes. But mostly it's my cousin, he and his friends try to catch me and beat me up."

"And?" Hermione prodded.

"Er, my aunt makes me do the chores," Harry admitted self-consciously. Hermione stared at him, until he added that, yes, all the chores. Self-consciousness then gave way to exasperation and Harry ground out, "And my uncle often sends me to my cupboard without a meal."

"Cupboard?" Hermione cried.

"Well, not the cupboard anymore. They gave me a room after Hagrid came to bring me my Hogwarts letter, alright?" Harry muttered.

"No, it's not alright, Harry! Have Fred and George told anyone about this, Ron? Or you?" Hermione asked a little shrilly.

"Sure we did," the redhead huffed. "Right after we rescued Harry. Dad was all concerned and went to talk to Dumbledore. But I dunno what came of it."

"Well, not much, obviously, or Harry wouldn't have to go back there." Hermione started scribbling onto her notepad again. "Anyway, we're almost there. Do you want to change first, or can I?"

Harry, who felt rather off-kilter after this conversation, mumbled his excuses and went to the loo to change. Ron followed, clearly not wanting to be alone with Hermione when she was upset.

Soon after, the train slowed to a stop and students began jumping onto the platform, dragging their things with them. In their haste to meet their families, they bumped into each other and generated a huge chaos of waving arms, smarting ribs and lost luggage. Ron fearlessly entered the fray, but Harry was in no hurry to meet his relatives.

Finally it was possible to leave the train without getting trampled. Harry helped Hermione with her trunk, making use of the opportunity to recast the featherlight charm on it.

"I'll miss magic," he said softly, wistfully putting his wand away.

Hermione returned the favour with a decisive swish and flick of her own wand. "Me, too." She caught Harry's eye. "Say, wouldn't it be possible to do a couple of spells to help you against your relatives?"

Harry sighed. "I wouldn't know how, other than making this stuff lighter to carry and secure against theft."

"Yes, too bad we're not allowed to use magic over the summer," Hermione agreed with a little huff.

They started dragging their trunks towards the passageway.

"I'm sure there's something we can do. I'll think about it," Hermione said, just before they reached the portal to muggle London. "And I'll write you, if Hedwig is willing to carry mail for me."

"I'll ask her," Harry replied, visibly perking up. "Maybe I can convince her to deliver your letters to the garden shed or the cellar. No one but me ever goes in there during the summer, so it should be safe."

"We'll get you through the holidays," Hermione promised. "I won't let them get you down."

Harry found that he believed her and smiled. "Okay."

Unfortunately, it was then high time for Hermione to go to her parents. The Dursleys were waiting not far from the Grangers, their expressions the polar opposite from the joy Hermione's parents showed.

"Mom, dad, this is my best friend, Harry Potter," Hermione introduced him, after dragging Harry with her. "Harry, these are my parents. Maybe you remember that they're both dentists?"

Her voice was bubbly and just a touch louder than she usually talked. Bewildered, Harry shook the hands of the two dentists who introduced themselves as Daniel and Emma. Hermione's reason for this deviousness became clear very soon; the Dursleys approached cautiously as if the knowledge that Hermione's parents were both doctors of their profession somehow negated the fact that their daughter was as magical as Harry.

"Excuse me, we couldn't help but overhear," Aunt Petunia simpered. "It seems your daughter is also a student at … at Hogwarts?"

"And a good one at that," Dan said proudly. "Best of her year! I'd say that deserves your favourite ice cream sundae, princess."

Hermione squealed and hugged him. "Thank you, daddy!" She turned to Harry's family. "Harry's also quite good. Seventh in our year." She expectantly looked at Harry's family.

"Er, congratulations," Uncle Vernon grumbled. "Excuse us, we have to leave now. Boy, make sure you've not forgotten anything."

"Maybe we can meet and have some ice cream together," Hermione chirped.

Harry paled, stealing a glance at his purpling uncle. "Um, yeah, maybe?"

„Great. I'll call you!" Hermione waved, acting so unlike herself that her parents looked between her and Harry with raised eyebrows.

Then they were gone and Harry was alone with his aunt and uncle. In between hordes of people no more words were exchanged, but that changed once they were in the car and on their way to Surrey.

"You better not expect to entertain that girl while you're living under my roof," Uncle Vernon said tightly. "Your aunt and I won't have any unnatural behaviour in the house where Dudley can see."

"Well, he wouldn't if he weren't such an arse," Harry muttered.

"I meant that lovey-dovey crap your girlfriend pulled at the train," Vernon growled. "If you want to eat ice cream with her, you can damn well do it on your own time at your freakish school."

Knowing that it wouldn't do him any good if he denied Hermione being his girlfriend or, indeed, argued against anything his uncle said, Harry kept silent and glared mulishly out of the car window.

"Also, you will take special care of the garden this summer," Vernon continued. "Your aunt has a competition coming up. Do well enough and we'll let you have your freak books."

The offer sounded gruff, but Harry had, out of necessity, become very good at reading between the lines, and it was an offer, a feat almost unheard of in regards to himself. Maybe the competition had a big prize, Harry thought. Or it could be that one or more of his professors at Hogwarts had sent the Dursleys a Howler when they learned why Harry's summer work had been so shoddy; he couldn't think of any other incentive that could make his relatives relent.

There were more demands and threats but finally they reached Nr. 4, Privet Drive. Harry busied himself with his trunk and Hedwig's cage, dragging everything inside and watching despondently as his uncle locked his things in the cupboard under the stairs.

"Now, remember, no funny business for a couple of weeks and we might let you have some of this stuff." Vernon shook the key like a terrier would shake a rat. "And keep away from Dudley. He doesn't need to get infected with your freakishness."

"Yes, Uncle Vernon," Harry said dully.

Aunt Petunia chose this moment to send Harry up to his room to get cleaned up. It almost didn't surprise him to see the bars back in front of his window and he was glad to have sent Hedwig off before boarding the Hogwarts Express. Once he'd nominally settled in, he helped making dinner and snuck a bite whenever his aunt wasn't looking. It was a good thing, too, since he, as usual, got the smallest portion and no seconds.

After dealing with the dishes, Harry trudged back up to his room.

Prison cell, he corrected himself mentally and sighed when his gaze landed on Hedwig's empty cage. Out loud, he said, "I wish this summer wouldn't be so lonely."

A quiet popping sound made him jump and nearly kick the alarm clock from his nightstand. There, on his rickety desk, stood Dobby. The house elf no longer wore his dirty pillowcase, but new and clean children's clothes.

"Crikey, don't do that, Dobby," Harry panted.

"Dobby be sorry, but Dobby has heard Harry Potter sir asking for company." Dobby's large eyes watched Harry expectantly. "Dobby can clean Harry Potter sir's room." He raised his hand and made ready to snap his fingers.

"No!" Harry whisper-yelled. "Please don't. You got me into so much trouble last year! The ministry will punish me if they catch me - you - doing magic again!"

Dobby's bat-like ears drooped a little before the elf straightened up again. "Dobby be really sorry for that. Dobby only wanted to keep Harry Potter sir safe." He cocked his head. "House elves be as good as invisible to wizards."

"Really? The Ministry wouldn't know you're here?" Now that Harry's thundering heartbeat had a chance to calm down, the wonder came back. "That's so wicked! I wish I could do that."

"Ministry wizards be watching all the little wizards," Dobby said regretfully, "but Dobby likes working hard and can do many things for Harry Potter sir." He almost vibrated as he took in the drab room. "Please, may Dobby clean Harry Potter's room? Not working be bad for good house elves."

"Oh, uh. I guess it's okay, then. Are you really, really sure they won't come for me, though?" Harry asked.

"No one will know that Dobby is working for the great Harry Potter sir," Dobby said, pride filling his voice. "Dobby will be the bestest of all elves!"

With that he snapped his fingers and all the broken toys separated into piles. One pile of trash vanished while the stuff on another pile repaired itself. Discarded books straightened and flew onto a shelf, Harry's run-down wardrobe and bed suddenly looked as good as new and even the wallpapers and window washed themselves.

Mouth open in shock, Harry could only gape at his new room. The grey hue had completely vanished, as had the dust the Dursleys hadn't bothered to wipe from the furniture. There were fresh linens on his bed and even his old pillow looked fluffy and inviting.

"Wow, thanks," the boy stammered. He blinked against sudden tears which had Dobby hovering uncertainly. "Sorry, I'm fine. It's just ... you're being so nice to me."

"You be welcome, Harry Potter sir," Dobby replied earnestly. "Dobby be happy that Harry Potter sir likes Dobby's work. And now Dobby will get dinner for Harry Potter sir."

With another pop the elf was gone before Harry could tell him that he'd already eaten. Only moments later, Dobby was back with a tray. After ushering Harry to his desk, Dobby plated several small snacks for Harry to taste, most of them grilled vegetables, olives and cheeses. Harry felt reminded of his talk with Hermione and delighted in tasting it all. The vitamin potion afterwards was a surprise, but since Aunt Petunia always forced Dudley to take his multivitamin pill, Harry didn't feel very imposed upon and simply drank it down. It didn't even taste all that bad.

After he was done, there was still a bit food left. Suddenly self-conscious that he'd eaten like a pig without offering Dobby anything, Harry hurried to rectify his mistake. The elf, however, surprised him.

"Dobby knew that Harry Potter be a generous and kind wizard and thanks him very much," he squeaked. "But house elves don't eat most wizard food."

"Oh." Harry paused. "Then what do you eat? And where do you get it?"

"We eat wild magic berries and mushrooms and other things," Dobby said, obviously eager to share with Harry. "That's part of how we elves gets our magic. Wizard food be mostly dead, so no magic for house elves."

Intrigued, Harry sat next to Dobby on the bed. "And how do you get those berries? Do the families with house elves have green houses or forests or something?"

"Only very old families have planted berries for house elves," Dobby explained. "Most of the time, we elves just pop around and collect delicious magic foods."

"Sounds like hard work," Harry said. "I wish I could help with that, since you've been helping me so much."

"Dobby doesn't need a lot of magic right now, and Dobby can pop back to Hoggywarty's forest for dinner," Dobby replied.

"And where do you sleep? Do you have somewhere to stay? Hogwarts maybe?" Harry asked.

"Oh, no, Hogwarts be no place for Dobby," the elf squeaked, sounding almost affronted. He then grinned shyly. "Dobby wondered if Harry Potter sir would allow Dobby to build a nest in his wardrobe. Dobby not be needing much space."

Feeling uncomfortably reminded of his childhood in the cupboard beneath the stairs, Harry tried to argue. Upon seeing the empty space inside the wardrobe, however, Dobby insisted that it was perfect for resting.

"Dobby be liking tight spaces," Dobby declared. "Be good for bundling magic for next day's happy work. It would be even better with second elf. Is Harry Potter sir sure that he doesn't want to stuff all of his clothes and his trunk inside?"

"Uhm, I would but my uncle locked up my things. To be honest, I'm not sure what I'm supposed to wear tomorrow." Harry blushed when Dobby looked aghast. "My relatives don't like me much."

"Dobby will get Harry Potter sir's things at once," Dobby said and snapped his fingers. All of Harry's clothes, books and writing things appeared on the bed, only to be sorted into the wardrobe and desk with another snap.

"Thanks for that, though I should warn you. My uncle might check every now and then," Harry sighed. "He can get very angry if things don't go his way."

"Dobby will put up illusion for Harry Potter sir's relatives," Dobby said. "Fat bad man and mean Aunt Petty will never know."

Overcome with sudden emotion, Harry hugged the little elf against his chest.

"You're the best," he mumbled, blinking against the wetness in his eyes.

Dobby beamed and then proceeded to pamper the stuffing out of Harry until it was time to switch off the light and go to sleep.


Waking up felt like a chore to Harry. His limbs ached slightly and he felt a little dizzy. Dobby told him that this was a side effect of the vitamin potion as it made his body heal itself. Hearing this, Harry decided to be grateful since it apparently meant that something was going right for once. After the basilisk attack a couple of weeks ago, every little bit of healing was very welcome.

After breakfast Aunt Petunia shooed him out into the garden, told him to tend to her flower beds, and slammed the door. It got first warm and then hot and Harry fervently wished for some water.

"Dobby," he whispered and only jumped a little when the elf popped up under the rose bush he was pruning into shape. "Hey. Say, do you know whether I can take a drink from the garden hose? Is the water safe?"

Dobby nodded, which made his ears flap a little. "Harry Potter sir can drink from garden snake thingy because Dobby can clean the water, but Dobby can get Harry Potter sir a glass of lemonade!"

"Really?" Harry wiped his brow. "Wow, that'd be-"

Dobby seemed to flicker for a second and suddenly had a tall glass of obviously icy cold lemonade in his hands.

"-great," Harry finished. He grinned. "Thanks. What's this? Lemon?"

"Lemon and blood orange with a dash of special berries and honey," Dobby confirmed. "It be very healthy. Dobby decided to get Harry Potter sir some elf food to try and help his magic."

"Awesome." Taking a deep swallow, Harry relished in the flavours exploding all over his tongue. There was the rich, zesty lemon, obviously, but also the faint sweetness of honey, the slight tang of the mentioned blood orange and something elusive that might have been the magic berry Dobby had mentioned. It was altogether delicious.

"Oooh," Dobby cooed when Harry set the empty glass down. "Harry Potter sir's magic be liking elf berry. Dobby will make sure to get Harry Potter sir as much as he likes!"

"Only if you and your friends don't need them more," Harry replied. "I mean it, alright? I got money, I will pay for my food." He looked around the garden. "Too bad I can't plant some berries here. That'd be at least worthwhile."

A sly looked passed over Dobby's features, much too fast for Harry to decipher its meaning. "Dobby can take care of the garden for Harry Potter sir. It be too hot for human work, anyway, and Dobby likes hard work. Dobby also likes plants. May Dobby work in the garden?"

"I feel like I'm really taking advantage of you," Harry protested. At seeing Dobby's eager expression, however, he relented. "But I'm knackered and if it makes you happy ..."

Dobby hopped up and down excitedly.

"Alright then. Thanks, Dobby."

Harry explained what Aunt Petunia wanted and then snuck off into the shade behind the house while Dobby turned into a small tazmanian devil and whirled around, waging war on weeds and unruly rose branches. Comforted by the elf's presence, Harry soon dozed off and only woke when his aunt bellowed for him to get inside and get lunch started.

Another nearly too small portion of food later, Harry hid in his bedroom and enjoyed a hearty Indian lentil stew Dobby had brought.

"Say," he began in between bites, "don't you need money for all this food?" He set down his spoon. "I'm so stupid. You're spending the galleons I gave you on me, aren't you?"

Dobby admitted that it was so.

"Man, I'm so sorry. The money was for you, Dobby. You're a great friend, I'll get you more as soon as I can, I promise."

Dobby kneaded his small hands. "Dobby likes helping Harry Potter sir. But if Harry Potter sir could spare a few galleons, Dobby would be very happy. Bad master had Gringotts elf for money, but Dobby be a good elf. Dobby can go to Gringotts just as well as Snippy."

"You can?" Harry was astounded.

"House elves go buy things for masters all the time," Dobby said and stood tall. "Dobby would like nothing better than to prove that he be worthy elf and can do all the things bad master said he can't do because he be stupid."

"Wow, I didn't know that. And Malfoy is so wrong. You're anything but stupid, Dobby. I mean, just look at what you already managed to fix around here."

At this, Dobby's narrow chest puffed up with pride.

"Uh, so, I'd let you go to Gringotts right now, but I don't have my key." Harry frowned. "I actually have no idea who has it."

"Dobby can retrieve key for Harry Potter sir," Dobby said excitedly. "Dobby can retrieve anything that belongs to Harry Potter sir. And then Dobby can go to Gringotts."

"Right." Grinning, Harry took Dobby's thin hands and shook them. "Sounds like fun! If you can pull that off, you're officially the best elf ever. Just think what we could buy! Chocolate frogs and the books that Hermione recommended, and good food. Oh, and things for your nest, Dobby! Whatever you need."

Dobby's eyes grew suspiciously moist but he kept himself in check, raised his chin and vanished with a small pop.

While the elf was gone, Harry decided to make use of his good-as-new desk and get a start on his summer homework. He chose the easiest topic, Charms, and did his best to elaborate on the usefulness of household charms. He went a bit overboard as he imagined how a peeling charm could be used in a defence situation, but decided to leave it in. As Hermione had said, an essay should have a bit character. Coming from someone who took her education seriously and learned textbooks by heart, this seemed like very useful advice.

It also reminded him to write Hermione a letter, which he promptly did because there wasn't really anything else to do.

As it was still light outside, calling Hedwig was out, but Harry was confident that she'd appreciate the short trip to Crawley where Hermione lived.

After dinner, Dobby appeared on Harry's bed and presented the polished gold key to Harry's vault. Harry took it with a pleased smile and chuckled a little when the house elf then pressed a plate with a big portion of creamy potato casserole, green beans and a grilled chicken leg on him.

"How was it at the bank?" Harry asked and shovelled in a bite of the casserole. In a twist of cosmic hilarity, the Dursleys had ordered Indian food for dinner and left the hottest dish to Harry, knowing that he wouldn't be able to stomach much of it. Harry had saved it for later, though, so Dobby could take the spicyness out of it. "Did the goblins give you any trouble?"

"Oh no," Dobby replied, bouncing slightly while watching Harry eat. "Everything went well. Harry Potter sir's account manager goblin was pleased to know that Dobby will carry Gringotts' mail from now on. House elves are much more secure than owls."

"Great." Harry swallowed his food. "So, how much money do we have now?"

"It be enough for the summer," Dobby assured him. "Dobby be planning in extra money for Harry Potter sir's new books and clothes."

"Oh." Harry coloured a little. "I guess I do need some new stuff. I didn't even think about it until you mentioned it."

"Harry Potter sir also be needing new glasses …" Here Dobby hesitated a little. "Or a doctor to heal his eyes."

"Wait, what? Magic can heal my eyes?" Harry asked hopefully. He pushed his plate away. "Truly, Dobby? Madam Pomfrey never said anything but that would be so awesome! Dudley always tries to break my glasses to get me in trouble with Aunt Petunia."

Dobby nodded. "Healers can try. But going out is dangerous for Harry Potter sir. Bad former Master and his bad friends are all over magical London. But the goblins are very good healers and bad wizards don't make trouble insde of Gringotts. They be bad, but they know what be good for them."

"How much gold do you think the goblins would take?" Harry wondered. "Would I still get to go to Hogwarts and be able to buy a little stuff for us?"

"Dobby can ask," the house elf promised and popped away before Harry could reply.

Harry waited for his return, but when ten minutes had passed, he decided to finish the food Dobby had prepared for him. By then, Dobby still wasn't back, so he drank the vitamin potion as well and played with the papers on his desk.

Finally, a whole hour later, Dobby reappeared. In his arms he held a huge book, which he presented with a pleased little bow.

"What is this?" Harry wanted to know, even as he opened the cover. "A Gringotts Guide to Services? This thing is huge; I thought Gringotts is a bank?"

"Gringotts is a country," Dobby corrected. "No good ghost teacher at Hogwarts never teaches anything important. Gringotts nation is trading goods and services with wizard nation." He opened a marked page. "This is cost for eye healing. Harry Potter sir's account manager goblin told Dobby that Harry Potter sir can easily afford treatment with gold from his trust vault. Next Saturday night is good time for healing, if Harry Potter sir wants the appointment."

"Oh, I … I have an appointment?" Harry stared at the house elf. "Just like that?"

"Goblins be very efficient," Dobby explained. "Treatment only takes one hour, maybe. Dobby can pop Harry Potter sir there and back again without evil Muggles knowing anything."

Feeling a little faint, Harry glanced at the cost of the treatment. Two hundred galleons were a very steep price, but never again being blind and helpless as soon as his glasses met their end had its definite appeal. "Uh, I guess after the trouble you went to I could at least go and find out if a healing is possible, right?"

"Dobby be glad. And Dobby be knowing that Harry Potter sir be anxious now, but Dobby can help with sleeping charm. Harry Potter sir shouldn't make himself sick with worry. All will be well."

Harry found that he believed the little elf and accepted the offer gratefully. He let himself be ushered into bed and thanked his friend sleepily before the charm pulled him under.


Over night, Hedwig had delivered Harry's letter to Hermione and allowed herself to be fed and petted as Harry ate his first breakfast. It was just one of the small but very tasty apples Dobby had brought for snacks - an apple with a rather distinctive zing that spoke of magic. His relatives were still abed and the morning very quiet and peaceful as a result. The open window let in cool, sweet air.

"Will you go look tonight whether Hermione already has an answer?" Harry asked. Hedwig's affirmative bark had him grinning. "Thanks, love. So, what should I do today? Start with my Potions essay, or finish the one for Charms?"

Hedwig carefully walked over his desk and tapped against his nearly completed essay for Professor Flitwick.

"Charms it is," Harry agreed. He glanced at the closed wardrobe, where Dobby was asleep. "When the little guy is up, I'll ask him to buy the books Hermione recommended. Arithmancy seems loads more interesting than Potions, and I've got an age to do it."

Again Hedwig barked, her yellow eyes blinking with something like humour. She then fluttered to her perch and settled in to sleep. Harry read over his work, corrected a few things and added a couple more before deciding that he should better go down to the kitchen and start breakfast for his relatives.

As it promised to be a beautiful day, Uncle Vernon didn't waste any time telling Harry that the family would go to the beach for the day and he wasn't invited. His growled threats to mind the house and prepare it for Dudley's birthday party tomorrow, or else were received with the usual resignation, although having a day to himself somewhat blunted the disappointment of not getting to see the sea yet again.

Soon after breakfast, of which Dudley spitefully ate everything in reach, leaving Harry only with a boiled egg and a couple of bread slices, the Dursleys packed their things and left. Suddenly Harry was alone and didn't quite know what to do with his freedom. Thankfully, Dobby had woken at that point and took over. He told Harry to watch a little telly, wait for his breakfast and think about what he needed Dobby to do.

After eating and asking Dobby to buy a couple of books, Harry left the house and went on a long stroll through the neighbourhood. There was a small park not too far away where all the green that wasn't allowed to sprout on Privet Drive seemed to grow with a vengeance. Harry loved the large trees and lush grass. A lot of old folks meandered along the paths and not a few younger people were lying on blankets on the grass, reading, listening to music or sleeping in the sun.

Grateful that Dobby had packed one of Dudley's rucksacks with a small blanket, one of Dudley's unread adventure novels, a bottle of lemonade and a handful of elf berries, Harry chose a secluded spot under a tree and made himself comfortable. As he munched on his berries and started on the book, he again felt bad for leaving Dobby with all the house work, even though the elf had insisted that he loved having more to do and was even happy to have Harry out of his domain.

The gentle, dappled sunshine lulled Harry to sleep after a while and he only woke when the local church started chiming the noon hour. With no nightmares to disturb him, he felt astoundingly refreshed and interested in doing more than just walking around and reading. Maybe Dobby would have some chores left over; that, or they found a way to go out more without being discovered by Voldemort's lackeys.

Despite Harry's wish for something to do, the afternoon was so lazy it bordered on the ridiculous. After lunch he napped in the half shadow of Aunt Petunia's roses, finished his Charms essay and ate an ice cream that Dobby brought from Florean Fortescue's ice cream parlour. Bright sunshine finally mellowed to golden rays and the roses began spreading their fragrance in the cooling evening air. It was Harry's favourite part of the day and he enjoyed spending it in the tidy little garden in peace. The only thing even better was Hermione's letter which Hedwig delivered as Harry devoured his dinner up in his room.

"Thanks, love," Harry said and offered Hedwig an owl treat. Dobby took care to feed Harry a variety of dishes, many of them vegetarian, so he made sure to always have owl nibbles ready. "Did you have a good flight? I thought the evening was brilliant and I guess there'll be many mice out and about now."

Hedwig churred, gobbled down her treat and swept back out of the window to hunt.

Since his plate was still half full with grilled cheese sandwiches, vegetables and salad, Harry opened his letter and read as he chewed.

Dear Harry,

Thanks for witing so quickly. After what happened last summer, I was half afraid Dobby would start again with his attempts to 'protect' you, even though the basilisk is gone. It's good to know that you're better now, and that your arm doesn't hurt anymore. Madam Pomfrey is good, I suppose, but Professor Dumbledore really should have taken you to Saint Mungo's to make sure you're alright.

And speaking of Dobby: This whole story is amazing, and it explains so much! You're a good person to support him after Mr. Malfoy freed him, even though he almost killed you. When my parents take me to Diagon Alley, I'll try to find a book about house elves. Maybe we'll find out how to help Dobby in the long run. Also, if you need money to feed him, please let me know. I can send some of my allowance along when Hedwig visits me next.

Your Charms essay sounds exciting. I'd love to read it. We can even swap, if you're interested. I already started on Transfiguration and Potions, though I must admit that the topic for Potions isn't at all interesting.

I told my parents that I'd like to see you over the summer, if possible more than once. Would you like that? I'm sure we can work something out. We're going to France at the beginning of July, but other than that I've got lots of time.

Thanks again for writing so soon - Ron is being lazy, just like last year. I'm looking forward to your answer!



Harry couldn't help himself, he grinned. For her to put school work second, or rather third, meant that she really liked him as a friend. It was a good feeling and he was determined not to disappoint her. Grabbing his notepad and a pencil, he set to write.


Saturday evening and with it Harry's appointment at Gringotts came sooner than the young wizard would have liked. He was nervous and wished he could have told Hermione about it, although he understood well enough why it hadn't been possible. Reading the Gringotts book, especially the back part about their most important customs, hadn't helped at all. Goblins seemed to be a fierce warrior race who apparently took honour very seriously and were easy to insult.

"Harry Potter sir need not worry," Dobby said soothingly. "Goblins do good business with wizards. Very gentle magic for healing. They be liking children more than adult wizards and be extra careful."

"Thanks, Dobby, I'll try." Harry took a shaky breath. "It's just my first major visit to a doctor, you see. I'm a little worried what they'll say about ... me. Being small and all that stuff, when they like strong warriors and such."

Dobby tilted his head and blinked at Harry. "Harry Potter sir be growing now because he has Dobby to take care of him. Harry Potter sir will be even greater wizard than he is now when he is all grown up."

Dobby's faith helped settle Harry's nerves a little, although he was grateful that the elf simply grabbed his hand and transported them when he least expected it.

"Whew!" he exclaimed as they landed in a shadowy corner of the bank's entrance hall. "What do you call this way of travelling again, Dobby? It's insane!"

"We elves just pop all over the place," Dobby replied, clearly pleased that he had pleased Harry so much. "Dobby will teach Harry Potter sir, if Harry Potter sir wants."

"Awesome." Grinning stupidly, Harry almost missed the goblin that was making his way over to them.

"Harry Potter?" the creature growled. After Harry's nod, he barked, "Follow me!" and waddled off, through a nondescript hidden door behind a pillar and into a semi-dark corridor.

Harry wasn't ashamed to admit that he was glad for Dobby's small hand in his, otherwise he might have fled on the spot. But despite being nervous, he looked curiously at the spectacular paintings and tapestries on the walls and let the warm light of the sconces soothe his agitation.

After several minutes, the goblin stopped in front of a door and gestured at it.

"You will meet Healer Spleenbash here. Mind your manners, wizard." With that, he sketched a short bow and went back, leaving Harry and Dobby standing in front of the ominous door.

"Uhm, thanks!" Harry called after him. He then carefully lifted his hand for a knock, only to have the door silently swing open. Guessing that it was okay for them to enter, Harry hesitantly went first. "Hello?"

"Harry Potter?" a gnarly yet oddly feminine sounding voice returned. Turning from the desk, a goblin of undefinable age met his gaze.

Harry swallowed. "Er, yes, I'm Harry Potter." He stepped aside so she could see Dobby. "This is Dobby, my friend. I don't know if it's allowed, but if he wants to, he can stay."

"I don't mind house elves," the goblin told him. "I'm Spleenbash, Gringotts' best healer for the eyes. Welcome to Gringotts."

"It's nice to meet you, Healer Spleenbash. Thank you for taking the time to see me," Harry said and bowed. It was clumsy but heartfelt, and he hoped that the goblin wouldn't take it as an insult.

Spleenbash's nostrils flared. "Enough with the niceties now, Mr Potter. Time is money, after all."

"Er, right."

"Your Dobby told me what you want done, but I have to tell you, just after seeing you now, that it probably won't do much good to heal your eyes tonight," Spleenbash said bluntly. "You're obviously rather small for your age, too thin, and you're also lacking colour in your skin. These are matters that should be corrected before I can attempt to heal whatever it is that ails your eyes."

Harry's face fell. "Oh. I was looking forward to seeing better."

"Yes, I can imagine." Spleenbash came closer and looked Harry over from a couple of feet away. Now fully in the light, the scarlet robes had a definite feminine look to them as they were adorned with impossibly fine stitchings, glittering precious stones and tiny pearls. "It would be Gringotts' honour to help, for the appropriate fee, of course."

"I'm very sorry, but I don't think I have that kind of money in my vault," Harry said, crestfallen. Dobby also let his ears droop in disappointment. "Especially not if you're a specialist. Truly, I'm sorry to have wasted your time."

Spleenbash snorted. "It's no matter, Mr. Potter. You're here already and I'll charge the ten galleon consultation fee regardless. Let me see what needs to be done. After that, I might help with a plan to correct the most immediate problems. It'd take longer, of course, but not tax your ressources as much."

Checking with Dobby, who was nodding insistently, Harry said, "I, yes. Thanks. That'd be great."

Spleenbash directed him to a bed, bade him to lie still, and then waved her spindly forefinger over him. It was all rather similar to Madam Pomfrey's ministrations so Harry finally managed to relax a little - only to jump right back to his feet when the healer let out a blood-curdling scream.

"What is this? How can there be basilisk venom in your body?" she demanded and schook the arm where a puncture mark was glowing with her magic.

"I was bitten," Harry explained, exchanging another glance with Dobby. "A couple of weeks ago or so. It wasn't nice, but a phoenix helped and I didn't die."

Spleenbash sucked in a deep breath before bellowing, "Where in the Deepest Pits have you been bitten by a basilisk? A child with such a wound! Preposterous!"

Apparently alarmed by her screeches, the door slammed open and four heavily armed guards stomped in.

"What is the matter, wizard?" the leader roared. "How dare you threaten our healer?"

Helplessy, Harry tried to defend himself. "I didn't-"

"You not be threatening Harry Potter!" Dobby squeaked hotly. "Harry Potter be most honorable!"

"Lies!" another goblin growled and aimed his spear at the boy. "Kill them both!"

This was evidently a huge mistake. Chaos erupted as Spleenbash revealed an impressive set of lungs and even more impressive magic as she nearly tore the guards' heads off for daring to threaten her patient.

"This child has been harmed by the King of Snakes, you fools! Here be no danger, but somewhere is!" she yelled. "Bring me Bloodnose and Quickslit, and inform Ragnok! Go!"

Harry wondered if it would be very impolite to laugh; surely no-one had ever seen a group of goblins turn such an alarming shade of whitish grey or run away like scared children with clanking armour.

"What fools," Spleenbash muttered under her breath. She closed the door to her office with a hearty push of magic, ushered Harry back to the bed, and resumed her work. "No wonder they're only in the guard ... no good for counting, nevermind crafting or healing. Flat-nosed, thrice-battered cave cats. Stupid, deaf dragon morsels ..."

Harry tuned her admittedly creative insults out and turned his head to Dobby. The elf sat on a little stool on the other side of the bed and swung his feet back and forth.

"That was a shock, wasn't it?" Harry asked quietly. "Thanks for trying to help."

"Bad goblins!" Dobby huffed. "They not clever; they don't know Harry Potter sir like I do."

"Well, they have no reason to trust me," Harry replied with a shrug. "I'm glad they're not after my head anymore, though."

"Speaking of your head, Mr Potter ..." Spleenbash stared in undisguised horror at Harry. "You have a really big problem with your head, and I alone won't be able to help you with it. I have to meet my colleagues. Stay here, I'll be back."


It had been an hour since Healer Spleenbash had left the office, leaving Harry and Dobby alone to stew in their worry. At least someone had seen fit to provide them with food and drink so the time wouldn't get too long. They sat on the bed and picked at the meal.

"What do you think is taking them so long?" Harry wanted to know. The tea and scones with clotted cream and strawberry jam were delicious but they couldn't hope to win against his anxiety. "And why does Healer Spleenbash need to see all these other people? Or goblins, rather. I mean, we don't have enough money anyway."

Dobby nibbled on an elf berry before saying, "Maybe goblins want to help even without money?"

"Or keep me prisoner for secret medical experiments," Harry returned glumly. "Might still be better than the Dursleys, but who knows."

Dobby's eyes widened in distress. "No, no, Dobby would never let bad goblins take Harry Potter!" He pulled at his ears. "Dobby would give his life to bring Harry Potter sir back home."

"I was kidding ... I think ... but thanks. I'd to the same for you, Dobby." Harry smiled at the house elf. "I never had a friend like you. It's really nice."

Dobby's large eyes filled with tears and his lower lip trembled. "Oh, Harry Potter sir be too kind to Dobby!" He grabbed a pillow and hit himself over the head with it. "Dobby not deserve such kindness!"

"What? Of course you do!" Although the elf couldn't really do himself harm with a pillow, it still reminded Harry far too much of the incident with his bedside lamp. "You're sitting here in the middle of the night with me, even though you could be sleeping. I mean, it's not like you signed up to hang around Gringotts and be threatened with spears and axes and stuff."

Dobby wailed even harder now and Harry was at a loss how to comfort him. It got so bad that he was downright grateful when the door suddenly opened and a whole group of goblins filed into the office. Thankfully Dobby was so distracted that his crying stopped and he only hiccoughed a little.

"Mr Potter, house elf Dobby, please rise," Healer Spleenbash intoned. As soon as both were on their feet, she called, "Behold the Goblin Nation's Leader, Chief Ragnok the Third, son of Ulquart The Destroyer and Slowkill the Sly!"

The entourage stepped neatly aside, forming a short corridor of goblins, through which a portly, mean-looking goblin in ceremonial armor stepped into the room. As he walked past them, the goblins bowed respectfully.

Not in any way prepared for this unexpected honour, Harry waited until Ragnok stopped in front of him and then offered a deep bow. Dobby by his side did the same.

"G-greetings, Chief Ragnok," Harry stammered. He wracked his brain for one of the example greetings in the Gringotts book. "May Gringotts a-always be filled with gold." After that he could only wait with bated breath.

Ragnok was silent for a long moment, and then he said, "And may your enemies quake at your feet, Heir Potter. Please rise. There's much to do and little time." He waved his clawed hand and two more goblins stepped forward. "These are Bonepick and Spinebreak. They'll assist Healer Spleenbash with your issues. Before we get to that, however, I need you to tell me where that basilisk is."

"Oh! Well, I can certainly help with that." Harry felt his confidence return as he looked into the expectant faces. "It's in the Chamber of Secrets at Hogwarts."

Yet another goblin stepped forward, head slightly bowed as he talked to Ragnok. "This is no good. Dumbledore will never allow us entry."

"This is a matter between Heir Potter and Gringotts," Ragnok retorted with a dismissive sniff. "He will have no say."

Harry followed their talk with a sense of bewilderment. The nameless goblin noticed his puzzlement and turned toward him.

"Gringotts has a special contract with the Ministry of Magic which allows the Horde access to any location where trade goods are stored. Three percent of the goods' value is to be paid to the Ministry for the privilege."

"Seems fair," Harry replied.

"Gringotts wants to take care of the basilisk, Heir Potter," the goblin continued, "and is prepared to enter into contract with you for the information. Since you found the Basilisk it could be argued that you claimed it as yours, therefore enabling us to enter Hogwarts. Aside from the fact that it is an extremely dangerous magical creature in a school full of children, it also has a certain worth. Its hide and venom are especially sought after, but there are also many uses for its organs and meat and even bones. It will be hard to kill, but Gringotts likes to come by its wealth honestly. Goblins never mind a good fight, and this will be an enemy to be talked about in years to come."

Hearing this, Harry felt an acute disappointment on behalf of the excitedly muttering goblins. "Too bad it's already dead, then," he said sadly.

"What?" Ragnok demanded.

"What!" his entourage echoed.

"It's dead," Harry repeated. "When it tried to kill me, I managed to kill it first. It still stabbed me with a tooth, but Fawkes healed that. I already explained to Healer Spleenbash."

"Not this part!" the healer exclaimed.

"Is that true?" Ragnok demanded. "You killed the King of Snakes? How did this come about? Tell us all!"

Feeling uncomfortable about the audience but knowing that there was no way out of it, Harry tried to explain what had happened that day and how he managed to return Ginny to Hogwarts' top side in the following questions as to the size of the beast baffled him even more.

"Extraordinary!" the goblin leader exclaimed once Harry was finished, his companions muttering among themselves in excitement. "Quite a feat for one so young! And to kill it in this fashion, with a goblin-forged blade ... all that skin, it is intact?"

"Er, yeah. Mostly." Harry flushed.

"And it's organs are not pierced? What about the bones?"

"Except for the eyes everything looked quite whole," Harry said. "Can I ask why?"

"You killed the King of Snakes, therefore its carcass is definitely yours," Ragnok explained. The goblins behind him, even the healers, fairly vibrated with excitement. "It's wizard law, written down in 1159 of your calendar when a dark lord bred so many basilisks that it was quite necessary for people to have an incentive to kill them before they got too big and dangerous." He stepped closer to Harry, face taking on a mien that Harry recognized from his uncle when he desperately wanted something and played very nice to get it. "Gringotts was prepared to pay a fee for your right of first refusal to the basilisk and argue the case with the Ministry, but now that we know that you've already slain it ... Gringotts wants to buy the beast. Whole. Whatever of it there is. Three weeks is not enough time for a basilisk to even begin rotting. It should be in prime condition. Do you agree?"

"Gladly," Harry replied and exhaled. "The sooner this thing is gone from Hogwarts, the better."

Ragnok offered his gnarly claw and Harry shook on the deal.

"Excellent." Ragnok turned to his advisor. "Fastclaw, meet with Heir Potter's account manager and set up a preliminary contract. Details will be ironed out at a later time. After that send an express order to our harvesters. This is a gold order. Everything else has to wait."

"Yes, Chief." The assistant bowed and hurried away. Two guards went with him, their spears raised menacingly.

Ragnok waved the healers closer. "Whatever the contractual details will be, Heir Potter's health is of utmost importance. This young wizard has brought a lot of gold and prestige to Gringotts tonight and it is Gringotts' pleasure to offer its assistance to one who it hopefully will be able to call friend in the years to come."

The other goblins sucked in their breath and Harry felt heat rise in his cheeks. Dobby poked him into the knee, prompting Harry to speak.

"Thank you," the overwhelmed boy mumbled, knowing that it was futile to downplay the generous gesture. "I appreciate it. So much."

"Ah," Spleenbash scowled when Ragnok nodded once and made for the door. "None of that now, Heir Potter. Come back to the bed, my colleagues need to investigate your health thoroughly before we can even start thinking about your treatment."

Now that the excitement was over and the healer's chamber empty except for Harry and the actual healers, a kind of leaden exhaustion settled upon Harry's body. While Spleenbash snarled at her colleagues, his eyes drooped and he fell asleep halfway through the goblins' extensive scans.


Harry awoke in his own bed, with no recollection of how he'd gotten there. Dobby was sleeping at his feet, though, so it wasn't hard to guess that his elf friend had popped them home at some point.

Squinting at the early morning sun's glare in his eyes, Harry put on his glasses and wondered why there were so many different potion vials on his bedside table. After sitting up and yawning, he also discovered a large, heavy trunk at the far side of the room. Hedwig churred softly at him and ruffled her feathers. She seemed utterly unconcerned, but Harry couldn't help but feel wary about all the strange new things.

"Dobby?" he whispered. "Could you wake up, please?"

The elf stirred but looked at least as bleary-eyed as Harry felt. It was obvious that he needed more rest. Still he sat up and squeaked, "How can Dobby serve, Harry Potter sir?"

"I don't need anything," Harry hurried to say and blushed with shame. "I just ... what happened last night? What are all those things?"

Dobby blinked and then uncurled himself. "Oh, this is just presents from the Goblin nation. Healing potions," he pointed at the vials on Harry's beside table, "and an apartment trunk, so Harry Potter sir can receive goblin visitors."

Confused, Harry asked, "Why can't they just come here?"

"It be forbidden for goblins to visit muggle dwellings," Dobby explained, visibly perking up. "It also be forbidden to meet heirs without supervision of magical guardians. But this trunk be Gringotts property, and goblins may visit their own property whenever they like. If Harry Potter sir happens to be there also, it be no crime."

Despite still feeling tired, Harry couldn't help but laugh about Dobby's pleased, sly grin. "Great idea. What else did I miss?"

"Healers told Dobby that they will visit Harry Potter sir every other night at eight o'clock, starting Tuesday to give potions time to work. They found bad, bad thing in Harry Potter sir's head, but they be knowing how to make it go away."

"Wow, okay." Harry touched Dobby's deceptively narrow shoulder and squeezed carefully. "Thank you very much, and sorry for waking you up. I was just ... freaked out, I guess. Go back to sleep, it's still early."

Dobby looked searchingly at Harry before hopping up with a little bounce. "Dobby be doing that. But Harry Potter sir will eat breakfast first."

True to his word, Dobby served a small breakfast consisting of fluffy waffles with butter and elf berries. The whole room smelled of coconut and cinnamon and when Dobby poured one of the goblin potions over the whole thing, Harry learned that, contrary to popular belief, it was indeed possible to make potions taste like hot caramel. Once the last drop was lapped from the plate, a pleasant tingle ran through his body.

Dobby munched on a couple handfuls of berries himself and squeezed himself into his cupboard as soon as Harry was finished. Harry grinned at the sight and then got up to take a shower and help his Aunt with breakfast.

The morning passed in absolute normalcy, at least as far as the Dursleys were concerned. Directly after stuffing his face, Dudley ran off to meet his friends while Harry's aunt and uncle set off to take a rare walk around the neighborhood. Uncle Vernon only warned Harry once not to do 'freakish stuff' and since Aunt Petunia didn't say anything about her garden, Harry took that as permission to spend the morning in the park.

As the heat got oppressive once the afternoon came around, Harry elected to stay inside. He and Dobby oohed and aahed over the potions, admiring their jewel-like colours and elegantly shaped vials. Each potion smelled different; there was pear and raspberry as well as chocolate and apple. The only blue potion, however, smelled like nothing Harry knew and even Dobby admitted to having no idea. Harry decided that it would make a good question for Healer Spleenbash.

At last their interest in the potions was exhausted and Harry began poking at the trunk. The richly adorned lid snapped open easily enough and the staircase it revealed gave Harry a real kick.

"Let's go see what's down there," Harry said, already stepping inside the trunk.

Dobby hurried to follow, his large ears quivering in excitement and his eyes wide with wonder.

"Wow, this is crazy!" Harry exlaimed as he reached the bottom of the stairs. "This really is a whole apartment! That fireplace is almost as large as the one in the Leaky Cauldron! And look, over there is a kitchen, and I bet behind that door is a bathroom!" He ran to peek inside and gave a triumphant cry. "Yep, a bathroom. It's got a huge tub, Dobby! I'll have to ask if we can use it."

Together, they also discovered three bedrooms, a large study with several bookshelves filled to capacity, and a room that looked like a cross between a medieval examination room and some kind of dungeon chamber. One half of the room was completely bare, except for a large, golden circle on the floor.

"No idea what they use that circle for, but maybe they'll tell us," Harry said. He crouched down and touched the golden markings on the stone floor. The metal felt cool beneath his finger tips and he was certain that this was real gold, not just gold-coloured paint.

In a corner, Dobby opened the lid of some kind of low-walled bassinet and looked inside.

"This be magic cystern," he said when Harry joined him. "Many folks be using it to cleanse before doing ritual magic."

"Ritual magic? Never heard of it." Harry let his arm hang into the cystern and wiggled his fingers. A fine mist teased him, just out of his reach. "Do you think they'll teach it at Hogwarts?"

"Hoggywarty hasn't taught ritual magics since Dobby was young elf and running after old Master Abraxis," Dobby replied. "Not many wizards be interested in old magics. Old families still be teaching their young, of course."

"Huh. Seems kind of unfair." Harry stared a little longer into the cystern before taking his hand back out and carefully closing the lid. "I guess I could buy a book about it, or better yet, ask Hermione. She seems to know everything."

"Dobby can buy books," the elf said. "Gringotts not be taking any money for healing Harry Potter sir, therefore there be money for more books."

"Hermione will definitely love you, the way you bring me things to read," Harry admitted with a little grin. "That reminds me ... do you know if there are any good books about house elves? She is worried about you, and well, since you're my friend, I should know stuff about you, right?"

"Most wizard books about house elves not be very good," Dobby said with shining eyes. "I be bringing Harry Potter sir book written by elf friend. It be truth as elves know it."

"Thank you. I'll make sure to read it, and maybe I could let Hermione borrow it, too?"

"Harry Potter sir can give book to anyone he likes."

Dobby trotted out of the room and back into the study. Harry followed gamely, although the sheer amount of books was a little intimidating.

"Goblins told Dobby that Harry Potter sir may read any book he fancies in the library," Dobby said. "There not be books on house elves, but Healer Spleenbash said there be many books on ancient runes and warding."

"Wow, that's awesome." Harry picked out a book at random and opened it. It was a rather thick tome about the healing arts and the chapter described the birth of a child ... in detail. "Uh, gross." He flipped the pages to a later chapter. "Healing broken bones, well, that's better. Could've done with this before Lockhart vanished the bones in my arm." He turned the book this way and that and squinted at the pictures. "The wand movement doesn't look that hard. I guess Lockhart was just incompetent."

"Vain wizard won't ever do Harry Potter sir harm again. Dobby made sure of that."

Harry stared at him. "What did you do?"

Dobby lifted his little chin defiantly. "Bad vain wizard had to drink potions against memory loss. Doctors didn't know if it be helping. Dobby exchanged potion with butterbeer. Now he be staying far away from Harry Potter sir forever."

"That's horrible, Dobby." Harry cleared his throat when the memories of Lockhart trying to obliviate him and Ron threatened to overwhelm him for a moment. He shook himself. "Thank you. He was creepy. Although maybe don't do it again anytime soon, okay?"

"Nobody hurts Harry Potter sir," Dobby said with conviction. "Besides, Dobby be protecting other wizards from bad Lockheady. He be making lots of good people forget important things."

Harry had to agree that Lockhart had, indeed, obliviated a lot of people and cheated them out of their accomplishments. Deciding that Lockhart forgetting himself was some kind of cosmic justice, Harry dropped the topic and chose another book at random.

"Oh, look, it's about medicines." He sat down on the floor, the heavy tome open in his lap, and pointed at a potions recipe. "This doesn't look like anything Snape has taught us."

Dobby actually sniffed. "Wizards only think they be knowing everything. Goblins be very good potions masters. They be using wild magic to heal their sick."

"Hm, this here is just a kind of Pepper-up Potion. Maybe Healer Spleenbash will allow me to try and brew it," Harry said. "The book says it tastes like strawberries."

"Dobby likes strawberries," the elf said. "Dobby would like to help." After a pause, his ears drooped slightly. "It be bad luck that goblins only come here Tuesday night. Dobby knows that Harry Potter sir be bored."

"It's not your fault," Harry replied. "Besides, I have a lot of homework to do. I should do that first, eben though it's boring."

And to make good on his word, Harry went back up into his room, closed the lid of the trunk so as not to tempt himself and settled at his desk. His Charms essay was due a trip to Hermione tonight, so he picked the assignment for Transfiguration next and began to scribble notes onto a page of lined paper.

Dobby brought him his school books when asked and popped back into the goblin trunk to look for even more books at the slightest huff of frustration from Harry. Harry let him, knowing that Dobby was even more bored in his relatives' little bland house than Harry himself.

At night, Harry settled in bed with his new Arithmancy book open. Even though he had read a later chapter with Hermione on the train, the introduction and first chapter were still very interesting. He scribbled several notes in the margins before Dobby decided that he'd studied enough and needed his sleep. It was nice to be so looked after and Harry followed his friend's instruction without complaint.


Monday morning rolled around and things took a turn for the worse. Uncle Vernon and Aunt Petunia returned from their early morning brunch in the best of moods, only to find a letter from Vernon's older sister Marge in the box. She was informing the Dursleys that she intended to come visit them for a week and would be arriving next Monday at three o'clock on the dot. Aunt Petunia didn't take this well at all; she was shrieking and moaning about the inconvenience as Marge's visit fell into the same week as the garden competition.

"Surely her dog will dig up my roses!" she cried. "Vernon, you have to tell her that she must delay her visit!"

"I can try, but you know Marge. She likely has it all planned out already." Uncle Vernon patted his wife's shoulder. "There, there. I'll tell her to keep Ripper leashed until the competition is over. And if he makes a mess, Potter will clean it up."

"He better does," Petunia sniffled bitterly. "But I have to say, I don't like it when she drops in like this. It's rude. Barely a whole week to prepare! How will the boy get the guest room and my garden ready? And we still need a new mattress to replace the one the dog chewed up. And the meal planning, and the party for the Garden Committee! I don't know how I'll manage it all."

"You can do it, Pet," Uncle Vernon consoled her. "It's only for a week, and you know how much Dudley loves Marge's visits. It'll be good to have real family around."

With that, the topic was closed and the two vanished via the terrace door into the garden, where Harry had been forced to set the small bistro table with cups of tea and strawberry cake.

"A whole week," Harry whispered in horror. He slumped against the wall of the hallway. "Just what I didn't need."

Later that evening, long after Hedwig had flown off to deliver Harry's letter to Hermione, Dobby managed to comfort Harry with assurances that he would keep bad dogs and aunts away.

"It's not so much that she hits me or anything," Harry sighed when Dobby inquired about Harry's fear of her. "But she's really mean and says evil things about my parents. Now that I know the truth about them ..." He shrugged. "I don't think I can ignore that kind of thing, even though I probably should."

Dobby handed him a small bowl with yogurt and elf fruit. "Harry Potter sir be noble and good. It be hard being good to bad people and Dobby not be disappointed if Harry Potter sir decides to be a little bad to bad people."

That made Harry laugh. "Thanks, Dobby. I'm not a saint, but I try to be better than them."

"Harry Potter sir now has Dobby to help keep the balance," Dobby replied smugly and began eating his own snack.


In anticipation of Aunt Marge's visit, Aunt Petunia took great delight in sending Harry to the garden to water, weed and prune, especially during the midday heat. There were even new flowers for Harry to plant but Dobby insisted on doing that while Harry took a break in the shadow. Without the elf's magical sunscreen the boy would've burned himself badly on the first day.

Later, Aunt Petunia sent Harry to his room, telling him to be ready for the guest room later. For food, he got a small portion of dry meatloaf, two boiled potatoes and a huge amount of mushy peas that nobody liked, not even Petunia herself.

"Muggles not know how to cook," Dobby muttered as he vanished the food with a moue of distate. In its stead, a beautiful arrangement of roast chicken, baked apple and a handful of perfectly roasted potatoes appeared.

It smelled wonderful and Harry ate his fill, realizing with wonder that Dobby had served exactly enough to make him pleasantly full but not tax his stomach. For dessert he had a small chocolate soufflé with a distinct orange note.

"That was absolutely perfect", Harry praised. "You're the best cook I know. Wow."

Dobby flushed a little. "Dobby be glad Harry Potter sir be happy!"

"You have no idea." Harry grinned. "I'm kinda stuffed, but how about going into the trunk and snooping some more? We could play ritual circle!"

Dobby's eyes widened. "Oh no, Harry Potter sir should be careful with ritual circles. Ritual circles be property of owners and must only be used with permission and respect." He tugged on his large ears. "Dobby be sorry!"

"Oh, don't be! I just didn't know and I wouldn't want to make the goblins angry. But if they got books about that, I'd like to have a look. Would that be okay?"

Instead of answering, Dobby hopped off the bed and opened the trunk with a little snap of his fingers. "First one down be choosing ice cream!" he squeaked and vanished with a mad little giggle.

Harry scrambled to follow but of course Dobby had won the race before he'd even gotten up from his chair.

"Dobby be liking melon and vanilla ice cream," the elf said, "but for Harry Potter sir Dobby'll be getting three flavours he not be knowing yet."

"With whipped cream and sprinkles?" Harry asked hopefully.

"And with lots and lots of strawberries. Fortesque-y wizard has great strawberries, they be rich with magic so us elves like to go there and trade for little favours."

"You can buy as many strawberries as you like," Harry assured him. "Or help Mr. Fortesque out if it's nothing evil or likely to get you killed."

Dobby did a little happy dance. "Dobby be finding books for Harry Potter sir now!"

Harry smiled at the house elf's enthusiasm. He poked around the rooms, washed his hands in the truly rather luxurious bathroom so he wouldn't touch the goblins' possessions with sticky fingers and then went into the study where a little stack of books on ritual magic was already waiting for him.

He picked up the first and read the title, Ritual Craft For The Young. Seeing that he was, in fact, rather young, he decided that this was as good a beginning as any and opened the cover eagerly.

The first chapter quickly sucked him in, giving a short overview of the evolution of ritual magic in Great Britain. Naturally, this made Harry curious about the rest of the world, but since the book was of medium size he decided that it would have to keep for a while.

Another hour passed as Harry also devoured the second chapter. It described the basic needs for ritual craft, which didn't seem at all difficult to arrange.

"Hey Dobby, did you know that you could do all the rituals in the buff?" Harry called through the open study door.

Dobby appeared and wagged his finger. "Dobby knows, but Dobby be very grateful that wizards wear robes now. Most wizards not be very nice to look at naked."

Harry snorted with laughter. When he had calmed himself a little, he said, "Still, it's good that you don't need some sort of special robe to do magic. It would be really unfair if only rich people could afford it." Just thinking of Malfoy's arrogant behaviour made Harry that more determined to try his hand at ritual magic, if only to have something interesting to tell Hermione in his next letter.

Dobby's ears twitched and he said, "Mean Aunt Petunia be calling for Harry Potter sir. They be wanting tea in the garden."

"Because she can't bloody serve tea herself," Harry grumbled. "Fine."

He marked the page in the book, put it on the little reading table next to his chair, and trudged out of the trunk. As expected, Aunt Petunia harangued him as he stacked the tea things on a tablet. She only held back Dudley from tripping him up because it was her good china. Dudley then was allowed to bring the strawberry cake and sandwiches, of which nearly a quarter never reached the garden.

Harry wanted to go back to his trunk immediately after his aunt was satisfied with her table, but she surprised him.

"Aunt Marge will visit us next week," she hissed. "To rehearse your manners you'll sit with us now. Try not to be a bother!"

Under her watchful eye, Harry actually got a huge piece of gooseberry cake (which Aunt Petunia loved but both her husband and son abhorred) to eat and a cup of weak tea. Harry acted as put upon as he could, although he rather liked the tart taste. Uncle Vernon was so entertained by his performance that Harry was even allowed whipped cream for the cake, an almost unheard of occurence.

Doing the dishes was Harry's job, naturally, and afterwards Uncle Vernon escorted him to his room to lock him in, gleefully telling Harry that the family had tickets for the open air cinema and he wasn't invited.

"But what about the guest room?" Harry asked. "Aunt Petunia said I should get it clean today."

"That can wait. We're having pizza afterwards, so I don't want you getting ideas to do freakish things to our house!" Before Harry could reply, Uncle Vernon closed the door and engaged all the locks.

"Bye, freak!" Dudley hollered.

Soon after, the house was silent and Harry let Dobby pop him out of his room.

"The weather be too nice for Harry Potter sir to stay inside," the elf squeaked. "Evening light be good for growing wizards! Harry Potter sir should eat dinner outside. Dobby be taking care of nosy neighbours."

It really was a beautiful evening, Harry acknowledged as he first enjoyed his food and then his ice cream. Dobby had chosen coconut, pear, and peanut butter chocolate for him, topped with apple sauce, a huge amount of whipped cream, and sparkly fairy sprinkles. The elf enjoyed his own sundae with obvious pleasure; his ears were twitching and his dangling feet kicked excitedly every few seconds.

"I'm a bit nervous about having the goblins over," Harry confided after swallowing the last bit of his treat. "Do you think getting my scar healed will hurt a lot?"

"Dobby not know," Dobby replied and put his empty bowl down. "But goblins be knowing what they be doing. Dobby be having faith."

Harry took a deep breath and nodded. "Right." After a short glance at his watch, he said, "I guess it's time to go inside and find out."


Harry and Dobby hadn't waited long in the foyer of the goblin trunk when the fireplace lit up with green flames and spat out three goblins.

"Good evening, Healer Spleenbash," Harry said and bowed. "May unworthy patients quake in their boots before you, and the worthy ones fill your vault with precious treasure."

"So mote it be, Heir Potter," Healer Spleenbash returned. She gestured to her companions. "You already briefly met Bonepick and Spinebreak, although you were not up for introductions the last time."

Harry offered another greeting and received one in return.

"Now, as was determined during your consultation, you have a very dark magic clinging to you, Heir Potter, and Gringotts is interested in cleansing you from its influence."

"Uhm, not that I don't appreciate it, because I do, but ... why?" Harry asked.

Spleenbash snorted. "Because that thing in you is not merely the remnant of the Dark Lord's curse, it is literally a part of him." She ignored Harry's shocked gasp. "Gringott's did not stand with Voldemort during his war and we won't stand for his continued existence if we can help it. To speak frankly, we as a race abhor him and his foul abominations. No valued customer, much less friend, will be left to suffer from this evil as it only breeds more evil the longer it is allowed to fester. One war was quite enough, no?"

"Absolutely," Harry croaked. He pressed his fingers against the scar. "How soon can you do it?"

"Very soon," Spleenbash assured him. "Before we can get to that, however, we need to shore up your health. The procedure is taxing on the body and I don't want to risk unnecessary injury. Bonepick, you'll go over Heir Potter's health plan while Spinebreak and I inspect the ritual space."

Harry, Dobby, and Healer Bonepick went into the study while the other two goblins went on into the large ritual room and closed the door behind them.

"Now sit, and hold still for a moment," Healer Bonepick said. He swiftly waved his long fingers along Harry's body. A diagnostic sprung up next to Harry and a self-writing quill started writing things out on a scroll of parchment. "Hm, hmmm, oh, that's not good ... but this is doing its job already ... very good ... oh, those Muggles ... hm, yes, interesting!" A few minutes later he was finished and let the visuals fade away. "Now, Heir Potter, let's start with a few questions. Your elf takes care of your food?"

"Uh, yes. He's been very good about feeding me healthy things. And your potions, of course!" Harry flushed. "They're way better than normal potions, so thanks for that."

"Goblins would never subject a sick child to nasty medicine," Bonepick scoffed. "The taste is meant to ensure that the potions are actually taken, you see."

"Er, I'd like to learn how to do that," Harry stuttered. "I mean, if I may."

"You do have Potions classes at Hogwarts, do you not?" Bonepick asked and raised an eyebrow. "Is Professor Snape not a certified master? Does he not stock the infirmary? It is said that his potions are among the very best."

"I guess so, but he's, er, not very good at teaching. And potions are disgusting, mostly, no matter who brews them."

Bonepick showed a few teeth as he smirked. "Well, I've never been one to hinder enquiring minds in their quest to knowledge. I'll talk to Healer Spleenbash as she's the one overseeing your treatment, but I don't see why you shouldn't try your hand at the art. Equipment can be procured easily enough - for a fee, of course - and there's room enough in the trunk for a small lab."

"Thank you!" Harry grinned. "Really, that's awesome!" He held his hand out and let Dobby low-five him.

"You're welcome, Heir Potter." Bonepick made a few notes on his parchment. "Back to your food: it seems that your elf has been feeding you elf berries and other fruit rich in wild magic?"

"Uhm, yes. Is that a problem?" Harry shared a concerned look with Dobby. "I told him to stop if I need too much. I'd never want to steal their food."

"Not, it's quite alright, Heir Potter. It's just unusual, you see. Wizards normally don't interact much with wild magic, especially not to heal themselves. They rely on their own cores and take care of themselves with their potions and whatnot."

"But wouldn't it be more clever to use what's already there?" Harry asked, puzzled.

"Of course it would, and it isn't like wizards don't try to harvest wild magic." Bonepick seemed more amused than annoyed by Harry's questions. "But the ability to use magically rich food sources, for example, is not one many wizards share, and if they do have it they often unwittingly starve it with inadequate food during their childhood. Normal food might meet the body's demand for nourishment, but the magical core is left wanting. Its ability to absorb wild magic will diminish and eventually wither away."

"Wow, that's sad." Harry wrung his hands. "So, it's good that I can eat the elf berries? Will it make me better sooner?"

"A lot sooner than expected," Bonepick allowed, "but we have a long way to go regardless. Your bones need a lot of attention, especially your wand arm, as does the rest of you, frankly. You're eating often, which is good, but not very much at any one time because your stomach is a little underdeveloped. Healer Spleenbash already noted that you're small for your age and lacking several nutrients. I assume that's the doing of your Muggle relatives. Magical children need a lot of energy to build their reserves and some Muggles are not willing to expend the money."

"Harry Potter sir's relatives sometimes let him go hungry," Dobby said before Harry could think to ask him to keep it to himself. "They be starving Harry Potter sir!" His wail echoed through the room.

"Well, that needs to stop immediately," Bonepick said without inflection. "You seem to be dedicated to your master, so keep up the good work. I prescribe six to seven meals a day, and more if required. Going hungry is not an option at this stage in his recovery. My colleagues and I will take care of the rest."

Dobby sniffled but stood straight with determination. Harry was just glad that this seemed to be the end of it as he hated talking about his home life.

"My last question is in regards to your memory of the basilisk," Bonepick said. "Chief Ragnok wants to see how you managed this feat, of course, so it'd be an immense honour if you'd allow me to harvest the memory for showing."

"Er, will I lose the memory?" Harry asked cautiously. "Because our last Defence teacher tried to obliviate me and I'd rather not forget anything important."

"Don't you worry, Heir Potter. This procedore merely takes a copy out of your head. I propose that I bring a pensieve here on my next visit and show you how it works. A little practice beforehand will make the process much easier for you, and it is convenient to know whenever you need to give testimony in front of the authorities. Deal?"

Harry thought it over and finally grinned. "Deal. But it's only for Chief Ragnok. You can show the other goblins for a fee."

Healer Bonepick was startled into a hissing laugh and accepted the terms with delight. As they shook hands, a small parchment popped into existence.

"Your receipt, Heir Potter," Bonepick said. "It states the terms of the deal. See here? The fee is still to be determined, so think about it and be ready when we revisit the topic. Chief Ragnok hates indecision."

"I will," Harry promised. He handed Dobby, who was eagerly reaching up, the slip of parchment for safekeeping. "Thank you very much."

"Don't thank me yet. You better learn fast that we goblins are cut-throat in our negociations," Healer Bonepick countered. "No matter which profession, the deal comes first, Heir Potter."

"I'll remember that." Harry grinned. "So, are we done with the questions?"

"We are. Now comes the part where I tell you exactly what to do and how to do it." Healer Bonepick showed Harry a roll of parchment. "This is your treatment plan. We'll keep up with the strengthening and nourishing potions for at least another week. See here? Some days you'll have to take more than one. As you take them, you'll document your eating habits - dates, times, the kind of food, and the amount - and also list how you feel at the end of each day. Don't be flowery, a short statement will suffice. Once we're satisfied with your progress, we'll take a closer look at your bones. After that, we'll research the interaction of basilisk venom and phoenix tears in your blood and try to determine how each might influence the procedure to get rid of the Dark Lord's stain. This might take a few weeks. During that time, you'll continue with the potions as determined by Healer Spleenbash and start a light exercise regimen."

"Exercise?" Harry groaned. "Like aerobics?"

"If you like," Bonepick smirked. "But I thought more along the lines of hiking, riding a Muggle bike, flying ... whatever gets young wizards moving."

"Uh, well, you see, I don't have much opportunity to just ... you know, be on holiday. My relatives give me chores and stuff, but they don't like me walking about the neighbourhood too much." He flushed but pressed on, "They're ashamed of me, I suppose. Because of my magic. So, if there's something I can do in my room, or maybe down here, I'd appreciate it."

Healer Bonepick mumbled something under his breath and made a note. "I see. I'll take that under consideration."

In that moment, Healer Spleenbash and her colleague Spinebreak returned.

"Ah, good, you've made it to the treatment plan already," she said. "Did you understand everything, Heir Potter?"

Harry nodded and repeated in short Healer Bonepick's instructions.

When the matter of exercise came up, Healer Spleenbash pursed her lips. She said, "Don't worry about it too much just yet, Heir Potter. You need to give yourself time to heal, and worry can only harm the process. If all goes well, we might be able to remove the dark stain before Hogwarts starts. Until then, be patient and enjoy your summer." After a quick look at Bonepick's notes, she added, "Our next appointment is two days hence. Keep yourself available, please."

"Yes, Healer Spleenbash." Harry looked down as Dobby tugged on his trouser leg. "What is it, Dobby?"

"Harry Potter sir wanted to ask about ritual magic," Dobby squeaked.

"Ritual magic?" Healer Spleenbash inquired warily. "What is this, Heir Potter?"

"I saw the circle and became curious," Harry said sheepishly. "And I wondered whether I might use it for a bit. Just to see what it's like. The book I found made it sound really interesting."

"Which book?" she asked suspiciously.

"Ritual Craft For The Young," Harry said. "By William Damsell."

Healer Spleenbash relaxed and nodded. "Very well. It is a good book for beginners. Read as you will, but refrain from using the ritual space until you've heard from Gringotts. We're still deciding whether to work here or at Gringotts proper."

"Of course. Thank you."

"If there's nothing else to discuss, we're done here. Well met, Heir Potter. Stay in one piece, if you please."

Harry waved as the goblins activated the Floo and vanished in a swirl of bright green flames.

End of Part 1