Reading Chapter Eighteen: Dobby's Reward
For a moment there was silence as Harry, Ron, Ginny, and Lockhart stood in the doorway, covered in muck and slime and (in Harry's case) blood. Then there was a scream.
It was Mrs. Weasley, who had been sitting crying in front of the fire. She leapt to her feet, closely followed by Mr. Weasley, and both of them flung themselves on their daughter.
In the present, Mrs. Weasley had her hands on her daughter’s shoulders, applying pressure every now and then to make sure she was still there.
Harry, however, was looking past them. Professor Dumbledore was standing by the mantelpiece, beaming, next to Professor McGonagall, who was taking great, steadying gasps, clutching her chest.
“Not one word Mr. Lupin.”
“I wasn’t going to say anything!”
Snuffles made a bark like noise that Harry translated as laughter. Evidently Remus did too because he turned to the dog. “Quiet you.”
Fawkes went whooshing past Harry's ear and settled on Dumbledore's shoulder, just as Harry found himself and Ron being swept into Mrs. Weasley's tight embrace.
"You saved her! You saved her! How did you do it?"
“Something tells me everyone wants to know that,” Hermione said reasonably.
"I think we'd all like to know that," said Professor McGonagall weakly.
The twins sighed. “We knew that was coming.”
Mrs. Weasley let go of Harry, who hesitated for a moment, then walked over to the desk and laid upon it the Sorting Hat, the ruby-encrusted sword, and what remained of Riddle's diary.
“A very odd assortment of items,” Mr. Weasley said, speaking up for the first time in a while. “I was trying to find any connections between them.”
Then he started telling them everything. For nearly a quarter of an hour he spoke into the rapt silence: He told them about hearing the disembodied voice, how Hermione had finally realized that he was hearing a basilisk in the pipes; how he and Ron had followed the spiders into the forest,
Ron shivered at the mention of the spiders and began to mumble under his breath, the words ‘bloody spiders’ and ‘never listen to Hagrid again’ floating out every now and then.
that Aragog had told them where the last victim of the basilisk had died; how he had guessed that Moaning Myrtle had been the victim, and that the entrance to the Chamber of Secrets might be in her bathroom...
"Very well," Professor McGonagall prompted him as he paused, "so you found out where the entrance was -breaking a hundred school rules into pieces along the way, I might add - but how on earth did you all get out of there alive, Potter?"
“You over looked all the broken rules?” Remus inquired as both he and Snuffles gave McGonagall curious looks.
“Favoritism,” Snape coughed, recoiling slightly from the glare sent his way.
So Harry, his voice now growing hoarse from all this talking, told them about Fawkes's timely arrival and about the Sorting Hat giving him the sword. But then he faltered. He had so far avoided mentioning Riddle's diary - or Ginny.
“Thanks for that by the way,” Ginny said, some of her color returning now that the danger had passed.
She was standing with her head against Mrs. Weasley's shoulder, and tears were still coursing silently down her cheeks. What if they expelled her? Harry thought in panic. Riddle's diary didn't work anymore... How could they prove it had been he who'd made her do it all?
“Well there is your memory of the whole incident, not to mentions Ginny’s lack of memories,” Ron said and Hermione slapped a hand to her forehead.
“Tact Ronald! Is it really that hard for you?”
“What did I do?”
The twins sniggered as Hermione glared at Ron before burying her head in exasperation.
Instinctively, Harry looked at Dumbledore, who smiled faintly, the firelight glancing off his half-moon spectacles.
"What interests me most," said Dumbledore gently, "is how Lord Voldemort
Fudge stumbled over the name and people winced. “Oh come on people!” Harry burst out.
managed to enchant Ginny, when my sources tell me he is currently in hiding in the forests of Albania."
“Out of curiosity, why Albania?” George wondered.
“Yeah,” Fred agreed. “I mean, out of all the countries he could have gone, why Albania?”
“It was one of the few places that he didn’t attack, or where anyone killed during the first war was from. He was almost unheard of there, so he could hide safely.” Remus answered.
“How do you know that?” Hermione asked interestedly. “I read books on the first war and nothing like that was ever mentioned.”
Remus shrugged. “I traveled for a few years after…well Albania was one of my stops.” He finished after a pause.
Relief - warm, sweeping, glorious relief - swept over Harry. "W-what's that?" said Mr. Weasley in a stunned voice. "You-Know-Who? En-enchant Ginny? But Ginny's not... Ginny hasn't been... has she?"
“Excellent question Dad,” Fred began.
“Yes, quite the adjective use.” George agreed. Mr. Weasley blushed but smiled good naturedly.
"It was this diary," said Harry quickly, picking it up and showing it to Dumbledore. "Riddle wrote it when he was sixteen..."
Dumbledore took the diary from Harry and peered keenly down his long, crooked nose at its burnt and soggy pages.
"Brilliant," he said softly. "Of course, he was probably the most brilliant student Hogwarts has ever seen." He turned around to the Weasleys, who were looking utterly bewildered.
“Can’t blame you there,” Neville agreed, shaking his head slightly.
"Very few people know that Lord Voldemort was once called Tom Riddle. I taught him myself, fifty years ago, at Hogwarts. He disappeared after leaving the school... traveled far and wide... sank so deeply into the Dark Arts, consorted with the very worst of our kind, underwent so many dangerous, magical transformations, that when he resurfaced as Lord Voldemort, he was barely recognizable. Hardly anyone connected Lord Voldemort with the clever, handsome boy who was once Head Boy here."
“Well he certainly isn’t handsome anymore,” Harry commented dryly.
“That is correct,” Umbridge said sweetly. “Because he has been dead for fourteen years.”
“No, he came back just last year and looks like a pale snake!” Harry retorted, his voice tense.
Fudge quickly read on to avoid any more outbursts on the matter.
"But, Ginny," said Mrs. Weasley. "What's our Ginny got to do with - with - him?"
"His d-diary" Ginny sobbed. "I've b-been writing in it, and he's been w-writing back all year--"
"Ginny!" said Mr. Weasley, flabbergasted. "Haven't I taught you anything. What have I always told you? Never trust anything that can think for itself if you can't see where it keeps its brain?
“But wouldn’t that apply to humans?” Hermione mused aloud. “I mean, we think for ourselves and we can’t see our brains, we only know the general vicinity.”
Why didn't you show the diary to me, or your mother? A suspicious object like that, it was clearly full of Dark Magic!”
"I d-didn't know," sobbed Ginny. "I found it inside one of the books Mum got me. I th-thought someone had just left it in there and forgotten about it--"
“Oh no, they knew where it was all right,” Harry grumbled.
"Miss Weasley should go up to the hospital wing right away," Dumbledore interrupted in a firm voice. "This has been a terrible ordeal for her. There will be no punishment. Older and wiser wizards than she have been hoodwinked by Lord Voldemort."
Harry rolled his eyes at the reactions to the name. At least Madame Bones managed to get through it with only a wince and no stumble but Fudge was starting to sound like Quierell.
He strode over to the door and opened it. "Bed rest and perhaps a large, steaming mug of hot chocolate. I always find that cheers me up," he added, twinkling kindly down at her. "You will find that Madam Pomfrey is still awake. She's just giving out Mandrake juice - I daresay the basilisk's victims will be waking up any moment."
"So Hermione's okay!" said Ron brightly.
“Aww,” the twins cooed and Ron turned bright red.
"There has been no lasting harm done, Ginny," said Dumbledore.
“See? Even Dumbledore says so!” Harry gently nudged Ginny who nodded with a faint smile on her face.
“I know that now,” she said softly, yet serenely.
Mrs. Weasley led Ginny out, and Mr. Weasley followed, still looking deeply shaken.
"You know, Minerva," Professor Dumbledore said thoughtfully to Professor McGonagall, "I think all this merits a good feast. Might I ask you to go and alert the kitchens?"
"Right," said Professor McGonagall crisply, also moving to the door. "I'll leave you to deal with Potter and Weasley, shall I?"
"Certainly," said Dumbledore.
She left, and Harry and Ron gazed uncertainly at Dumbledore. What exactly had Professor McGonagall meant, deal with them?
“Perhaps that wasn’t the best choice of words,” McGonagall admitted. Beside her, Severus rolled his eyes slightly.
Surely - surely - they weren't about to be punished?
"I seem to remember telling you both that I would have to expel you if you broke any more school rules,” said Dumbledore.
Ron opened his mouth in horror.
“That was an unusual expression,” Harry said thoughtfully. “All the color left your face and your mouth was hanging open.” Fred and George laughed heartily at their younger brother.
"Which goes to show that the best of us must sometimes eat our words," Dumbledore went on, smiling. "You will both receive Special Awards for Services to the School and - let me see - yes, I think two hundred points apiece for Gryffindor."
“I’m pretty sure that seals the House Cup for the second year in a row, doesn’t it Severus?” McGonagall remarked and Snape merely glared darkly at the table in response.
Ron went as brightly pink as Lockhart's valentine flowers and closed his mouth again.
“Ugh, you just had to compare me to that git didn’t you?” Ron moaned.
"But one of us seems to be keeping mightily quiet about his part in this dangerous adventure," Dumbledore added. "Why so modest, Gilderoy?"
Harry gave a start. He had completely forgotten about Lockhart.
“Odd choice of words there,” Luna remarked.
“Yeah,” Harry agreed with a faint smile. You really couldn’t be mad at Luna. “It was.”
He turned and saw that Lockhart was standing in a corner of the room, still wearing his vague smile. When Dumbledore addressed him, Lockhart looked over his shoulder to see who he was talking to.
"Professor Dumbledore," Ron said quickly, "there was an accident down in the Chamber of Secrets. Professor Lockhart--"
"Am I a professor?" said Lockhart in mild surprise. "Goodness. I expect I was hopeless, was I?"
Remus laughed. “Even he knows he was terrible,” he said, still chuckling.
"He tried to do a Memory Charm and the wand backfired," Ron explained quietly to Dumbledore.
"Dear me," said Dumbledore, shaking his head, his long silver mustache quivering. "Impaled upon your own sword, Gilderoy!"
“Wait a minute. You knew he was a fraud sir?” Fred asked the Headmaster who looked at him with the usual twinkle.
“Of course I did Mr. Weasley. After all, I did see his test scores and read the reports from his teachers.”
"Sword?" said Lockhart dimly. "Haven't got a sword. That boy has, though." He pointed at Harry. "He'll lend you one."
"Would you mind taking Professor Lockhart up to the infirmary, too?" Dumbledore said to Ron. "I'd like a few more words with Harry..."
Lockhart ambled out. Ron cast a curious look back at Dumbledore and Harry as he closed the door.
Dumbledore crossed to one of the chairs by the fire.
"Sit down, Harry," he said, and Harry sat, feeling unaccountably nervous.
“Not for the first time,” Harry sighed.
"First of all, Harry, I want to thank you," said Dumbledore, eyes twinkling again. "You must have shown me real loyalty down in the Chamber. Nothing but that could have called Fawkes to you."
He stroked the phoenix, which had fluttered down onto his knee. Harry grinned awkwardly as Dumbledore watched him.
"And so you met Tom Riddle," said Dumbledore thoughtfully. "I imagine he was most interested in you..."
“That’s one way of putting it,” Harry snorted. “Obsessed would work to.”
Suddenly, something that was nagging at Harry came tumbling out of his mouth.
"Professor Dumbledore... Riddle said I'm like him. Strange likenesses, he said...
"Did he, now?" said Dumbledore, looking thoughtfully at Harry from under his thick silver eyebrows. "And what do you think, Harry?"
"I don't think I'm like him!" said Harry, more loudly than he'd intended. "I mean, I'm - I'm in Gryffindor, I'm..."
But he fell silent, a lurking doubt resurfacing in his mind.
"Professor," he started again after a moment. "The Sorting Hat told me I'd - I'd have done well in Slytherin. Everyone thought I was Slytherin's heir for a while... because I can speak Parseltongue ..."
“That doesn’t make you a Slytherin,” Remus said shaking his head. “It could be a long hidden gene that skips several generations.”
“But no one in my family was in Slytherin,” Harry pointed out and Remus thought for a moment.
“Unless I’m mistaken,” he began slowly. “Your grandmother, Dorea Black, was in Gryffindor, but as I’m sure you know, most of the family was in Slytherin.” He shrugged. “It’s possible that that’s where it came from, but that doesn’t matter. Just because you have some traits resembling Slytherin doesn’t make you one. We all have cunning and dark parts of ourselves, but are any of us placed automatically in Slytherin because of that?”
Harry thought about this for a moment. “No, I guess not.” He said, sounding somewhat happier. “Wait. Did you say my grandmother was Dorea Black?”
Remus chuckled and Snuffles made his bark like laughter. “Story for another time,” Remus promised, noting the impatient look on Fudge’s face. “Carry on Minister.”
"You can speak Parseltongue, Harry," said Dumbledore calmly, "because Lord Voldemort - who is the last remaining ancestor of Salazar Slytherin - can speak Parseltongue. Unless I'm much mistaken, he transferred some of his own powers to you the night he gave you that scar. Not something he intended to do, I'm sure..."
Remus looked up at Dumbledore, then at Harry, and back again. Seeing this, Dumbledore nodded imperceptibly and Remus paled slightly.
"Voldemort put a bit of himself in me?" Harry said, thunderstruck.
"It certainly seems so."
"So I should be in Slytherin," Harry said, looking desperately into Dumbledore's face. "The Sorting Hat could see Slytherin's power in me, and it--"
“Put you in Gryffindor.” Hermione and Ginny said at the same time. They looked at each other and started to laugh.
"Put you in Gryffindor," said Dumbledore calmly.
Ginny and Hermione laughed some more.
"Listen to me, Harry. You happen to have many qualities Salazar Slytherin prized in his hand-picked students. His own very rare gift, Parseltongue - resourcefulness - determination - a certain disregard for rules," he added, his mustache quivering again. "Yet the Sorting Hat placed you in Gryffindor. You know why that was. Think."
"It only put me in Gryffindor," said Harry in a defeated voice, "because I asked not to go in Slytherin..."
“Which is why you aren’t like Riddle,” Hermione said. “You make your own choices and don’t let yourself be influenced by others.”
`Exactly, "said Dumbledore, beaming once more. "Which makes you very different from Tom Riddle. It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities." Harry sat motionless in his chair, stunned. "If you want proof, Harry, that you belong in Gryffindor, I suggest you look more closely at this."
Dumbledore reached across to Professor McGonagall's desk, picked up the blood-stained silver sword, and handed it to Harry. Dully, Harry turned it over, the rubies blazing in the firelight. And then he saw the name engraved just below the hilt.
"Only a true Gryffindor could have pulled that out of the hat, Harry," said Dumbledore simply.
For a minute, neither of them spoke. Then Dumbledore pulled open one of the drawers in Professor McGonagall's desk and took out a quill and a bottle of ink.
"What you need, Harry, is some food and sleep. I suggest you go down to the feast, while I write to Azkaban -we need our gamekeeper back. And I must draft an advertisement for the Daily Prophet, too," he added thoughtfully. "We'll be needing a new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher...
“Something tells me that add never got placed,” Harry suggested and Remus shook his head.
Dumbledore shook his head. “You are a hard man to track down Remus,” he chuckled slightly.
“Er…thank you sir?”
Dear me, we do seem to run through them, don't we?"
“If there was any doubt about the jinx, I’d say its gone now,” Neville mused.
Harry got up and crossed to the door. He had just reached for the handle, however, when the door burst open so violently that it bounced back off the wall.
Lucius Malfoy stood there, fury in his face. And cowering behind his legs, heavily wrapped in bandages, was Dobby.
“Dobby was the Malfoy’s elf?” The twins echoed.
“Somehow, that doesn’t surprise me.” Remus sighed.
"Good evening, Lucius," said Dumbledore pleasantly.
Mr. Malfoy almost knocked Harry over as he swept into the room. Dobby went scurrying in after him, crouching at the hem of his cloak, a look of abject terror on his face.
The elf was carrying a stained rag with which he was attempting to finish cleaning Mr. Malfoys shoes. Apparently Mr. Malfoy had set out in a great hurry, for not only were his shoes half-polished, but his usually sleek hair was disheveled.
“Really? I thought the Malfoys never looked disheveled,” George said in awe.
Suffles looked at Remus who chuckled.
“What?” Fred asked quickly, sensing a story.
“There was this one prank that we pulled in first year on the fifth year Slytherin Prefect, Lucius Malfoy,” Remus began. “He always looked so prim and proper that we thought it would be a bit of fun to place several charms on him to make both him and his robes look an absolute mess for an entire week.” He chuckled again and Fred and George laughed.
“Why didn’t we think about that?”
“Because you aren’t as good as the Marauders,” Harry said softly so that only Remus and Snuffles could hear.
Ignoring the elf bobbing apologetically around his ankles, he fixed his cold eyes upon Dumbledore.
"So!" he said "You've come back. The governors suspended you, but you still saw fit to return to Hogwarts."
As Umbridge glared at Dumbledore in the present, Dumbledore just smiled serenely.
“Déjà vu,” Harry remarked and Hermione grinned.
"Well, you see, Lucius," said Dumbledore, smiling serenely, "the other eleven governors contacted me today. It was something like being caught in a hailstorm of owls,
“Hailstorm of owls?” Fred repeated.
“Can we use that as well sir?” George eagerly asked and Dumbledore nodded.
to tell the truth. They'd heard that Arthur Weasleys daughter had been killed and wanted me back here at once. They seemed to think I was the best man for the job after all. Very strange tales they told me, too... Several of them seemed to think that you had threatened to curse their families if they didn't agree to suspend me in the first place."
“Hagrid called it,” Ron pointed out.
“I kne’ no one in ther righ’ minds would send Dumbledore away,” Hagrid said, taking a long hard look at the Ministry end of the table, particularly at Fudge and Umbridge.
Mr. Malfoy went even paler than usual, but his eyes were still slits of fury.
"So - have you stopped the attacks yet?" he sneered. "Have you caught the culprit?"
“Yes to both,” Harry said cheerily.
"We have," said Dumbledore, with a smile.
"Well?" said Mr. Malfoy sharply. "Who is it?"
"The same person as last time, Lucius," said Dumbledore. "But this time, Lord Voldemort
“Oh for pete’s sake,” Harry muttered, somewhat resigned on the point of the stuttering and wincing.
was acting through somebody else. By means of this diary."
He held up the small black book with the large hole through the center, watching Mr. Malfoy closely. Harry, however, was watching Dobby.
The elf was doing something very odd. His great eyes fixed meaningfully on Harry, he kept pointing at the diary, then at Mr. Malfoy, and then hitting himself hard on the head with his fist.
“I think he is trying to tell you something Harry,” Luna stated and Harry nodded.
“Good guess Luna.”
"I see..." said Mr. Malfoy slowly to Dumbledore.
"A clever plan," said Dumbledore in a level voice, still staring Mr. Malfoy straight in the eye. "Because if Harry here -" Mr. Malfoy shot Harry a swift, sharp look "and his friend Ron hadn't discovered this book, why -- Ginny Weasley might have taken all the blame. No one would ever have been able to prove she hadn't acted of her own free will..."
Mr. Malfoy said nothing. His face was suddenly masklike.
“Another foreshadow,” Hermione mused out loud.
"And imagine," Dumbledore went on, "what might have happened then... The Weasleys are one of our most prominent pure-blood families.
“Something tells me he didn’t like that being brought up,” Mr. Weasley remarked with a pleased smile.
Imagine the effect on Arthur Weasley and his Muggle Protection Act, if his own daughter was discovered attacking and - killing Muggle-borns... Very fortunate the diary was discovered, and Riddle's memories wiped from it. Who knows what the consequences might have been otherwise..."
Mr. Malfoy forced himself to speak.
"Very fortunate," he said stiffly.
And still, behind his back, Dobby was pointing, first to the diary, then to Lucius Malfoy, then punching himself in the head.
“What is he trying to say?” Neville wondered, thinking about the elf’s strange actions. “That Mr. Malfoy is going to hit him with the diary?”
“Not quite Nev,” Harry responded.
And Harry suddenly understood. He nodded at Dobby, and Dobby backed into a corner, now twisting his ears in punishment.
Hermione grumbled something about elf rights under her breath.
"Don't you want to know how Ginny got hold of that diary, Mr. Malfoy?" said Harry.
Lucius Malfoy rounded on him.
"How should I know how the stupid little girl got hold of it?" he said.
“Hey she’s smarter than you are!” Ron snapped.
“Oh Ron, you do care!” Fred mocked in a high voice.
“How come you never defend us?” George asked with a mock pout.
Ron smirked. “Because I like Ginny better.”
"Because you gave it to her," said Harry. "In Flourish and Blotts. You picked up her old Transfiguration book and slipped the diary inside it, didn't you?"
Fudge lowered the book. If Lucius really had given the girl the diary…then he was to blame for all the attacks that year.
He saw Mr. Malfoy's white hands clench and unclench.
"Prove it," he hissed.
"Oh, no one will be able to do that," said Dumbledore, smiling at Harry. "Not now that Riddle has vanished from the book. On the other hand, I would advise you, Lucius, not to go giving out any more of Lord Voldemort's old school things. If any more of them find their way into innocent hands, I think Arthur Weasley, for one, will make sure they are traced back to you..."
“Oh I would,” Mr. Weasley said with relish, clearly enjoying the thought of being the one to send Lucius Malfoy to prison.
Lucius Malfoy stood for a moment, and Harry distinctly saw his right hand twitch as though he was longing to reach for his wand. Instead, he turned to his house-elf. "We're going, Dobby!"
He wrenched open the door and as the elf came hurrying up to him, he kicked him right through it.
“He has no right to do that!” Hermione exclaimed, unable to contain it any longer. “Dobby did nothing wrong!”
“We know that ‘Mione,” Harry said patiently. “And if you let the Minister continue, it’ll work out. Remember the title?”
Hermione relaxed and a smile spread across her face.
They could hear Dobby squealing with pain all the way along the corridor. Harry stood for a moment, thinking hard. Then it came to him--
"Professor Dumbledore," he said hurriedly. "Can I give that diary back to Mr. Malfoy, please?"
“What? Why?” The twins said in rapid succession.
"Certainly, Harry," said Dumbledore calmly. "But hurry. The feast, remember... Harry grabbed the diary and dashed out of the office. He could hear Dobby's squeals of pain receding around the corner. Quickly, wondering if this plan could possibly work, Harry took off one of his shoes, pulled off his slimy, filthy sock, and stuffed the diary into it. Then he ran down the dark corridor.
He caught up with them at the top of the stairs.
"Mr. Malfoy," he gasped, skidding to a halt, "I've got something for you--"
And he forced the smelly sock into Lucius Malfoy's hand.
"What the -?"
Mr. Malfoy ripped the sock off the diary, threw it aside,
“Shouldn’t have done that!” Fred sang while George covered his ears.
“For the love of Merlin, never do that again,” he instructed his brother who just grinned and opened his mouth wide, but George was saved by the hasty reading of Fudge.
then looked furiously from the ruined book to Harry. "You'll meet the same sticky end as your parents one of these days, Harry Potter," he said softly. "They were meddlesome fools, too."
“Idiot.” Remus growled and Snuffles bared his teeth.
He turned to go.
"Come, Dobby. I said, come."
But Dobby didn't move. He was holding up Harry's disgusting, slimy sock, and looking at it as though it were a priceless treasure.
“Which to him it probably was,” Hermione reasoned.
"Master has given a sock," said the elf in wonderment. "Master gave it to Dobby."
"What's that?" spat Mr. Malfoy. "What did you say?"
"Got a sock," said Dobby in disbelief. "Master threw it, and Dobby caught it, and Dobby - Dobby is free."
Lucius Malfoy stood frozen, staring at the elf Then he lunged at Harry.
"You've lost me my servant, boy!"
But Dobby shouted, "You shall not harm Harry Potter!"
There was a loud bang, and Mr. Malfoy was thrown backward. He crashed down the stairs, three at a time, landing in a crumpled heap on the landing below.
The twins laughed. “Go Dobby!”
Ron smiled. “I knew I liked the elf for a reason.”
He got up, his face livid, and pulled out his wand, but Dobby raised a long, threatening finger.
"You shall go now," he said fiercely, pointing down at Mr. Malfoy. "You shall not touch Harry Potter. You shall go now."
Lucius Malfoy had no choice. With a last, incensed stare at the pair of them, he swung his cloak around him and hurried out of sight.
Mr. Weasley chuckled. “Lucius Malfoy was defeated by his own house-elf,” he said happily.
"Harry Potter freed Dobby!" said the elf shrilly, gazing up at Harry, moonlight from the nearest window reflected in his orb-like eyes. "Harry Potter set Dobby free!"
"Least I could do, Dobby," said Harry, grinning. "Just promise never to try and save my life again."
“Good idea,” Remus agreed, thinking about all the harm and trouble Dobby had gotten Harry into that year.
The elf's ugly brown face split suddenly into a wide, toothy smile.
"I've just got one question, Dobby," said Harry as Dobby pulled on Harry's sock with shaking hands. "You told me all this had nothing to do with He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named, remember? Well--"
"It was a clue, sir," said Dobby, his eyes widening, as though this was obvious. "Was giving you a clue. The Dark Lord, before he changed his name, could be freely named, you see?"
“You have got to be kidding me,” Hermione said slowly. “What kind of clue is that?”
Ron clapped a hand to his forehead. “Obviously Dobby thought it was a good one.”
"Right," said Harry weakly. "Well, I'd better go. There's a feast, and my friend Hermione should be awake by now..."
Dobby threw his arms around Harry's middle and hugged him.
"Harry Potter is greater by far than Dobby knew!" he sobbed. "Farewell, Harry Potter!"
And with a final loud crack, Dobby disappeared.
[* Harry had been to several Hogwarts feasts, but never one quite like this. Everybody was in their pajamas,
“Considering it was around two in the morning I should think so,” Mrs. Weasley said.
and the celebration lasted all night. Harry didn't know whether the best bit was Hermione running toward him, screaming "You solved it! You solved it!"
“But we couldn’t have done it without you,” Harry told her and she blushed happily at the praise.
or Justin hurrying over from the Hufflepuff table to wring his hand and apologize endlessly for suspecting him, or Hagrid turning up at half past three, cuffing Harry and Ron so hard on the shoulders that they were knocked into their plates of trifle,
“Sory ‘bout tha’.” Hagrid said sheepishly but Harry and Ron waved him off.
or his and Ron's four hundred points for Gryffindor securing the House Cup for the second year running, or Professor McGonagall standing up to tell them all that the exams had been canceled as a school treat ("Oh, no!" said Hermione),
“Oh no?” George repeated.
“You hadn’t had any time to study, and you said ‘oh no’?” Fred inquired.
“Well exams are important,” Hermione argued.
“Considering you had just woken up from being petrified, I dont think many people would be sad that exams were cancelled.” Ginny told her with a slight eye roll.
or Dumbledore announcing that, unfortunately, Professor Lockhart would be unable to return next year, owing to the fact that he needed to go away and get his memory back. Quite a few of the teachers joined in the cheering that greeted this news.
Up at the staff table, many of the teachers were smiling happily, except for Snape because he knew that the next year, one of his worst enemies would be teaching.
"Shame," said Ron, helping himself to a jam doughnut. "He has starting to grow on me."
The rest of the final term passed in a haze of blazing sunshine. Hogwarts was back to normal with only a few, small differences - Defense Against the Dark Arts classes were canceled ("but we've had plenty of practice at that anyway," Ron told a disgruntled Hermione) and Lucius Malfoy had been sacked as a school governor. Draco was no longer strutting around the school as though he owned the place.
“Didn’t last long,” Harry sighed regretfully.
On the contrary, he looked resentful and sulky. On the other hand, Ginny Weasley was perfectly happy again.
Too soon, it was time for the journey home on the Hogwarts Express. Harry, Ron, Hermione, Fred, George, and Ginny got a compartment to themselves. They made the most of the last few hours in which they were allowed to do magic before the holidays. They played Exploding Snap, set off the very last of Fred and George's Filibuster fireworks, and practiced disarming each other by magic. Harry was getting very good at it.
“And so the Expelliarmus streak begins,” Ron said in an announcer style voice.
They were almost at King's Cross when Harry remembered something.
"Ginny - what did you see Percy doing, that he didn't want you to tell anyone?"
"Oh, that," said Ginny, giggling. "Well - Percy's got a girlfriend." Fred dropped a stack of books on George's head.
“That hurt you know.”
“Terribly sorry Forge but you must admit, it was rather shocking.”
“Yeah but next time drop the books on some other git’s head all right Gred?”
"It's that Ravenclaw prefect, Penelope Clearwater," said Ginny. "That's who he was writing to all last summer. He's been meeting her all over the school in secret. I walked in on them kissing in an empty classroom one day. He was so upset when she was - you know - attacked. You won't tease him, will you?" she added anxiously.
"Wouldn't dream of it," said Fred, who was looking like his birthday had come early.
“Oh it had.”
"Definitely not," said George, sniggering.
The Hogwarts Express slowed and finally stopped.
Harry pulled out his quill and a bit of parchment and turned to Ron and Hermione.
"This is called a telephone number," he told Ron, scribbling it twice, tearing the parchment in two, and handing it to them. "I told your dad how to use a telephone last summer - he'll know.
“Did you even ask?” Harry asked his friend.
“Well I asked him how to use it,” Ron defended himself. “But other than that…no.”
Call me at the Dursleys', okay? I can't stand another two months with only Dudley to talk to..."
"Your aunt and uncle will be proud, though, won't they?" said Hermione as they got off the train and joined the crowd thronging toward the enchanted barrier. "When they hear what you did this year?"
"Proud?" said Harry. "Are you crazy? All those times I could've died, and I didn't manage it? They'll be furious..."
“Bloody Muggles,” Remus growled, breaking his promise to himself to stop doing that every time the Dursley’s were mentioned.
And together they walked back through the gateway to the Muggle world.
“Err…that’s the end of the book,” Fudge said rather unnecessarily.
“Well!” Dumbledore said cheerfully, “I’m sure we all have quite a lot to discuss before we begin reading tomorrow!”
“Quite right,” Madame Bones agreed. “I’m sure the Minister and I have some formal apologies to make, don’t we Corneilius?”
Fudge sputtered a bit but ended up agreeing as he and Amelia left the room to head back to the Ministry.
“Headmaster?” Remus asked. “May I see the first book please?”
“Of course,” Dumbledore agreed, passing the book to Remus who tapped it with his wand and made two copies. He gave one to the Weasley’s and the other to Harry.
“Why don’t you and Snuffles go to my quarters and catch up while I talk to the Headmaster?” He suggested upon seeing Harry’s questioning look. “It’s behind the picture of the Forbidden Forest, just use our old password.” Harry nodded and left the room with Snuffles in tow. The Weasley’s followed, taking their children out with them, then Neville, Luna, and Hermione, and finally all the Professors left, leaving just Remus and Dumbledore.
There will be an epilogue update tomorrow, so hang in there and thanks for Reading!