CHAPTER 18 – Playing with Fire

Harry looked up as the twins entered the room, "So, how did it go?"

"Horrible…"

"Inexcusable…"

"The injustice…"

"The unfairness of it all…"

"I can't believe Sirius got away with it."

"I can't believe our very own sister helped him and not us."

Ginny jumped up indignantly, "Hey! It's not my fault you two were stupid enough to get caught and without an alibi too."

Fred sighed. "What I can't believe it that people actually fell for that alibi..."

"It's more solid than: Innocent till proven guilty," Ginny snickered in response. "It helped that those ladies are quick to explain as to why Sirius and I were wandering outside the confines of the ballroom."

"Gnome hunting is the lamest of excuse…"

"It worked better than your request for a fair trail."

Ron just shook his head, glad that he, Hermione and Harry had opted to not go along with Sirius and the twins on this particular prank. "Uhmm…Guys…"

---

Ginny pasted a smile on her face as Sirius worked his charm on for the 5th time.

"A gnome?"

"Yes Ma'am, he's wearing a green top hat and similar coloured dress robe," Sirius explained.

"Why in heaven's name did you bring such a lowly creature to an affair like this?"

Sirius gave the woman a disarming smile, "I was training him."

"Training?"

"To carry a tray of Hors D' Oeuvres around."

The woman gave the Sirius a strange look, "Whatever for?"

"I want to show that this could work…"

The woman gave him a puzzled look and thus he continued, "You see House Elves are expensive and not everyone can afford them, so think of the possibilities if a gnome could be trained to perform some of the House Elf's task to a lesser degree."

The woman looked intrigued, "That's an interesting concept, but can it be done?"

"That's what I was trying to prove. I figured an event like this one would be a great place to show that gnomes could be useful in this area. Unfortunately, Mr. Potato-Head wandered off."

"Mr. Potato-Head?"

"That's the gnome's name. I think he may have wandered off and burrowed himself at some dark corner or maybe even the gardens," Sirius shrugged. "Unfortunately gnomes tend to do that."

The woman laughed. "That's an adorable name. I'll keep my eyes open for him and would look forward to that demonstration."

"Thanks Mrs. Capmier."

Ginny shook her head and followed Sirius out of the main ballroom. "What was all that about?"

"All what?" Sirius asked innocently.

"Going around and asking those ladies about your lost gnome, when you hid that darn gnome of yours in the kitchen amongst those poor house elves."

"Alibi," Sirius answered with a smirk.

"Why would we need an alibi?" Ginny asked nervously, "Do you think we'll get caught?"

"Now that we have an alibi, not likely." Sirius answered with a smug grin, at Ginny's puzzled look, he explained further, "This is the Ministry of Magic. At an affair like this one, someone is bound to notice and maybe even be slightly suspicious at our wanderings. I just gave us a good reason for doing so."

"What about Fred and George?"

Sirius shrugged. "They did say that if we got caught we're on our own, so the same goes for them. I still can't believe Ron chickened out on us," Sirius grumbled. "What a wuss!"

Ginny giggled at this. "Just how do you come up with these twisted plans and crazy alibis?"

Sirius scowled. "Aurors. Nothing gets by them; you're more likely to get caught if you don't have an alibi. Moreover, having elderly ladies stand up for you is the best way to get away with anything," Sirius smirked. "No one wants to argue with them, and its bad politics to try and blame a kid - who those ladies believes to be serving a philanthropic cause."

"Philanthropic cause?!? Since when is a prank a philanthropic cause?" Ginny choked at the very idea of this.

Sirius laughed. "Pranks could do a lot of good in this dull, boring and predictable world," he gave Ginny a smug look and turned his attention towards the empty hallway, "coast is clear here." He noticed the incredulous look Ginny gave him and laughed. "What I meant by 'philanthropic' is the cause of making household help accessible to everyone. Those ladies would think that it's very noble of me to try and train a gnome to do some chores."

"That's stupid. How can that even be considered philanthropic?"

A dark eyebrow raised knowingly, "You have to understand the priorities of those women - household help happens to be one of them. I'll bet even your mum would have loved me for putting an effort towards that cause."

Ginny rolled her eyes. "I doubt that, my mum isn't the gullible enough to trust you…"

Two red heads popped out from the corner.

"Finally!"

"What took the two of you so long? Fred and I had been waiting for ages."

"Eons…"

"Eras…"

"That cobweb wasn't even there when we got here…"

Sirius raised both hands in surrender, "Alright, we had to try to get Harry, Hermione and Ron to change their minds and maneuver our way out of the room without looking suspicious."

"Were you able to convince them?"

Ginny shook her head sadly, "No, Hermione and Harry still wanted to take that guided tour around the ministry…"

"and Ron's too much of a wuss to join us," added Sirius grouchily.

---

Hermione took a closer look at the old mirror; she could barely see her own reflection beneath the thick layer of dust. The glass beneath the dust suddenly acquired a bluish glow and her reflection pushed it's way out of the dust.

"Hola."

Hermione yelped and glared at her mirror image, "You won't fool me this time around."

"I am aware that you're not particularly pretty by human standards, but I never thought your face is scary enough to even scare yourself," the reflection turned its chin up haughtily.

"What do you want, Seidon?" Hermione hissed through gritted teeth.

"You are quite rude, even by human standards."

"And you're especially daft, even by kelpie standards."

"My being open-minded about your species might be considered daft by the rest of my kind, but I would think you'd appreciate my immeasurable tolerance."

Hermione sighed for it was pointless to argue with this particular kelpie. "I'm asking you again Seidon, what do you want?"

"Your large friend, Hagrid is about to cause a catastrophe."

Hermione looked over her shoulder where Harry and Ron listened to Professor Quirell as the jumpy professor pointed to the skeletal remains some animal and explained its significance. "Seidon, can it wait till later? We're not alone at the moment."

The kelpie snorted. "If you're worried about the turbaned one. I'll handle him."

"No you wont." Hermione hissed, "You will not transport the poor man into the mouth of a volcano or in the middle of the desert."

"I will do no such thing," the kelpie tossed its head indignantly, "just call the man over."

"No."

"I assure you, I won't harm him in any way."

Hermione hesitated, but decided to trust the kelpie and called for her professor, "Professor Quirell, could you take a look at this?"

The Professor forced a smile, he had wanted to leave this particular room so to lead the group to an even more secluded area, but to answer Hermione's question shouldn't take too much time. As he approach Hermione, an unnaturally large and ghastly pale figure with blood-shot eyes emerge from the mirror behind her, Quirell screamed then all turned black.

Hermione glared at the large vampire that was half-way out of the mirror, "Don't you know any other tactic than to scare people out of their wits?"

The kelpie in vampire form crossed its arm smugly, "It's the kelpie way."

Harry and Ron stared at one another, their shock and confusion was obvious.

"What's going on?" Ron asked.

Hermione glared at the kelpie, "Alrught Seidon, this better be really urgent."

Unbeknownst to the trio, a dark presence listened as they discussed the dilemma. The Dark Lord pondered on how he could use this development to his advantage.

---

Harry, Hermione and Ron rush towards the ballroom only to find the all too familiar singing quills dancing and singing in the tune of the cancan.

Hermione sighed. "It seems that those idiots pushed through with their dumb prank even without our blessings."

"Are we supposed to be surprised that they did?" Harry asked.

"Fudge. Fudge!

He squeals like a pig. pig!

He really needs a wig. wig!

Minister of Bulge!

Tralalalala

Lucius,

Girly man with a pimp cane!

Long is his white mane!

Pure blooded wuss!"

Harry felt a spray of pumpkin juice hit him on the face, he blinked and realized that people were screaming and trying to jump under the table as punch bowls and cups danced to the tune of the quills, spraying a fountain of liquid as they danced.

The singing and dancing suddenly stopped as the quills and utensils fell to the floor. The trio looked about and saw that Alastor Moody has entered the room, wand raised as his magical roved around the room and finally focused on one particular individual. "Sirius," he hissed.

A dark haired boy crawled out from one of the tables and protested, "My gnome didn't create this mess – well … maybe he did drop a tray over there…"

"It's not your fault young man, gnomes are just too clumsy and their bad eyesight would make them crash unto just about any obstacle."

Moody blinked and wondered how the conversation suddenly turned towards gnomes. Something suddenly bumped into him and dropped several small sandwiches on his feet, his jaw dropped as a green robed gnome unsteadily made it way towards Sirius carrying a tray of Hors D' Oeuvres. The women applauded as Sirius proudly stated, "Told you he could do it."

Moody whirled around as he heard Molly shouted, "Fred! George!"

"Innocent till proven guilty!"

"We demand a fair and just hearing."

---

Fred groaned. "It's not fair that we got grounded based on circumstantial evidences."

"Why does she always assume that we're responsible?" George grumbled.

"I didn't help that Percy mentioned that tiny detail about seeing the two of you sneak out of the ballroom an hour before that prank broke loose," Ginny laughed as Fred and George started to mutter curses about Percy the Prick.

Ron cleared his throat once again. "Everyone, we need to head back to Hogwarts."

All eyes turned towards him in surprise.

Hermione nodded grave at her place beside Ron, "Harry has just sent an owl to Sirius. Seidon sent us some disturbing news."

Ginny looked at them in confusion, "What's going on? Who's Seidon?"

---

Sirius entered the room to find his friends waiting for him, "What's going on?"

"Sirius, finally! They won't tell us until we're all here." Fred exclaimed.

George nodded. "Ginny wasn't too happy that we that we all decided to suddenly come back to Hogwarts and won't tell her why."

"Unhappy is understatement," Fred quipped.

"Majorly pissed?"

"When she's like that, she's almost as scary as mum…"

"Almost but not quite…"

"Quite close though…"

Hermione groaned. "Will you two shut up so we can tell you what this is all about!"

"Finally."

"I though she'll never get to that."

Hermione sighed and wondered if its was possible for the twins to surpass Seidon in their ability to be extremely infuriating.

"Seidon contacted us to say that Hagrid's dragon egg is about the hatch," Harry was interrupted before he could finish.

"So this emergency is for us to prepare a baby dragon shower for Hagrid?" Sirius asked with a smirk, "I might be wrong here, but aren't we supposed to do that before the egg has hatched?"

The twins rolled over with laughter as Ron shook his head in exasperation, "Could you be serious for a minute."

"He is Sirius!" both Fred and George quipped at the same time.

Hermione groaned at this, she was now very sure that the twins are more infuriating than Seidon, although Sirius comes to a close third. "Would you three idiots let Harry finish?"

Harry gave Hermione a grateful look. "As I was saying Seidon told us that a hinoema is on its way to Hogwart unless we help him destroy the egg."

Ron shook his head, "As I've told Harry, we shouldn't listen to Seidon on this. That crazy horse already tried to take the egg and Hagrid's pretty agitated about it."

Fred shrugged. "Why not just send the egg to Charlie?"

"Because the hinoema just might turn its attention towards Charlie," Hermione explained.

Ron threw his arms in the air, "What I don't understand is why a hinoema is such a big deal."

"Hinoema is the ancient term used by Seidon and Nathaniel, but the modern term for them is Heliopath," seeing the puzzled look her companions gave her, she further explained. "These creatures haven't been seen in centuries and many believe they don't exist at all, however they are known to be galloping flames of fire that devours everything in their path.

"Well if they don't exist, then they won't be a problem right?" Ron looked at Hermione hopefully.

"That's what we need to look into." Hermione turned her attention towards Sirius, "Sirius, maybe you ought to ask Nathaniel about Hinoemas and I'll go to the library to find whatever I can about Heliopaths."

Harry nodded. "Ron and I would head for Hagrid's hut."

Fred grinned, "And George and I will go about to plan and set up our next prank."

Hermione glared at the twins, "No, you two idiots would go visit that damn horse and have him explain the situation better and also find out what he had attempted to do at Hagrid's hut a couple of days earlier."

---

Sirius was alone in the room he stared at the book in front of him, he placed it down when he heard footstep heading towards his room.

The door creaked open. "Mister Black."

Sirius flashed a wicked grin, happy for this little diversion and a chance for him to have a bit more fun at the Deputy Head Mistress' expense, "Minerva, couldn't stay away from me for long could you?"

The Deputy Head Mistress held back an urge to whack the boy on the head, "I have a proposal for you."

If possible, Sirius' smile grew wider for the Minerva McGonagall set herself up perfectly for this one, "The answer is yes Minerva, till death do us part."

McGonagall glared at the boy, "You must think you're very funny Mister Black."

"A lot of people do," Sirius answered evenly, not showing a trace of nervously or fear that all normal students ought to given the icy glare the Deputy Head-mistress was giving him.

Minerva McGonagall had long known that Sirius Black was not a normal student. "Mister Black, after all these months I've finally seen that sending you to detention is of no help, in fact you seem to take a twisted sense of satisfaction from earning them."

"I'll always appreciate any gifts you send my way, Minerva."

McGonagall ignored the boy's quips and continued, "I figured the best way to make you behave yourself is to offer you another outlet to pour your energies into…"

Sirius opened his open but at the professor's warning look, decided to ought to maintain his silence this time around.

"… I'm offering to teach you to become an Animagus in exchange for your doing your homework, the behave during class hours - that would mean no foolish stunts whatsoever and no more wedding proposals from you."

Sirius gaped at his professor, "An Animagus?"

"It would be difficult and probably take years to master…"

"Deal! I solemnly swear from here forth, I'll be your model student."

Minerva smiled at the boy's enthusiastic reply, "Of course that would also mean that you submit all the homework you owe me from the start of the school year."

Sirius stared at the Transfiguration professor in dismay, "That's not fair."

"But it is Mister Black. I want to see all your homework before we start our first lesson."

Professor McGonagall closed the door, confident that she had finally found a way to handle Sirius Black, the boy would probably cause her little problems from hereon, and the best part about this deal was the fact that it would take years for anyone to master Animagus transformation and therefore would mean she could keep the boy in line for the next few years.

---

Hermione frowned for she did not like what she was reading. Heliopaths are capable of turning great cities to ashes in a matter of minutes. She had seen first-hand on how dangerous kelpies like Seidon could be when angered. However, whatever Seidon could do is nothing compared to the destructiveness of a Heliopath.

---

In a darkened room a voice whimpered softly, "Ma-master I-I'm so sorry … I …"

"Shut up you weak fool, it matters no longer. Potter and his friends may have a strong influence on a kelpie, but a creature far stronger than the kelpie and one with the means to make me stronger is coming our way. Ingesting a Heliopath's meat would give one strength and ability to resist fire."

"Bu-But master, such creatures do not exist."

"Fool! Shows how little you know!"

The man shivered and looked up, "Ma-master wha-what do you.. you wish for me to do about this?"

"Watch Potter and his friends well. They will eventually lead us to the Heliopath."

- End of Chapter 18 -

Author's Note: I know it's been so long since I've last updated I plan to return to this story and update more often now. I've added a forum in my profile for news on my progress of upcoming chapters. As for answering reviews I promise to do that on the next chapter.

If you have time, check out my other story "The Healer" it would be a prequel to this story and gives some background about Nathaniel, Aris and Asclepius (Aris' father).