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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94. Dates

While those who had arrived in Hogwarts by portkey left by same means, the room was able to provide a bank of a dozen floos which enabled witches and wizards who were connected to the system a rapid method of returning home.

Arthur had barely stepped from the Burrow's fireplace when Molly started in on him. "I'm their mother, is it wrong for me to want what's best for my children?"

Knowing this was coming had allowed Arthur time to prepare his arguments, something he was getting rather good at since taking up his new ministerial post. "Molly, every parent wants nothing but the best for their children. When those children are young, it's also every parents duty to decide what's best for them. As those children get older however, the parents have to learn when it's the children's turn to make their own decisions. Only Bill can decide what's best for him, that right passed from us to him years ago."

She tried to reason with her husband, why was she the only one who could see this? "You know I have nothing against muggles, Arthur, but a wizard marrying one will seriously hurt their career. He will be looked down upon and sneered at behind his back, Bill has been doing so well too. We can't let him throw all those years of hard work away..."

"Molly, who does Bill work for?"

Arthur had confused Molly by completely changing tact, she stopped and answered her husband. "He works for Gringotts, why are..."

Arthur quickly cut her off. "Yes, more specifically, he works for Ambassador Barchoke. His boss is the person who already counts Hermione Granger as his daughter, and her muggle parents as close family. Euan is a Potter Scholar, that makes him and his mother, Jenny, family too. Now, do you think Barchoke would see a relationship between our Bill and Jenny as a bad thing? Even in the ministry now, anyone displaying bigotry like that would be severely frowned upon - if not actually jumped upon from on high."

Not to be dissuaded, Molly offered another reason to be against this match. "She's older than our Bill, and already has a child at Hogwarts..."

"...and what a delightful boy he is too, a credit to the mother who brought him up. She is also a beautiful woman who makes our son light up when she's next to him. Like Charlie, I've noticed the positive change in Bill. I just didn't know Jenny was responsible for that."

She was left clutching at straws now. "But Arthur, just because she had one magical child doesn't mean her next one will be too. What if we have muggle grandchildren?"

He was trying desperately not to lose his temper here but Molly was making that harder and harder. "We have seven children, Molly, the odds were high that one of them might have been a squib. Would that have made any difference to you?"

This finally hit home to Molly, her hand was over her mouth and it took a minute before she could even answer. "Arthur, how can you ask me that? They're my babies, I carried each of them for nine months - I would have loved them no matter what." That question had knocked all the fight out of her, Molly was now in tears. Arthur pulled his crying wife into an embrace.

"I know you would have, love, just as I know you will love any grandchildren the same way. IF Bill's relationship with Jenny reaches that point and IF their union is blessed with children, I know my Molly will be counting the days and knitting like mad to ensure that baby wants for nothing - whether they are magical or not."

He lovingly kissed the top of her head before continuing. "I also know a little of Jenny's history, her parents practically threw her out when they discovered she was pregnant. She will not be rejected by the Weasley family, rather welcomed as a friend who might one day be so much more. I hope you can support this Molly, because I won't have it any other way."

She was crying into his robes and nodded her acceptance. It took a moment before she remembered their other problem. "What about Ron?"

"Ah, now that is a totally different case. We've both been worried about him, and let's not forget we actually came within a whisker of withdrawing Ron from Hogwarts. He's finally starting to mature and I don't want anything to interfere with that process. Lavender is a young witch who would appear to have developed physically without the rest of her faculties yet catching up. Yes she's made a couple of incredibly stupid decisions but thankfully there has been no permanent harm done. Neither have yet reached fifteen, and she's Ron's first girlfriend. I think we let Ron deal with it, only becoming involved if he comes to us for advice. He's far more likely to talk to Bill or the twins though, we know they won't steer him wrong."

He could see Molly getting ready to offer objections so Arthur played his ace. "Ginny told me Ron was heartbroken, she said he wouldn't have been at the task today if the twins hadn't pulled him aside for a chat. Judging by what Ron said today, the twins must have approached Harry for information. That he's willing to sit down and discuss his problem with Lavender is a big step forward for Ron, we need to let him do this. The girl might not even make it back to Hogwarts so lets not cross any bridges before we have to."

Molly didn't answer so Arthur took that as a good sign. "You have a seat love and I'll make us some cocoa before we head off to bed."

She had one last question though. "Arthur, were any of our children in danger today?"

Here was one he could answer with some degree of certainty. "If Voldemort and his two followers had turned up today, they wouldn't have gotten a spell off before they were no more. Just precautions, love, nothing more."

Arthur escaped to make the cocoa.

-oOoOo-

Breakfast was interrupted by Augusta standing to make an announcement. "Since Mr Krum asked to become a Hogwarts student yesterday, he and I had a discussion and we reached this decision. While Mr Krum stayed in guest quarters last night, he himself was very keen to undergo the full Hogwarts experience for his last year of schooling. That means we have a sorting to do."

As McGonagall came forward with the hat and stool, there was much good-natured ribbing for Viktor as he walked toward her. He looked comical sitting on the stool designed for first years with the hat on his head, the joking slowly died down as the hall waited to see where he would be going. There was rather a long wait before the hat finally spoke. "Well, if you're sure, better be …. Hufflepuff!"

The Badgers went crazy as a high profile student was sorted into their house. In an unprecedented move, the other three tables stood and applauded Viktor as he joined his new housemates. Cedric made a place beside him, a place Viktor gratefully accepted.

Madam Longbottom too was applauding, however she had more to say. "Now, while Mr Krum is a member of Hufflepuff House, he will still represent Drumstrang in the Tri-wizard tournament…and the quidditch competition."

That last comment drew some playful boos form the Gryffindor table, mainly because they were next to play Durmstrang. Without Viktor playing, they would have been confident of victory. Now they had to 'do an Ireland', score so many points that the seeker's contribution couldn't win Durmstrang the match. Something that was easier said than done!

-oOoOo-

The Bloody Baron inviting Severus to Madam Longbottom's office that evening intrigued the Potions Master, discovering his godson and Pansy had been invited too really piqued his interest. On entering her office, 'the gang's all here' was the first thing that went through Severus' mind. Longbottoms, Blacks, Grangers, Patils, Barchoke, Tonks and Amelia Bones. Only Lupin was missing, but he had the first year marauders at the moment.

It was actually Barchoke who started things off. "You four have been invited here tonight for different reasons. Parvati, we know what Padma keeping secrets from you caused last time, we trust you won't talk to anyone not currently in this room about this matter. Draco and Pansy, I'm told you practically guessed what was going on, insight like that we can certainly use. Potions Master Snape, you are here for the exact same reason, you have unique insights to the people that we hope to defeat. I can't emphasise enough though that secrecy is paramount, people's lives are literally at stake here."

That Barchoke's eyes quickly shifted to Hermione and Harry, sitting holding their baby brother, was not lost on any of them.

Augusta then took over. "We now know who originally entered Harry's name in that cup. it was Dolores Umbridge, she did so under Voldemort's orders. They have been using a dead drop when she visits Hogsmeade on a Saturday, receiving and sending information to Voldemort. Bellatrix Lestrange has been observed collecting the information."

This news seems to take the breath from Parvati, it didn't take her long to recover though. "You knew this, and still let Harry go out there to compete?"

Neville quickly talked her down from the funk she was rapidly approaching. "Harry was covered at all times. Three of our fathers were in the stadium roof with rifles, nothing was getting near him. There were aurors, warriors and members of the audience all ready to pounce."

Instead of reassuring Parvati, this just agitated her more. "I thought we were safe behind these wards, can he get through them?"

It was then Padma's turn to try. "Pav, he was after a sample of Harry's blood. We want this to end so we gave him it."

Once more this had the opposite affect. Looking at the four people involved, Parvati instantly reached what to her was an obvious conclusion. "None of you would chance Harry facing this alone. He's got all four of your blood, hasn't he?"

"We've done alright so far by sticking together, sis, we weren't about to break that up." Parvati finally ran out of things to say, she just sat quietly with tears in her eyes until her mother's arms gently snaked around her. Amelia now took the discussion forward.

"Another complication though is that Dumbledore is somehow involved. He's been observed on a few occasions meeting with Umbridge in Hogsmeade. We just don't know what his angle is yet."

Figuring he wasn't here to be part of the furniture, Severus added his two knuts' worth. "Like most people I suppose, I just assumed Albus had entered Harry's name. Umbridge probably counted on that too, forgetting one thing - he would know that wasn't true. I'm almost certain Albus would approach Umbridge and now she's his spy. Anything that the dark lord sends to Umbridge, he will know about it. I'll bet he's also 'helping' Umbridge decide what information gets passed through Bellatrix. With Viktor now friends with Harry, and himself sitting on the judging panel, Albus must have thought he controlled it all."

This actually drew a chuckle from Harry. "Viktor standing up and calling him for cheating must have really upset the old man's plans."

Amelia didn't think this was funny though. "It also blew a big hole in our plans too. Cornelius had to contact the Bulgarian Minister of Magic and inform him what was going on, otherwise Dumbledore would have been dragged back to Bulgaria to be sacked. Borislaw is not happy that one of his country's most prominent citizens is essentially being used as bait, without that citizen's prior knowledge or compliance. Harry knows what he's letting himself in for, neither Viktor nor Fleur have any idea what could happen. if Voldemort appeared, they could easily find themselves in the middle of a battlefield."

"I don't think Voldemort will come anywhere near Hogwarts."

This comment silenced everyone, and drew all eyes onto Severus.

"For the dark lord to appear here would mean he had already accepted defeat, and wanted to go down in a blaze of glory. The dark lord will never accept defeat and has no intention of going down - ever. That was why he created horcruxes, he wants to be immortal. He's spent decades trying to achieve that status, he's not about to throw his life away on a futile grand gesture."

"That would support the information Gringotts has." Barchoke again glanced at his son and daughter before saying the next part. "That's also why Harry wants to end this. The smart thing for Riddle to do would be to retreat to the continent and take a number of years building up another army of like-minded followers. We're hoping his pride won't let him do that. This is the weakest he's ever been, and our best chance to finish this once and for all. The nightmare would be for him to disappear, returning as an even greater threat when this lot all have small children of their own to care for."

That scenario sent shivers down more than one spine, Severus though was confident that wouldn't happen.

"His pride won't let him retreat, not without a victory. He needs to dispose of the reason for his original downfall first, He needs to kill Harry. I've come to realise Dumbledore and the dark lord actually share quite a few personality traits. Neither will admit to their mistakes and both are supremely confident of their own abilities - and that those abilities will allow them to achieve whatever task they set themselves. Both also want things in Britain to go back to the way they were before Crow here took a hand. They want to rule the country, and see only one obstacle standing in the way of them achieving that."

It was Alice who asked Severus to clarify his last point. "Do you think Dumbledore would actually kill Harry?"

"No, not personally. Now, if you'd asked whether I thought he'd let someone else do it, you would have gotten a different answer."

Like a shroud being lifted from his eyes, Sirius could see it all laid out before him. "Dumbledore's playing all sides, pulling the strings to get the result he wants. Sets up the confrontation and then rushes in to save the day - but too late to save Harry. It's Halloween nineteen eighty one all over again, this time though he's not getting away with it."

That was a sentiment they all agreed with.

"Dumbledore is far too wily a character to put under any kind of sustained surveillance. He'll expect his every move inside the castle to be watched, and it will be." Harry nodded in agreement with his father, letting Barchoke know that was already being taken care of. "Dolores Umbridge however is another matter entirely. She is the weak link in this entire conspiracy. It is only because we in Gringotts think she is too stupid to pull it off that we aren't recommending the ministry arrest her, and then force Madam Umbridge to work for our side. Dumbledore would spot the difference the first time they met."

Amelia agreed with Barchoke's assessment, it still left the ministry hanging though. "What do we tell the Bulgarian Minister? Is there anyone here who trusts Viktor and Fleur enough to let them in on the secret?"

Since it was his life that was potentially on the line, Harry felt he needed to answer that. "While I like them both, this is just too big to drop on anyone's shoulders. Everyone in this room has earned the right to be here, they haven't. I also don't see how you could include Fleur without bringing Madame Maxime on board too."

"If we are now saying that the most likely attack will come in the form of a blood-bonded portkey, that should take the other two champions out of any danger." Tonks was basically thinking out loud but the rest of the company appeared more than prepared to let her.

"If we then arranged the second task so each champion would have to fight their way through to reach volunteers, we would be drastically reducing the opportunity to introduce a portkey into the task."

Smiling at her auror, Amelia nodded her agreement. "I think that is something Cornelius could sell to Borislaw, inviting him to the task might just swing the deal. We might even want to include him when we get down to discussing how we handle the third task?"

"Just hold on a minute, are we suggesting allowing these four to take a strange portkey to god knows where? That is not something Dan and I are ready to put our names to."

"Emma, you are certainly not alone in that opinion. We need to come up with different methods of tracking them, methods that mean we can be right behind them with warriors and aurors. They have trained for years to acquire the skills needed to survive, the four of them arriving will also be a surprise that should buy them a few seconds too. We have to be sure we can be mere seconds behind them portkeying out, or I will vote no to this plan too."

Barchoke's view was instantly supported by the Longbottoms and Patils as well, leaving the four teens with no option but to accept it.

Dan had another suggestion to throw in. "Our government has ways of electronically tracking people. Could the ministry approach them for assistance? I'm sure they want to see an end to the Potter Killers, almost as much as we do."

That was something none of them had thought of. Amelia agreed to take that idea to Cornelius, pretty sure Arthur would be approaching the muggle government soon. With magical, goblin and perhaps muggle tracking locked onto them, surely one of those methods would slip past whatever defences Voldemort was setting up. They only needed one to work, then this would be all over.

-oOoOo-

Harry pulled Hermione to a quiet sofa in the Ravensclaw common room, they obviously needed to talk. It was now late and they would neither be disturbed or overheard. "You were far too quiet in there tonight. Just what is going through that pretty little head of yours?"

"I'm really frightened, Harry."

He pulled her even closer and tried to offer some reassurance. "We're all frightened, Hermione, we'd be fools not to be…"

"No, Harry, it's not that. You want to know what really frightens me? Being left standing there while you are portkeyed to wherever Voldemort and his cronies are waiting for you. That's what will give me nightmares, Harry, not being with you when the time comes. Of course I'm frightened of facing them, but I am absolutely bloody terrified of not being there to have your back. You are mine, Harry, and I am yours - for the rest of our lives. There will never be anyone else for me, that means you can't leave me - ever."

Harry could feel his mate's tears dampening his shirt but was at a loss of what to say to reassure her. "Hermione, we're doing everything we can…"

She cut him off right away. "No we're not, Harry. Our mixture of blood on that towel is at best a gamble, it might not work as we hope. Suppose they have a means to separate it out? I can't lose you, not when we have a foolproof method that would ensure at least I would be there too available to us."

This puzzled Harry before realisation struck like a lightning bolt. "Surely you don't mean…"

"Yes, Harry, I do. I'm kicking myself for not thinking of it before Padma mentioned it, I've been thinking about it a lot since. Completing our bond would guarantee any blood-bond portkey would accept me too..."

Harry's mouth was making shapes but there was no sound coming out. The longer this went on, the more upset Hermione was becoming. "Don't you want to bond with me?"

There was only one way for Harry to answer that, he lifted Hermione's chin and put all the love he had for her into their kiss. This certainly kissed goodbye to her doubts.

"I hope I'm on safe ground saying I dream of completing our bond, quite a lot actually. In my defence I would like to say that my mate is the most beautiful girl in the world, and I love her with all my heart. How could I then deprive this girl of her dream, completing our bond on our wedding night."

It was then Hermione's turn, she kissed Harry with all the tenderness she possessed. "My real dream is having you beside me for the rest of my life. Going to university, forging careers, raising our children and watching our parents spoil them. That's my dream, Harry, one I'll fight anyone for. It all comes crashing down though if you're not there to share it with me. I need to be with you when you face him, Harry, completing our bond will ensure that I am."

"Hermione, completing our bond would automatically change your status in The Nation. That means father would know. If only you and I portkey out, everyone inside the stadium - the entire bloody country - would know what we'd done. I don't think I could do that to you..."

This did not sit well with Miss Granger. "You would rather chance leaving me standing there than risk embarrassing me? We're mates, Harry, with our wedding date already planned. We need to face him together to double our chances of us both making that date at the altar. I need to be there when you face him, and only you can ensure that I am."

Realising this was one argument with Hermione he wasn't going to win, and a large part of his teenage psyche was also screaming for an immediate and unconditional surrender, Harry tried a different approach."Let's try and look at this logically, love. For the second task, we'll still prepare a welcome for him and try to eliminate the possibility of any portkeys. Getting you involved in the task too will certainly help keep me safe. With all those precautions in place, I don't think we need to complete our bond before the second task - agreed?"

Somewhat reluctantly, Hermione nodded in agreement. She hated when Harry used logic against her, leaving Hermione no room to argue.

Now wearing a smile, Harry continued. "The third task is traditionally held nearer the end of summer term. That gives us until then to consider all our options. That's what your suggestion is, love, an option. An unbelievably mind-blowing, wonderful, beautiful, self-sacrificing option that will provide me with many pleasant dreams for months to come."

The look of bliss Harry was now wearing would, at any other time, have had Hermione in fits of giggles. She was still waiting on her answer though. Harry understood and then got straight to the point.

"We'll wait until nearer the third task before making any final decision, but I'll make you a promise right now. For the rest of our lives you'll always be at my side, and never left behind."

The relief appearing on Hermione's face was instantaneous. "That's all I ask, Harry, that's all I'll ever want."

The two kissed and cuddled for some time after that, talking well into the night. Betsy woke them in the morning, having covered the sleeping couple with a blanket late last night. They awoke in each others arms, happy and content. Both knew they had to move though, Padma discovering them like this would lead to endless teasing. Wearing wide smiles, both headed up to their rooms to prepare for their morning training.

-oOoOo-

Arthur Weasley found himself having a strange morning, one to match the evening he'd just spent with Molly. He'd hardly arrived at his office when he had a visitor, Adam Brown.

The man sat and rambled, leaving Arthur with no clue to the reason behind this unexpected visit. At one point Arthur felt his stomach clench in fear, Adam was mentioning his daughter and Ron - and children. While his youngest son was finally maturing, it would be a good few years yet before Ron was able to handle that step. If Ron had somehow gotten Lavender pregnant, Molly would flay him alive.

It was finally with some relief that Arthur deciphered the real reason why this wizard was in his office. "Mr Brown, can I stop you there? You seem to be labouring under a misconception. While we Weasleys are an old pure blood family, there are certain traditions that we just don't hold with. Betrothal contracts are certainly one of those, finding their wife or husband will be solely my children's responsibility."

While he had known exactly what to do last night when Molly burst into tears, Arthur was completely lost on how to deal with a crying wizard. Even so, he had no intention of offering Adam Brown a hug and a kiss. Adam would just have to make do with a cup of tea and a biscuit.

As the tea worked its magic, Adam even munched on a biscuit as he regained his composure. He tried to apologise. "I'm sorry, Arthur. I just want to see my little girl settled, and she is sweet on your youngest boy. She's not a bad girl, Lavender doesn't have a bad bone in her body, she's just not wise to the ways of the real world. We both know the terrible world our children were born into, my wife and I have tried our best to shelter Lavender from that."

Once he'd started unburdening his soul, Adam couldn't seem to stop. "Lavender's head is full of fashion, shopping and boys - but not in the way that we know the world really is. She's spent years reading her mother's harmless romance novels. At least we thought they were harmless, until we discovered Lavender thinks that's how the world really is."

Thinking back to Ginny with her Harry Potter book, and the damage that had done, Arthur could understand where Adam was coming from. The next part drew even eerier parallels between their daughters.

"Lavender then goes to Hogwarts and meets Harry Crow, a boy who is the walking embodiment of everything she believes to be true. Heroic, honourable, and unfortunately already taken. She becomes his friend though and her world changes. Shopping, parties, fabulous holidays, her mum and I were really happy for her - that all changed at the summer. After that, we were delighted to hear she had a boyfriend - one both my wife and I approved of. Now, I don't know what to do..."

At last, Arthur felt he could offer the clearly desperate wizard some advice. "If you intend for Lavender to return to Hogwarts, I would suggest contacting the school and thanking Harry for saving your daughter - twice. Hogwarts is a different school now, your daughter won't have to suffer the kind of reaction to this that went on in our day."

Adam then asked the question that was at the forefront of his mind. "...and what of her relationship with your Ron?" The worried father had since discovered his attitude after the fayre incident had left his daughter isolated in Hogwarts. She may not have been bullied but loneliness could be just as bad for Lavender. Her relationship with this young wizard would be the deciding factor on whether Lavender actually wanted to return to Hogwarts.

"I won't lie, Adam, Ron was deeply hurt by this. He's decided though to wait and talk with Lavender before saying or doing anything more. His mother and I support his decision, and will also support the outcome. Should Lavender turn up at our house as Ron's girlfriend, she will be made most welcome." Arthur knew he was stretching the truth a bit with his last comment but he would have until at least Christmas to work on Molly if that outcome actually happened.

A relieved Adam was on his feet, hand outstretched to Arthur. "That's more than I could have hoped for, more than we probably deserve. You're a good wizard, Arthur, and I would be a proud father if my daughter one day joined our two families."

He may have been smiling but inside Arthur was trying to come up with any excuse not to tell Molly about this conversation, and failing miserably. He could see them having another argument tonight.

-oOoOo-

Dolores Umbridge was also having relationship problems, she was howling up a storm too. This had nothing to do with a wizard gazing on her bare breasts for the first time in many, many years. It was more about what his girlfriend was currently doing to those breasts.

"I know you would love to accept our master's mark, Dolores, but that wouldn't help us. Our master very graciously allowed me to mark you in a way these goblin wards won't detect. You are to be the first of many given this great honour - so hold still and let me work."

The silencing charms on her bedroom were being sorely tested, it seemed an age before Bella stood back to admire her handiwork. "Well, my big strong wizard, what do you think?"

"I think my little Bella enjoyed that far too much. It is very effective though, and certainly won't trigger any wards. Dolores would really need to be getting to know someone a lot better before your work could be spotted."

Dolores was too far gone for modesty to even enter her head. She lay there exhausted, drenched in sweat and blood. Her bare breasts now sporting an 'L' and a 'V' on their underside, carved there by Bellatrix Lestrange's blade.

"If I ever get my hands on Crow's tramp, I'll carve 'mudblood' across her chest - and then kill her very slowly."

As Bella's blade delicately carved letters in the air, she was happily imagining torturing Crow's mate, Augustus gave Dolores her instructions. He'd also brought a written set, anticipating Bella's ministrations producing this reaction in Dolores. Umbridge gave Augustus the impression of a witch who would enjoy inflicting pain onto others, receiving it though was an entirely different matter. Only his Bella seemed to appreciate both equally, the giving and the receiving.

As the two left, the bug hiding behind the curtain thought that would be a good thing to do too. Only knowing she had an emergency portkey had kept Rita there, using it though would have meant blowing her surveillance - and ending Dolores' usefulness to Voldemort.

Peeking around the corner of the curtain, Rita could see she was in no danger of discovery. A troll could have entered that bedroom and Dolores wouldn't have noticed, the witch appeared almost comatose as she lay spreadeagled on her own bed. Rita still kept low though as she scuttled under the door to make her escape. She had a report to make to Barchoke.

-oOoOo-

It was well known Harry only had one free period a week, he was somewhat surprised then to find himself being asked to visit Madam Longbottom's office during it. Knowing Augusta knew they had no secrets from each other, Harry didn't think she would mind if Hermione came along too. Their surprise jumped a few notches when spotting Adam Brown waiting there too, there was no surprise that McGonagall appeared ready to rearrange his facial features without using her wand.

Augusta was doing her best to see things didn't get out of hand, though she clearly held similar thoughts to her deputy headmistress. "Centurion, Mr Brown asked to speak with you. After demanding to know why, I decided to give him this opportunity."

Clearly reading the undercurrents here, Adam got right to the matter in hand. "Centurion, I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for saving my daughter, and apologise for my behaviour at the summer."

Harry just stared coldly at the wizard before giving his answer. "No."

The three adult blank stares that answer produced meant Harry had to explain. He let Brown sweat it out for a minute or two first. "I didn't know Lavender was in that cupboard, just that someone needed help. Help will always be given at Hogwarts to those who ask for it. As to your apology, no I don't accept it."

Adam Brown then got to see up close just what a dangerous individual Centurion Crow really was.

"Your behaviour over that matter hurt someone very close to us, that might still have been forgivable. That your actions then deliberately targeted this person, all in an attempt to protect your daughter, cannot. You sir, tried to besmirch the name of a young witch who is family to me - not a good idea. Parvati admitted that she had done wrong, accepted her not inconsiderable punishment, and has also learned from her mistake. Lavender clearly didn't and hasn't, you must take some of the blame for that too."

Harry then respectfully bowed to Augusta and Minerva, before offering Hermione his arm as they left the office.

It was a shell-shocked Adam who stood there watching as he had just been dismissed, by a student too. Augusta came out of her stupor and made after them, there was something else she wanted to discuss.

Seeing Adam Brown's condition, Minerva then added her two knuts' worth. "Every few years, Hogwarts will get a witch who is an accident waiting to happen. Thankfully most see how the older witches behave and grow out of it. Your Lavender fell squarely into the first category, she's yet to reach the second. You can't just keep depending on that young goblin to save her, Harry might not be here the next time. He normally spends the Halloween weekend outside the castle, what would have happened then? If Lavender is to return to Hogwarts, I'll need to see a whole different attitude from her."

Minerva would also place Romilda Vane in that first category. Thankfully, Lavender's behaviour had Miss Vane shooting straight into category two. At least some good had come of this.

They had barely reached the bottom of the stairs when Hermione pounced on her mate. After a passionate kiss, a smug Harry thought she agreed with him.

"Oh it wasn't that, Harry. When you let your inner goblin out to play, it does funny things to my insides." They were about to begin kissing again when a throat being theatrically cleared behind them gave warning they weren't alone. Augusta was standing on the spiral moving staircase that delivered her to the corridor.

"I wanted a word with you two about a different matter, a Yule Ball."

Harry was about to immediately object when Augusta held her hand up. "I hope to spend Christmas Day with our families, maybe even in Kingussie. I just want you to listen to my proposal first. The express leaves on the nineteenth, and I know you both intend to be on it. How would you feel about returning here on Christmas Eve for a Yule Ball? It would start at eight and finish at twelve, allowing everyone to portkey or floo back home for Christmas."

She could see Harry wasn't convinced so then dangled her carrot. "I understand you wanting to spend your holiday at Kingussie but I'm hoping a few hours isn't too much to ask. I also know when striking a bargain with a goblin, it's customary to offer something in return. You do this for the tournament, then I will guarantee the second task will be held on the twenty ninth of January..."

An excited Hermione squeezed him tight while trying not to squeal with joy. "Say yes, Harry...Please."

He though was staring straight at Augusta. "You clearly know the significance of that date, do you also know the year?"

"Since I consider this person a very dear friend, of course I do." Augusta was using all her experience not to smirk at him, it was just too funny watching Harry struggle though. Desperately wanting to say yes but, at the same time, not lose face. Hermione had no such qualms and was practically jumping up and down beside him.

"You drive a hard bargain, Madam Longbottom, how could I not accept."

They were all wearing wide smiles now as everyone got what they wanted. "I shall need to check with my fellow judges that this date is acceptable but don't foresee any problems, do you?"

With Tonks and Cedric's father there, none at all. Even Madame Maxime got a ball out of this, at no cost to Beauxbatons whatsoever. None of them could see any problems with this.

"The date of the second task will need to be kept secret until nearer the time, me announcing the ball though will also signal that date has been confirmed."

The respect Harry had for the grand old witch was oozing out of every pore as he bowed deeply to her. "Madam Longbottom, a goblin would be proud to strike a bargain like that."

A very happy Augusta took the stairs back up to her office, hoping Minerva hadn't spilled Brown's blood on her carpet.

An ecstatic Hermione was holding onto Harry and jumping up and down in a way that felt wonderful to him. "Oh Harry, we're going to get to see Father on his birthday, his sixtieth birthday too! I've never been able to celebrate it with him before, he always says it's not a good enough reason for us to leave Hogwarts. This year, he'll be coming to us. We need to throw a party..."

A kiss from Harry silenced her. "That was to say thanks, Hermione, for being so understanding. You've accepted me as I am, and love father for who he is too."

"I remember a boy on a train, trying desperately to work out whether I was pranking him after saying my parents were healers who worked on people's teeth. You accepted me as I am, and my entire family too. Just one of the many things I love about you..." They headed back to the hall to collect Padma and Neville, it was nearly time to head for defence. They may have just lost their only free period but neither was complaining.

-oOoOo-

Lavender's return that Friday morning was news only until Madam Longbottom stood and made her announcement.

A Christmas Eve ball was far more interesting than a student's return, especially at the Ravenclaw table. All eyes might have been on Harry but it was Padma who beat everyone to the question, Roger was too busy congratulating himself for already having asked Fleur to be his date for any ball.

"So, the mystery of why you and Hermione have been walking around with smiles on your faces is finally solved. You were dead set against this ball, what changed?"

"Let's just say we were made an offer we couldn't refuse. Your gran is some negotiator, Neville."

"...and you're not going to tell us anything about these negotiations?"

"Well, there will be a Yule Ball held on Christmas Eve..." Padma playfully cuffing the back of Harry's head for simply parroting what Neville's gran had just announced. This saw Hermione jokingly getting ready to defend her mate from attack as the table laughed along with them.

Feeling a hand on his shoulder, Harry turned his head to see Viktor standing there. "Can I have a vord vith you, Harry?"

Standing, both walked to the main doors, Harry could see this was something Viktor didn't want to say in public. After hearing what he had to ask, Harry couldn't blame him.

"Harry, I vould like your permission to escort Sapphire to the Yule Ball."

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