Disclaimer - I would like to think that Harry Potter belongs to all of us who spend our time keeping the-boy-who-lived alive. Providing we're not making any money from Jo Rowling's creation, her lawyers would appear to be quite happy indulging us in this fantasy. I wouldn't want to upset those lawyers, especially since I can't afford to hire one of my own.
A pleasant Saturday morning spent shopping was instantly forgotten about as the Grangers entered their home, only to find Sirius impatiently waiting on them. "Where the hell have you been?"
Seeing how distressed Sirius was immediately alerted both parents something had to be seriously wrong. Dan didn't mess about with any pleasantries either. "Has there been another attack?"
"Yes, between the attack and the aftermath, Hermione, Harry and Henrica are all in the Hogwarts infirmary. None of them are critical and the problem has been dealt with. That's all the information I was given, and I've been going nuts waiting on you two arriving home. We need to head to Hogwarts right away."
Emma was too shocked at that news to say anything, she actually felt her head beginning to spin. Dan soon had an arm around his wife, offering his support as their shopping now lay forgotten around them. "We both obviously want to go but how are we supposed to do that? I thought we couldn't even see Hogwarts?"
Sirius was already slipping a bracelet onto Emma's wrist before handing one to Dan. "These will neutralise the muggle-repelling wards and allow you inside the castle. I also have a portkey here that will take us to the edge of the wards. Bill Weasley passed me these through the floo, along with telling me to get you two to Hogwarts as quickly as possible. Apparently it was pandemonium there when he called, Bill didn't have time to tell me any more. Are you ready?"
Since they hadn't even take their coats off, both Grangers quickly agreed. It seemed only a moment later that they were picking themselves up off the grass on a Scottish hillside, and staring at a magnificent castle that could only be Hogwarts. A small silvery dog-shaped wisp left Sirius' wand and shot toward the castle.
"That was a message spell, Barchoke wanted to know the moment we arrived." Sirius noticed the place was crawling with aurors, and even saw a squad of fully armoured goblins in the courtyard as they entered the castle gates. "Whatever the trouble was appears to really be over. If the amount of people now guarding Hogwarts is any indication, whatever happened must have been really big."
"Would you like to bet that our lot were right in the bloody middle of whatever happened?" Dan got no takers for that, both Sirius and Emma thought he was probably right.
They entered the main doors to find Barchoke heading toward them. "How are they? Can we see them?"
"Emma, they're all going to be fine and will probably be back training by next weekend. We need to have a quick private chat before you go in to see them, you need to know what you'll be walking into."
Dan wanted to see Hermione, and he wanted to see her now. "Can't we just see them first, and talk later?"
"There are things you really need to know first, you are all just going to have to trust me for now. We can and will go through what happened in much greater detail later but there are changes you need to be aware of before entering the infirmary."
Directing them to the nearest classroom, Barchoke had the worried trio sit before starting the story. "There was an attack this morning, I think the final count was three aurors and nine students petrified - Susan and Hannah were amongst them. Our group had been researching what might be doing the attacking, last night they came up with a probable answer that has since been proven correct - a basilisk."
This saw Sirius drop his head into his hands. "Please, please don't tell me they were involved with a basilisk?"
"That's not the half of it, Sirius, a horcrux belonging to Tom Riddle had possessed a student to control the beast, they had to deal with that too." Barchoke then had to offer an explanation to the Grangers just what a basilisk was, both Dan and Emma now understood the goblin insisting they sat down.
"The message left on the wall this time read 'her skeleton will lie in the chamber forever', that skeleton would have belonged to Parvati Patil."
Emma was now openly weeping for the poor girl as Barchoke continued the story. "They had discovered the entrance to the chamber as the castle was being evacuated. Harry had sent a signal to me that they were in trouble and knew I'd be along as quickly as I could - they didn't know if that would be quick enough to save Parvati - turns out we probably wouldn't have gotten here in time."
Dan was now trying to console his sobbing wife. They obviously knew Padma better but were still more than acquainted with her twin. He was also beginning to appreciate the bind their kids had been in.
"They had a plan, a bloody good one, an auror, the Ravenclaw ghost and Henrica too for company - they obviously decided to try and rescue Parvati." The goblin then turned his attention specifically to the marauder. "You have to see this basilisk to believe the bloody size of the thing, Sirius, their plan managed to safely take out one of its deadly eyes. Henrica transformed into her avian veela form and attacked the other eye, putting her life on the line to buy them a chance. She's currently petrified but you should have her back in the next few hours. Sirius, Henrica Hobson is a lady you wouldn't want to get away from you!"
The marauder could only nod in agreement, words currently failed him.
It was to the Grangers that Barchoke addressed the rest of the story. "With Auror Tonks having to protect an unconscious Parvati and a petrified Henrica, the four then led the blinded basilisk on a not so merry dance. Harry and Hermione were slowly bringing it down with repeated wounds from their swords when their luck ran out, Hermione was retreating when she slipped on a patch of its blood they'd spilled earlier. Seeing her in trouble forced Harry to finish the creature off, he jammed his sword into the beast and cast a blasting curse..."
Sirius understood immediately what the consequences of that would be. "I take it he got hit with the spell backlash?"
"Blew him straight across the chamber like one of those duelling dummies he's so fond of wrecking. It also saw the beast's head land on Hermione, thankfully its fangs came no where near our girl but it still managed to crush both her legs..."
Dan was on his feet before even realising he'd moved. "WHAT! You told us she was okay, having both legs crushed certainly isn't classified as okay in my book."
There was steel in Barchoke's voice now. "You're forgetting, Dan, we're working from different books here. The shattered bones have already been vanished from her legs and a potion is currently repairing the soft tissue damage. Tonight, she'll drink another potion that will regrow all the bones in her legs. Hermione will be up and walking within forty eight hours."
This took the wind out of Dan's sails and he sat back down, Barchoke never let up though. "I raced into that chamber to find Neville kneeling over our unmoving son, while Padma cradled our trapped daughter's head in her lap. Both our children were literally covered in blood and I feared the very worst. I had seventy fully armed goblins behind me, Amelia brought along a dozen aurors. If we'd had to fight that thing, neither of us would have expected to do so without taking casualties. That they not only defeated the beast, with Neville destroying the horcrux for good measure, and they all made it out of there alive is a major cause for celebration."
Now came the news that the goblin was unsure how the Grangers would react to. "They are being hailed as heroes, and rightly so. The Hogwarts infirmary is under goblin control and nothing will get anywhere near our family while they are in there. My nation places great value on bravery and honour, and they have taken our courageous daughter to their hearts. So much so that she currently has a centurion guard of honour in the infirmary, guards who will react instantly to any form of threat."
Something about the way Barchoke said that last sentence bothered Dan. "While I am delighted Hermione is protected, what exactly did you mean by that last remark?"
The goblin Ambassador left no room for ambiguity, Dan needed to understand exactly what was being said here. "Should anyone begin shouting at Hermione, they will treat that as at least insulting - and at worse threatening. She is the mate of a centurion, a friend of our nation and a heroine in her own right. Harry's fellow centurions will protect her until he is once more able to do so himself."
As Barchoke expected, Dan appeared shocked by that. Better shocked though than having a goblin blade at his throat. Emma nodded to Barchoke that she understood, and would have a tight rein on Dan. There was also something she wanted to ask. "How is Harry?"
"It may actually be easier to list the bones he hasn't broken. He's still unconscious but should awaken shortly. He too should be healed within forty eight hours." Barchoke then offered Dan an olive branch. "The Minister of Magic is already in the castle, with the director making his way here later. There will be a party going down to the chamber to see exactly what happened, I'm inviting you and Sirius to be part of that party. Perhaps seeing it for yourself will give you a better appreciation of exactly what our children have gone through."
Dan then turned sheepishly to his wife. "Am I really that bad?"
Reaching for her husband's hand, Emma tried her best to allay Dan's fears of being a poor father. "Bad is totally the wrong word to use here, Dan. Our daughter is now part of a different world, adjust how you express your genuine concern for her safety and you'll be fine. With Parvati already down there and in grave danger, nothing short of physical restraints would have stopped Padma trying to save her sister. We all know Harry wouldn't have wanted to take any of them into the chamber with him, just as we know Hermione would have pushed to be included."
No one could disagree with Emma's assessment, though the mother wasn't finished displaying her insight quite yet. "Hermione will be lying up there, worried about Harry and our reaction to this. I say we wait until everyone has had a chance to cool down, and they've had a chance to heal, before we sit down as a family and discuss exactly what happened. They're all still with us and I'll settle for that at the moment, I just want to see them now."
This outcome delighted Barchoke, while it could be considered cruel to keep a father apart from his daughter, an enraged Dan couldn't be allowed anywhere near Hermione under the current situation. He rose to lead them to the infirmary. "Neville and Padma are being treated for battle fatigue while our mind healers are working with Parvati - mainly to ensure that horcrux left no permanent damage. Ramrao, Smita and Augusta are already here, their reactions to this are pretty similar to our own. We may want to include them in our family discussion. Sirius, I already count Henrica as family, she more than earned that right today. A final decision has yet to be reached but the ministry will have to prove Hogwarts is safe before students can return, that won't happen today. Once these two are fit to travel they will be heading home." All knew they would discuss exactly where home was later.
Dan noticed the stares from everyone they passed, be they auror or goblin. He asked Barchoke about it. "They all know who you are, the pictures in the Prophet of the ministry's ball made sure of that. They also now know what four second year students accomplished, that is why they stare."
The increased security told them they were approaching the infirmary, and the stares were now accompanied by respectful nods or salutes. Emma felt as if she was taking a step back into the health service of the fifties, the infirmary so reminded her of an NHS hospital ward from that period - especially the proliferation of portable screens that cordoned areas off. It was to one of these areas, guarded by a pair of centurions, Barchoke led them. Laying eyes on her daughter saw everything else pushed to the back of her mind as she dived to Hermione's bed.
Dan was left to stand and watch as both his girls were in floods of tears while holding each other tightly. He couldn't go around to the other side of his daughter's bed for the simple reason that Harry's was jammed tightly up against it - Hermione had been holding his hand as they entered the infirmary. Any residual anger Dan had toward Harry for placing his daughter in danger vanished with his first glance at the unconscious boy, Harry appeared as if he'd been run over by a bus in his efforts to save Hermione. If magical medicine could get Harry back on his feet in forty-eight hours then Dan would be really impressed.
Barchoke nudged Sirius. "Henrica is in the next section to this. Hermione's going to be busy for a while and Harry's still out, she needs to see a friendly face when she becomes unpetrified - the last thing she saw wouldn't have been exactly pleasant."
Nodding, Sirius left.
Neville couldn't stand the silence any longer. "Gran, if you want to shout at me then go ahead. I knew I would be in trouble but went anyway - they needed me down there."
"Neville, part of me wants to rant, rave and ground you until you're of age, another part of me wants to stand proud and shout your achievements to the entire world. I'll make that stupid brother of mine eat those squib comments, Algie will not be the only one swallowing their words now. The biggest part of me though is simply terrified with the thought I could have lost you. We're slowly getting your mum and dad back, to lose you now would kill me."
Watching the tears run down his gran's cheeks as she sat beside his bed saw Neville rise and take his grandmother in his arms.
Augusta felt as if she was cast adrift in the sea of uncertainty, the fixed points she'd steered their lives by were shifting to different orbits. Every safe harbour of familiarity and truth had been dragged below the waves by cataclysmic events in the lives of the Longbottoms. Ever since her grandson had boarded the Hogwarts express, their lives had been undergoing dramatic changes. Amelia had spoken to her before she'd entered the infirmary, having received a report from her auror who'd been down there fighting alongside her grandson. Part of that information was so unbelievable to Augusta, it was eating away at the old witch - so she just had to ask if it was true.
"Neville, did you really face down you-know-who, and then destroy him?"
"His name is Tom Riddle, gran, and that's who was responsible for all this. He was standing over Harry and gloating, forgetting all about the rest of us. He'll remember the Longbottom name from now on..."
The stoic Augusta Longbottom broke at that, she was sobbing in a mixture of relief and pride as she clung to her godson. Frank and Alice though would need to be a lot further on in their recovery before this incident would ever be mentioned in their presence.
Ramrao was sitting beside his daughter's bed, chatting with Padma about nonsensical and inconsequential things. This was a clear case of talking about anything, rather than mention the elephant in the room - or, in this situation, on the other side of the privacy screens.
The goblin mind healers were checking Parvati over to ensure there was no lasting damage from her possession by the horcrux. Smita was in there with her, with both father and twin sister anxiously awaiting Parvati's results.
Smita entered with tears in her eyes, neither drew any meaning from that - Smita had been in tears since arriving in the infirmary. "The healers say she'll be fine. All we need to do now is get her to open up about the whole experience..."
That was Padma's cue, she was out her bed and out of there before either parent could say another word. Ramrao drew his wife into his arms. "Let her go. If anyone can handle Parvati in this situation, it's Padma. We'll just have to listen in."
She found her sister curled up in the foetal position and facing away from her. "Pav, stop being a bed hog and bunch over, this floor is bloody freezing - and you know where I'll put my feet to heat them up."
She budged over but still kept her back turned, even when Padma tried to provoke a reaction by running her cold feet down the back of Parvati's legs. She settled for snuggling into her twin, waiting on Parvati speaking first. After all, Padma was supposed to be the quiet one.
It took a few minutes but their was finally a response. "How can you stand to be close to me, after what I've done."
"You didn't do anything, it was that bastard Tom Riddle. Anyway, before I hit the shower earlier, no one would have been in the same room as me. I can give you some beauty tips for a change, basilisk blood does absolutely nothing for your hair or complexion. Don't worry about Riddle though, Neville settled that score. He slammed a basilisk fang right through that stupid book, where did you get it anyway?"
"I though it was from Harry..."
"Remember on the express, he was handing out that pile of Dumbledore books. I was sticking them in my pockets and left with an armful too. I kept one in my pocket for myself, and found that book in there as well. It was blank so I decided to use it as a diary, then it started answering me back..."
Parvati could feel her sister stiffen at that news. "I know, I know, bloody stupid or what? How to prove I wasn't Ravenclaw material. I thought it was some kind of goblin teaching aid, I asked a question - it provided the right answer. I thought this might be one of the reasons why Harry was so smart, and all the good wizards seem to be drooling over the smart witches. I didn't realise I was soon answering more questions than I asked, it was just like gossiping to a friend - a friend who would keep your secrets. It seemed very interested in Harry though, now I know why."
After a few moments of silence, Padma prompted her sister to continue. "What happened next, Pav?"
"I wanted to be smart like you, the book said it could help and began teaching me meditation. I started losing hours at a time though, hours I had no memory of, and falling behind on my homework too - so I stopped using it. Hermione's party being canceled had me so angry I needed to meditate again - I was almost sick with nerves but had actually approached a boy and asked him for a date to that party."
A comforting squeeze from her twin gave Parvati the courage to continue her tale. "Fortunately, Blaise was very good about it and asked me to the Merlin ball as his date, we both know how that night ended. When you left at Halloween I meditated for most of the day, and later discovered what happened to Luna. I felt ill and had my suspicions, but by that time though it was as if I was under some sort of incredibly strong compulsion charm - I just couldn't put the book down..."
"I know exactly how that feels, Pav, I've come across one of them before..."
This saw Parvati turn around and stare right into her twin's eyes. "You wouldn't lie to me, Padma, not about this - please!"
"Last year, the four of us, with Professor Weasley and Henrica, went searching for one we knew was inside Hogwarts - it was Ravenclaw's Diadem. The instant I saw it, I wanted to rush forward and put it on. Neville had to drag me away while Professor Weasley put it in a container and took the thing to Gringotts. They have a way to kill the horcrux that doesn't involve fighting a bloody basilisk."
"I can't believe you came down there after me..."
"You're my sister, of course I was coming after you. Harry simply said you were family, I think we both know you never, ever want to mess with any of his family."
"How am I going to face them after what happened?"
"Again, Pav, I know exactly how you feel. We were waiting on that basilisk making an appearance, and I didn't know if I would ever get another chance, so I just grabbed Neville and kissed his socks off!"
"Well, I never actually checked to see if his socks were still on his feet, but I certainly kissed him."
A moment's silence followed before the inevitable question was asked. "What was it like?"
At that, Smita pulled Ramrao away. She was overjoyed to hear her girls chatting about normal things like boys, anything was better than dark lord possessions and basilisks. Here was the first hopeful sign that their family could come through this ordeal and be whole again.
Sirius was sitting by a petrified Henrica's bed and trying to forge a safe path for himself through the emotional turmoil he was currently experiencing, a task that was proving to be far easier said than done. The three most important people in the world to Sirius Black had all courted death in this morning's battle, and escaped her final fatal embrace by the skin of their teeth. That was enough to scramble anyone's emotions and toss them in a pan to cook. The marauder then attempted to look at each of the three cases individually and see if that helped focus his thoughts on the matter, he found the first part was relatively easy.
He had loved Harry James Potter from the instant the baby was placed in his arms. Sirius had literally felt something inside him 'shift' at that moment, his outlook on the world had just been radically altered. Up until then, babies were something witches giggled about to each other, and being parentally involved in the manufacturing of one was something to be avoided at all costs - practicing the fabrication method with a willing partner though was fine. Holding his godson in his arms radically changed those views. With the right witch, this particular result was now something to actually be desired - not feared.
That his godson had already found the right witch for himself was no longer in any doubt, and the love Sirius had for Harry had easily expanded to include his beautiful and brilliant mate, Hermione Granger. Watching that young couple grow really was one of the few highlights of his life. Being two for two, Sirius now turned his attention to the veela lying on the bed.
With Henrica petrified in her avian form, here was all the visual proof you could ever want of her veela heritage. It was only after discovering that his hand had unknowingly slipped into her claw that Sirius smiled at this subconscious confirmation of what he was only now beginning to realise. Irrespective of her form - Sirius Black was head over heels in love with Henrica Hobson.
It was hard to put any kind of measurement on how much you would miss someone but, by a simple comparison, Sirius knew he would have mourned the passing of this witch at least as much as the other two people he could so easily admit to loving. Shit, even the bloody goblin could see what was right in front of Sirius' eyes!
At that, Henrica literally began to change right in front of Sirius' eyes. As the potion in her body slowly battled the petrification, it also allowed that same body to revert back to its original form. As arms and legs straightened out from their unnaturally frozen positions, they also transformed until Sirius was once more holding his girlfriend's beautifully manicured hand.
When Henrica had entirely regained her own form, she once more began to breathe and Sirius reached out to remove her sunglasses.
"Careful with those, love, I really want to keep them. They seem to have saved my life..."
At that, Sirius leaned forward and gently kissed her lips. "...and you saved everyone else's."
Henrica released a small sob of relief at hearing that news. "Oh thank goodness for that. You looked so serious, I was afraid to ask."
It was a measure of how serious Sirius was treating the situation that he never even reacted to his favourite pun. "I was so serious because I was too afraid to ask. Nearly losing you showed me a far greater fear, I can't lose you again. Henrica, will you marry me?" For a moment, Sirius thought the petrification curse had returned, Henrica didn't move a muscle. Then her face broke into the most beautiful smile the marauder had ever seen.
"Only if you're ready, Sirius. I will wait, you know."
"I think I've always been ready, I just needed to find the right person to be ready with..."
"...and all I had to do was fight a basilisk to make me the right person?"
Sirius loved how Henrica could be playful, even at a time like this. It was just one of the many things he was finding to love about this witch. "I was suddenly given a glimpse of what my life would be without you in it, it was not a pretty picture."
"I'm sorry, Sirius, I did try to talk them out of going down there. I would have needed to stun Padma to stop her, that would never work with those two boys there - protective doesn't quite cover it. That godson of yours also has a way of making the impossible seem probable, I think it's because he keeps making the impossible bloody happen."
"So you went with them, and kept them all safe - I am so proud of you." This was punctuated with another kiss before Sirius continued. "Last year, Christmas was rubbish as usual but Boxing Day was very good to me. I think celebrating the anniversary of when my new life began with an engagement party would really be fitting. I know you have a lot of commitments next summer, but could you fit a wedding in there somewhere?"
"Sirius, I haven't said yes yet."
"Well hurry up woman, and stop leaving me hanging here."
"What's your hurry? We have the rest of our lives together."
As Henrica pulled him down for a kiss, Sirius just took that as a veela's way of saying yes.
Harry slowly regained consciousness, his eyes were still closed but his ears picked up Hermione and her mother chatting. He also felt Hermione's hand in his, he gave it a slight squeeze.
"Not so loud, Hermione, my head is thumping." Feeling the awkward way she moved toward him for a kiss saw Harry's eyes spring open, and look directly into a tearful pair of brown ones.
"I'm fine, Harry, at least I will be. My legs were crushed and I'll need to regrow the bones tonight."
He attempted to lift his hand and touch her face, only to find it wouldn't move.
Emma had moved around to the other side of Harry and leant down to kiss him on the forehead. "You have some bone growing to do yourself, Harry, just take it easy for now."
"Is everyone else okay? Henrica, Parvati?"
Hermione had rested her head gently on Harry's chest while Emma stroked her fingers through his hair. "You two are the worst injured, everyone else will be going home tonight. We're hoping both of you will make it out of here tomorrow."
Harry recognised the Hogwarts infirmary but had no recollection of coming here. Now that he knew everyone was okay, it was time to get some more answers. "How did we get here and how much trouble are we in? I hope Dan's not too upset, a toddler could get the better of me at the moment."
Hermione gave Harry's hand that still had bones in it a comforting squeeze before answering. "The basilisk's skin was so resistant to magic, they couldn't levitate it off me. It took about thirty goblins with transfigured iron levers to move it enough for our father to slip me out from under it. I passed out at that point and woke up here."
Her mother then took over. "Nobody will be saying anything until you are both recovered and the whole family are there, how much trouble you're in will depend on what happened today. Everyone bar Smita and me are currently down in the chamber, along with a load of press too. They're getting a look at this creature and then the auror's memory is going to be played on a goblin viewer..."
This earned a loud and long groan from Harry, and an answer from his mate. "...I know, we're totally screwed!"
Dan almost passed out just seeing the shed skin, even this though didn't prepare him for seeing the real thing. He was able to draw some comfort after noticing neither Sirius or Ramrao seemed to be dealing with this any better than he was. Barchoke had to lead Augusta away and transfigure a chair for the game old witch.
Knowing their kids were actually all safe in the infirmary was the only thing currently holding Dan together, he certainly didn't envy Barchoke bursting in here with no idea what he would find. There had been so much blood spilled that the metallic taste was actually tainting the dank air, he now agreed one hundred percent with the wise goblin's assessment. That their kids had survived this was certainly a cause for celebration, Dan fully intended to have a few glasses of single malt later. He noticed Minerva McGonagall transfigure a chair for herself, right next to Augusta's as Amelia set up a table with a viewer on it. She was joined by the Minister of Magic, Ragnok, Barchoke and both Weasleys - it was show time.
Amelia called the assembled crowd forward. Just about every auror or goblin who wasn't required to guard Hogwarts at the moment had also invited themselves along to the chamber. Since the minister had decided nothing would be hidden from the public regarding this situation, it was a case of the more the merrier.
"You have now all seen the basilisk for yourselves, and the all too obvious signs of the epic struggle that played out in this chamber. What we are going to do now is watch Auror Tonks' memory of the entire event replayed on a goblin memory viewer. It will only show things from the perspective of the person whose memory is being displayed but has the distinct advantage of being able to be viewed by a large group. Please save any questions until the end, we will try and answer them if we can."
The memory started while Harry and Hermione were training, just before the alarm went off. They could all see the auror trying to do her job and protect the two students, Helena's arrival changed that. Watching as the school was evacuated and then almost stumbling upon the scene of the attack had every eye riveted to the viewer. Amelia was sorry to see Susan and Hannah lying there, drawing comfort from the knowledge Barchoke had already sent what supplies they had of the mandrake potion to St. Mungo's. She could also take pride that her aurors were lying at the front, and had gone down trying to protect the students.
Ramrao was in tears as Padma tried to rip the sink off the wall with her bare hands, there were gasps of awe at the magical power pouring off Harry's sword. When Hermione put forward her idea for blinding the basilisk, Dan felt Sirius grip his shoulder before whispering. "Those glasses saved Henrica's life, your daughter is in for one hell of a Christmas present!"
They all looked on as they forged a plan of action to deal with the basilisk, impressing the hell out of everyone who had seen the result of that plan currently lying dead on the chamber floor.
Both Dan and Sirius had to grab Ramrao as they watched Padma shake her sister and plead for her not to be dead, the poor man's legs practically gave out on him - and then Tom Riddle made an appearance. The four switching to goblin immediately drew a murmur from the crowd, that would certainly be a question that would be getting asked later.
With the appearance of the basilisk, and Henrica's heroics, it was now Sirius who needed a supportive arm to steady himself. After shouting instructions to Tonks, the four made a lot of noise and even fired a few curses at the now blind creature to get the giant snake to follow them. From Tonks position, she only caught about half the battle amongst the pillars. It was more than enough to give everyone watching a flavour of what was actually happening.
As Padma and Neville led the creature through the columns, Harry or Hermione would appear and wound the beast. Tonks did have a perfect view of the final moments of the battle. They all saw Hermione slice into the basilisk's side, only for her retreat to be spoiled by the pool of blood her escape path led her into. Padma reacted at once, rushing to help Neville turn the beast away from their friend. The basilisk though wasn't for turning and then the golden blur that was Harry slammed into it, he was once more a blur as a blast then saw him shooting right across the chamber.
Tonks view shifted between Riddle crowing over Harry and what was happening at the basilisk. Padma was attempting to comfort Hermione while Neville lifted her sword and ran around to the other side of the Basilisk's head. He reemerged with a bloody basilisk fang in his hand and then shouted to Riddle.
When Neville claimed this was for their parents and slammed the fang into the diary, Augusta was on her feet - her victory cry matching Tom Riddle's scream for volume and intensity. Neville had just reached Harry when Barchoke came racing into the chamber. Hearing his son was unconscious, he issued orders to those goblins who were right behind him before making his way over to Hermione, the memory ended with a bloody Padma staggering as quickly as her tired legs would allow toward the auror.
The moment of silence that followed was soon broken by tumultuous cheering, applause and weapons being banged off shields.
Amelia finally got them quietened down enough where she could be heard. "This is the first time anyone has watched a memory of this event so I hope you will understand if we don't have answers to all your questions. We are in no way being evasive, it simply means we don't have all the answers ourselves - yet. We also have the family of those young people here in the chamber with us, please keep those questions respectful."
The first question was predictable and easily dealt with by Amelia. "Yes, that was Tom Riddle, who likes to call himself Lord Voldemort. As to the importance of the book, I would defer to Ambassador Barchoke's expertise on the matter."
The goblin's authoritative voice spread his knowledge around the chamber. "The book was a horcrux, one of the darkest and foulest pieces of magic known, and something we have been searching for the past decade to destroy. Part of Voldemort's soul was embedded into its very pages, controlling the young witch who had the misfortune to write in it. Voldemort has controlled those a lot more knowledgable and powerful than Miss Patil, though I am delighted to say our healers have confirmed no trace of the soul fragment remains. Mr Longbottom very effectively killed that portion of the dark lord."
"Can you tell us where they learned to fight like that, and what language they were speaking during the battle?"
Again Amelia deferred to Barchoke. "My son arrived in Hogwarts as a warrior, and has since attained the rank of centurion. After witnessing the auror's memory, I think everyone here would agree my son earned that rank." This was greeted by cheers and sword banging from the goblins present.
"The four work hard at their extra defence tuition every Saturday and Sunday, they receive this tuition from Assistant Ambassador Weasley here, and have done so since the beginning of their first year. They now speak goblin so their opponents can't understand their communications, the advantage of this was ably demonstrated in this morning's battle. As young Neville Longbottom so succinctly put it, his friends have been determined to watch my son's back since the four met last September. As a father, I can't tell you how humble and yet proud that makes me."
The ministry contingent neatly sidestepped questions on awards and basilisk carcass ownership, saying those were discussions that would have to involve more people than those currently present in the chamber.
The one question that caused a stir was aimed at Tonks. "Could the auror please tell us what this mysterious plan B was?"
Tonks had been standing with her fellow aurors watching her memory replayed, Amelia nodded toward Tonks to answer the question.
She tried to look anywhere but in Mr Patil's direction as she answered. "I was closely monitoring Miss Patil's condition. Should she pass away, that would mean Tom had regained his body - and also be my signal to attack him with everything I had. Voldemort had no wand so this might be our only chance to kill him before he got his hands on one."
This led to a follow-up question. "Would you really have killed him?"
Tonks was unrepentant and hardened her stance. "For Voldemort to have regained his body, he would have had to murder Parvati Patil. Let's not forget the four students who were also fighting for their lives, Voldemort with a new body would have swung the balance of the battle against them. To answer your question, I would have blown his head clean off his shoulders - and gladly lived with the consequences."
It was actually Ragnok who broke the awkward silence that followed the auror's declaration of intent. "Auror Tonks, should you ever require alternative employment, Gringotts would be honoured to offer someone with your skills, courage and conviction a position."
Her time spent in Barchoke's company allowed Amelia to read the mischievous twinkle in the director's eyes, it also allowed her to feel secure that her answer would be accepted in the spirit it was offered. "Ambassador Barchoke, could you kindly ask your director to refrain from poaching one of my finest young aurors. Miss Tonks will not require alternative employment as long as I am director of the DMLE."
Ragnok acknowledged the gentle rebuke, accepting it in the friendly manner it was offered, he'd achieved his aim. The young auror who had the courage to do what was necessary now publicly had the protection of her director, let the press make of that what they will.
When the question was asked about how the diary came to be in a young student's hands, the minister himself stepped in at that point. "I have to say that matter is currently under investigation, a joint investigation involving both the ministry and our goblin friends from Gringotts. We suspect that these set of circumstances didn't happen by accident and you can rest assured we will get to the bottom of this."
The Prophet led with the headline 'Heroes of Hogwarts' and had six small pictures of those heroes arranged above one of the now dead basilisk that commanded the entire width of the front page. The complete story was then laid out in great detail for the readers, there was no need to embellish what was a truly epic struggle against both Voldemort and a basilisk.
This would be the main talking point at every breakfast table in magical Britain. At the Malfoys, they simply bypassed talking and progressed straight to screaming at each other.
"You sent a horcrux into Hogwarts while our son was there - are you completely mad?"
"I didn't know it was a horcrux until you showed me that blasted book - you think I want our master returning when we have nothing to offer him? Dobby!"
The little elf appeared with his head bowed.
"I sent you to Hogwarts to retrieve this book and you failed me.."
"Dobby carried out master's orders exactly. Dobby searched Harry Potter's Patil friend's room, all her belongings and even under her pillow while she slept. Dobby did not talk to anyone, Dobby did not go anywhere else and Dobby was not seen."
Narcissa hit the roof at her husband's incompetence. "You couldn't even give the book to the right witch, yet you expect them not to catch you?"
"They're identical twins who had their backs to me on a packed train platform!'
"You should have had Dobby check both of them, or did it never occur to you that the great Lucius Malfoy could make a mistake? This is your scheme, your catastrophe and neither my son nor I will be embroiled in your mess. You are on your own for this one, Lucius, and don't expect me to play the dutiful wife - I will not be visiting Azkaban for you or my sister."
Draco was watching this byplay but his mind was elsewhere. His father may have given the diary to the wrong Patil witch but Draco knew he had made a much bigger mistake than that. Granger had almost been killed by that basilisk and Crow would be out for revenge.
His parents' generation may have had a saying that you never messed with a goblin, Draco's generation were currently refining that phrase. You never mess with a goblin, especially Harry Crow.
Lucius Malfoy had actually committed an even worse crime than that, he'd messed with Crow's girlfriend. Azkaban might be scary but Draco was more concerned his father would face Crow's blades before he could be sent to the island prison. He could only see one outcome from that battle, his father would be dead.
The beetle that was currently clinging to the curtain shared none of Draco's fears, Rita was far too busy thinking of ways to spend all the money this morning's revelations would now see coming her way.
Gilderoy bypassed the front page and delved deeper into the Prophet, finding what he was searching for on page sixteen. It was difficult to tell if he'd gotten his heroic pose in front of the basilisk exactly right, the picture wasn't overly large. They'd copied his quickly prepared speech exactly though, which was good - he hated being misquoted. He carefully cut out the picture, making sure to leave the article attached. An article in which the famous Gilderoy Lockhart pointed out exactly where the children had made their mistakes - and why they would be so much better off taking their defence lessons from him.
He conveniently ignored the scathing comments underneath the very same article that branded his proposed method of dealing with the basilisk as not only preposterous but suicidal. Gilderoy also paid no notice of the claims that, after the Hogwarts alarm sounded, he was first out the castle and, still in his baby blue silk pyjamas, had ran screaming all the way to Hogsmeade.
Gilderoy carefully stuck his latest addition into his scrapbook and began refining his headmaster's acceptance speech. After this incident, who else could they possibly choose?
A/N Thanks for reading