Harry Crow

What will happen when a goblin-raised Harry arrives at Hogwarts. A Harry who has received training, already knows the prophecy and has no scar. With the backing of the goblin nation and Hogwarts herself. Complete.

https://www.fanfiction.net/s/8186071/1/Harry-Crow

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44. The Writing's on the Wall

Like students the world over, those of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry quickly adapted to the new situation they found themselves in. While they may wish to spend time in a broom closet with their boyfriend / girlfriend, none of the students thought it was worth risking death for.

McGonagall had also pulled a master stroke by inviting the press into Hogwarts. This was a success on two fronts, it reassured the parents their children were safe and showed Hogwarts had nothing to hide. Madam Bones explaining their plan to tear the castle apart at the Christmas holidays also settled nerves, those holidays were only six weeks away.

Whether it was the pictures of aurors accompanying students around the castle or the mere fact that the ministry actually had a plan, the expected flood of students leaving Hogwarts never progressed much past a trickle. Pansy Parkinson was one of the few whose parents arrived in Hogwarts and demanded she return home with them.

The study group was making steady progress in the library, that meant they were working their way through a mountain of books with no positive results so far. The four were looking forward to their Saturday morning classes. Hermione had an experiment she wanted to try, in the hope she could disprove Ron Weasley's invisibility equaled invulnerability theory.

-oOoOo-

Neville found himself being the unfortunate, and certainly uncomfortable guinea pig since Hermione hadn't been able to let go of this conundrum since he mentioned the redhead's theory earlier in the week. Bill was genuinely interested in the experiment too, as even he was unsure what the result might be.

Hermione asked the room for a hoop on the floor, and then had Neville stand inside it while donning Harry's invisibility cloak. As the lights in the room dimmed, Hermione began her explanation.

"An invisibility cloak works by bending light around its wearer, making them undetectable to the human eye." She then cast a lumos to prove her point, and it did. There was no sign of Neville, not even a shadow. "Now, while the cloak can bend light around its wearer, the question is whether it can bend magic?"

Hermione then cast red sparks at the space the hoop told her Neville was, they seemed to bounce off thin air. The witch let out a whoop of triumph before casting a stinging hex at the same space. An 'ouch' and Neville removing the cloak's hood left his irked head floating in mid-air.

"Was that stinger really necessary, Hermione?"

"Oh don't be such a baby, you could hardly have felt that through your duelling robes. We needed to see if magic could penetrate the cloak. Now, whatever petrified Luna and Moonlight was certainly magical, agreed?" She got nods all around for that conclusion as Hermione then rounded off her reasoning. "We have just witnessed that an invisibility cloak is no defence against magic, therefore no defence against whatever is attacking and petrifying. Ron could have been petrified or dead and no one would have known, not until someone literally tripped over him."

"What?"

"Oh, sorry Professor Weasley, it was just a theory Ron had." Hermione decided to quickly change the subject. "Now, after I successfully used Rowena Ravenclaw's goblin translation spell on Neville and Padma, Barchoke approached Director Ragnok about the other people I wanted to use it on. The director agreed, providing we can keep the spell a secret. So, would you like the ability to speak goblin?"

Bill almost exclaimed 'what!' again, while realising he was being sidetracked here. The ability to communicate in goblin though would be a tremendous boon to his career, and he could always wring the truth out of Ron at lunchtime. "Hermione, that would be brilliant."

She cast the spell and then they got down to work, with Bill now shouting at them in goblin.

-oOoOo-

Barchoke missed the days when he could shout at people. He was now having to talk nice to get what he wanted, it was probably going to cost him gold as well. It would certainly be worth it to get his enemy's head mounted on his wall. He would never send someone into danger unprepared though, she deserved to know exactly what this task entailed.

"Miss Skeeter, you are well aware of our target's reputation, and know how dangerous this mission could be. I can provide you with an emergency portkey that will punch its way through the heaviest wards and deposited you here. As the name implies, it would be for use only in an emergency. Your target would certainly know if it was used."

Rita certainly understood the danger, and that portkey would be a godsend if she was discovered, but it was now time to talk business. "As you rightly said, I would be putting myself in great danger. This leads us to the question, what's in it for me?"

With only her ambition matching Rita's greed, Barchoke was sure they could come to some arrangement. When it came to his family's safety, money was no object as far as Barchoke was concerned. Lucius Malfoy had certainly endangered his family, and the goblin was willing to part with gold to ensure the bastard paid for it.

"We have quite a few options available, depending on which you preferred. You could work for a fee, with a generous bonus if we achieve our ultimate aims. Any story you wish to write after that would of course be yours to sell, providing you kept any goblin involvement out of it. You may also wish to write another book - we would certainly offer very favourable terms for publishing it."

Testing the waters, Rita posed a question. "What sort of fee would we be talking about for this?"

Barchoke laid it out for the ex-reporter. "If you can provide me with the information that sees Lucius Malfoy shipped off to Azkaban, my delight and gratitude would be in the region of ten thousand galleons."

The number mentioned almost had Rita swooning but she asked for clarification. "Lucius Malfoy is as slippery as they come. What happens if I get the information yet he manages to talk his way out of it - will I still get paid?"

"You get the information and the rest will be up to me. Malfoy has previously used his position and money to avoid justice, he now has neither of those options available to him. As an Ambassador, I have a direct line into the ministry. I also have the ear of Madam Bones, and the gratitude of the minister for assisting with guarding Hogwarts. We just need enough proof to get Malfoy arrested and fed truth serum, the rest will be easy."

Rita was never going to say no to a deal like that, though left her final financial options open for the moment. There was always the prospect of a better deal if she got the goods on good old Lucius.

-oOoOo-

The Ravenclaw table were not alone in wondering what the deal was with the quartet of second years who arrived for lunch, still dressed in dragon skin. Hermione provide what was a quiet simple answer.

"Professor Weasley wants us to wear them all the time until this problem is solved. He didn't see the point of our duelling robes lying in our rooms when there was something dangerous sulking around the castle. We didn't really have an answer to refute that, so the robes stay."

It was Harry who saw her first, the little blonde nervously holding onto Sirius' arm as they entered the great hall together. His wide smile of welcome saw a tearful Luna start to run toward him. Harry shot up, soon having her wrapped in his arms and Luna's feet swinging off the floor as he spun her around. The delight in both their faces was clearly displayed for all to see. That was before everyone else crowded around, desperate to check that Luna was indeed all right.

Hermione had Luna wrapped in a hug by the time Sirius squeezed his way through the crowd with another returnee, this one in a wicker carrying case. "There's someone else here that wants to say hello."

"Moonlight!" Hermione had been managing to hold back the tears as she greeted Luna, but there was something about her pet being returned that saw her resolve break. The kneazle purred in satisfaction at being once more in his witch's arms.

Sirius had a warning for all those crowding around the little blonde. "Luna's already had a meeting with the head of the D.M.L.E. and answered all Madam Bones' question, she doesn't need to be interrogated again. Lay off the questions people."

Harry led Luna to the Ravenclaw table before turning to her friends who had followed her there. "Colin, Ginny, don't let Luna out of your sight until we get back."

Hermione then approached, with her familiar cradled in her arms. "Luna, could you take care of Moonlight for me?"

The little blonde's eyes seemed to get even wider at that request. "Are you sure, Hermione?"

Her smile said it all. "Yes, I'm sure, Luna."

The four left with Sirius and Henrica, but not before noticing their friends had gathered around Luna to make sure Sirius' instructions would be obeyed. No one was going to hassle her today.

Sirius meanwhile gave the group the bad news, Luna remembered even less than Myrtle. The golden eyes she did remember though confirmed their suspicion, both she and Moonlight were lucky to survive.

-oOoOo-

It was really the next morning while exercising before Hermione had a chance to talk with Harry alone. "It wasn't your fault, Harry. Luna was just in the wrong place at the wrong time."

He didn't answer for a moment but when he did, Harry's reasoning surprised his mate. "This is a massive castle, Hermione, and Luna was stationary. What are the chances of this creature just happening to pick that particular window Luna was sitting in? There must be over a hundred little windowed alcoves like that spread around Hogwarts, I remember spending a lovely afternoon with you sitting in one about this time last year. Odds like that make me think this was no coincidence, but a deliberate attack on someone close to me."

It was now Hermione's turn for quiet contemplation as they ran around the track Hogwarts had provided them within her oh so special room. "I never thought of looking at it from that angle, you make a pretty compelling case. What do we do now?"

"Keep everyone close and safe for the next thirty six days, and then I can go hunting. The instant the Hogwarts school board officially kick Dumbledore out, father will approach McGonagall about rebuilding the wards around Hogwarts during the holidays too. That will also give us more warriors on site, just in case we need them."

The search teams needing to call for reinforcements was not something Hermione even wanted to think about, knowing full well Harry would be right in the thick of it. "We need to research more, so you will have at least some idea what you will be up against."

"Hermione, at the rate we're going, we'll have covered every book on creatures the library has within the next two weeks. It's better to keep the research at the pace we've set, rather than speed it up and maybe miss something."

Again, Hermione couldn't fault his logic so changed the subject slightly. "You really like Luna, don't you?"

For any other young man, that question being asked by their girlfriend would result in an instant answer of 'hell no!' Their blood bond meant Harry could answer with total honesty, safe in the knowledge that Hermione knew exactly how he felt about her being his mate. This was certainly a good thing, the smile her question generated would have earned at least a slap from any 'normal' girlfriend.

"Luna is just ...so Luna. She looks at me and sees Harry, not Centurion Crow, Lord Potter or any boy-who-lived rubbish - she just sees me. You of all people must know how refreshingly different that is for me. Padma and Neville are the same, but they took a little while to get there."

Harry's smile waned as he continued. "At the ministry ball, Emma said I'd had a hard life - I disagreed. Looking at Luna, I have no right to complain. Her mother died in a magical accident at home, Luna was eight and alone in the house with her mother when it happened. Her dad apparently didn't take his wife's death too well, father called him 'eccentric' - which has me wondering what would have happened to Luna if we hadn't stepped in with the scholarship, and our friendship."

They ran for another lap before Harry spoke again. "I know we haven't mentioned the holidays, neither of us wants to think about being apart again. We both know I need to be here though, just as we both know your mum and dad won't want you anywhere near Hogwarts while the search is underway. What I wanted to ask was if you could include Luna in any plans for the holidays? Padma's going to have to go home to get the problem with Parvati sorted, at least this way you won't be on your own."

Hermione stopped running, making Harry wonder if he'd said something wrong. Those fears were soon proved groundless as Hermione pulled him in for a sweet kiss. "That's my Harry, always thinking of others. Why do I feel like our little family just acquired a new sister?"

He actually blushed at how well Hermione could read him, that wasn't supposed to be possible. "Well, she's a nice kid and..." another kiss removed the need for words.

After leaving him bewitched and bewildered, Hermione shot away. "Two more laps to go, last one finishing is a rotten egg!"

Tonks stood at the door, totally forgotten by the young couple. Sirius had asked if a guard could be provided to escort them to and from their morning exercise. After he'd made her mum's dream of once more being a member of the Black family become a reality, Tonks had no intention of passing this duty onto anyone else.

She had overheard Harry's reasoning on the attack and, like Hermione, couldn't fault his conclusions. Tonks didn't think she would be breaking any confidences if she passed that information onto Madam Bones, these two appeared more clued up about what was happening in the castle than most of the adults.

-oOoOo-

It was a rather irked Roger who sat down to lunch that Sunday, leading to some gentle jibes from around the Ravenclaw table.

"Did you get beaten again by our big, bad second years?"

"I thought you said it was their turn to taste defeat today - what happened?"

The sniggers building up around the table saw Roger's complexion becoming redder and redder. Finally, he could hold it no longer. "I would like to see any one else at this table stand up to people casting spells at them in goblin. It was bloody terrifying, not knowing what was coming at you."

This may have stopped the sniggers, as wizards and witches contemplated just how scary that would be. There was no sympathy heading in the fourth year's direction though, Cho summed up what most of them were thinking.

"Suck it up, Davies, at least you're getting extra tuition. The Weasley twins don't seem too upset about it?"

"That's because they thought it was a brilliant prank. When they heard it was Neville's idea, only the fact they were knackered stopped them carrying him on their shoulders to Gryffindor Tower."

The second years in question entered the great hall, with their trio of first year shadows beside them. They all headed for the Ravenclaw table to eat lunch.

Morag was the first to attempt teasing information out this group. "So, Padma, we're hearing you're quite the linguist?"

Padma answered in Hindi, Goblin and then English. "Like Harry, English is not my native tongue. That certainly makes it easier to pick up another language."

That seemed a bit too glib for Lisa. "...and what's Neville's excuse?"

This didn't even warrant a blink from Padma as she answered right back. "Oh, Neville is just a natural. Either that, or he likes my reward method of teaching."

This may have had Neville blushing but Padma easily achieved her goal, no one was too interested in how they could speak goblin after that. The state of her relationship with Neville was a far juicer titbit for them to sink their teeth into.

Hermione took this opportunity to have a quiet word with Luna. "What are you doing for the Christmas Holidays?"

"Oh, daddy's trip is paying dividends, I was going to stay in the castle. I'll have to write to him and say he needs to come home now, the castle's going to be closed."

Hermione felt her heart go out to this girl a little more, Harry was right again. "Do you want to write and ask if you could spend Christmas with me? With Harry going to be inside Hogwarts, and Padma having to go home, you would be doing me a big favour. I've gotten used to having my friends around me, I would love to spend Christmas with at least one of them."

"Do you really mean that?"

Seeing the hope in those pleading eyes left Hermione wanting to cry. Instead, she smiled at Luna and answered honestly. "Every word of it, Luna."

Her wide smile would melt hearts a lot harder than Hermione's, the brunette was surprised though when Eargit swooped into the hall. The snowy owl landed in front of the two witches and held her leg out, there may have been nothing tied there but Eargit's message was clearly understood.

"Write your letter, Luna, Eargit's just offered to carry it for you."

The owl returned its foot to the table and nodded its head in agreement.

This drew a cry of exasperation from Roger. "Aw for Merlin's sake, even the bloody owl's not normal. How many languages does it speak?"

Harry interrupted before anyone else could answer. "Eargit is a classy owl, she's above using things like language." That the owl chose that exact moment to emit a little bark was either one hell of a coincidence or bloody scary.

"See, Eargit doesn't need to speak to get her message across." Not one person who'd just witnessed that scene could disagree with Harry over that.

With Eargit now destined to be flying off to pastures unknown in search of Luna's father, Hermione would have a quick word with Sirius so he could speak with her mum and dad. She wasn't expecting any problems in clearing Luna coming home with her at Christmas.

-oOoOo-

With Luna's return, the atmosphere inside the castle was certainly on the up. They had the aurors for protection and the only victim of the attack was back as good as new. Crow's Marauders were certainly back having fun at their weekly class. They were working in their usual mixed teams of four to accurately hit the torso of their assigned duelling dummy ten times, preferably before the team they were competing against managed the feat. As the dummies were currently programmed to dodge spells, the competition was fierce - with the rest of the students shouting encouragement to those firing off spells.

Their round robin tournament produced the top four teams who then battled it out for the final, and tonight's eventual champions.

Henrica had spent most of the evening watching the accompanying auror guards as they stared in amazement at what these first years were learning. That was before they even considered that the class was being run by four second years. She spotted a chance here to build the current spirit inside Hogwarts even higher, and maybe get some payback for those ten galleons she lost betting on her boyfriend. As Hermione and Padma were presenting the winning team with their slabs of chocolate, Professor Hobson let her mischievous side out to play.

"Very well done everybody, and I know we normally spend this time reviewing what we've just learned - but I was wondering if we could do something a bit different tonight? Our auror guests appeared fascinated with tonight's lesson, I was wondering if they wanted to put a team forward - against our instructors here?"

The roar of approval from the first years displayed their unanimous support for that idea, and the four instructors were clearly up for it. Tonks had again volunteered for this duty tonight, and found herself the most senior auror present. She asked four of the trainees if they wanted to accept the challenge, they too quickly agreed.

Harry set both dummies to require twenty hits before coming to a stop and Henrica counted them in. The quartet of auror trainees were soon left red faced as four second years wiped the floor with them, and the audience of first years went mental in celebration. The rules had been set at best of three so Tonks had some stern words with the auror team before the next round.

"They practice together all the time and use these dummies as part of their training. You lot thought you were facing off against some kids and got comprehensively beaten. This exercise was being attempted by first years, that should tell you it's not about how powerfully you can cast a spell. The whole point of this is to improve speed and accuracy - something I want to see from you now."

The marauder tutors were ready to go again, their concentration total. This time the result was so close, neither Tonks or Henrica could call it one way or the other. A tie was declared, again to much cheering from the jubilant first years.

The deciding leg saw four tense aurors trying to pull this out the fire. If anything, the teams were even closer this time, leading both judges ready to announce another tie before Harry reacted. He began shaking the auror's hands and thanking them for taking part, claiming they were delighted to sneak a draw against such stiff competition. The other three followed Harry's example and everyone left the class on a high.

Padma waited until they were back in the Ravenclaw common room, and just about to run through a final revision of their potion for tomorrow morning, before asking Harry why he did that. "We took the first bout fair and square, with the other two being drawn. That made us the winners!"

"Padma, those aurors are here to keep us safe, the last thing we need is to hit their morale. Can you imagine the ribbing they would take if the four of us claimed a victory? They can now rightfully say we surprised them in the first match, but they pulled it back over the next two. I think Henrica was trying to pay us back for taking down Sirius and Remus at Halloween. She expected us to lose and got as big a shock as those aurors, she hasn't seen us practice much this year."

Morag was left shaking her head. "I can't believe you took on four aurors, and held your own."

It was Hermione who tried to nip that kind of talk in the bud. "They were auror trainees, not qualified aurors. We were also running a speed and accuracy drill, something we have been practicing for over a year. That gave us a massive advantage, one we certainly used."

It was a thoughtful Morag who responded to that. "I so want to be jealous at your extra defence lessons, then I remember we get Professor Weasley twice a week. The rest of the castle are already jealous of us because of that."

Lisa had the final word on the matter. "Can you blame them, imagine being stuck with Lockhart as a defence teacher. The first years have at least got you every Tuesday night!"

-oOoOo-

It was Friday night as the study group worked their way through more books on beasts in the library. Colin, Ginny and Luna were getting caught up in the excitement of tomorrow's Quidditch match, the first they would see. That Ginny had two brothers playing in the game against Slytherin had her almost hyperventilating in anticipation, there would be no studying coming from that quarter tonight.

Susan and Hannah were also Quidditch fans, though tended only to get excited when Hufflepuff - or was it Cedric - was playing. The quartet would again miss the game, their training coming first. Padma was trying to convince them that they needed to attend the Gryffindor / Ravenclaw game, since so many of their friends would be involved in that match. Harry and Hermione were adopting a 'wait and see' policy, while Neville wasn't too bothered either way - he would just go along with whatever the others decided.

Hermione audibly taking a deep breath was their first clue she was onto something, the colour draining from her face as those brown eyes scanned the page was certainly not a good sign.

"What have you found, Hermione? Does it fit what we're looking for?"

"I really, really hope not, Padma. Just reading about this is terrifying me, but it certainly matches the profile of the creature we're looking for." She turned the large book around so the others could get a better look at it.

Since the entire group still couldn't see the page, Padma began reading the description out loud. "Of the many fearsome beasts and monsters that roam our land, there is none more curious or more deadly than the Basilisk, known also as the King of Serpents. This snake, which may reach gigantic size and live many hundreds of years, is born from a chicken's egg, hatched beneath a toad. Its methods of killing are most wondrous, for aside from its deadly and venomous fangs, the Basilisk has a murderous stare, and all who are fixed with the beam of its eye shall suffer instant death. Spiders flee before the Basilisk, for it is their mortal enemy, and the Basilisk flees only from the crowing of the rooster, which is fatal to it."

Luna burst out laughing at that, drawing all eyes to her. "That last bit is an old wives tale. Rooster's crow when the sun comes up, it's daylight therefore the danger must be gone. My father is an expert on weird and wonderful creatures, our house is full of books on them. Basilisks are real scary monsters, and you don't want to face one with just a rooster in your hand."

Padma resisted the temptation to tease with that piece of information, there were about three cockerel verses sword or wand jokes that jumped into her head, this was a really serious situation. "Lives for hundreds of years certainly fits the profile, how is a giant snake getting about the school though?"

"Someone is leading it!" Just like Luna a moment ago, Harry now had every eye on him - waiting on an explanation. "This may be the king of snakes but tell me, Luna, did any of those books in your home say a basilisk could read or write?"

Hermione was getting over the shock of her discovery and caught on to what Harry was implying at once. "The writing on the wall, it would need someone to do that."

"Wait, there's more here." Padma read out the small paragraph tucked under a drawing of the basilisk, this thing had so many fangs that great white sharks would turn green with envy. "Basilisk-breeding has been outlawed for over a millennium. This law has rarely been broken even by the darkest of wizards, since only a Parselmouth can control a basilisk."

"So there is a Parselmouth inside Hogwarts who's controlling a basilisk? Not good, this is so not good."

Harry tried to calm the girl down. "Easy, Susan, all we've got at the moment is a theory. It might seem a good theory but that's all it is for now. I'll pass a message onto my father with Assistant Ambassador Weasley first thing tomorrow, you might want to do the same with a letter to your aunt. We haven't one shred of proof at the moment. Let's pass on our research and they can have some experts look at it for flaws."

Neville tended to be the quiet one in the group, only speaking when he really had something to say. This meant though that when he did speak, they all listened. "I agree with Harry. We may think we're right but saying anything about this would probably start a panic. We can trust Amelia, Barchoke and McGonagall to make the right decisions, that doesn't mean we don't keep our eyes open."

Neville's calm demeanour helped them see this was the only thing they could do for now. Most of Hogwarts' students would be out of the castle tomorrow anyway, with the Quidditch match taking place. That would give those adults involved time to check their research and take whatever action they thought necessary.

No one felt like continuing their research after that, they left the library intent on seeing everyone to their houses. Hannah though proved just what you could learn from keeping your eyes open. "Guys, you need to see this."

They all looked to where Hannah had indicated, and saw a strange sight. A long line of spiders were crawling along the wall before disappearing through a crack in the ancient window fitting.

It reminded Hermione of people queuing to get on a bus, and that's when exactly what she was seeing here hit her. "Spiders flee before the Basilisk, for it is their mortal enemy. They're getting out of the castle!"

This was such strange behaviour for arachnids that it was hard to refute Hermione's claim. It was cold enough inside the castle in November, these spiders were risking death by leaving the protection of Hogwarts but not one hesitated. Some primeval need seemed to be controlling their behaviour.

"Susan, this is more proof we need to add to our messages home. We'll drop you two off at Hufflepuff and then head up to Gryffindor." When Harry used his Centurion command voice, not one of them thought to question him. Susan and Hannah were actually delighted at the escort to their house. Hermione, Padma and Neville also knew Harry wouldn't sleep tonight without seeing Colin safely inside Gryffindor tower.

Those spiders had just added physical proof to what was already a terrifying theory, a theory that was now playing on all their minds. As they approached Gryffindor tower, the group spotted a gaunt Parvati approaching from the other direction, this proved too much for an already stressed Padma - she raced toward her twin and soon had her tightly entrapped in her arms.

"Oh Pav, you shouldn't be walking around the castle by yourself - it's just too dangerous. We think we know what did that to Luna, we also know someone must be leading the basilisk..." Padma felt her twin stiffen in her arms and tried to offer some reassurance. "Don't worry Pav, we're sending word to Barchoke and Amelia, this will soon be over. Will you meet us for breakfast? We don't want to let anyone out of our sight. Whatever's wrong, we're still family."

Neville was by Padma's side and taking Parvati by the arm. "Don't worry, Padma, I'll look after her. The aurors are here now and the prefects will soon be doing the head count. You lot need to get back to Ravenclaw before that." The prefects were no longer performing patrols of the corridors, instead they were charged with ensuring everyone was present in their own house, and informing the aurors each evening of their head count. Once the aurors had arrived, no student was allowed out until morning - hence Harry and Hermione needing a guard as they exercised.

Padma watched Neville lead her frightened twin into Gryffindor house with unshed tears gathering at the corner of her eyes, promising herself they would get this sorted soon. Hermione's voice pulled her back from her musings.

"Padma, we need to move. If we're even a minute late, Penny will push the panic button and have squads of aurors searching the castle for us." It was Luna though who took Padma by the arm and began leading her in the direction of Ravenclaw.

-oOoOo-

Harry was having trouble sleeping and called for the Lady Helena, deciding that she would be a good sounding board to bounce their theory off. She would soon tell him if their ideas were a mile out, there was a part of Harry that hoped they were.

Unfortunately, the Ravenclaw ghost just gave credence to their theory. Helena confirmed that Salazar was indeed a Parselmouth, and a basilisk was just the kind of creature he would leave behind in his chamber - knowing one day his heir would use it to 'cleanse' Hogwarts.

She promised to pass this news around to the other ghosts and portraits. Having an inkling of what they were dealing with meant they could at least begin to formulate some kind of contingency plan of how the castle would respond to another attack.

As Harry and Hermione were just about to finish their fencing practice the next morning, they got their first taste of those plans. Hogwarts' bell rang out a loud warning, a warning that reached every nook and cranny of the ancient castle.

Hermione was moving her sword scabbard from her back to her hip as they raced over to where they'd left their bottles of water and her duelling robe. As Harry helped her on with it, Tonks stood at the door with her arms spread wide - deliberately blocking the way.

"Neither of you are leaving this room until I get word that it's safe to do so." Tonks found herself staring straight into a sparking pair of green eyes, she was really having trouble believing that the owner of these eyes had yet to become a teenager.

"Auror Tonks, I outrank you and am ordering you to step aside - please. I don't want to hurt you, I would much rather you saw Hermione safely back to Ravenclaw tower than you force me to ask the castle to remove you."

"I promised Sirius I would look after you and we have no idea what's out there..."

"Unfortunately, we do..." Harry was interrupted by the Lady Helena passing through the door, and Tonks.

"Champion, you were right. We caught the attack in time and the evacuation of the castle has already begun. Myrtle actually saw who was controlling the beast but refuses to speak with anyone but you. I left her with the Baron while I came here."

Hermione was first to answer. "If the danger has passed, I can come too!"

Tonks was right behind the young witch with her own answer. "You two aren't leaving my sight, let's go!"

Having an auror guard was certainly useful as Tonks' presence allowed them to follow wherever the Lady Helena led, while the rest of the students were being escorted toward the entrance hall. They turned a corner and came upon a scene of utter carnage. Stiff bodies of students and even a few aurors littered the corridor floor, the group must have walked right into the basilisk. They were being carefully removed by a squad of very nervous aurors, with the space above their heads occupied by a multitude of ghosts floating 'lifelessly' and aimlessly. They didn't want to meet anything that could do that to a ghost.

Hermione didn't recognise most of the ghosts, there were even a few ghostly horses mixed in there too. "What happened here?"

The lady had an answer for them. "Sir Nicolas was distraught that his deathday party allowed that attack to occur. When I heard from our champion what might be responsible for these attacks, he contacted members of the headless hunt and offered them some sport. They received just enough warning to get here in time, and we managed to direct everyone else away from the danger."

It was time to ask the question Tonks wasn't sure she wanted to know the answer to. "Are they dead?"

"Yes, auror, that's why they're ghosts. Throwing themselves between the basilisk and its intended victim saw them adsorb enough of the basilisk magic to ensure these people are merely petrified - and not dead."

As they pushed through this macabre scene, Hermione noticed Sir Nicolas and the Friar. Like the other ghosts, both appeared to be filled with smoke - almost as if they had been burned. "How could the basilisk affect them?"

"They're already dead, Hermione, so can't die again. We all absorb a trickle of magic just from being in the castle, we need that trickle of magic to maintain our forms. That amount of concentrated magic all at once will overload their forms, making them lose what you would consider consciousness - until the foreign magic can slowly leak back out of them. Most should be fine by the time Christmas comes around, a matter of weeks is nothing to a ghost..." Helena trailed off, noticing Harry had knelt beside a pair of stiff bodies.

Harry was extremely relieved to see that Hannah and Susan were petrified, and not dead. He stood with his anger tightly controlled though silently promising that someone was going to pay for this.

The aurors who approached to move the two students also knew who this young witch was, and were certain the wrath of their boss would soon descend on Hogwarts. The Hufflepuff students had been making their way down to breakfast, excited about today's game, when the attack happened. Nine students and three aurors would have certainly died, if not for the swift actions of the ghosts.

The message on the wall, again written in blood, had halted both Hermione and Tonks in their tracks. Harry came up behind them, reading the macabre message too. "Her skeleton will lie in the Chamber forever." They needed more information before they could hope to make any sense of that. "We need to talk with Myrtle right away, and find out what she knows."

On entering her bathroom, Harry would swear he saw relief on the ghostly face of the Slytherin House ghost. He didn't think the Baron was exactly comfortable dealing with the emotional spirit that was once a crying teenage witch.

Helena's voice was a lot more soothing. "Myrtle, Harry has raced through the castle to talk with you. He's here now, won't you come out?"

Harry kept his features composed when faced with the sight of a crying Myrtle slowly emerging from the toilet bowl, Hermione squeezing his arm was the only sign she felt as creeped out as he was. Neither would look upon a visit to the loo in quite the same way ever again.

"Oh, Harry, it was horrible - simply horrible!" This declaration was followed by more sobbing from the distraught spirit.

"I understand it will be hard for you, Myrtle, but I really need to know what we're facing here." Harry offered the young ghost his most enigmatic smile, it seemed to be working.

"I don't know, Harry, I'm frightened. You may hate me once I tell you, and I don't think I could cope with that. You might not have noticed, but I don't exactly have a lot of friends." More crying followed that declaration.

Hiding his bemusement in favour of a smile, Harry gave the ghost the answer he hoped would get them some answers of their own. "Myrtle, I promise whatever you tell me here, I will still be your friend."

Myrtle was considering this when the door barged open and Henrica rushed in. "Harry, Hermione, the school is being evacuated. The portraits told us where you were, I need to get the four of you out of here."

As Neville and Padma filed in behind Henrica, a tortured shriek came from Myrtle. "It's her, she's the one!"

They all followed the direction Myrtle was indicating, her ghostly finger was pointing straight at a bemused Padma.

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