Another Year Ends
The minute we opened the door, we were met by Professor Dumbledore who looked stunned to see us, and Cedric's parents who were crying hysterically at the sight of their son's well-being.
"Cedric!" said Mrs. Diggory.
"Cedric!" said Mr. Diggory, hugging him tightly. "Oh, my dear boy, thank heavens you're safe! I thought you were dead!"
"You saved him, didn't you?" said Mrs. Diggory, looking at us. "Thank you so much. Thank you!" She hugged both me and Ron so tightly we almost couldn't breathe.
"Dad, I can't breathe! Let me go!" said Cedric, squirming. "It's okay. I'm fine! Helena rescued me. I'm perfectly all right, I promise."
"So, it seems we owe you both a heavy debt," said Mr. Diggory, turning to Ron and me. "But how on earth did you save our boy?"
"I think we'd all like to hear that story, Helena, Ronald," said Professor Dumbledore, gazing at Ron and me.
So, I ended up telling them everything. I told them about Dobby's warnings and actions, how I'd kept hearing the basilisk's voice before I realized what it was and that I was a Parselmouth, how Cedric kept having blackouts, finding Riddle's diary and being shown the memory of Hagrid's expulsion, visiting Aragog, using Hermione's paper to figure out about the creature, how we learnt the Chamber's whereabouts and about Moaning Myrtle, learning about Lockhart's frauds and how the Memory Charm backfired, speaking to Riddle's new body and fighting the basilisk after gaining the sword with Fawkes's help, and returning here after Fawkes had healed me.
When I was finished, I was nearly hoarse and still worried about Cedric's fate. Would he be expelled? But Professor Dumbledore just looked thoughtfully through his glasses and said, "What interests me is how Lord Voldemort managed to enchant Cedric when my sources tell he's hiding in the forests of Albania."
I was so relieved that I couldn't speak. Cedric wasn't going to be in trouble!
"It was my fault," said Cedric. "I was so stupid. Voldemort's diary was in one of my schoolbooks. I thought someone had left it there and forgotten about it. Before I knew what was happening, everything spun out of control. I'm so sorry. I didn't know who he really was and I was writing to him all year and he wrote back."
"Cedric Diggory, what have I always told you?" said Mr. Diggory in exasperation. "Never trust an unknown object without consulting us first! Why didn't you show that book to me or your mother? Something that was clearly full of Dark Magic!"
"I didn't know," he said, looking ashamed.
"Cedric will not be punished," said Professor Dumbledore, firmly. "Older and wiser wizards than he have been hoodwinked by Lord Voldemort. He's been through a dreadful ordeal. I suggest bed rest and some hot chocolate if he so desires. The Petrified victims have all been restored and Madame Pomfrey is still awake and would be more than happy to attend to you and take Professor Lockhart with you, as well."
"Thank you, Professor, but I'd rather stay with Helena for right now," said Cedric.
"To bed, Mr. Diggory," said Professor Dumbledore, firmly. "You'll see Miss Potter in a moment. I need to a private chat with her and Mr. Weasley."
Cedric looked as if he wanted to protest, but he closed his mouth and nodded when I whispered, "I'll be there in a moment," and then followed his parents and Lockhart out of the office and down to the hospital wing.
I braced myself for what was coming. Expulsion, no doubt, for all the rules we broke.
"Miss Potter, Mr. Weasely, you do realize that in the last few hours, you've broken perhaps a hundred school rules," said Dumbledore.
"Yes, sir," said Ron.
"There is sufficient evidence to have you both expelled."
"Yes, sir," said Ron.
"Therefore, it is only fitting that you both received Special Awards for Services to the School and two hundred points each for Gryffindor," said Professor Dumbledore, smiling.
"Thank you, sir," I said, relieved and grateful.
Professor Dumbledore handed Ron some papers. "Now, Mr. Weasley, have these release papers sent to Azkaban. I believe we want our gamekeeper back."
"Yes, sir," said Ron, as he left the room.
Professor Dumbledore turned to me. "All is in order, and yet I sense there is still something troubling you, Helena."
I sighed. He was right. Something had been bothering me for many months now. "It's just…it's just that I couldn't help noticing certain similarities between me and Tom Riddle back there."
"Well, you can speak Parseltongue, Helena, because Voldemort can speak Parseltongue. If I'm not mistaken, he transferred some of his powers to you the night he gave you your scar," said Professor Dumbledore.
I couldn't believe it. "Voldemort gave some of his powers to me?"
"Well, perhaps not intentionally, but yes."
"Well, then the Sorting Hat was right. I should be in Slytherin, not that I want to be, but still…"
"Hush," said Professor Dumbledore. "Helena, you possess some of the qualities that Voldemort himself prizes, determination, resourcefulness, and if I may say so a certain disregard for the rules. Why then did the Sorting Hat place you in Gryffindor?"
I remembered. "Because I asked to."
"Exactly, Helena, exactly. So, you see it is not our abilities that make us who we are, it is our choices. If you want proof that you belong in Gryffindor, I suggest you take a closer look at the sword."
I examined it and read the name just below the hilt. "'Godric Gryffindor,'" I said, stunned.
"Only a true Gryffindor could've pulled that out of the Hat, Helena."
I smiled and the door burst open. Lucius Malfoy came in looking most displeased and Dobby was cowering behind him.
"Dobby!" I said, stunned. "So, this is your master! The family you serve is the Malfoys!"
Dobby winced and nodded.
"I'll deal with you later," Mr. Malfoy growled. He walked up to the desk. "So! It's true! You have returned!"
"When the governors learned that Amos Diggory's son had been taken into the Chamber, they saw fit to summon me back," said Professor Dumbledore. "Curiously, Lucius, some of them were under the impression that you would curse their families if they didn't agree to suspend me in the first place."
"How dare you!" said Mr. Malfoy. "My sole concern has always been and will always be the welfare of this school and of course its students." He straightened himself up a bit. "The culprit has been identified, I presume?"
"Yes," said Professor Dumbledore.
"And?" he demanded. "Who was it?"
We exchanged looks and then he said, "Voldemort. Only this time he chose to act through somebody else by means of this." He held up Riddle's diary as Dobby tugged on my sleeve and then pointed to the diary and Mr. Malfoy. "Fortunately, our young Miss Potter here discovered it. Let us hope that no more of Voldemort's old school-things should find their way into innocent hands. The consequences for the one responsible would be severe."
"Well, let us hope that Miss Potter will always be around to save the day," said Mr. Malfoy, stiffly.
"Don't worry, I will be," I said, coolly.
Mr. Malfoy spun around. "Come, Dobby! We're leaving!" He kicked Dobby and then whacked him in the shoulder with his staff.
An idea hit me. "Professor, I wonder if I could have the diary for a moment?" I asked.
His eyes brightened as he nodded.
I grabbed the diary and slipped something into it as I ran down to Mr. Malfoy in the corridor. "Mr. Malfoy, wait a moment!" I yelled. He stopped walked and looked at me. "I have something of yours." I handed him the diary.
"Mine?" he said. "I don't know what you're talking about."
"Oh, I think you do, sir. I think you slipped the diary into Cedric Diggory's cauldron that day in Diagon Alley."
"You do, do you?" He leaned closer to me. "Why don't you prove it?"
"Can you prove you didn't do it?" I retorted.
Mr. Malfoy looked angry and handed Dobby as he went on walking.
"Open it," I told Dobby. He did and his face brightened when he saw the black sock in the pages.
"Dobby, come!" said Mr. Malfoy.
"Master has given Dobby a sock!" said Dobby. "Master has presented Dobby with clothes. Dobby is free!"
"What? I didn't give…" Then he saw me lifting my pant leg up, revealing the missing sock. He looked furious. "You've lost me my servant!" He took out his wand and was about to fire at me.
"You shall not harm Helena Potter!" said Dobby. He raised his hand and blasted Mr. Malfoy away from me.
"Your parents were meddlesome fools, too!" Mr. Malfoy hissed as he got up. "Mark my words, Potter! One day soon, you're going to meet the same sticky end!"
I shook my head as he walked off and Dobby turned to me, smiling. "Helena Potter's freed Dobby. How can Dobby ever repay her?"
"Just promise me two things, Dobby," I said.
"Find yourself a job that you like and you're treated well and never try to save my life again," I said, smiling.
Dobby smiled back as he hugged my legs. "Dobby will see Helena Potter again soon and tell his friends of her great kindness." He snapped his fingers and disappeared, making me chuckle.
Later that night, I visited Cedric in the hospital wing. Everyone was asleep except for him, so I was quiet as I walked in and sat beside him.
"Hey," I said. "How're you feeling?"
"Okay, physically. Madame Pomfrey says I just need to sleep," he said. "Emotionally, that's another story."
I sighed as I realized what he was saying. "Cedric, you can't—"
"I'm sorry, Helena," he interrupted. "If I hadn't written to Voldemort, none of this would've happened. I almost got you killed! I'm sorry. Is there anything I can do to make it up to you?"
I gazed at him. "Do you really want to make it up to me?"
"Of course, I do."
"Then promise me you'll do four things for me."
"One, you'll stop blaming yourself for this. Two, you'll get some rest. Three, you'll never ever hide from me like that again. And four, you'll split a chocolate cheesecake with me."
Cedric looked surprised, but then he smiled and nodded. "It's a deal."
I smiled back as we hugged each other.
The following day, there was a fantastic feast.
It lasted all day, everyone was in their pajamas, Professor Dumbledore announced that Lockhart would be in St. Mungo's for the time being as he needed his memory fixed and would not be returning and that as a school treat all exams were cancelled, Mr. Malfoy was sacked as a school governor, Hagrid came by at half-past three and thanked us all for clearing his name and shared some pie with us, Hermione joined us after the feast began hugging us and congratulating us for doing such a good job, Justin apologized for his behavior, Gryffindor won the House Cup, Dobby told me he'd gotten a job in the kitchens and Cedric seemed greatly cheered up by the end of the feast.
All too soon, the time came to leave Hogwarts for the summer. We had some fun on the trip back. We played Exploding Snap and traded Chocolate Frog cards until we finally arrived at King's Cross. The Dursleys were waiting for me, looking a little haggard.
"Think they'll be proud of all you did this summer?" asked Hermione.
I stared at her.
"Proud? Are you crazy? All those times I could've died and didn't manage it? They'll be furious."
Ron and Hermione laughed, but Cedric didn't. He just looked upset.
"Lighten up, mate," said Ron, playfully punching his shoulder.
"It's not funny," said Cedric, clearly remembering what had happened before.
"You're right, it's not. I'm sorry." I squeezed his shoulder. "But don't worry so much, okay? How much trouble can I get myself into this time? Besides, if they try anything, I'll just tell them one of my best friends is my new bodyguard with special permission to use magic outside of school if I'm in trouble."
Cedric laughed at this and hugged me. "Write to me whatever way you can. I'll see you in a few weeks and then we'll go to the ice-cream shop in Diagon Alley for your birthday, my treat."
"Sounds like a good plan," I said, smiling.
"Take care, Helena," said Ron.
"Watch yourself," said Hermione.
I smiled and nodded as I hugged them good-bye and then headed back to Privet Drive wondering what awaited me this time.