Nick led the way and was followed by a meek looking Grey Lady and Baron. Rowena gasped as she recognized the two ghosts. Harry thought that if she could faint she would have.
"Why are you a ghost?" she was finally able to ask.
"Because he killed me." Helena pointed at the Baron whose chains showed his remorse.
"Why?" Rowena sat on the ground of her portrait.
"I'm sorry." the Baron lamented, "I lost my temper when she refused to return."
"So you wear chains for penance?" Slytherin asked.
"I do." he responded.
"Well that explains why she didn't come and get us." Godric sighed.
"Why did you take it?" Rowena addressed her daughter.
"I was so tired of the way the others treated me." she hung her head, "I thought if I could reach your level of intelligence that they would quit being so mean. I just wanted to be more like you."
"I would have given it to you had you asked." she sighed, "I would have."
"No you wouldn't." Helena accused, "You always kept it hidden. You never wanted me to succeed and I never did."
"I wasn't hiding it from you." Rowena wiped tears from her eyes, "I just had a place I kept it that protected its magic from the castle's magic. I did want you to succeed. I just wanted you to grow up some first. You were not ready to handle the magic of the diadem."
"I know." she dropped her head again; "It never worked for me. I couldn't use it, it knew it wasn't mine."
"Why didn't you cross over?" Rowena asked.
"I don't deserve to go over." she whispered.
"You do." was the whispered reply, "Let yourself go."
"I'm a house ghost." she answered, "I can't leave until there is another to take my place."
"Oh Helena, I never meant for your life to end this way."
Harry stood to go back to his dorm and Filch spotted him, "Out of bed at such late hours, detention for you."
"No Mr. Filch." Godric scolded lightly, "He was here at our request. Please make sure he gets back to the dorm in one piece."
Filch grumbled but followed as Harry staggered along. He slept through breakfast but was awoken afterwards by his friends when Ginny shoved a cup of tea under his nose as they sat him up.
"How late did you get in?" she asked as he took a drink.
"Don't know but it wasn't light yet." Harry yawned, "I got a few hours at least. Did you bring any food?"
"Here." Hermione handed him a plate which he was quick to empty.
Ron guided him into the bathroom and started the water while Harry undressed. Everyone heard him yell when he stepped into the cold water.
"Haven't you ever heard of heating charms." he yelled.
"Just waking you up." Ron chuckled as he left his friend alone, "You have about ten minutes before we have to leave, are you packed?"
"Yes Mum." Harry's teeth chattered as the water hadn't warmed him up yet, "Just you wait. Payback is going to be harsh."
Harry was still yawning as they boarded the train. He was directed to a seat and pushed down. He didn't go back to sleep but he didn't open his eyes either. The entire ride home was quiet as Harry dozed off and on. At the platform they were met by Remus, Sirius, Augusta Longbottom, Xeno Lovegood and all the Weasleys.
"What's going on?" Harry mumbled.
"Dumbledore is allowing them to all come over for two weeks." Sirius grinned, "Remus has already spoken to Hermione's parents and she is only able to stay one week."
"Here." Remus passed a paper that had an address on it. They all memorized it before he produced a large platter, "Grab on."
Hermione worried for a moment what would happen to Rita but they were taken away before she could ask. Once they stumbled to a stop she checked and found the bug still alive. She pulled Harry to the side.
"I just brought Rita into your secret." she hissed.
"No worries." he said, "If she was standing outside she could see it but she won't know whose house it is. Besides I think she'll be staying far away from us."
The rest of the day was spent eating and taking a tour of the house before they settled down into rooms. The eight friends gathered in Harry's room to spend the last hour before bedtime.
"Harry, are you awake enough to talk?" Hermione asked at his nod she continued, "I thought you survived last time because you had the Hallows, but I realized just as you were crumbling to the ground that you didn't have the wand yet."
"Great timing Mia." Ron chuckled from her side.
"I always assumed it was my blood in Voldemorts body that kept me here. I never thought about the wand or Hallows for that matter." Harry shrugged, "It could even be my mother's protection just like the first time. I don't know if we'll ever have the answer to that."
"You didn't know for sure you would survive?" Neville asked.
"One can never be certain." Harry shrugged. A pop in the corner gained their attention, "Dobby how are you?"
"I is fine Sir Harry Potter Sir." he sat beside Harry, "I is very glad you stopped the dark one."
"My pleasure Dobby." Harry said, "Say I have a question for you. How did you ever see that girl being attacked by Greyback, and didn't I order you to stay away from danger."
"Werewolves are no danger to house elves." Dobby shrugged then shivered before he told his story, "The dark one had captured several children from nearby towns. He kept saying he wanted to test a theory. After a month of that he brought in the monster man and put him in a cage with the children on the full moon."
"That's horrible." everyone was crying.
"I tried to save them all but I couldn't let the Dark one see me." he cried, "He was watching and wanted to see what would happen. Most of them were killed by the bite but she wasn't. While the wolf was distracted by the other bodies she transformed. She was the only witch in the group. He said, my theory is proven, muggles die of the bite, they are just animals and can't be changed into another one. She was the only one to survive. The death eaters left after their entertainment and I was able to stay until she changed back and then I took her to St. Mungo's."
Harry hugged the crying elf and apologized, "I'm sorry you had to see that."
"At least I could save one." Dobby was still crying on Harry's shoulder when Remus came in to send them to bed.
"What's wrong?" he whispered.
"We just heard how he witnessed the Werewolf attack on that little girl early in the year." Ron whispered back, "It was hard on Dobby to tell us."
"Off to bed with you lot." Remus waved them off, "I'll help here."
The next day Harry put his plan for Rita Skeeter into action. It was easy to set up since Remus and Sirius knew they were the Guardians now. They had even volunteered to help set up the basement. The two men couldn't be inside the room so they spelled the door so they could see and through it. The eight of them put on their Guardian uniforms. They didn't even really need to alter their bodies much any longer since they were getting so close to adult hood. A few inches here or there and a bit of weight and they were ready. They did, however, use the plant to change their voices. The bug Rita was dumped into a chair and forced into her human form. Before she could protest she was tied to the chair and had four wands pointed at her.
"Ready Boss." Fred said.
"Thank you Havoc." Harry's voice was low and he made it menacing, "So Ms. Skeeter you are an illegal animagus."
"No, I'm not someone forced me into that shape." she claimed.
"Actually we saw you changing." Harry growled, "So don't lie to me. You won't like me if you lie."
"What are you going to do?" she swallowed with difficulty.
"I'm not sure." Harry said, "Any ideas?"
"I vote to turn her over to Minister Bones with a nice note explaining everything." Hermione suggested from her spot leaning on the wall to the left.
"Yes good idea." Rita nodded, "The only better thing would be to just let me go."
"Fat chance." Ron huffed, "After all the lies you've told there isn't any way we'll just let you go. I vote to turn her over to the Goblins. I'm sure they can find some fraud in her finances. That would mean time in their mines."
"No please anything but that." Rita begged.
"So you do have some dubious financial dealings." George walked up behind her, "You really aren't very good at being interrogated are you?"
"Interrogated?" she asked shakily, "What for?"
"For whatever you have done wrong." Harry leaned forward placing his hands on her chair and whispered, "Tell me all the dirty little secrets you know that are actually truth."
"Like Auror Tonks is dating a werewolf?" she suggested.
"We already know about that." Neville scoffed, "He means real stuff. Stuff that will talk us into letting you go."
"Fudge has taken bribes." she stated.
"Not new, we already helped him get to Azkaban for that." Luna pointed out.
"You are the Guardians." Rita was now smiling, "I've wanted to interview you."
"Really." Harry scoffed, "Get real Rita, you couldn't tell the truth if your life depended on it."
"I can." she claimed, "Really I can."
"Show me one instance when you told any truth in an article." Ron laughed at her.
"I reported that Harry Potter was in the Tri-Wizard tournament. Then I had an article that showed his girlfriend's lucky kiss. I… I…"
"Exactly." Harry said, "Two small things in what thirty years of journalism."
"Ten." she tried to correct, "I am not that old, why I'm probably your age."
"If you were you'd have more than ten years of journalism." Fred just outright lied to her knowing this would throw everyone off the scent of eight teenagers. They were so glad the Goblins suggested that they were an ancient group.
"Raptor, Havoc go check the area, I have a feeling we may be having some visitors soon." Harry instructed and they followed with what they had already planned.
"Gone." Fred and Ron changed into their anamagus forms and took off through the door.
"What kind of visitors?" Rita asked quietly.
"The unsavory kind." Ginny finally talked, "We travel in areas where we run across that type now and again. We keep them away from our business easily enough."
"How?" she whispered.
"Just hope you never find out." Harry was in her face again, "Now what do we do with someone who's bugging me?"
"I've got it." Neville snapped his fingers, "That Weasley girl was going on about the bug that escaped her. She wanted it for her collection. I wondering if this is that bug."
"She was going to kill me." Rita yelled, "Don't let her do that, I'll do anything."
"I tell you what." Harry said, "We have need of a media contact. If you will write what we tell you, when we tell you to we'll let you off. You will need to know before we make this deal we want no lies. Any lies and you will be turned over to the Aurors before you can blink."
"You're going to tell them I'm an illegal animagus when you are the same?" she argued.
"Who says we're illegal?" Harry asked, "We have been registered for years. So many years that I believe we are probably off the charts by now."
"People are only removed when they die." Rita scoffed.
"Or if they've aged enough that everyone assumes they are." Ginny pointed out, "Now listen here sweety. We mean what we say and do what we say we'll do. You can report anything that is the truth. Any more lies, half truths or anything you can't confirm goes unsaid."
"Done." Ron said as they returned, "Havoc is cleaning up the mess. Those two won't be hurting innocent people anymore."
"Two birds with one stone." Fred added as he entered, "I love it when our work works together so well. The kid is back home none the worse for wear."
"What do you mean?" Rita asked with a great amount of interest.
"The two were planning on using this place to hurt the kid. We're using it to warn you that we are watching you. We just sat and talked while the bad guys came to us." Hermione grinned, "Predator, are you finished with her?"
"Nearly Athena, nearly." Harry said, "Do you have all the right names?"
"I've got Predator, Raptor, Havoc and Athena." she stated at who she thought was who.
"Then you have Blizzard, Huntress, Clawfoot and Chaos." George pointed out the last four, "Don't pussy foot around and print what you think we want to hear. Print the truth."
"Ok, ok." she sighed, "I promise to write the truth about the Guardians from now on."
"The truth about everyone." he corrected, "We don't want you damaging anyone else."
"But no one wants the truth." she complained, "They want scandal, excitement and upheaval."
"I want the truth." Harry said, "I think you underestimate the amount of dirt you can get that is actually the truth."
"Name something." she said scathingly.
"Fudge's corruption, hidden death eaters, Sirius Black and his false imprisonment and Tri-Wizard tournament cheating." Ginny started ticking things off her fingers, "You haven't even touched the tournament."
"The champions cheated?" she gasped.
"Actually none of them did." Ron shrugged, "They had a good competition. Certain cheating headmasters and Barty Crouch Jr. impersonating Mad Eye Moody. Not to mention Harry's name could have only come out of that cup with two strong curses messing with it."
"Which ones?" she was hooked.
"Find out." Harry said, "That's what journalists do isn't it?"
"I'm on it." she grinned, "Uhhh, let me go?"
"Truth?" Harry pushed again.
"Fine." she huffed, "I promise to tell the truth in all my articles."
"Just so you know, you're little bug problem isn't the only thing we know." Ginny was in her face this time, "We will expose you if you don't behave. And I mean more than just your articles, we are watching you."
The woman gulped before nodding. She watched as Harry waved his hands and the bonds fell from her and she was changed back into her animagus form. She was then scooped up in the jar.
"That went well." Sirius said entering the room behind Remus, "She gave in pretty easily. Good idea with the fake kidnapping story. I wonder how long she'll behave."
"She'll push us to see how far she can go." Harry said, "But I think she'll behave when she starts seeing us everywhere."
"What do you mean?" Remus asked.
"I hexed her. Every time she lies she'll see me off in the distance watching her." he grinned, "People will look like they are walking around me and I will be standing there with my arms crossed staring at her."
"So she'll be seeing you a lot then?" Ginny grinned, "Can you spell me to see you all the time?"
"No I'll just stay close." Harry pulled her into a tight hug, "Now how are we going to get rid of her?"
"Mail her to the Daily Prophet." Luna suggested.
"Mail her to China." George chuckled.
"Ministry?" Hermione asked.
"I've got it." Harry chuckled evilly.
It seemed like hours before her jar was opened again and she was dumped out. She turned to see who had freed her and jumped with fright as she spied a Goblin. She quickly took to the air and made her way out of Gringotts.
"Well Mr. Predator that was interesting. " Ragnock said once the bug was gone, "Why again did I do that?"
"To give her a little scare." Harry grinned from under his hood, "I want her to know I mean business. By the way what can you tell me about her financial dealings? Is she on the up and up?"
"No, but nothing illegal with us." he shook his head, "She keeps honest with us or else. The Goblin nation thanks you for the service you provided with Mr. Bagman. We were wondering if you would take another one."
"What have you got?" Harry asked carefully.
The rest of the summer passed quickly and they soon found themselves back on the train to Hogwarts. They had done what the Goblins asked since it was Mundungas they were after this time. It took some time but the group found him and returned him to the Goblins. But now on the train they were heading back to their fourth, fifth and seventh years.
"So you guys nearly ready for the joke shop?" Harry asked.
"We have the store rented starting in the spring."
"The shop there now will close before Easter."
"We'll be spending our break cleaning it up and getting ready for opening day."
"This year will be making stuff to stock the shelves with."
"After Christmas we begin to order the things we won't be making."
"Dad is letting us store it in his shed."
"But we have to pay rent on it."
"We're buying him a model airplane kit."
"I know what I'm getting him for Christmas now." Harry chuckled, "I'm going to get him a ride in an airplane."
"He'll love it." Ginny squealed, "Can I have one too?"
At the sorting feast they were eagerly awaiting the news of who would be the DADA Professor this year. Bets were even being taken on whether or not they'd try to kill Harry. It was done good naturedly so even Harry got a laugh out of it. When Sirius was announced as the returning professor those that had bet against Harry groaned.
"I told you guys I was never betting against Harry again." Seamus stated raking in the galleons.
"So." Ron pulled the group together, "What are we going to do this year?"