After the friends finished their meal, Minerva McGonagall offered to bring Hermione to speak with Madam Pince at the library. Madam Pince, who often came across as a severe and ill tempered witch to many of the students at Hogwarts, was delighted to see Hermione again, who was one of her favourite students over the years. The headmistress explained that Hermione, who had recently been the Minister of Magical Creatures in Australia, was needing to do some extensive research on magical creatures beyond what even the hallowed halls of Hogwarts would be able to aid her with, and thus she asked the austere librarian if there was anyplace that Madam Pince could think of that would offer Hermione the resources that she might require.
Madam Pince thought for a moment and gave Hermione a piercing glare.
"You need to do further research?" she asked sharply of the young witch in front of her.
Hermione nodded yes.
"And you are certain that we don't have the information that you will need here in our library?" asked the librarian again.
Hermione was slightly intimidated by the questioning, but managed to squeak out a response, "Well, no, the information I need is something which I have not found in the references here."
Madam Pince gave a warm smile, which was slightly unsettling to behold behind her severe features. "Very well, Miss Granger, perhaps if any other student might try to make such a claim I would be sure they were pulling my leg, but I recall your many hours here when you were a student that you spent devouring all the information you could find." The odd smile faded from her face as she turned back to Minerva. "Well, there is probably only one place with a more extensive reference section than what we have here. I will send an owl to my colleagues to see about procuring admission for our Miss Granger."
Hermione tried not to overreact as Madam Pince had not stated what institution she was referring to, but she was sure it must be the Library of Alexandria. Hermione raised an eyebrow as the librarian turned to look at her, as if asking a silent question as to what institution she was referring. The librarian noted the look from the young witch and sagely replied, "Have you never heard of the Library of Alexandria? Or did your education as a muggle born actually teach you that Caesar destroyed the library thousands of years ago?"
Hermione tried to act surprised. "The Library of Alexandria? You would do that for me?"
"Of course, my dear," smiled Madam Pince. "Now, you just be patient and I will see what I can do."
The headmistress smiled at Hermione and then thanked the Madam Pince for her assistance. "We look forward to hearing more from you, Irma, and thank you so much for your kind assistance."
Harry and his other friends were waiting by the entrance to the Great Hall while the headmistress escorted Hermione to the library.
Neville timidly asked if everyone would like a tour of the greenhouses.
"Must we, Longbottom?" asked an irritated Draco.
Astoria elbowed him in the gut for his rudeness. Verbally defending himself, Draco protested, "What? I was just being honest with the young Lord. I had more than my fill in those buildings as a student, between replanting mandrake roots and dealing with bubotubers I am sure I would be just fine if I never stepped into those dreaded buildings ever again."
Neville laughed at Draco's comments. "I could always bring Draco by the man-eating plants, if that would be a help, Astoria."
Draco looked at Neville trying to determine if he was joking or serious as the Greengrass sisters were laughing at him. Neville helpfully added, "Yes, Draco, we do have some man eating plants in one of the greenhouses. I'd be happy to show you to them at any time, or should I say that I could show them to you." Neville grinned and Draco stiffened at that comment.
Harry laughed at Draco's expense, "It's only fair, Draco, after all the times you picked on Neville and teased him when we were in school. It's the quiet ones who will ultimately get their revenge some way or another. Personally, I'd watch your back around Neville from now on."
Neville paled at Harry's statement.
Draco looked from Harry to Neville and back. Finally Daphne spoke up, "Draco, I am sure that Professor Longbottom would keep both students and graduates safe from any dangerous plants within the greenhouses at all times." Then turning to Neville she pointedly added, "Won't you, Neville?"
Neville smiled politely, "Whatever you say Daphne."
Harry laughed at the interaction, and then offered, "Perhaps we should pass on the tour, Neville, as I am not sure that Draco is up for it at this time." After a slight silence among the group, Harry then added, "So, Nev, are you busy getting ready for the coming school year?"
"Well, actually, Professor Sprout has everything in hand," he said with a sigh. He then added with a grin directed at Draco, "I've just been tending to some of the more dangerous plants, but they're all doing well, even if the Fanged Geraniums are feeling underfed."
"Would you like to come to Greece with us this summer and hunt a chimera?" asked Harry.
Neville's eyes lit up as he answered, "Would I like to? I'd love to," he added and then hesitated before saying, "but it won't be as dangerous as running off to the Ministry of Magic like we did at the end of our fifth year, will it?"
"Neville, we're going to be tracking a chimera," answered Daphne for Harry, "how safe do you think that will be?"
Neville smiled back at Harry's girlfriend, "That's not the part that worries me. Being attacked by Death Eaters, that is something that I can do without."
"Then my good friend," said Harry with a large grin, "you should have nothing to worry about at all!"
Draco laughed at the group and shook his head. "You know Potter, you and your friends sure have an odd idea of what is safe, what is dangerous and what is fun."
Harry walked into the sitting room at his manor. Four of his friends were sitting around the small table. Daphne jumped up and ran across the room to greet him.
"Just where have you been, mister?" demanded Daphne. "You said we would all be getting together for brunch."
"That I did," answered Harry as he nodded a greeting to Draco, Astoria and Neville. "I just had a quick errand to take care of this morning. Where's Hermione?"
"She has already left for Egypt," said Neville. "Apparently Madam Pince arranged for her to get admission to the Library of Alexandria, and they said she had to arrive this morning. Didn't leave her much time to get her stuff together. She left a message for you, it's on the mantle."
Harry seemed surprised and a little hurt over this development. Daphne gave him a quick hug, "You should have been here, not off running out on some errand that you thought was so important."
Draco stood up and walked over to Harry. "So, do tell us what was so important that you had to leave your manor so early this morning?"
"I had a meeting with the goblins over at the bank," Harry said flatly. "They kind of wanted an update on what was happening with my tasks that I have to complete for them."
Daphne gave him a look that indicated she was sure that there was something he was leaving out. Neville looked between his best mate and his girlfriend and he could tell something was up. "Come on Harry," he said, "there must be something more to this."
A goofy grin came across his face. "Well, they did let me know that I can use the Potter family's villa on one of the islands near Greece."
There was the sudden shrieks of excitement from two young witches which was then accompanied by Harry being kissed and hugged by Daphne. Astoria had jumped up and stood next to Draco.
"Does this mean we all get to go and stay there?" she asked excitedly.
"Of course we do," said Harry. This earned him another hug and kiss from Daphne.
Neville stood up and walked over to Harry. Clapping his mate on the back he commented "You know, it is times like this that it is really good to be friends with you, Harry."
Harry gave a wry smile as he responded, "It's times like this that it is really good to be Harry!"
Draco coughed once and everyone stared at him. "If we can call an adjournment to the I Love Harry Fan-club, maybe we can get on with our planned brunch. And then after that, maybe Harry can fill us in on when we'll be heading to Greece."
Harry smiled. "Well, I am sure we're all ready to enjoy the brunch that the elves have prepared. And I do believe that the goblins have arranged for the house elves to head over there today to set things up for us, which gives us the rest of the day to prepare before we leave, tomorrow morning."
Early the next day the five friends met again at Potter Manor. Harry's house elves were finishing the preparations for bringing over everyone's trunks that they had packed for their trip. Mal had explained to Harry that there were still a couple of house elves overseeing the manor, so that preparations were not hard to complete. The head elf was named Nicho, and there was also a matronly house elf who had been around for many generations. Everyone there called her Yaya.
Harry held out an old green apron that the goblins had prepared for him. Astoria was taken aback by the ragged looking cloth. "What is that?" she wondered out loud.
"This?" asked Harry, "this is green."
Harry looked at the blank faces staring at him, then with a smile he continued, "This is a port key. I obtained it from the goblins when I was at the bank. We'll be at the villa in just a moment. Everyone grab ahold."
"Just a minute," said Neville.
Everyone looked up at Neville who was starting to blush.
"What's the matter Nev?" asked Daphne, as she had started to use the nickname that Harry often used for his best mate.
"Well, we're about to head off to a beautiful villa in the mediterranean, and I kind of feel like the odd man out," he said with a slight frown.
Harry put down the apron, and shrugged. "Sorry Nev, I don't mean to put you on the spot here, or make you uncomfortable, but I still have more to accomplish for the goblins." Harry shifted his weight from one leg to the other as he waited for Neville to reply.
"Well, Neville," said Daphne, "I really don't want to make you uncomfortable, but what would you have us do? We can promise not to snog in front of you."
Neville looked at Harry and then spoke up again. "Well, I was hoping, that if it was alright with everyone, particularly you, Harry, if I could ask Hannah to join us?"
Harry looked at Daphne and then back at Neville. Then he gave a big grin. "Of course it would be fine. But we were just about ready to leave."
Before he could say anything more Neville responded with a big smile of his own. "Just a minute, I thought you would probably say that," Neville then turned and threw some floo powder into the fireplace and stuck his head into the flames. He called out to Hannah Abbott and he stepped back. A moment later Hannah arrived with her trunk in tow.
Hannah gave the group a big smile, "Neville assured me that you all would be fine with me joining you for this little adventure."
Harry laughed as he replied, "Of course we are, and we're glad to have you join us. However, did Neville tell you anything about jet why we are heading to an island off of Greece?"
Hannah put a finger up to the side of her head and teasingly answered, "Let me see, something about a griffon, no you already got one of those, something about a thunderbird, no you already tried to kill yourself with that one. How about a chimera, whatever that is, apparently you may need one to find one of those."
Harry smiled, "Well, you have been forewarned. So, now, everyone, let's grab the apron. No more excuses, and we'll be off."
"What's the activation code?" asked Astoria.
Harry grinned as he said, "Opa!"
They all felt the familiar tug from behind their navels.
The group of six friends found themselves in a courtyard. After Harry pulled himself off of the stone walkway where he found himself lying face first, they all began to look at their surroundings. He brushed the dust off of his pants and wondered how everyone else landed on their feet. Looking around he noted that the villa was a whitewashed building that surrounded the courtyard where they had just arrived. They all commented on the various statues around the courtyard as well as the obviously well-tended gardens. Harry then noted that there were several doors that led out of the courtyard and they all began to wonder which way they were supposed to go.
There was a quiet pop as two house elves appeared next to Harry.
"Hello, Master Harry and esteemed guests," said the one on the right. "I am Nicho and this is Yaya, she has been overseeing the meals here at the villa for the past several generations of Potters. It has been much too long since your family has been here." Nicho and Yaya gave a deep bow to Harry and his friends.
"We appreciate the help that Tam and Hoban have given us, but it was not necessary," added Nicho.
Yaya then looked at the group and turned to face Harry. "You are much too skinny, I will prepare lunch for you, no? It is Wednesday, so, you will have no meat, yes?" Before Harry could answer, Yaya had disappeared.
Harry gave Nicho a puzzled look.
Nicho seemed to sigh slightly, and then tried to explain. "Yaya has been everyone's, how you say, grandmother for years. Her family grew up here in Greece. They all follow the traditions of the church. Wednesday and Friday, they are always fast days, no meat. But we have at least persuaded her not to have everyone on a strict fast."
Daphne wondered what this meant and was about to ask. Nicho had noted her confusion and then went on to explain, "A strict fast would mean no dairy, no wine, no fish. But here we will be served those things. Just no meat today, but do not worry, she will still feed you well. Quite well," he added with a big smile.
"Now, we must get you settled, and then we'll have a tour of the villa," added the elf. "And then after lunch, we can give you a tour of the village. I can bring you all there, but there is a connection from here at the villa via the floo network to the shopping district."
Nicho began the tour, taking them to the north end of the courtyard which was the main part of the villa. The spacious living room and dining room were located there on either side of the entryway. Following a hallway past the living room was a library, which was magically linked to the one at Potter Manor. Writing the title of a book that one wanted to read in the ledger in the middle of the room would summon the book if it was present in one of the other Potter libraries. Nicho explained that a book summoned in such a way could not physically be removed from the library which was why there were various chairs and tables around the library to allow for a place to study or a place to read comfortably. He went on to explain that the books which were physically located within the library could be brought anywhere within the villa, but there were wards in place to prevent them from leaving the property. The Potters were not willing to lose any of their volumes to guests or carelessness.
Nicho continued the tour to the south side of the villa. The master bedroom and guest rooms were located on this end with rooms that either face the courtyard or looked out over the sea. The view was spectacular when they looked out over the cliffs and down into the blue water below. Neville noted as they enjoyed the view that he did not see any other buildings nearby. Nicho replied that the Potter's owned the entire island. In addition to the villa, there was a small house near their private beach, there was a dock near the beach where they had a boat and then there was the chapel near the villa. He went on to explain that there were several walking trails which they could use to explore the island.
Harry asked more questions about the villa and they learned that it was well protected with wards that were now controlled by Harry. The port key which Harry had been given was keyed to adjust the wars to allow those who were traveling with him to be able to enter. Nicho brought Harry back to the library and showed him the ward book where he could add names of those who would be allowed to come onto the island. Nicho quickly pointed out that anyone who tried to arrive via apparating to the villa, or anywhere else on the island for that matter, better know how to swim.
After they all were settled into their own rooms, Nicho called for them to meet in the dining room. After they had all sat down at the table, Yaya came out and announced the meal. They would be having spanikopita, a spinach and feta 'pie' which was encased between layers of filo dough. They started their lunch with a salad, and they had a delightful white wine to accompany the meal. The group of friends were all impressed by the food. As they were finishing what was on their plates, Yaya, had more food appear. "You are all too skinny," she admonished.
"The food is wonderful, Yaya," replied Harry, "we just cannot eat any more."
As the plates were cleared magically a platter appeared on the middle of the table. The friends noted that there were a number of pastries that looked more like large pieces of shredded wheat. Nicho was standing to the side and noted the confusion of the young people at the table. "Kataifi," he began to explain. "It is a dessert, not unlike baclava as it is filled with honey and nuts. Those who have had some report that they find it better than baclava, if you are familiar with that sweet pastry."
The six friends were soon enjoying the Greek pastries as they finished their meal. Nicho then spoke to Harry as the table was magically cleared. "Would you all like to visit the village?" he asked.
The group enthusiastically agreed that they would, and Nicho showed them to the fireplace from where they would be able to floo over to the shopping district. However, the house elf then told them to hold hands as he grasped Harry's hand. With a slight pop they apparated to the mainland. The group appeared in the centre of the village next to a large fountain. Everyone noted that somehow Harry managed to land on his feet. Nicho pointed out that to return, they could use the public floo located either at the bank or the town office. Nicho explained that the village here was a magical one and had many shops. Nicho accompanied them as they began to explore and he translated for the young people when they went into shops where the owners did not speak English. They spent hours enjoying their time walking up and down the streets and inspecting the various shops. Nicho pointed out where the local branch of Gringotts was located in addition to various stores, including ones for wands or for magical supplies or for robes and clothes. After several hours the group returned to the villa.
Yaya had prepared another meal for them and they sat down to enjoy a meal that began with dolmades (stuffed grape leaves) and then they were served a baked white fish with rice and green beans. Again, the amount of food was nearly overwhelming for them. As they table was cleared, Yaya came out and announced that they would be having galactoburoca for dessert.
"What is that galacta-something?" asked a curious Neville.
"Have you people never had real food?" answered Yaya shaking her head. "No wonder you all look so skinny!"
Nicho entered the room and tried to explain. "It is a delightful creation, a custard dessert over a layer of filo dough and everything is covered with a sweet lemon or orange glaze. It is quite popular. And very tasty."
The group were looking forward to trying a new dessert. As they soon were all enjoying the spectacular creation, Neville spoke up. "This is simply amazing," he stated.
Everyone agreed with his assessment. As they were finishing their meals, Harry announced that they would need to begin working on finding a chimera. They then went out to sit on the veranda that overlooked the sea. As the sun set behind them, they noted the fireflies that started to occasionally light up the areas around the trees on the hill sides that sloped down towards the shore.
"Well, Potter," said Draco, "I must admit, your family really does know how to impress. The villa is one of the most pleasant and relaxing places I have ever been."
Everyone agreed with Draco's sentiments, and the conversation shifted to discussing the goals they had ahead of them for Harry to complete his task.
Harry commented that Hermione would be gathering as much information for them as possible while she was working at the Library of Alexandria. In the mean time, they would need to work on discovering where to search for a chimera and also work on strategies for capturing the chimera and obtaining the venom.
The next day the group met after enjoying a simple breakfast of fresh fruits and juices. They gathered out on the veranda again. Neville and Hannah had offered to research ways to work on subduing the chimera. Draco and Astoria agreed to work on trying to research where they could find a chimera, while Harry and Daphne would work on figuring out how to obtain the venom.
The next week was spent with time studying and researching as well as more exploring of the island and the nearby village. Yaya continued to make them various Greek styled meals, including moussaka and pastichio. None of the six friends particularly cared for ouzo which was served with one of the meals, so they kindly asked Nicho if they could stick to wine or juices.
On the fifth day of their research, a large owl arrived with a small package. Hermione had written them what she considered to be a short note that was attached to pages and pages of research. She had narrowed down some of the places they should search for finding a chimera. She recounted the various stories she was able to uncover which told of various encounters with the legendary beast. The first written account of a chimera was the tale of Bellerophon defeating one from the back of Pegasus. While most muggles believed that this story was merely an ancient myth, there were further documents within the Library of Alexandria that confirmed the tale of the battle. Apparently he fought the creature near Lycia, which was located in what is present day Turkey, but he used a lead arrow which melted inside the chimera and caused it to die. There were other stories that indicated that there may be one or more hiding somewhere in the mountains within Turkey, The most recent report of an encounter with a chimera came from the writings of Elphias Doge, who described his encounter with one somewhere in Greece.
Harry shared the letter with everyone as they sat out on the Veranda. He looked around the group of friends and simply asked, "So, does anyone have any thoughts? Anyone make some progress on their own projects?"
Astoria spoke up first. "Does anyone know this Doge person? I think I might have heard of him somewhere."
Harry responded to her comments. "I met Elphias Doge at Bill Weasley's wedding. He was friends with Dumbledore. He travelled quite a bit when he was younger, and many of his travels were with our former headmaster. It might be a good idea if I wrote to him, and asked him for some more specific information about the location of the chimera."
Everyone nodded in agreement with Harry's observation.
Neville spoke up next, "Well, obviously using the tactics which helped Bellerophon to slay the chimera he faced won't be of much use to us as we need a live one. And we will need to find a way to deal with the fire. So, I was reviewing some plants I have read about before…"
Draco interrupted him, "Tell us something we don't know, Longbottom, of course you were reading about plants."
Astoria punched him lightly in the arm as she quietly admonished him, "Cut it out Draco. Be nice."
Neville continued after smirking at Draco. "Well, as I was saying, I was reading about this plant, the dracaena reflex, it is tropical and it has natural resistance to fire. I discovered in my studies that there is a magical component to the fire resistance. Well, Hannah here, is much better in arithmancy and runes than I ever could be, she spent some time comparing what we learned about the dracaena to what we know about some spells."
Hannah picked up from Neville's comments, "And I think that I can work on adjusting some of the basics of the body bind spell and we may be able to incorporate the fire resistance properties to the magical ropes that are used to bind the target."
Daphne's eyes lit up. "Do you need some help on that?" she asked quickly. "I was pretty good in those subjects, and we all know Harry avoided those, so he probably won't be of much use to us with that part of the project."
"Sure," replied Hannah, "I'd love the help."
Draco spoke up, "Not to throw water on your little celebration, ladies, but just how do you expect to get close enough to cast the body bind spell and not get burned in the mean time?"
Hannah and Daphne both frowned at the comment. Astoria glared at Draco, "Not helpful there."
Harry rubbed his chin briefly and then responded to all the comments that had been made. "Actually, Astoria, Draco does raise a very valid point. We will need some way to distract the beast while four of us use the modified body bind to hold the creature's legs. And then we still need to distract it while I somehow get the venom from the snake."
Draco considered their dilemma for a moment and then he added, "Brooms, we could fly around on brooms."
"What do you mean by 'we'?" asked Neville.
"Well, Harry and I do have the most experience with brooms," answered Draco thoughtfully, "and he is the one who should be obtaining the venom, for after all, this is his problem in the grand scheme of things, not ours."
Daphne looked at Draco as her jaw dropped. "So, you would leave three women and Neville to hold down the chimera while you fly around safely out of reach of the dangerous beast?"
Harry placed a hand on Daphne's shoulder to try and calm her down. "Well, if we are flying around on brooms, that would cause the chimera to pay more attention to us, particularly if it felt we were more of a threat."
Draco continued, "And besides, if you three fine ladies are not up for the challenge, then we'll have to come up with a different plan."
Hannah decided to change the subject. "Did Hermione mention anything else in her note?"
Harry skimmed the note and looked at the stack of information she had sent. "She does mention she hopes that we can get the chance to explore the ancient ruins around Athens, she thinks it would be a wonderfully educational experience for all of us."
Draco rolled his eyes, "Granger would say that."
"However," Harry added, "she does go on to mention that might be difficult as the Greek authorities haven't allowed people to do that since some time in the 1970s. She sent along a copy of something called the National Geographic School Bulletin from sometime in 1973 that shows three American sisters playing around the ruins. Let's see, oh Hermione mentions that she found this article and thought it might be interesting. No idea who the three girls are or why they were at the Parthenon though." Harry then handed the small pamphlet for the others to look at.
Astoria looked over the pictures, "They sure dressed funny back then."
Hannah looked over the pictures as well. "You can say that again."
"Well, they were muggles," added Daphne as she looked at the pictures.
"And Americans, too," added Draco derisively.
Everyone stared at Draco after he made his comment.
"What? Have any of you ever met a nice American?" he asked.
Daphne glared at Draco. "Have you ever met any American?" she asked.
"Well, no, but everyone knows they're obnoxious," Draco responded.
"And everyone knows Death Eaters are idiots, but we still let you hang out with us," Daphne quipped back.
"That's enough," said Harry, putting an end to the bickering. "Back to the business at hand. I think that Draco had a valid point."
"What, that the American girls dress funny?" asked Neville.
"No, that we should consider flying on brooms," said an exasperated Harry. "If Draco and I fly in and cast spells to distract the beast, then you four could come and cast the modified body bind spells and immobilise its legs. Draco can work on distracting the goat head that breathes fire…"
Hannah interrupted Harry, "How do we know that? I thought the lion's head breathed the fire."
"According to the notes that Hermione sent along, the goat is the one that breathes fire," explained Harry. "Either way, it ought to become pretty clear which head breathes fire fairly soon after we approach the beast."
"But how will you get the venom?" asked Hannah.
"First, I will have some protection from wearing the griffon hide," answered Harry. "Second, the thunderbird feather which is hanging around my neck will help me move faster and help protect me from the flames. Third, Daphne and I discovered I can still speak in Parseltongue when we encountered a snake crawling across the path on the way down to the beach the other day, so I may be able to ask the chimera to give me some of its venom."
"Now that sounds like a brilliant idea," said Draco shaking his head. "No wonder you kept nearly getting yourself killed back in school, always running off on some hair brained scheme or another."
Harry laughed, "And here I thought I kept nearly getting killed because some deranged dark lord was after me my whole life. And all along it was just my own foolishness."
Daphne intervened, "Both of you behave," she commanded.
Harry protested, "We were just having fun with each other."
Draco nodded his head in agreement.
Daphne accepted the explanations from the two young men who had been behaving like juveniles, and then she turned to her sister. "So, do you and Draco have anything to add to our research? Any leads on where to find the chimera?"
"Only the information that Hermione just shared with us," said a now sullen Astoria, feeling embarrassed that she had nothing substantial to contribute.
Harry smiled at the younger Greengrass sister. "Well, maybe you can work with Daphne on figuring out how best to obtain the venom, once we have the chimera subdued. I'll get a letter mailed off to Elphias Doge, and we'll go from there. Neville can work with Draco on a strategy for approaching the chimera, and I'm sure that Hermione will have more to offer us soon. I probably ought to write her back, thank her for the information she sent and let her know where we are with the progress on all of this."