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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30. Dumbledore Duped

Bill was pushing his mother's cooking around his plate, rather than eating it. If this wasn't a sure sign he had something on his mind, ignoring Ginny's questions was a dead giveaway.

"Bill, you haven't been listening. I wanted to know about the party last night, did Ron behave himself?"

"Sorry Ginny, just had a very busy day. I never actually got to talk to Harry and Hermione today, Master Sharpshard was there and put both of them in the Gringotts infirmary."

He was still playing with his food before the fact that there was now total silence at the Weasley dinner table hit home. Bill lifted his head to see the other three occupants staring at him, obviously wanting to know more. "Everyone thought the duel was over but Master Sharpshard came back at Harry. Hermione then got involved before finding herself kicked out of the fight. This enraged Harry, and only his father managed to stop him killing Sharpshard. Both Harry and Hermione were fine after treatment, and heading to spend the night with Sirius."

His sister's eyes were almost popping out her head as she asked the question they all wanted to know the answer to. "Would Harry really have killed him?"

"I think so, anyone harming one of those girls is going to find themselves in serious trouble. You would really need a death wish to attack Hermione. I did hear she's now his girlfriend, apparently he asked her last night at the party."

Bill was carefully gauging Ginny's reaction to this news, and was pleased with what he saw. While clearly not happy to hear Harry officially had a girlfriend, there was no running off to her room in tears. Arranging that meeting in Kings Cross was now paying dividends as Ginny had the memory of their offered friendship to cling to. His mother then tried to change the subject.

"Those goblins are working you too hard, Bill, we hardly get to see you."

"The goblins don't pay you gold to sit about and do nothing. Which reminds me, can I have a word with you, dad? There's something we need to discuss."

Father and son took a stroll through the orchard, ensuring they couldn't be overheard. "The goblins are agreeing to everything, and the timescale too. There's one thing I really need to talk about though, Barchoke has offered me the position of his assistant. How would you feel about that, us sitting on the opposite sides of the table?"

This actually caught Arthur on the hop, making him stop and think. "That would really depend on the motives behind this move. I thought your main duties were to train Harry?"

"Dad, this morning I watched a boy become a man. Harry is a really focused and driven individual, with power and skill to back those up, he's an absolute joy to teach. Today I saw him add a ruthlessness to that mix that scared the life out of me, and also filled me with hope. For the first time I actually believed that young man could fulfil the destiny that's been placed on his shoulders."

"What does this have to do with you becoming Barchoke's assistant?"

This drew a smile from his eldest son. "There's no hidden goblin plots, dad, though I think Barchoke is hoping you and I can still work behind the scenes so we all get what we want out of this. I have been offered a five year contract, after which just about any job I want in Gringotts will be mine for the asking. This is a fabulous opportunity and Barchoke has allowed me to tell you the reason behind this offer. After five years, they're planning on Harry taking over from me - eventually he would become the ambassador."

The implications of this hit Arthur like a bludger in the gut, but one massive question remained unanswered. "Will he be taking the position as a wizard or a goblin?"

"I'm pretty sure that will still be Harry's decision. This way though, his father is providing the opportunity for him to have it all. There's a whole wide world out there, dad, and Barchoke seems determined his son will get to experience most of it before he has to makes that choice. He has Sirius teaching him wizarding culture, the Grangers are muggles and Harry's grown very close to them. Harry has also been raised as a goblin so he was facing an impossible choice. My own reading of this is that they are searching for a compromise that will satisfy everyone - including the ministry."

This news would have Fudge drooling, bring up another problem for Arthur. "How much of that can I tell the minister?"

"Barchoke knew you would ask that, and offered a compromise. You can say that goblin culture is based around sons stepping into their father's shoes, you can also say that this is one part of their culture Barchoke is hoping his son retains - whatever decision Harry makes on just where his future lies."

Arthur was certain the minister would easily decipher the message being sent, this could be an enormous coup for the ministry - and the goblin nation. It was time to uphold his end of the bargain.

"Fudge is really playing this cleverly, I honestly didn't think he had it in him. He's going to contact Sirius about the ball to honour the Potters, and enlist his help for choosing just who will receive the Potter Scholarships. He's proposing the panel consist of Amelia Bones, representing the ministry, Minerva McGonagall as Hogwarts representative and Sirius for Harry."

Neither father nor son could see there being any objection to that trio. The minister's planning was even more considered and structured. "When all the excitement of this announced event is at its peak, and people are scrambling for tickets, the minister is going to approach the Wizengamot with his proposal. By citing that the entire event nearly didn't happen, due to outdated means of communication between the ministry and Gringotts, he thinks that will swing a large proportion of the votes he needs behind him. Letting details of the proposed arrangements with Gringotts slip to the Prophet should swing some more. Harry attending the ball will be the cherry on top, and should finish the job."

Like his father, Bill didn't think Fudge was so politically astute. He had even more good news to pass on. "Harry wants the scholarships to run for twenty years - and is going to pay for the extra ten out of his own vault. He's quite happy for the ministry to take the credit, Harry really thinks it's a wonderful idea and will back it with his own gold. He's also prepared to give a short speech at the ball, praising the ministry for the scholarships - and giving his full backing to the minister's goblin proposal. We could even have him hint that the ambassador's job would certainly be one that would interest him in the future."

Arthur Weasley felt as if his ship had finally come in, and he wasn't talking about this year's bumper crop of apples. With Fudge's plan, and Harry's public backing, that big promotion was practically in his pocket.

No longer would his children attend Hogwarts wearing hand-me-down robes and old family wands. Molly hadn't been pleased when their two oldest children moved away to make careers for themselves, he and Bill were just about to drag the Weasleys up amongst Britain's most prominent families. He couldn't wait to see his daughter's face when he could tell her she would be going to the Ministry Summer Ball, and sitting at the same table as Harry. Arthur was really looking forward to going to work tomorrow.

He also wondered how much more ministry / goblin policy would be decided while he and his eldest son took an evening stroll in the Weasley orchard.

-oOoOo-

Barchoke entered the great hall of Hogwarts with Henrica by his side, and was delighted to see the welcome Harry and Hermione received as they walked in front of them. Padma currently had an arm around each of them, and didn't look like she would be letting go anytime soon - despite assurances both her friends were fine. Barchoke had been watching fights for decades, and his heart was still in his mouth when Hermione drew her blade and charged. It wasn't surprising then that their friends had been terrified.

Albus Dumbledore smiling at you was also a terrifying sight. The headmaster was probably attempting to appear jovial and harmless, his eyes betrayed him though. It was more the smile of a tiger, just before it pounced on its next meal. Barchoke knew though that when you removed a tiger's claws and teeth, what you were left with was a big pussy.

"Good morning, Barchoke, I was very pleased that you agreed to meet with me. Will we head up to my office?"

"Since she has no classes until after lunch, do you mind if Professor Hobson accompanies us?" Dumbledore's expression clearly portrayed that he did, but Barchoke had any objections covered. "The professor is working on a book exploring the habits of our nation, we are trying to dispel some of the more unsavoury myths that exist about goblins. I feel having her observe relations between wizards and goblins will surely help with this academic endeavour. As one of my son's private tutors, she has access to all of Harry's file. We won't be speaking about anything this morning that she isn't already privy too."

With that, Dumbledore really couldn't refuse.

When they were all seated in his office, Albus got the ball rolling. "I have been reviewing our previous meeting, and I would like to start this one by saying I was wrong. I have been watching as you have done exactly as you stated, ensuring your son has a well-rounded knowledge of wizarding, and even muggle society, to compliment his goblin upbringing. Harry really is a son you can be proud of."

Seeing that this tactic had knocked both his guests back on their heels, the headmaster continued in the same vein. "Knowing the decision he has to make, this would be a large enough burden for any youngster to bear. Harry though has even more hanging over him, with Voldemort and the prophecy to be taken into consideration too. I know we've had our differences in the past but even you must admit, I have a wealth of knowledge and experience. I would like to place that knowledge and experience at Harry's disposal. I'm making this offer since everyone in this room has the same aims. We want to see Voldemort defeated once and for all, and to let Harry make the choice that's right for him."

Both Henrica and Barchoke were surprised by this charm offensive, surprised but not fooled. They knew Dumbledore's ultimate goal was to have influence over Harry, this switch of tactics didn't change that fact. The goblin had certainly come prepared, it was only Barchoke's delivery that now needed to be altered.

"While I can't help but agree about your experience and knowledge, and certainly on the goals you expressed for my son, the issue standing between us remains the same. A matter of trust, something kind words and reaching agreement on common goals doesn't address. Without that trust, I fail to see how we can progress from our current position."

As long as there was no shouting and storming out his office, Albus considered himself still to be in the game. "I realise that trust is something that needs to be built slowly, and I'm certainly not so naive as to expect your full confidence anytime soon. Your son though will be at Hogwarts for another six years, my hope is to earn that trust within this timeframe."

Now that he had Dumbledore clearly interested, Barchoke placed the bait in his trap. "I too agree trust must be built slowly, yet every building needs a strong foundation. There is a piece of information I lack, information I am also sure you have. In exchange for this information, I would be willing to bring you into our horcrux team - supplying all the details we have on this subject. I see this as being the basis of how we move forward, hopefully to one day achieve the level of trust between us you obviously desire."

As tempting as that offer was, Albus knew of the goblins' well-deserved reputation for getting the better of any bargain. The information they wanted from him must be vital, and therefore probably worth more than was being currently offered. "I would like to hear just what this information is you are looking for, before committing myself any further."

"As you said headmaster, experienced and knowledgeable - I expected no other answer. We know about the prophecy Madam Trelawney made to you, we even know the where and when it was made. The information we are looking for is how that prophecy ended up in the hands of Voldemort. Madam Trelawney is of course blameless, since a true prophecy is not remembered by the seer who predicts it. That only leaves us with one other name..."

The canny goblin didn't think Dumbledore could have looked more shocked if he'd dunked the headmaster in hot grog, and then had a dragon breathe on him to singe the old wizard's beard off.

"Alas, what you ask, I am sworn by oath never to reveal. Surely there must be something else?"

Barchoke shook his head, but in a manner that suggested this wasn't quite over yet. "I certainly didn't expect an answer today, this is clearly something that will require some thought. You mentioned a timescale earlier and I think that's what we need here. Let's settle on Harry's birthday, I'll make a point of seeing you on that day. If you are still unable to provide the answer, then we will talk of this no more. You must understand though, your options for assisting my son or I in anything would then be nil. Good day headmaster."

Dumbledore barely noticed them leaving, still shocked at the question Barchoke asked. A quick glance at the master timetable showed Severus free after lunch, he would send for him then. What a choice he was now faced with, protect Severus or gain an 'in' with the team taking the fight to Voldemort - a team Harry was a massive part of. Thankfully, he had until the end of July to reach a decision.

-oOoOo-

"Well, what did you think?

They had just passed the gargoyle guarding the headmaster's office when Barchoke asked the question. It took Henrica a moment to consider her answer. "I know I missed something, I just can't figure out what it was. You left that office far too easily, because I can see how important this answer will be to you and Harry."

A throaty chuckle answered the veela. "There is a saying wizards are fond of, but I can assure you it is goblin in origin. There is more than one way to skin a dragon, and I'm gambling on Dumbledore laying himself bare before the end of the day."

"Ok, there was an image I could have done without. Can I ask why I was in that office?"

"A distraction, and because Harry has herbology. I dangled a carrot in front of Dumbledore's nose, but that's all it was. Harry would refuse point blank to work with the headmaster, he wouldn't even let me enter that office alone with Dumbledore. He trusted you to watch my back, Harry really has a high opinion of you, Henrica."

This brought a smile to the veela's lips. "Yes, Sirius told me Harry was quite protective when asking what his godfather's intentions were toward me. He said it was like being threatened by my brother."

This certainly drew an amused laugh from Barchoke. "I fear any wizard going anywhere near Padma is in for a much rougher time of it - unless that wizard is Neville of course!"

"I get the feeling those two are just really good friends. It might turn to more later but they just don't have the feel of a couple to me. Harry and Hermione on the other hand..."

"I am well aware of my son's feelings for that particular young witch, it pleases me more than I can say that Hermione returns those feelings. What she did yesterday was incredibly stupid, and yet took astonishing courage. Hermione must have known she stood no chance, yet she charged in there regardless. I honestly think the result would have been different had she not. Now, if you will inform Harry at lunch that everything went well, I shall head off back to Gringotts."

The goblin was out the castle before it dawned on Henrica that Barchoke hadn't mentioned just how Dumbledore would be skinned. Henrica genuinely liked the little goblin but still had to stop herself counting her fingers every time they shook hands. Barchoke was one of the cleverest and yet most devious person she had ever met in her life, who would probably take her counting those fingers as a compliment.

-oOoOo-

Albus once more found himself having to provide a pick-me-up to someone in his office, Severus currently looked as if his legs wouldn't support him.

"I think you are overreacting, Severus, I'm sure they would understand your point of view..."

"...and I think you are getting senile. The only point they understand is on the end of those blades, these are goblins we are dealing with. We've both seen what Crow can do if he gets close enough, no wand can stand up to his blades. Black spent ten years in Azkaban, there will be no forgiveness or understanding from that quarter either. Now tell me again how I am over-reacting?"

"Both Sirius and Harry would surely take into consideration you were a close friend of Lily's, and had no way of knowing the Potters would be the ones referred to in the prophecy. Harry is much more like his mother in that respect, he thinks before he acts."

"Yes, but he also has Lily's temper. You told me he cut that big goblin to pieces, and we both know Filius regards him as practically a god with a sword. Our charms master fell of his chair yesterday when you told that story."

Dumbledore tried to pacify his potions professor. "This is not something that needs to be decided today, we have time to think this over and develop a strategy."

Severus finished the glass of brandy, his strategy already formed. He knew Albus would betray his grandmother to get close to the boy. However he dressed it up, Severus would be served up for the greater good of Albus Dumbledore. The only decision Severus needed to make was whether he could hold off until the end of term before slipping quietly away, or if he needed to make a run for it before then.

It was four weeks to the exams, and then another three before the students took the express back to London. His preferred option would be to skip the country the next day, hopefully being far away before anyone realised he might not be coming back. If he did a runner now, missing a few meals, never mind classes, would immediately set tongues wagging.

With this dilemma running through his mind, Severus left for his quarters. Albus was so concerned about his friend, he accompanied him part of the way. Neither noticed the bug that landed on the back of Dumbledore's hat, and hitched a free ride out the headmaster's office.

Rita was certain she had just earned her advance on Dumbledore's expose, this latest revelation ensuring her book would be explosive. Holding Barchoke from taking action against Snape might be her biggest problem, but the goblin was wise enough to know this might just set Dumbledore's alarm bells ringing. At the moment, the headmaster had no idea he was being investigated - and it was certainly in their joint interest that he remained ignorant until just before publication.

Yes they might want Snape to pay, but not at the cost of their main target being forewarned. By the time they announced the publication date to the world, Dumbledore could call in all the favours he wanted. The book would be printed inside Gringotts, and he was all out of favours there. Even if they were reduced to selling the book by owl order, Rita was confident they would still sell every copy they could print.

Rita now considered her sacking from the Prophet as one of the best things that ever happened to her. She may have entered the room in Barchoke's pocket but she was leaving on top of Dumbledore - that was okay in her book.

The reporter turned author had even settled on a title for her first book, 'The Life and Lies of Albus Dumbledore' had a nice ring to it. The ring of the tills, filling up with all that lovely gold she was going to earn.

-oOoOo-

The week had flown for the friends, their only difference was now they had - at Hermione's insistence - allocated an hour a day for exam revision. Master Pitslay asking Harry to stay behind after potions blew their routine week right out of its nice stable orbit.

Hermione had of course stayed with Harry. Though Rowena Ravenclaw's charm meant she could still understand spoken goblin, the written word really was gobbledygook to her. Harry's outburst as he read the hand-delivered note from his father indicated this indeed must have been bad news.

"Harry, I'm quite happy to admit the goblin language has more swear words than probably any other in the world, even if a few of those descriptions are biologically impossible. Can you calm down enough to tell me what the problem is?"

"It's only biologically impossible when certain appendages are still attached to a body. Slicing them off opens a whole different world of possibilities, and I've just discovered someone I would like to take my blade to."

She wrapped her arms around him, hoping to provide some comfort - and buy some time for her boyfriend to consider his next move. Hermione didn't even want to think about Harry's last answer. "Sometimes I can forget you're a goblin, not for long though. What has got my centurion so fired up?"

Not a flicker of humour, all Hermione could see was rage. She knew this was bad, she just didn't know how bad - yet.

"We always thought Sirius Black had told his master the prophecy, and then served the Potters up on a plate. Discovering that my godfather wasn't a death eater, and didn't even know the prophecy - only that there was one - blasted that theory to smithereens. He was only told of the prophecy's existence as my mum and dad were forced into hiding, because Voldemort was already hunting them. That leaves the massive question - who told Voldemort the prophecy?"

This question set Hermione's thoughts off at warp speed. "This would be top secret, so no one at the ministry would know. I read that a true seer doesn't remember a genuine prophecy, only the people that are there when it's made will hear it. If your mum and dad didn't tell their best friends, who does that leave?"

"The prophecy was made to Albus Dumbledore..."

"Oh my God! Do you think he would tell Voldemort?"

"Directly, no. Would he get Snape to pass on the message...we hope to find out. Either way, it was certainly Snape who told Voldemort. He's the reason my mum and dad are dead, and why Neville has to visit St Mungo's to see his. That prophecy could have applied to two boys, both of whom lost their parents over it."

Hermione's tears actually calmed Harry down more effectively than any words could. The very thought that he had been responsible for those tears had him wrapping his girlfriend in his arms. "Hush now Hermione, I'm sorry. I'm not going to go charging after Snape - well, not right away."

"Oh Harry, I want to go charging after that bastard myself. I am so angry, yet so sad at the same time. What are we going to do about this?"

Hermione's use of 'we' actually put a smile on Harry's face, it might be considered a wicked smile, but it was still a smile.

Master Pitslay was merely an observer, and his observations would be getting reported back to Gringotts. Harry might have obeyed an order from his father not to immediately attack the Hogwarts potions master, but he couldn't think of anyone other than Miss Granger who could have talked him out of it.

"My father is working on bringing Dumbledore down, that's where he dug up this information. If we act on this, the headmaster is bound to put two and two together. My father currently has enough information to do him great harm, but, in a few months, he hopes to be able to destroy him. If Dumbledore gets wind of this investigation, we run the risk of him going all out to wreck the new goblin agreement. We have to take the chance on losing Snape to put Dumbledore's head in the dragon's mouth."

She could hear, and actually feel, what this decision was costing her boyfriend. Harry was as tense as a drawn bowstring. "Where does Snape's salary get paid to?"

This drew a chuckle from the goblin potions master, reminding both students he was there.

"I'm beginning to think you are part goblin, Miss Granger. That was thinking worthy of a friend of our nation. All Hogwarts salaries, except for Dumbledore's are paid directly into their Gringotts vault. There is already an alert placed on Snape's vault. Should he arrive in Gringotts, Harry's father will need to make a snap decision. If Snape is attempting to disappear, we can help him with this endeavour."

Hermione was confused at this, until she saw Harry's broad yet scary smile - now she was really flummoxed.

"We can make his wish come true, Hermione. He wants to disappear, no one will ever find him in a goblin cell. It will depend whether he tries to access his vault, or decides it would be safer just to skip the country. To flush out who was responsible for running to Voldemort with the prophecy, my father had to let Dumbledore know we were looking for this person - which is why the headmaster would know we were on to him if I suddenly attacked Snape. Dumbledore said he would need to think about it, and has until my birthday as a deadline for his decision. If Snape runs before we're ready to take down Dumbledore, I may have to let him. The agreement with the ministry is far too important to risk for revenge."

"A very mature decision, Centurion, and I believe the right one. Your father will certainly agree with me, though insisted you still be given the choice."

"Please thank my father for me, Master Pitslay. I'm a centurion and swore an oath to the nation, I have to put personal revenge second to that oath. My father has outlined the timescale here, and I can wait that long. Between training, exams and then our holidays, I'm sure Hermione will do her best to keep my mind off it."

"You forgot to mention the ministry ball in your honour, just the biggest social event in all of Europe this summer."

"No I didn't, and the ministry will be making official contact soon. It's less than three months to my birthday, and these things usually take longer to arrange than that."

The two then headed off to Ravenclaw Tower. They intended to eat their lunch in Harry's room, since neither was ready to sit in the great hall with Snape and Dumbledore at the moment. With herbology next, they may have control of themselves enough to eat dinner with their friends. Making an excuse for missing lunch would be easy, skipping dinner too would see questions asked.

-oOoOo-

There were questions being asked the next day when Sirius entered the great hall, this in itself was not unusual as they had lessons with him every week at this time. What was unusual, and the reason for all the questions were the two people who accompanied him. Minister Fudge and Madam Bones.

Albus strode down to meet them, using all his experience to hide his trepidation. He couldn't see anyway this would be good news. "Sirius I was expecting, Cornelius, Amelia, to what do we owe the honour of this visit?"

"The ministry are considering a new incentive that will affect Hogwarts, we came today to talk with Minerva about lending her expertise to this venture."

He wasn't sure whether to be relieved or insulted at the minister's words, Albus intended to at least pretend to be hurt. "Cornelius, I am the headmaster of Hogwarts. If the ministry has any new incentives that affect my school, I demand to be involved."

His tone didn't sit too well with Amelia, and she wasn't slow to let him know. "This doesn't involve the headmaster, rather your deputy. It will involve extra, unpaid work for Minerva, so we are here today to ask if she wishes to be involved."

By this time they had been joined by Minerva, who wanted more details of what was involved before committing herself.

"If we can go somewhere private to discuss this, we want to keep it secret until the announcement." Albus immediately offered his office to the minister, though both witches then glowered at him.

"...and just how is that private, when those bloody portraits tell you everything?" Albus had the good grace to appear embarrassed at Minerva's outburst until Sirius solved the problem.

Arriving with Harry at his side, he offered the perfect solution. "I'll need to wait until after the meeting to work on their lessons, the room we hold them in would certainly fit the bill for whatever we're after."

Albus' nose was even more out of joint as he watched the group leave with Harry, things were bad when he didn't even know what was happening in his own school.

Henrica followed on with Neville, Padma and Hermione, knowing the room could easily accommodate whatever was needed for the two groups.

-oOoOo-

Harry was asked if he would like to sit-in on the initial briefing meeting, delighting him and confusing Minerva even more. Once Hogwarts Deputy Headmistress discovered just what was involved, she wholeheartedly threw her support, time and anything else that was required of her behind this wonderful idea.

Harry had given this a lot of thought and had a few ideas of his own to bring to the meeting. "I would like one of the candidates to be muggle born, in honour of my mother. I also intend to get involved when they come to Hogwarts. The castle can be a scary place, I want all scholarship students to be charged with looking out for those coming behind them. I certainly intend to offer friendship to the two new first year students starting in September, I would expect them to carry that on the following year. A tradition has got to begin somewhere."

Minerva caught on at once. "You're looking for them to become mentors, keeping an eye on the younger ones through first year..."

"Not just first year, professor. This is being done in the Potter family name, I want this to be like members of a family. Brothers and sisters looking out for each other. We're very lucky in Ravenclaw to have Penny doing that job for us, she's simply brilliant and has been a great help to us settling in. In talking with our friends, not all houses are so lucky. One of my best friends is also a twin, and we have Fred and George Weasley here too. If there was a case for twins being offered scholarships, the Lily Potter foundation would fund the difference to ensure both got equal treatment - and this didn't deprive another student of a scholarship that year."

This was a golden opportunity for Cornelius to observe this boy first-hand, and so far he was very impressed. He had learned through Arthur that goblin children start school at five, and that Harry had extra tutors too. With early indications that the top two students in first year would be a muggle born and a goblin raised - both of whom attended school since they were five - it was again raising the question of why they waited until eleven before formally schooling magical children. This might be the place but certainly not the time to roast that old chestnut.

"Harry, we also want to honour the last surviving member of that family. On doing some research, we discovered the level of award was already set. For banishing a dark lord, we wish to award you the Order of Merlin, First Class."

Since Amelia was the one who had done the research, she knew what the minister was going to say. This allowed her to watch the reactions of the others to this news. Sirius appeared fit to burst with pride while Minerva was fighting back the tears that were forming in the corners of her eyes. Harry never even blinked.

"Minister, the dark lord isn't really gone - and I would feel such a fraud accepting on those headings."

Cornelius had actually prepared for this possibility, the politician in him wouldn't take no for an answer today. "I am aware of that, Harry, just as I am now aware that you train relentlessly in the hope of one day finishing the job you started all those years ago. To me, that in itself makes you deserving of this award."

Seeing that this had scored points, the minister pressed home his advantage. "I would also like to say, when that time comes, my ministry will stand alongside you in this battle. Madam Bones is quietly bringing her auror department onto a war footing. This won't happen overnight but, when you need us, we will be there with every wand ready to fight."

Knowing he was always going to have to accept an award of some description, Harry was delighted by the promise of support - and left with no other choice than to graciously accept.

Cornelius intended to announce the awards, and the ball in his honour, today. He would call a press conference this afternoon so the country could digest the news along with their Sunday breakfast. Harry asked, since she was now heavily involved in the Potter Scholarships, if Professor McGonagall could be added to their party for the ball.

The minister agreed at once, and then raised the only issue he could see being a sticking point. "We are unsure how to address the award. You won the award as Harry Potter but now go by the name of Harry Crow. Whichever appears on the award, people will rush to make judgements." Cornelius had watched as Dumbledore's planned award ceremony at Christmas went to hell in a hand basket, he had no intention of there being the slightest chance of that happening with the eyes of the world on them. All the T's would be crossed and the I's dotted, nothing was going to be left to chance.

Harry understood at once what the minister was implying, to have either Potter or Crow on the award would be construed as him already having made his choice. Something no one sitting around this table wanted. After a moment of thought, Harry made a suggestion. "My mum and dad named me Harry, a name my father has used my whole life, could I be just Harry?"

The minister looked to Amelia for her opinion. "I don't see why not. Might knock a lot of the stuffiness and formality out of the award ceremony - but who's to say that's such a bad thing."

With the last hurdle crossed, Cornelius headed off to organise his press conference. When the three trustees began to talk about their next meeting, where they would be discussing the candidates from this year's Hogwarts intake, Harry headed for his friends.

Padma got in first. "Okay, Harry, how much can you tell us?"

"Well, I think all our dance practice will be needed again - and you might need to protect some poor, defenceless wizard from being attacked by witches."

Neville caught Harry's drift at once. "I don't know what you're both talking about, but Padma, will you be my date to it?"

"So you want me to protect you from Parvati?"

Hermione was fighting the giggles, "...and Susan!"

Harry was enjoying the gentle teasing, and joined in. "...Hannah too!"

Neville was getting desperate now as he pleaded with her. "Please, Padma?"

"Oh, who could say no to those baby blue eyes, which is probably why the girls are chasing you in the first place. Let's have a deal, I'll be your date, and your bodyguard, until one of us gets a boyfriend or girlfriend?"

The look of relief on Neville's face set all of them off, with even Henrica laughing. The laughter soon stopped when Harry told them just what was going to be happening. Since the whole ball / scholarship /award thing was going to be made public tomorrow, they only had to keep it quiet for tonight. No mention was made of Goblin Ambassadors, that entire part of the deal was still a secret.

As Harry explained what was said at the meeting, Hermione spotted a potential disaster in the making. "What will you wear? It will be the same problem if you appear in robes or your centurion uniform."

"Why doesn't he wear his Mr Darcy clothes?" Harry and Neville appeared confused while Hermione's blush lit the room. "Oh please, Hermione, you gave me the books. It practically leapt off the page at me. Some of those dresses sounded beautiful too, we could all go dressed similar - neither goblin nor wizard?"

Hermione may still have been blushing but she was the owner of a wide smile. "That's perfect, Padma, even my mum and dad could blend in then. Harry, she means clothes similar to the ones you were wearing when we first met."

This idea also won approval from Henrica, "Oh, I can so see Sirius as Mr Darcy, and yes, I've read the book too!"

Harry and Neville were left bemused at why the three were laughing. "Harry, I have enough trouble figuring out the differences between the four of us, did something else just get chipped in there?"

"I'm sure it's a girl thing, Neville, and no - I have no idea what they're on about either. We'll just turn up and have fun, that works for me."

Neville remembered what Harry had worn back in September, it was also splashed all over the Prophet with those graveyard pictures at Halloween, and would have no problem dressing similar. Harry and Lord Black attending the ball dressed like that could actually start a whole new fashion trend. That thought set Neville smiling, and also shaking his head that he was once more in the middle of all the madness. This year had been the best of his life, and summer was shaping up to be even better.

Henrica wanted them back on track though, this was still a lesson after all.

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