Chapter Ten

Awards

Eponine waited outside Dumbledore's office. She listened in from the outside.

"You two both realize, of course, that in the past few hours you've broken perhaps over a dozen school rules," he said.

She could hear Harry and Ron's voice saying softly, filled with guilt. "Yes, sir," they replied.

"There is sufficient enough evidence to have you both expelled."

"Yes, sir."

"Therefore, it is only fitting both of you and Eponine shall receive Special Awards for Services to the School."

Eponine felt a smile stretch across her face. An award for a Special Service!

"Thanks, sir," said Ron.

"And now, Mr. Weasley, if you would have an owl deliver these release papers to Azkaban," said Dumbledore. "I believe we want our gamekeeper back. And while you're going out, ask Eponine to come in."

Ron's footsteps approached the door and he said that Dumbledore wanted to see her.

"Ah, good, Eponine," said Dumbledore. "I'm glad you're here." He looked at Eponine over his half-moon glasses. "First, I want to thank both you and Harry. You must've shown real loyalty down in the Chamber. Nothing but that could've called Fawkes to you two."

He paused and approached them. "Second, I sense something is troubling you and Harry, am I right?"

Eponine nodded. "Yes, Headmaster," she replied. "I…I couldn't help but notice that there were some similarities between Harry, Tom Riddle and I."

"I see. Well, you both can speak Parseltongue. Do you know why?"

They shook their heads.

"Because Lord Voldemort can speak Parseltongue. If I'm not mistaken, he transferred some of his powers to you, Harry the night he gave you that scar."

"Voldemort transferred his powers to me?" Harry said, thunderstruck.

"Not intentionally. But, yes." He turned to Eponine. "I believe that you, Eponine, might have inherited the ability from your ancestors. The night Lord Voldemort tried to kill you, he awakened the ability when his spell was absorbed into your pendant. Take a look."

He took Eponine's pendant and flipped it over to the back and there was a tiny, scorched crack.

"So, the Sorting Hat was right. I do belong in Slytherin," said Harry.

"It's true, Harry. You possess many of the qualities that Voldemort himself prizes: determination, resourcefulness, and if I may say so, a certain disregard for the rules." He paused and gestured to the Sorting Hat. "Why, then, did the Sorting Hat place you in Gryffindor?"

"Because I asked it to."

"Exactly, Harry, exactly. Which makes you different from Lord Voldemort. It is not our abilities that show us what we truly are. It is our choices."
Harry nodded.

"If you want proof why you belong in Gryffindor, then I suggest you look more closely at this." Dumbledore picked up the blood-stained silver sword and handed it to Harry. "Be careful."

They looked at the blade, the rubies glittering in the light and they saw the name engraved just below the hilt: GODRIC GRYFFINDOR

"It would take a true Gryffindor to pull that out of the hat," said Dumbledore.

Soon, the door opened behind them and in came Lucius Malfoy. Cowering behind his legs was…

"Dobby?" said Eponine.

"So, this is your master. The family you serve is the Malfoy's," said Harry.

"I'll deal with you later," said Lucius Malfoy. He walked towards Dumbledore's desk with Dobby scurrying after him with a look of abject terror on his face. He pushed the two of them aside with his cane. "Out of my way, Potter and Cinder-soot." He turned to Dumbledore, fixing his cold eyes upon him. "So, it is true. You have returned."

"When the governors learned that Arthur Weasley's daughter was taken into the Chamber, they saw fit to summon me back," said Dumbledore, smiling serenely.

"Ridiculous," Lucius said.

"Curiously, Lucius, several of them were under the impression that you would curse their family if they did not agree to suspend me in the first place."

"How dare you!"

"I beg your pardon?"

"My sole concern has always been and always will be the welfare of this school and of course, its students." He paused. "The culprit has been identified, I presume?" he sneered.

"Oh, yes," Dumbledore said with a smile.

"And?" Lucius said, sharply. "Who is it?"

There was a long silence. "Voldemort. Only this time, he chose to act through somebody else by means of this." He held up the small black book with the large hole through the center, watching Lucius closely.

"I see."

Dobby yanked Eponine's ragged skirt and Harry's robe. He did something odd: his great eyes fixed meaningfully on the two of them, and he gestured to Lucius with his eyes and head. The pieces fell into place: he was the one who tried to bring back Lord Voldemort.

"Fortunately," continued Dumbledore. "Our young Mr. Potter and Miss Black discovered it. One hopes that no more of Lord Voldemort's old school things should find their way into innocent hands. The consequences for the one responsible would be severe."

"Well," said Lucius, turning towards the two kids; his face was suddenly masklike. "Let us hope that Mr. Potter and Miss Black will always be around to save the day."

"Don't worry," said Harry.

"We will be," said Eponine.

Dumbledore smiled when he heard them say this, pleased to see that they were not afraid of Lucius.

Lucius nodded his head to Dumbledore. "Dumbledore." He turned to Dobby. "Come, Dobby. We're leaving." Dobby went ahead of Lucius and he kicked him. Dobby squealed with pain; he whimpered as he got up and rubbed his elbow. Lucius hit him on the back of his head with his cane. Eponine was near the point of letting tears fall at this sight.

"Sir," said Harry. "I wonder if I could have that?"

Dumbledore nodded. Harry took the diary. Together, Eponine and Harry exited Dumbledore's office.

"You're sure that house-elves can be set free with just a piece of clothing?" Harry asked.

"Yes," Eponine said. "You have no idea how happy they are, especially maltreated elves, when they're set free. Just give him a slimy sock and he'll treasure it like a priceless jewel."

Harry removed his shoe, pulled off his slimy, filthy sock and stuffed it inside the diary. Lucius Malfoy's blond head came into their view as he strutted down the hall towards the stairs.

"Mr. Malfoy!" called Harry. Lucius stopped and turned around. "I have something of yours." Harry handed him the diary.

"Mine? I don't know what you're talking about," he said, pretending to be innocent.

"Oh, I think you do, sir. I think you slipped the diary into Ginny's cauldron that day at Diagon Alley."
"You do, do you?" he said. He handed the diary to Dobby. He leaned in towards Harry, sneering. "Why don't you prove it?" Then to Dobby, "Come, Dobby."

"Open it," Eponine whispered.

Of course, Dobby responded as Eponine expected; his bat-like ears quivered and his green, tennis ball eyes went wide with happiness.

"Dobby?" Lucius called.

"Master has given Dobby a sock!" he said in wonderment.

"What? I didn't…"

"Master has presented Dobby with clothes. Dobby is free!"

Harry lifted his pant leg and showed Lucius the missing sock and Eponine grinned, sniggering a laugh.

"You two lost me my servant!" yelled Lucius. He pulled from his cane a shorter stick: the two of them flinched with terror. They realized it was his wand! He pointed it at the two of them, furiously and began to advance towards them.

Dobby stood in front of Eponine and Harry.

"You shall not harm Harry Potter and Eponine Black!" he said.

"Adva…"

Soon a blue light came from Dobby's hands along with a loud bang and Lucius was sent flying backwards and landed on his back. He got up, his face livid, straightening out his cloak and then pointed a threatening finger at them.

"Both of your parents were meddlesome fools, Potter and Black," said Lucius. "Mark my words, one day soon, you're going to meet the same sticky end." To Eponine, "As for you, Black, if it weren't for your family, you'd be dead by now, especially your pure-blooded father and your slut, Mudblood mother!"

Eponine stared in horror. Lucius Malfoy knew her family! But how? Impossible! Eponine's mind bubbled with questions.

He walked away with a last, incensed stare at the pair of them, swinging his cloak and hurried out of sight.

"Harry Potter and Eponine Black freed Dobby," said Dobby, shrilly filled with tears. "How can Dobby ever repay them?"

"Just promise me something," said Harry.

"Anything, sir."

"Never try to save my life again."

"And you, Eponine, what can Dobby offer for you?"

Eponine only smiled. "Just don't ever do that thing you did with your powers. Otherwise, you're welcome to stay here at Hogwarts."

"Oh, yes!" Dobby squeaked with delight. "Thank you, kind Miss."

Eponine had been to many Hogwarts feasts for eight years, but never one quite like this. Nearly Headless Nick floated past the Gryffindor tables.

"Welcome back, Sir Nicholas," said a student.

"Thank you," said Nearly Headless Nick.

"Good evening, Sir Nicholas."

"Good evening."

"Good to see you, Sir Nicholas," said Eponine.

"Thank you."

Soon, Nearly Headless Nick floated towards the Great Hall's doors and there was Hermione.

"Hermione, welcome back," he said.

"Thanks, Sir Nicholas," said Hermione.

Eponine watched from under the table as her friends hugged Hermione. She wished she could join them if it weren't for Snape watching her like a dog. He was quite livid with the fact that she had received a Special Awards for Services to the School and because of that, he was ordered by Dumbledore to feed her three big meals a whole two weeks. Eponine had never been so happy in her life.

"Could I have your attention please?" McGonagall said.

All the chatter silenced and all eyes turned towards the staff table. Dumbledore stood up.

"Before we begin the feast," he began. "let's have a round of applause for Professor Sprout, Madam Pomfrey, who's Mandrake juice has been successfully administered to all who have been Petrified."

There was a round of applause.

"Also, in light of recent events, as a school treat, all final exams have been canceled."

There were loud cheers and claps that filled the Great Hall. Soon, the doors opened and in stepped a huge man. It was Hagrid!

"Sorry I'm late," he said. "The owl that delivered my release papers got all lost and confused. Some ruddy bird called Errol."

There were a few giggles and they all were looking at Ron. Ron's ears and face turned red with embarrassment. He stopped where Harry, Ron, and Hermione were sitting and looked at them with eyes filled with gratefulness.

"And I'd just like to say that if it hadn't been for you, Harry, Ron, Hermione and Eponine, of course…" he looked in Eponine's direction. "I would still be you-know-where, so I would like to say thanks."

"There's no Hogwarts without you, Hagrid," Harry whispered. He got up and hugged him; his arms barely able to reach around him.

Dumbledore stood and clapped. Soon, the Great Hall flooded with applause and all but the Slytherins gathered around Hagrid, cheering. Even Eponine stood up to cheer with a smile across her face. All the professors were clapping for Hagrid. Malfoy and the Slytherin table sat at the table, looking very livid and annoyed.

Soon, Eponine's friends were packing up and leaving. Eponine managed to sneak away from her chores, carrying a tray with goblets filled with pumpkin juice.

"What's this for?" asked Hermione.
"I thought we could celebrate our friendship," Eponine said.

They smiled and accepted the goblets.

"To friendship, loyalty, and bravery," said Eponine.

"Cheers," they said together, clinking their glasses and they drank their pumpkin juice. They looked at each other, knowing that their friendship would last forever.