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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51. Christmas at Grimmauld

Rita knew she was going to have a merry Christmas, having a front page story in the Prophet on Christmas Eve practically guaranteed that. It wasn't her usual type of story either, though the paper's editor had still begged for her return to work at the Prophet after reading it. Rita wasn't interested in returning to that lifestyle, she would enjoy Christmas before focusing on her new subject. Gilderoy Lockhart's perceived persona was just begging to be torn apart. Whilst today's piece was all wholesome and light, Rita knew it was in brutal character assassinations that her real skills lay. Even to a casual observer, Gilderoy's literary self portrayal didn't in any way match the reality of the man himself. She intended to discover all his dirty little secrets - and then inform everyone about them.

It would be somewhat ironic if she managed to get a book out of destroying this famous author, the title 'Liar Lockhart' just flowed off the tongue.

-oOoOo-

A Miraculous Collaboration

The picture below displays a scene that many readers will agree is nothing short of miraculous. Frank and Alice Longbottom have found themselves trapped inside their own bodies for over a decade - that is clearly no longer the case. Since August, they have been receiving treatment that has peeled back some of the trauma damage inflicted when these two brave aurors were tortured by the cruiciatus curse. This is a result that was thought to be impossible by the best healers in St Mungo's, fortunately this news was never passed on to Alice Longbottom's godson, a certain Centurion Crow.

Her godson was aware goblin healing was different from that used in St Mungo's, and an offer of assistance was made to the Longbottom family. Madam Augusta Longbottom had this to say on the matter.

"While the care my son and his wife received whilst in St Mungo's was second to none, we had explored and exhausted every treatment that the healers had available in their attempts to improve Frank and Alice's condition. The offer from Gringotts came with no guarantees, other than they certainly wouldn't cause my son and his wife any harm. We had nothing to lose, and a distinct possibility of gain, so of course I said yes. They were also examined by muggle healers, using advanced medical equipment to produce scans of Frank and Alice's brains. These scans are providing vital clues to further improve their treatment. This treatment was made possible and arranged through the Grangers, themselves both muggle healers - and whose daughter is Harry's girlfriend. I have no words to describe how my grandson, Neville, and I feel over their recovery, nor to express our gratitude for those who made this possible. Here is a wonderful example of what can be achieved when everyone works together."

I then contacted St Mungo's to enquirer if they had any comment to make on this situation, the interview I was given with one of the senior healers was, to say the least, enlightening. Healer Woodcock was clearly excited by the momentous news.

"As healers, it's far more important to our profession that the patient recovers, rather than assuming any form of professional posturing over who is actually responsible for healing them. The goblins have very kindly offered a month's secondment for one of our healers - allowing them to spend time in Gringotts learning of this new healing technique. This is hopefully the first step in a process that will see exchange programmes put in place. I understand that the muggles have facilities where any breakthrough in healing is shared with the rest of the world, this is something I would like to see us as a community adopt - as anything that helps our profession heal patients more efficiently is certainly something we can't afford to dismiss."

With attitudes of cooperation and collaboration springing up all over our magical community, it provides hope that we can move forward - and that the coming years will not only be happy but prosperous.

The picture showed a beaming Alice Longbottom with an arm around her son and his betrothed - they had used this occasion to make their betrothal announcement public - with Frank and his mother standing behind them. It was the epitome of what a happy family portrait should be, three generations each looking forward to a better future.

The large breakfast table was full to bursting and Lukas just had to comment to the lady sitting at his side after reading the latest developments. "Amelia, Moa and I were worried about our daughter coming to Britain - your country's reputation for intolerance of anyone without what they see as the correct breeding is renowned. But this..." Lukas indicated the paper, and then the company around the table. Muggles, goblins, veela and even a werewolf were all chatting away amiably. That the children present were not only involved in whatever was being discussed but their opinions being listened to was also a shock to the Swede, this was not what he expected in pureblood Britain.

The Hobson's had been an instant hit with the 'extended family', especially amongst their children. They all adored Henrica, and seemed to have no problems in extending that emotion to include her parents - Lukas and Moa though made that transition very easy to accomplish. Amelia smiled at Lukas' understandable confusion and tried to help him grasp the reality of the situation.

"If only what you were reading in that paper, and what you see around this table, was a fair reflection of our country then I would be very happy. Unfortunately it is not - yet. There are people on both sides of the divide, wizard and goblin, whose views are far too entrenched to ever accept this as the new normal. We know they are just biding their time, waiting on something to focus attention on and turn public opinion back the way they want it to go. When I see the children acting like this though, it gives me hope that one day it might be better."

After a moment's silence. Amelia decided to put into words what she'd only thought before. "The more I get to know the goblins, the more I see them just like ourselves. We have the same problems and similar aspirations - helping each other to reach mutually beneficial solutions is rapidly becoming the biggest thrill of my life. The boy sitting at the end of the table is the catalyst for all this change, and also the reason we're all sitting here together. Harry would be the first to admit he had lots of help but it was him who chased Binns out of Hogwarts, and who started the ball rolling to set Sirius free."

While believing every word Amelia said, it was still hard for Lukas to comprehend how one so young could have achieved so much. "I know my daughter thinks very highly of him, of all of them actually. Her letters home always contain a mention of this group - and whatever they've been up to. I feel as if I know most of them already."

"This group have the potential to change our country for the good of all, even their peers simply observing their behaviour is beginning to change attitudes. I see our job as parents and guardians to do our best ensuring they can continue to behave the way they are, neither breeding nor background affecting who they choose to befriend."

This was something Lukas would certainly agree with but Amelia had even more to say on the matter. "Hogwarts is unrecognisable now from the school it was a mere two years ago, your daughter is playing an integral role in that. Remus Lupin is another excellent teacher, and another vital part of the jigsaw that, when complete, will see Hogwarts as one of the finest magical schools in the world. Theirs is the generation that will take our society forward - and it all starts with Hogwarts. If we can reach the children of death eaters with the message that there is a better way, then and only then will the British magical society be able to proudly hold its head up on the international scene for the first time in generations."

This was not the time for such serious conversations though, and both were soon pulled in the direction of more jovial subjects by those around them.

Padma, Hermione and Harry had all loved how they spent Christmas Eve last year so a repeat was arranged for everyone today. Barchoke and Amelia were unfortunately having to work today but the rest of the adults - including Augusta - appeared to be looking forward to the day.

Sirius of course had to add his own twist to the holidays. Knowing not everyone in their extended family celebrated Christmas, he still intended to get them all involved by introducing Kris Kringle to the proceedings. Hermione dissolved into fits of laughter when Harry started looking around for this person her godfather was talking about - Sirius then explained the concept.

"Everyone's names are in this hat, we each draw one and must buy that person a gift. You don't tell anyone whose name you drew, rather just wrap their gift up and write their name on it. There will be a sack beside the Christmas tree for these presents, and we'll hand them out tomorrow at dinner."

This just added another layer of excitement onto what was already building for the day. The hat was rapidly passed around the table, with Sirius agreeing to accept the name that was left. Nineteen names were soon chosen, leaving Sirius with Moa. He had hoped for someone he could get a joke present for, playing a prank on his mother-in-law to be though was not a good idea. He wondered if this was him finally growing up, and sincerely hoped not.

-oOoOo-

Luna sat that night trying to write a letter to her father, the problem being she just didn't know where to start. They had barely entered Sirius' house when there was a loud scream, Henrica had found both her parents standing waiting on her. Their history professor, who was always so in control of her emotions, acted like a little girl as she pounced on them - before dragging Sirius into the family embrace.

Harry and Hermione had led the group away from the family reunion and directed them to the rooms they would be staying in. Both they and the Grangers often stayed here so were using their regular rooms, Luna was sharing with Hermione while Neville doubled up with Harry. Padma was sharing a room with her sister, leaving Susan and Hannah to bunk in another. With the Patils, Augusta, Amelia, Barchoke, Remus and now the Hobsons' staying too, it was a busy house.

Every day of the holiday had something arranged, a visit to London zoo, shopping in Diagon Alley or a simply unbelievable visit to something they called a cinema - Luna was having a fantastic time. There lay her problem and she resolved to talk to Hermione about it when she came in. She and Harry were currently saying goodnight and, by the way Hermione had just practically floated into the room, Harry must be quite good at it.

She flopped down on her bed in a daze, then Luna noticed where her eyes kept wandering - to her left hand, or rather the ring now on it. "Everything alright, Hermione?"

With a squeal of delight, she shot off the bed and had Luna practically in a head lock with excitement. "Oh, everything is so much better than 'alright', Luna. Things are just fantastic!"

Hermione then pulled back to let Luna see her ring. "Harry thought that, since our blood bond will be made public shortly, I should wear a ring to tell the world I am his. He gave it to me tonight so I would wake up on Christmas morning with it already on my finger. Have you ever seen anything like it, Luna? I just love it!"

"Yes, it matches your bracelet." The ring did indeed match her bracelet, having the same filigree design that indicated she was part of Harry's family. The stone though appeared to be a blue diamond, rather than the sapphires that her bracelet sported. "I think it's the most beautiful ring I've ever seen..." When the tears began to fall, Luna just couldn't stop them.

While Moonlight shot over and jumped on Luna's knee, Hermione pulled a chair up beside her younger friend. "What's the matter, Luna, I thought you were enjoying your holiday?"

"Oh, Hermione, I'm loving my holiday - that's the problem. Last year was our first Christmas without mum, it was horrible. Dad tried so hard to make it the same yet the both of us spent most of Christmas crying. I think that's why he's not spending it at home this year, it's just too hard without mum there too. Ginny and Colin were so jealous of me coming here for the holidays but I'd much rather be doing what they are - spending Christmas with my mum and dad."

Moonlight was snuggling in to the upset girl, practically forcing Luna to stroke her. Hermione felt out of her depth here, and offered to go and fetch her mum.

Luna didn't want to involve anyone else. "I'll be fine, Hermione, just give me a minute. I was trying to write a letter to my dad and just felt horrible that I was having such a good time with everyone, while he is on his own."

After thinking of what her mum would say in this situation, Hermione tried her best to comfort the crying girl. "Don't be afraid to tell him you are having a good holiday, Luna, that will make your dad feel a lot better about not being with you at Christmas."

"Do you really think so?"

Seeing her efforts were working, Hermione continued in the same vein. "I really do, Luna. Your father loves you very much, he's just missing your mum too. We haven't really looked at what we'll be doing over the summer holidays, maybe when Henrica and Sirius set a date we might talk about it next week. Whatever we do though, you should know that we will want you there as much as possible - your father will be invited too."

Luna's eyes were now sparkling, and not just from the tears she had shed. "I would really like that. Coming to Hogwarts and having friends has been the best thing that's ever happened to me. You and Padma have treated me like a little sister, and Harry..."

This drew a smile from Hermione. "Harry thinks you are pretty special too..."

"Oh no, not like that!"

Hermione was now giggling. "It's okay, Luna, I know you're not Ginny. You see Harry just for who he is, that's what makes you special to him - that and the fact he's just about adopted you as his sister."

This had Luna blushing. "That's the way I think of him too. Someone I can depend upon, for anything. Ginny is trying you know, she's been in love with the boy-who-lived since she was about six though."

"I've read some of that rubbish too, I much prefer Harry the way he is. Do you need any help to finish that letter? I'm sure Eargit will take it for you in the morning."

"I think I'll be fine now, though I might need more parchment. Today was just wonderful - no wonder you wanted to do that again."

"It's the people who we were with that made today wonderful, Luna, and you are certainly classed as one of our family now."

With her feelings of guilt beginning to fade, Luna resumed writing a long letter to her father. If it made him feel even a fraction of the happiness she'd been experiencing then she knew her dad would be smiling as he read.

-oOoOo-

Christmas morning was off to a flier before a present had been opened. Padma's joyful yell alerting everyone to what now adorned Hermione's finger. All of those in Grimmauld Place were happy for the young couple, and each had their own reasons to be happy too.

The Patils were so very happy still to have both their daughters, that one of them was now betrothed to Neville was certainly a very pleasant bonus in their eyes. Neville would be going to chat with his mum and dad today, accompanied by his betrothed - Christmas just couldn't get any better than that for the Longbottoms.

Amelia was delighted she would get to spent today with Susan and Hannah, no jumping through blown out windows this Christmas. With Hannah's parents attending the ball tomorrow night, this was as good as it got in her book.

Sirius though thought this Christmas was easily the happiest of his life, and certainly light years ahead of last years. Sitting here a free man, surrounded by friends and family with the beautiful Henrica by his side. He was thinking it couldn't get any better than this when his mind wandered a few years into the future, he pictured himself standing with his wife as their children opened their presents. For far too long, that scenario was nothing more than an impossible dream for Sirius Black. Now it was a dream come true - or at least it soon would be.

The Hobsons too were very happy with their lot, spending Christmas with their daughter and her intended had certainly put smiles on their faces. They had both held some reservations about their daughter marrying into what was an old British pureblood family, that Sirius clearly intended for them to play a large part in their lives was the best present they could have been given.

Remus also didn't need to look too hard for reasons to be cheerful. Sitting here amongst friends already made this a red letter day in his book, having a new job starting in the New Year meant he even had something to look forward to. It had been many years since life had been this good to the werewolf.

Dan could hardly take his eyes off the ring on his daughter's hand. After her initial squeal of delight, Emma had clearly been worried over his reaction. Hugging both Hermione and Harry quickly quashed those fears. He knew this was just another level of protection for Hermione. It might be more political than the practical bracelet but what a statement it made in any world. That ring not only shouted that Hermione was Harry's intended, it also broadcast just how financially powerful this young goblin was too. He wasn't a jeweller but Dan had no trouble imagining that ring being worth more than their house and business combined. It was simply stunning, and its beauty could only be matched by how happy it made his daughter - that made it priceless to all of them.

Harry had Hermione sitting at one side of him, and his father at the other. This was only the second time he had celebrated Christmas but already knew it wouldn't be the last. Any occasion that got the entire family together to celebrate should be encouraged, something he certainly intended to do. He could tell from the smile his father was wearing that he actually agreed with him.

Henrica leaned over and kissed Sirius.

"What was that for?"

"Just for being you. What you did with my parents was simply wonderful. You've made us all so happy..."

"Just wait until you see what I've got planned for New Year..." The look Henrica was now giving him clearly indicated she had no intention of waiting. "Do you remember our first date?" This got another kind of look, this one said of course she did - and he should continue. "I've hired the entire boat for New Year's Eve, we'll spend it going up and down the Thames and bring in the New Year dancing to the music..." He couldn't say anymore, Henrica was far too busy showing him that she really approved of that idea. Sirius quickly put winning Henrica's approval at the top of this and every other Christmas' wish list.

-oOoOo-

Molly was also having a merry Christmas, anytime her entire family were back under her roof was going to be a happy occasion for the Weasley matriarch. A glance though told her they currently weren't all here, her husband and eldest son had once more gone for a stroll out in the orchard. They both returned and removed their heavy cloaks, earning them a rebuke from Molly.

"It's Christmas Day, can't you two forget business for one afternoon?"

"Sorry mum, just something I needed to discuss with dad."

A sigh escaped Molly's lips. "...and it could only be spoken about in the orchard? I never thought I would miss your father sitting telling us all about biting teacups or backfiring toilets, he can't even talk about his job in his own home anymore. The first we find out about what's going on is when we read about it in the Prophet."

"I'm sorry, Molly, but the things Bill and I work on now are secret - and need to stay that way."

This set Ron off in a grade one huff. "That white owl delivers letters to Crow all the time, you can bet his father tells him what's going on..."

His mother, father and Charlie were all shocked at this belligerent attitude, the others had all seen it before - Bill was really getting tired of it. "...and you know why that is, Ronnie boy, because Harry is not only a Centurion but and an Order of Merlin, First Class holder."

"Yeah, right! They just handed him those, like they gave Parvati all that gold after she set the basilisk on people - mental, just mental!"

Molly couldn't understand her son's attitude about this, and wasn't long in telling him so. "Ronald Weasley, I better not hear you've said that about the poor girl outside these four walls..."

"Too late, Mum, he actually said it to Parvati's face - in front of the entire house in the great hall." Ron was staring daggers at his sister but Ginny wasn't caring, she pressed ahead. "Neville threatened to call him out if he did it again, and McGonagall gave him two weeks worth of detention for it. As you can see, Ron still thinks he did nothing wrong..."

"All I did was tell the truth, but no one wants to hear it because she's a friend of Crow's."

"The truth as you see it, Ron, and that's where all the trouble starts." Bill thought it was time his youngest brother heard a few home truths. "No one gave Harry anything he didn't earn. Before taking the job of tutoring him, I saw all his scores - the sorting hat really couldn't have placed him anywhere but Ravenclaw. He's the top student of the year, with Hermione and Padma taking the next two places. Neville Longbottom is pushing his way through the pack to join them. Ronnie here needs Percy to sit and force him to do his homework, and he's still in the bottom four. Crabb, Goyle and Finnigan - really pushing yourself there Ron..."

"Hey, at least I'm not last..."

"You are in some of the classes, purely out of laziness too! Ginny is already pushing her way to be near the top of her year group, Fred and George are also shooting through the rankings with Percy here looking a good bet for next year's head boy. Like Charlie, me and dad, they are all achieving what they want through hard work. You're jealous of Harry but let's ask his friends here if they know anyone who works harder than him?"

Fred was first to provide an answer. "We work on defence with him once a week and it nearly kills us, Harry and Hermione exercise and practice every single day. I really don't know how they do it."

This drew agreement from George before he added his own thoughts. "Fred and I thought we were pretty handy at potions, Harry is miles ahead. Master Pitslay is probably the top potion master in the whole of Britain, yet he comes to Hogwarts to teach Harry. We're learning so much more than we ever would in normal potions classes at Hogwarts, and we'll be sitting our potions O.W.L. this summer."

This was a shock to both parents, serious twins though would be a shock to just about anyone.

Ginny wasn't about to be overlooked here though, she had her own thoughts to add. "Harry does all his extra training yet still makes time to teach us defence every week. As a teacher, he's also miles ahead of Lockhart - and it's the favourite class of all the first years."

"Hey, it's bad enough you lot are all going to hobnob with them tomorrow, I really don't want to hear about it today too..."

"...and that's the problem, Ron, you just don't get that we're actually talking about you here. If you go through the rest of your life the way you're approaching Hogwarts, then I hate to think what will become of you. Doing just enough to get by is a bad habit to fall into. You seem quite happy to embrace that as your entire philosophy on life - while deriding those who don't share your opinion. You also seem to go out of your way to ostracise yourself amongst your peers, a really, really stupid move. A big part of going to Hogwarts is to meet other people the same age as you..."

"Hey, I offered Crow my friendship, he didn't want it - his loss!"

Charlie hadn't been as involved as the rest of the family in this matter so offered an opinion from what was almost an outsider's point of view. "Do you really believe Crow refusing your offer of friendship is his loss? I don't think he's too bothered by it, Ron. I've never met the boy, and certainly wouldn't expect an invitation to Lord Black's engagement party. With Bill, Fred, George and Ginny going though, I would certainly hate to have been in his year - and not been invited."

Percy was also keen to see Ron mend the error of his ways. If he made Head Boy next year, he wouldn't have the time to sit on his youngest brother - and then Ron would slip even lower in the rankings. "It's worse than that, Charlie, Draco Malfoy got an invitation. This is a boy who Crow punched out and challenged to a duel at the welcoming feast when they were first years. He also had his knife at Lucius Malfoy's throat too..."

"That settles it, with Malfoy there I wouldn't have gone anyway."

"...and that is why I'm worried about him. Fred and George have quidditch, extra defence lessons and also help out with the first year defence club. Percy here is going to have to concentrate on his own exams soon and I won't be in the castle as often to keep an eye on him..."

"Why won't you be in the castle as often?"

"RON! You're totally missing the point - as usual." Their father rarely raised his voice, when he did it was time to sit and pay attention. "Ever since you set foot inside Hogwarts, it's been one bad report after another - and none of it was ever your fault. I'm willing to bet you never apologised to this girl either?"

"Dad, you taught us to never trust anything that can think for itself if you can't see where it keeps its brain. How stupid would you need to be to write in that diary - and then she gets thousands in gold for doing so! Am I the only one who thinks that's wrong?"

"The Patil girl was as much a victim in this as Luna Lovegood. If that was my little girl lying down in that chamber, I could only hope they would still have gone down there to rescue her."

With total confidence, five of his children answered at the same time. "They would have!"

Fred had to add his own twist. "If it was Ron down there though, they might just have left him."

Arthur was coming more and more to rely on his eldest son's advice, and there was absolutely no way Bill would steer him wrong on a matter regarding their family. Bill had claimed that Ron wasn't coping with life at Hogwarts as he should, instead treating it like some holiday camp with good and plentiful food. The fact that the four of his other children who currently attended Hogwarts supported Bill's view was forcing Arthur to take action when he really didn't want to.

For a pureblood, attending Hogwarts was as much about interacting with your peers as it was gaining an education. Lessons could be taught at home and exams sat at the ministry, Hogwarts was about growing up and gaining life experiences with witches and wizards the same age as you - something that couldn't be achieved at home. For Ron to leave Hogwarts after seven years with poor qualifications and more enemies than friends would be an unmitigated disaster for his youngest son. Leaving after two years would mean Ron would be remembered as that annoying kid, still giving him room to prove he'd grown up since then. Spending the rest of his years at Hogwarts as he'd spent the first would see his son struggle to do anything with his life. A wizard's time at Hogwarts were their most formative years, spending seven years creating bad impressions and gaining enemies was something Arthur couldn't see his youngest son recovering from.

It was time for the head of the Weasley family to make a decision. "Ron, unless there is a marked improvement in your behaviour, you will be withdrawn from Hogwarts at the summer. Any more incidents where you openly court trouble will see you brought home before then. You can try and pull the wool over your mother's eyes as she home schools you. We will be having some long discussions over the rest of these holidays so there can be no doubts exactly what I mean by marked improvement."

With the decision made, Ron's Christmas wasn't going to be very merry.

-oOoOo-

Someone else was missing the warmth and good food of the Burrow's Christmas celebration, somehow gnawing on the remains of a sandwich he'd liberated from a bin yesterday didn't match up to all the wonderful titbits Wormtail would normally be enjoying about now. This was certainly not the first Christmas he'd spent as a rat, it was his first spent alone though - and Peter was finding that fact harder to deal with than he'd ever thought possible. Yes, he was alive but this could hardly be called living.

By scavenging old copies of the Prophet from his infrequent sorties into Diagon Alley, Peter was able to build a picture of what was happening all around him. Lucius Malfoy now residing in Azkaban was a real shock to the system, as was Dumbledore being chased out of Hogwarts. With the ministry building up its auror force, and actually administering justice, Peter knew the sands of time were running out for him. To an outsider, it appeared as if the Potter family were demanding, and receiving, retribution against those who had wronged them - there was just no way their greatest betrayer wouldn't be near the top of that revenge list.

It almost brought a smile to his lips when reading that Sirius was about to become engaged to that stunning Swedish veela, trust Padfoot to land the most gorgeous female he'd ever seen. This drew Peter's mind to the party tomorrow night, and how he would have been a guest if he hadn't turned betrayer.

He had to quash thoughts like that immediately, Peter had made his decision all those years ago - a decision he may have regretted but still didn't see how he had any other choice in the matter. Peter was again being forced to make a decision he didn't want to make, he felt though that again he was being left with no other option.

Sooner or later they would find him, whether that was due to a sustained search or a mistake on his part was immaterial - they would find him. His only protection from the fate that awaited him after capture was to once more have a powerful protector - his master. He was going to have to leave this refuge and go looking for the one person who could save him, that this same person might actually kill him instead was the reason why he'd delayed this journey for so long. He fully expected a dementor's kiss if the ministry ever got their hands on him, Peter would do anything to avoid that fate - including going searching for his master.

-oOoOo-

It didn't take much searching for Gilderoy to discover who was going to replace him at Hogwarts, or should that be what was going to be replacing him. Armed with a name, it also didn't take him long to get his hands on the really disturbing information either. Remus Lupin was registered at the ministry of magic as a werewolf, a werewolf they were going to allow to teach children - not if he had anything to do with it.

Gilderoy thought it was his duty to inform the wizarding public that this monster was going to be let loose on their children, he would write the story and then offer it to the Prophet for printing. This wouldn't be Wandering with Werewolves though, rather a timely warning a werewolf was going to be inside Hogwarts - as a professor. Even Gilderoy had to admit there had been major changes in their community recently, this though would be a change too far. There was no way parents would stand for a dark creature teaching their children, especially directly after the basilisk fiasco had them all terrified for their safety.

After they kicked the beast out, Gilderoy planned to string them along for a day or so on whether he would return to the castle. Dropping hints that this is what happens when you don't have a headmaster, and a totally unsuitable person attempting to run Hogwarts, should see him in new accommodation for his triumphant return to the castle. After saving all the children from a werewolf, they could hardly give the position of headmaster to anyone else.

Sitting down to write, he had to continually remind himself this wasn't a work of fiction. It was an unusual sensation for Gilderoy Lockhart to be writing the truth, or at least his version of it.

-oOoOo-

Draco thought this new version of Christmas for the Malfoys would take some getting used to, just him and his mother sitting down to dinner. No father, no guests and certainly no lavish parties. The only bright spot was his invitation to Lord Black's official engagement function tomorrow. That these invitations were very much sought after kept Pansy's father off their case for a little while longer, the man was pushing though and Draco had no intention of handing over control of his inheritance to anyone.

His mother had a Black family heirloom that he would be taking to the party as their gift for the engaged couple, a tiara that family custom dictated should be worn by the bride when a Black marries. It was in her possession since she was the last Black to be married, and now it would return to its rightful family.

Draco would be wearing the clothes he received for the Merlin Ball to the engagement party, thus covering the fact that he couldn't afford new dress robes. Apart from Blaise, the only other Slytherin they knew who were invited was Greengrass, her father having some long standing business connections with the Blacks.

He had been taught enough of pureblood politics to understand what was going on here, this was an opportunity for both him and Pansy to 'mingle' in this company. Their future invites would depend on how successfully they could pull this off, though Blaise had given him a word of warning. He had told Draco this group did not act like any he had ever met, the closest he could come to putting a name to it was they behaved like a family. Blaise had easily been accepted but knew he was under constant observation. Not because he was a Slytherin, it was purely to observe that he treated Parvati properly. Both Draco and Blaise had seen Neville very publicly claim Parvati as his sister, they also hadn't missed Crow holding back the other two girls. McGonagall saved mouth Weasley from some serious trouble, and all the idiot had cared about was missing dinner.

Draco could see his father had made some poor choices in his life, binding the family to a half blood bastard and then the basilisk fiasco immediately springing to mind. He was going to have to make his own choices from now on, and those choices would begin tomorrow.

Anyone who had outrightly opposed Crow had been politically, financially and sometimes even physically taken apart. His father and godfather were only two names on a list that also included the once great and untouchable Albus Dumbledore. Draco intended to do whatever it took to ensure his name never joined those on that list. His problem would be how far he would need to go to appease this group, or even become part of it. You didn't need to be a genius to understand that uttering the word 'mudblood' would see a blade instantly appear at your throat, and the next thing passing your lips had better be an apology. That most of the wands which would also be trained on you would be held by purebloods was really food for thought.

Professor Hobson had taught them that the term blood traitor was coined by the half blood bastard, purely as a means of turning purebloods against each other. When old families like the Bones, Abbots, Longbottoms, Blacks, Diggorys, Weasleys, Davies and Lovegoods appeared all in favour of the direction their country was moving in, who was Draco Malfoy to assume he knew better and then stand against an assembled force like that?

Draco decided that, instead of a plan, an open mind might suit their needs better for the party. He would have a quick talk with Pansy about this before they set off tomorrow, though wasn't expecting any problems from that direction. All Pansy's efforts were directed toward maintaining their betrothal, and she would adopt whatever attitude or beliefs that were necessary to achieve her goal. Draco found himself looking forward to tomorrow night for another reason too. The Merlin Ball at Hogwarts was one of the best functions he'd ever attended, he was hoping tomorrow night might be arranged somewhat along the same lines.

-oOoOo-

Harry was also looking forward to tomorrow, though he was in no hurry at all to say goodbye to today - or should that be goodnight to Hermione. He'd noticed even in Ravenclaw house that they seemed to take a little longer each night to part - the problem being that neither wanted to let go of the other. His arms were currently locked around her while Hermione rested her head on his shoulder, snuggling into his neck and doing funny things to his insides. They would then whisper to each other about everything and anything, purely to put off the moment when they would need to part.

"So, do you know who got Sirius his secret present?"

Hermione couldn't hold her giggles. "That was mum. The dog bowl and leash were funny, but the collar with 'if lost, return to Henrica Hobson' engraved onto it was hilarious."

"Ah, so that would mean it was Dan who gave that gift to Amelia. I knew it had to be muggle but still can't work out what the thick wand and restraints were for. Neither could anyone else, though I thought Sirius and Remus were going to choke with laughter."

She was glad Harry was taller than her, therefore couldn't see how red her face was buried in his neck. He could probably feel the heat of her embarrassment though. "That was a truncheon and handcuffs, it's what the police carry - muggle aurors. Didn't you notice that time they brought us home in Crawley?"

"I knew I recognised the hat from somewhere but I was too worried about you that day to notice much else. I think Luna liked her book on mythical creatures..."

"That was you? I thought it was father, I assume then he picked Susan's name out the hat - she loved her necklace."

"I asked him to get that book, goblins have different views on the subject - something I thought Luna would appreciate. Amelia has been such a help to us, father was delighted to draw Susan's name. Who did you get?"

"I drew Lukas, it was hard because we've only known them for a few days. I think he liked his tankard though."

"I think he loved his tankard, especially since it had the Hobson coat of arms on it."

"I just spotted a shop that sold all different items that you could get coats of arms on, and I don't think they stocked t-shirts in Lukas' size."

"We better say goodnight and let mum get to bed..."

"What!"

"Shush love, her room is at the end of the corridor we're currently hogging. She's just keeping an eye on us, we are getting older you know."

"Not old enough..." Hermione was once more glad Harry couldn't see her face, it was red again after letting that thought slip out.

"We'll be old enough when we're old enough. Don't wish your life away, Hermione, I'm really happy with where we are now."

"Harry, why are you so good to me?"

Harry lifted her chin so he could see her face. "...because you are mine, and I am yours." He finished that with a tender kiss that left both of them wanting more.

"You are mine, and I am yours." Hermione then offered a kiss of her own before breaking their embrace. "Goodnight, Harry." She then rather cheekily raised her voice a bit. "Night, mum." Hermione then shot into her room, leaving a rather embarrassed Harry and Emma in the corridor outside.

Deciding to follow his bonded's example, Harry called out 'night, mum' before heading off to his own room.

Emma had came upon the couple as she was heading to her own room. Not wanting to disturb them, she was waiting on Hermione and Harry saying goodnight before calling it a night herself. She thought these two made the sweetest couple, and was also delighted to see that at least this part of their relationship was progressing in what she considered an 'age appropriate' manner. Her thirteen year old daughter receiving a cuddle and a good night kiss from her boyfriend was perfectly acceptable behaviour in her book, the entire bond thing would work itself out over time.

She had forgotten though that Harry always seemed aware of what was happening around him, and was mortified in case the kids thought she was deliberately spying on them. All that was instantly banished from her mind though with the incident that just made Emma Granger's Christmas, Harry had just called her mum.

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