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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85. Hazy Days of Summer

Baron of Kingussie
embraces many cultures -
but only kisses one witch!

That provocative headline certainly had an image to match it. Harry was pictured with a Harpies clad Hermione in his arms, lovingly kissing her while the rest of the team looked on and cheered. Rather than being embarrassed, Harry thought it was a great headline - and an even better picture.

All those who had been staying in Crow's Nest were sitting having breakfast, the Creeveys, McDonalds and Abercrombies would be leaving Kingussie directly after this. Multiple editions of the Daily Prophet were spread around the table though the front page had caught everyone's attention. There was actually a souvenir supplement inside, containing loads of pictures and interviews of the entire weekend. A representative from Honeydukes was quoted as saying they originally thought they'd brought enough stock to last for the entire weekend, only to have to send for more on Saturday afternoon. Needless to say, they were delighted about this.

Barchoke arrived to give them the latest news from Gringotts, and it was all good. "Apart from my heart stopping beating when Harry invited The Director's Mate to skate, it was a wonderful weekend. The only thing we can compare the buzz around Gringotts at the moment to is the day we gave the children free gold - only this time it feels even better. There is a real sense of pride running through Gringotts today, a pride that few have ever felt before. The Nation certainly enjoyed its weekend in the sun."

All could see the tension that had plagued The Nation's Ambassador lately had now melted clean away, rather like the ice zone when the charms were removed. Barchoke's smile was wide and infectious. "The ministry are rightly taking plaudits for their wonderful stadium but everything else was built by goblins, with a lot of design help from the people in this room. No one can remember when The Director has been so pleased, or morale in Gringotts any higher. I think we've easily outstripped every single goal we set ourselves, not something any of us were confident of achieving this time last week. I was asked to convey a very heartfelt thanks and a sincere well done to everyone involved from The Director on behalf of The Nation."

"How did the stalls do?" Harry was interested to see if the fayre was a commercial success too.

His father's wide grin never faltered, giving the answer before Barchoke even spoke. "What to us in Gringotts are mere trinkets and knickknacks, witches and wizards were queueing six deep to get their hands on. Work our apprentices manufactured would normally sit on workshop shelves gathering dust or become children's playthings, today every one of those shelves is empty. Throughout the glen, they sold everything they brought to Kingussie. Goblins too were spending gold at all different establishments, we don't usually have access to places like Honeydukes or Fortescue's. I also spotted quite a few of our citizens with quidditch paraphernalia..."

This generated a fair amount of laughter at the table, since Sapphire was sitting at breakfast wearing the Harpies top Harry had bought her.

It was an also smiling Amelia who then portkeyed into Crow's Nest and gave the ministry's response to the fayre, again it was overwhelmingly positive. "You really opened some eyes over the course of the weekend, Harry. Right throughout the glen, your policy of treating everyone the same was there for all to see. The way you handled your request to the minister was wonderfully done too, Cornelius wants me to contact this Reverend Richards as soon as possible..."

A pair of loud 'what's' from the end of the table saw Harry letting Dan and Emma into the plan. "We never seemed to get time to tell you but I asked if the Reverend Richards could receive a dispensation to be informed about magic, specifically so he could come to Kingussie and perform the marriage ceremony for our wedding. I can't see the guests we want to be there fitting into the parish church in Crawley, can you?"

Emma was threatening tears at hearing that news, she was blaming her hormones for her emotions being all over the place when Hermione had another idea that this time did produce those happy tears. "Mum, Reverend Richards could come here to christen James."

This comment also generated some strange glances before Dan decided to come clean. "Our son will be named James Granger, using his brother's middle name. Neville, Padma, would you be his godparents?"

The young couple were visibly gobsmacked at hearing that request, those expressions though were soon replaced by large smiles. Both quickly agreed before Padma turned to her best friends and summed up their feelings in one sentence. "We're going to be your brother's godparents, that makes us real family!"

On that happy note, it was time to say goodbye to the three families. Little Maggie Creevey was wearing her fayre hat to breakfast, her mother jokingly confirming her daughter wouldn't be parted from it and had worn it to bed too. Denis, Euan and Natalie had all exchanged phone numbers but this set Harry thinking, perhaps it was time to add an owl to their Hogwarts package. While there was always school owls available that allowed them to send messages home from Hogwarts, they were effectively cut off from their magical friends for the duration of the summer.

Jenny had confessed to Hermione she didn't have the qualifications she required to get into the university course she'd originally chosen, her last year of school being a washout. Hermione advised her to still pick a university and they would see what housing they had near that location. Getting them moved and protected by wards should be done first, then Jenny could work on those entry qualifications. Both Euan and Jenny agreed, this was easily the best weekend of their lives.

The family then moved through to the large lounge, they knew there was a serious issue to deal with. Barchoke had some information though that he hadn't want to bring up until it was just 'family'.

"Adam Brown visited Gringotts yesterday and emptied their family vault. He was loudly claiming that we goblins had besmirched his family's good name, and his daughter's honour. He's denying Lavender was in any way involved in this incident and trying to push any blame onto Parvati."

The silence this news generated was broken by Amelia. "Of all the many owls the ministry received regarding the fayre, only one was negative. Adam Brown has made a complaint against Auror Tonks for her handling of the situation yesterday."

Tonks was sitting beside Remus, the auror once more reverting to Harry's protection detail. "Boss, The Baron of Kingussie told this pompous prick that Lavender had abused his hospitality, the Brown family were then asked to leave. I simply pointed out to him that his refusal to do so would be breaking the law, something we would then have to deal with."

Amelia stopped Tonks saying any more, totally agreeing with her auror on this matter. "I've also had Minerva on the floo, he contacted her too and complained bitterly about Minerva's treatment of his daughter. He's threatening to withdraw Lavender from Hogwarts unless the school can guarantee there will be no contact between his daughter and the witch trying to lead her astray, Parvati Patil."

A shocked and tearful Parvati was sitting between Padma and Neville, the wizard soon found himself being shifted along as Hermione took his place. Padma already had her arm comfortingly around her twin so Hermione took Parvati's hand before speaking with her.

"Harry and I watched this man build himself into a state over this yesterday. He just said Lavender wouldn't do anything like that and she never contradicted him - for once Lavender hadn't a single thing to say. There's not one person here who thinks you were leading Lavender astray, she's selling you down the river to escape the punishment she deserves. Can you see Susan doing something like that to Hannah? That would simply never happen. I watched Padma stand in front of nine older bullies and take a curse to the face trying to protect me, that is real friendship."

It was then Padma's turn to try and help her sister. "Pav, we all know you like to push the boundaries, we also know that when you're alongside Lavender you both push further. She's obviously not the friend you thought Lavender was if she's pushing all the blame onto you, I have to say that splitting you two up isn't the worst idea I've ever heard. You would certainly be made welcome if you wanted to bunk with us in the Ravenclaw dorm."

Two Hufflepuffs quickly agreed with that, Hannah getting in first. "You could stay with me and Susan..."

"Yeah, Lavender's not welcome in Hufflepuff though. She's hardly displaying loyalty to her supposed best friend."

Even Pansy chipped in. "After this weekend, I think we could even get away with a Gryffindor in the Slytherin dorms. If you're up for the challenge, you'd certainly be made welcome by the rest of the new fourth year Slytherin girls."

The support she was being shown from her friends couldn't quite make up for the heartache of being dumped on by the witch who'd been her best friend and confidant almost every day for the last three years. It was all going to be irrelevant anyway, her father appeared ready to explode as his anger built. She got up and went to kneel by her father.

"Father, I'm really sorry my behaviour has put you in this position. I made a really bad error of judgement that Harry's security thankfully saved me from facing the consequences of. I have brought shame and embarrassment to our family and deserve to face whatever punishment you set. I promise to try and be a dutiful daughter from this day on, a daughter you can be proud of."

Ramrao was as angry as he could ever remember, he tried to control that anger as he spoke to his daughter. "Parvati, your behaviour was way beyond anything your mother and I find acceptable, we had decided to send you back to India. We hoped living with my mother for a while might help you see the error of your ways."

Parvati's head may be down but everyone could still see the tears flowing. Padma too was in tears, and she wasn't the only one. Ramrao though wasn't finished yet.

"Lavender's father's reaction has changed everything. In trying to protect his own daughter, he's attempting to push all the blame onto mine. For us to send you away now would lend credence to his opinion, that is not something I could ever support."

This saw Parvati's head shoot up and her father reached out and wiped away her tears. "While Lavender appears happy to play along with her father's version of events, my daughter has admitted her error and apologised for her serious lack of judgment. Whatever we decide, and we will talk about that later, one thing is not up for debate. Your association with this girl is now at an end."

Augusta hated interrupting what was a very tender moment between father and daughter, she did want to give them some options though. "Lavender was under the care of Hogwarts while staying here, and you can guess how well Professor McGonagall will have reacted to Adam Brown berating her for reprimanding his daughter. Lavender might actually be the one leaving Hogwarts if Minerva doesn't get an apology. Parvati was her parents' responsibility, and is therefore in no trouble with the school over this matter. I would have to speak with Filius and Minerva but I don't see any major problems with a Gryffindor staying in Ravenclaw that can't be overcome, especially with her twin sister already sorted there."

This was Barchoke's cue to add to the story. "Adam Brown is a fool! If there is one thing being a parent has taught me, it's that we all make mistakes. It's admitting those mistakes and figuring out where we go from there that makes us who we are. Adam Brown thinks that by playing on his pureblood credentials and shouting loudly, people will simply believe what he says. He closed his family vault in Gringotts but simply ignored the fact that his entire business is financed and run through our bank."

This had everyone paying attention, they all knew the goblins' reputation as a warrior race was well earned - and that they wouldn't hesitate bringing some retaliation of their own to this matter. They were of course right.

"His version of this incident would need to have goblin warriors either deliberately lying or, even worse, abducting his daughter out of her bed to march her into Crow's Nest. The Director has given him until eight o'clock tonight to publicly recant those accusations inside the bank, otherwise his business account will be closed and Gringotts will require all their loans to be repaid in full - and immediately too."

Smita was trying to hide her shock at these measures. "Do you think he'll do this?"

This got a shrug from the ambassador. "Personally I think it would be the smart thing to do, he's a fool though so who knows what will happen. If he doesn't, Harry might just buy his bankrupt business from its new owners - Gringotts. Who's going to complain about a goblin owning a business when that goblin is Harry Crow, and Harry doing so saves the jobs of witches and wizards."

With everyone staring at his father in disbelief, Harry couldn't help but chuckle. "Wizards and witches know so little about goblins, they couldn't even get the one thing they thought they knew right. It's not 'never mess with a goblin', it's really 'never mess with a goblin's family'. Parvati, I've told you before that you're family. Yes there is a downside to that, people doing their best to harm my family is a right pain in the arse. There is a good side too."

There was no laughter in Harry now, he had a steely glaze that everyone was glad wasn't directed at them. "Those three boys no longer work for that circus, the owner was also advised to check back on locations they'd previously visited since they had started working for them. Their business has a reputation to protect too, and the squad commander got the impression this was not the first time these boys had tried this manoeuvre. Since it was this circus' first visit to Britain, all I could legally do was kick them off my land. I have to say though, the owner was bloody livid with all three of them. He was hoping to make a good impression and generate more business out of this weekend, his circus getting kicked out by the Baron of Kingussie certainly won't do that. Since the owner is also well aware of my Gringotts connections, I got the distinct impression those three boys' troubles were only just beginning."

"He's doing it again, Hermione. Don't you just love it when Harry scares the adults?" Padma's quip released the building tension, that and Draco almost choking with laughter at the truth behind her remark.

This had the goblin in question shaking his head. "Don't encourage her, Draco, Padma's bad enough as she is. Now I intend to fly over the glen to see it being restored. Since we now have a full set of brooms, who would like to join us? Luna, can you…"

"Yes Harry, I'll take Sapphire on a broom."

As they rose to leave, Ramrao nudged Parvati in their direction. "Go with your friends, we'll sit down and discuss what happens next tonight."

As a now smiling Parvati shot out of there to catch up with the rest of the teens, her father slumped back in his chair.

"You did the right thing, dear. Neither of us were happy about sending her to live with your mother for the next six months."

"I know, Smita, but we still haven't solved anything here. Dan and Emma, I just don't know how you cope. We have enough trouble trying to raise our daughters within the influences of two cultures, how do you manage with three totally separate ones?"

"Well I can't lie by saying it's easy, we're basically making it up as we go along. Then again, I think all parenting is like that."

This drew some chuckles of agreement from the parents present, and worrying glances in Astrid's direction from Sirius. He then received some comforting words from his mother-in-law. "Don't worry about it, Sirius, you'll be fine."

"Moa, I look at Henrica holding Astrid and I'm almost in tears at the beauty of what I'm seeing. That they both have the last name Black fills me with so much love and pride I feel I might burst. My own parents though would have murdered both of my girls in their sleep, while the ministry still classes them and you, as well as Remus, as creatures. We have all just worked our arses off to make this weekend the success that it was, and I'm certainly not disputing it's done our country a power of good, but it should never have been necessary in the first place. All of us in this room can see what's wrong, why can't everyone else?"

it was Lukas who actually tried to answer that conundrum. "Prejudices are not restricted to Britain, Sirius, or even witches and wizards. They may differ throughout the countries of the world, from culture to culture even, but they will always exist. What's needed is for people to stand up and say 'this is not right', I think all of us just did that to great effect over the weekend. I also pity anyone who calls our little Astrid a creature in her grandfather, father or godfather's hearing."

Dan tried to raise the mood again. "You forgot to mention Astrid's grandmother, mother and godmother, those are certainly three formidable ladies."

He received backing for his efforts from Augusta. "I also think you need to take into account that Remus and Henrica are two of the students' favourite professors at Hogwarts. I was really proud of the way our students behaved all weekend, they are showing the entire country the way forward. I truly believe that by the time Astrid Black and James Granger are of age to travel to Hogwarts, their blood status or heritage won't matter a damn to anyone."

That was a vision that found agreement from Amelia. "This prejudice has been around since before Hogwarts was founded. If our younger generation can change a millennium of prejudice to the level you're suggesting, in the space of a decade too, that would have to be considered a magnificent victory."

They didn't know their charges were currently chipping away at some of those prejudices even as they were speaking.

-oOoOo-

The four birds had once more welcomed Eargit's presence as they flew over the glen, they were also joined by seven teens on half a dozen brooms. This had of course attracted the attention of the goblin children who lived in the glen, leading to the group swooping down to talk with them. Seeing Sapphire sitting on the back of a broom had one of the bolder children asking if they could try that too.

Soon brooms were taking off with little goblin passengers on the back for a quick flight around the glen. Hearing the children's squeals of joy and laughter had those goblins working at dismantling the fayre standing just that little bit straighter. Here was an event they could boast to their grandchildren they had been part of, because history had and was still being made in this Scottish glen.

The group were standing beside what yesterday had been the ice zone. Removing the charms last night had seen that ice and snow gone by this morning. The Swiss-style chalet was being retained, though moved from here to beside Crow's Nest. It would be used as extra accommodation when they had loads of people staying or as the centrepiece of any outside party. It was parties that were on the minds of Hermione and Padma. "With the Ministry Summer Ball being slightly later this year, we need to make some plans."

Padma really couldn't resist teasing her best friend. "…and we all know how much our Hermione likes her plans. We need to decide first whether we're going to the ball, and then what to do about these two birthday boys."

It was just the four of them and Sapphire at the moment since everyone else was up in the air, Neville offered his opinion on Padma's questions. "I feel we need to attend the ball. The ministry has been supporting us with everything we've asked for, we should really offer our support for their event. As to our birthdays, I would like that to be as quiet as possible."

That opinion was backed by Harry. "I agree with Neville about the ball, otherwise it would seem we only attend if there are awards being handed out. How about this as an idea for our birthdays, spend them on the island?"

This certainly received a favourable response so Harry expanded his idea some more. "On one birthday, we can have a joint party on the beach for the family. On the other, just the four of us round the other side of the island with a picnic basket."

"Oh, just us, sitting on the beach and watching the sun go down. That sounds wonderful. Sorry, Sapphire, I didn't mean anything by that…"

"It's okay, Hermione, being on a beach with Harry is certainly something to get excited about…" She couldn't hold her laugh anymore as Hermione groaned.

"Not you too. I get enough teasing from Padma without others jumping on the bandwagon."

"I couldn't help it, Hermione, it was just too good a chance to pass up. After all the craziness of the fayre, you all deserve some time on your own."

Padma had a question though. "Do we allow the girls to invite dates?"

it was Harry who shook his head at that. "What would we do about Parvati? Having her as the only girl without a date would be cruel."

While Hermione agreed with that, she took the opportunity to tease Sapphire back. "And just who would you be asking as your date?"

"Oh, goblins don't really date as such. They have groups of friends who you would hang about with socially, and then hopefully meet your mate..."

The queen of the quips couldn't resist that one either. "Well, that certainly worked for us four." None of them minded Padma's teasing this time since it was essentially true. That, and the fact they were all heading to the island in a few days had everyone in good spirits.

-oOoOo-

The meeting in the Minister's office a few days later also saw those attending in good spirits. Those in the ministry who had managed to spend some time in Kingussie over the weekend were still raving about their experiences. That Harry had made it a family event really won people over - apart from that fool Adam Brown.

Instead of getting down on his knees and thanking the goblin security force for intervening on his daughter's behalf, he attempted some sort of power play and got right royally shafted. Standing in Gringots and giving a public apology might have saved his business but everyone now believed he was a liar, leaving his reputation irreparably damaged. Today's meeting at the ministry was to ensure the Cup Final suffered no such fallout, Cornelius got straight to the heart of the matter.

"Dolores approached me with a very good point about the cup final, which is why I called this meeting. While we in this country have welcomed the joint auror - warrior security forces, the final is going to be full of Irish and Bulgarians who might not be so understanding. The last thing we need is an international incident when some drunken quidditch fan takes objection to a warrior telling them what to do. I would welcome your views on this matter."

The head of the D.M.L.E. was first to offer her opinion, the safety of the event was going to be her responsibility. "I don't think the Irish would mind too much, unless the warriors were trying to break up their party. We all know the Bulgarians are a totally different kettle of fish. I could easily see a few confrontations breaking out, but can we afford not to have the goblin warriors on patrol beside the aurors?"

There was an unhealthy dose of shared hatred between Dolores and Amelia, they seemed to hold polar opposite views on just about everything. Dolores certainly didn't want these animals anywhere near what she considered her event, unless they were dressed in brightly coloured costumes and acting as team mascots. "Surely Arthur could just explain to this Ambassador creature that we don't require their assistance for this event?"

No one currently in the minister's office expected Amelia to take that lying down, they weren't disappointed. She came roaring back at Dolores with venom dripping off every word she spoke. "That ambassador creature is a very good friend of mine, he also personally saved the lives of an auror's family in this very building - getting himself wounded in the process. That same auror and his family were guests of the Baron last weekend, little Danielle Dugan had the time of her life. Such a pity you missed it, Dolores, I can't think of anyone who could have benefited from the experience more than you."

"If you have to hug a goblin to have your home warded, I think I'd rather be visited in the night by death eaters."

"Somehow your opinion doesn't surprise me, Dolores..."

Arthur tried to interrupt before wands were drawn between these two adversaries. "The joint patrols have been universally accepted and proclaimed a great success in Hogsmeade, Diagon Alley and even last weekend in Kingussie. I would certainly be against any moves to change that. Since the entire stadium will be warded against death eaters, we could perhaps increase the goblin - to - auror ratio in these areas, freeing aurors from Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley to assist at the cup final? This way we are asking our goblin friends for help, while avoiding putting them in a situation that is potentially politically delicate."

Amos liked the sound of that. He would be attending the final with Cedric and his friend, Roger, Amos wanted that stadium to be the safest place in Britain. He was also savvy enough to know that one bad incident with the warriors would be jumped upon by those of a darker persuasion as proof they were moving too fast and too far with their reforms. He backed Arthur's suggestion.

The sixth person at the meeting was paying these discussions scant attention. His status as a department head had earned Ludo an invitation to Kingussie, what he saw there rocked his world. The former quidditch player wasn't really interested in the various zones, different cultures or the amount of integration taking place. He'd sat in the Three Broomsticks outlet, drinking butterbeer and eating stew while making the discovery that the goblins as a race appeared to be as addicted to gambling as he was. Now all he had to figure out was how to scam them out of their gold, that shouldn't be too difficult. He heard Amelia arguing for a force of warriors to be standing by in case they needed them at the final.

Arthur pointing out that anything attacking the wards would soon draw a goblin presence made Cornelius' mind up. Security for the cup final would be handled by the aurors, with a force of warriors held in reserve.

-oOoOo-

The couple running along the beach were clearly reaching the last of their reserves, their gaits were certainly now more staggering than sprinting.

"Having fun yet?"

"I hate this!"

"Oh good!" It took a couple of breaths before he could get the next part out. "For a minute there, I thought we were going to have to stop..."

"What?"

This did halt his running partner, allowing him to stop too and take a much needed breather. Standing half bent, with is hands on his knees, he finally managed to get the next bit out. "Well, it would hardly be punishment if you were enjoying it now, would it?"

"You mean if I'd said yes, it would be over?"

Ramrao answered with a question of his own. "Would you lie to your father?"

"No father. I'm just not used to getting up at this time, or all this exercise. I'm struggling to breathe, sore all over and not thinking straight at the moment."

"Sit and we'll take five minutes." Father and daughter sat on the sand, watching the waves gently lap against the beach while trying to ignore the pains from their aching muscles.

"Father, I understand this is part of my punishment and I accept that. Why are you running with me though, you clearly hate this as much as I do?"

"Since my body is considerably older than yours, I think I'm entitled to hate it even more than you do. Parvati, someday you will have children of your own and discover what a precious and wonderful gift they are."

This change in tact clearly confused Parvati, and saw Ramrao reach out and take his daughter's hand. "I have no doubts you and your husband will do your utmost to raise your children to be the best they can be. Since all parents will occasionally get it wrong, I think it's only fair to say you and your husband will make the occasional mistake too. That is why I run beside you. If my wonderful Parvati thinks her recent behaviour would ever be acceptable to me then I have made a grave mistake somewhere, a mistake I deserve to be punished for."

The teenage witch broke down crying at that, then found herself enveloped by the safest pair of arms in the world. They mumbled apologies and words of love to each other as both held on to one of the most important people in their lives.

Their supposed five minutes of rest was now easily ten as Ramrao gently soothed his daughter's sobs away. He though he knew just how to make her feel better.

"Draco approached me about a letter he received from Blaise. He said Blaise never believed Lavender's father for a second, and then Adam Brown publicly having to admit he was wrong inside Gringotts justified his opinion. Draco mentioned some deal you had with Blaise, and apparently Blaise still wants to honour it. Would you care to tell me what that deal was?"

The tears were back for Parvati but she had the sobs under control at the moment. "When we broke up, we agreed to be each other's date for anything that came up - until one of us found another partner..."

He was pretty sure that would have been the case, it was now time to put something he'd been thinking about into practice. "Adam Brown making this matter public has meant the Patils' actions and reactions will be public too - there is simply no avoiding it. If our family attends the ministry summer ball without you, that sends out one message. If we take you but keep you close all evening, that sends out a different message too. If you were to walk into that ball, beside your family and on the arm of your date, it could put an end to speculation over this incident once and for all."

Parvati's sobs had returned but her father still held her, Ramrao had more to say on the matter.

"For this to have any chance of happening, you will write to that young wizard and tell him everything. How you have been acting foolishly, what it would mean for Blaise to escort you to this ball and anything else you want to put in there. If Blaise still wants to escort you, I will make all the necessary arrangements to see that this happens. You must tell him everything though, Blaise needs to know all the details before he makes his decision. He's a fine young wizard, one that I will not have it said the Patil family took advantage of."

Parvati was struggling to stop her sobs, and also to believe what she was hearing. "You would allow me to go to the ball?"

"Under the right conditions, yes. Those conditions being you must learn from this, and have a date I approve of for the ball. Your punishment still stands though..." Ramrao was again having trouble breathing, this time because his daughter was holding him so tight.

The hawk swooped down and landed beside them, a second later Padma was speaking to her father and sister. "Are you two alright?"

Her twin was wiping the tears from her eyes, that Parvati was smiling while doing so just confused Padma even more.

"We're fine, Padma, we just stopped for a rest before finishing our run."

"Well, you've only got about a mile left to go, we'll see you when you get back. I know flying is exercise too but I much prefer it to running."

As Saber shot back into the air to join the three other animagi waiting on her, Ramrao helped his other daughter to her feet. They still had another mile to run, then he intended to lie down quietly for the rest of the day. Part of Parvati's punishment was to run every morning of the summer holidays, Ramrao was beginning to doubt if he would survive that.

-oOoOo-

The group arrived at the ball and, even although there were no guests of honour here this year, they were still being stared at. With their awards proudly on display on their outfits, it was probably understandable. They were again dressed in what the girls called their 'Pride and Prejudice' clothes and couldn't help smiling at the number of other witches and witches now wearing similar attire. The wizarding tailors had finally cottoned on to this fad and started producing similar clothes. Harry and Hermione couldn't help but chuckle when thinking the entire craze was started by a woefully out of date muggle studies course book. It wasn't all the stares and whispers that were making Harry nervous though, he just didn't want to be away from Kingussie.

"Relax Harry, father is with them in case they need to get to Gringotts in a hurry. Moa and Lukas are babysitting Astrid there too, and can you see Dobby letting anything happen to his beloved mistress? You know mum wouldn't hear of us cancelling tonight."

"I'm pregnant, not ill - I can practically hear her say it, Hermione. I'm just so excited waiting for James to be born, Merlin knows what I'll be like when it's time for our child. Dan looks so calm..."

This drew a laugh from Hermione. "He's anything but calm, Harry, dad just hides it better."

Parvati was also anything but calm, she wasn't very good at hiding it though. She felt her date squeeze her hand on his arm and she drew strength from that, Blaise had been a rock for her.

Tonight the group had booked two tables, one each under the names of Longbottom and Black, with the only stipulation being that the tables were beside each other. There were quartets of Longbottoms and Patils sitting alongside Harry and Hermione, with Blaise taking their number up to eleven. The Blacks had Remus and Tonks, Hannah and Susan had asked Zac and Justin to be their dates for tonight while Luna invited Colin along as a friend. As usual, places would become fluid when the dancing started.

Not having to worry about awards gave Harry more time to look around and see all the faces he knew. The Weasleys' change in circumstances was also very evident, there on display for everyone to see as the family had their own table. They appeared though to have taken the wise decision to leave Ron at home. The twins' inclusion might have raised a few eyebrows before, but not now. These two prefects had just added O.W.L.'s at 'O' in defence, charms, herbology and transfiguration to the outstanding in potions they received last summer. Fred and George had invited Angelina and Alicia as their dates. While Ginny sat with Bill, it was the remaining couple who were garnering all the attention of their table.

Percy and Penny had been advised by both Bill and Arthur to take their time over the summer before making any decisions that would affect their futures. Both had done so but those decisions had now been made, Gringotts' latest employees were also sitting there sporting engagement rings.

Harry of course knew Penny better than Percy, but was delighted for the happy couple, he was also one of the few who knew what they would actually be doing inside Gringotts. With Hermione and Harry both confirming they wanted to attend university, that would mean he would be at least in his early twenties before he could possibly become Assistant Ambassador to his father. With the current occupier of that position not really wanting to commit to that post much past Harry leaving Hogwarts, Percy and Penny were being drafted into father's expanding department and would be working toward one of them eventually taking over from Bill.

With no awards tonight, the meal was served first before the obligatory speech would take place. Sitting having a fine meal with family and friends soon saw even Parvati relax, and there was dancing to look forward to later.

Cornelius' speech was going well, his quip about not knowing what to do with his hands since there was no awards to hand out tonight generated a very good response. The Minister's next point concerned one of those previous awards.

"Last year many of you were here to witness Harry Crow becoming the Baron of Kingussie, I was honoured to have been a guest of the Baron's earlier in the summer when my wife and I had a wonderful time at his fayre. I would just like to take this opportunity to publicly thank Baron Crow for including so many of those who work at the ministry in what was a tremendous event."

This led to much clapping and cheering before Cornelius moved on to the upcoming event, the Quidditch World Cup Final. For a politician, it didn't get much better than being able to stand up and give people good news. His good news was interrupted by a high pitched beeping coming from somewhere in the hall, then he saw Harry getting to his feet as the noise stopped.

"Minister Fudge, we're really sorry to leave but that was an urgent message from my father. Hermione and I need to head to Gringotts."

"Is there anything wrong, Harry? Can we help?"

"No Minister, that message means our brother is on the way, not something we want to miss. Auror Tonks, we will be portkeying into Gringotts the moment we leave the ministry wards, please stay and enjoy the ball."

A nod from Amelia saw Tonks accepting that offer, though she did promise to catch up with the four of them later. It was only then Cornelius noticed young Longbottom and his betrothed ready to leave too. Neville's comment that he couldn't wait to see his godson put a smile on more than just the minister's face.

Cornelius was honest enough to admit that even a few years ago he would have been incandescent with rage over something like this. The old Fudge would have seen this as a deliberate attempt to upstage him, and been worried about what plot was behind it - who was trying to force him out?

Tonight he could see the situation for exactly what it was, four teens hyper excited over the birth of a baby in their family. This version of Cornelius Fudge knew exactly how to handle the situation. "Please pass our good wishes on to Emma and Dan."

As the four teens hurried from the hall, the Minister for Magic couldn't help but think this baby boy was being born into a different world than his older sister had been. It was time to get back on track though, the night was still young.

It was much later that night when Harry held a tiny figure in his arms. "Hello James, I'm your brother, Harry."

-oOoOo-

It was a few weeks later when Ron was ignoring his brothers to concentrate on the tiny figure in his hands. Ginny might have raved about the Ministry Ball but Ron was glad he'd talked his way out of that one, the ball sounded incredibly boring to him. Not like tonight, Ron Weasley just had the best night of his life.

He was staring at the little quidditch figure in awe, the reverence in his voice unmistakable. "Did you see him, wasn't Krum simply unbelievable?"

"Oh no, Ron, we missed it."

"Yeah, Fred and I always take a good book with us to the Quidditch World Cup Final. You'll just have to tell us all about it."

Totally missing the gentle sarcasm, Ron then began a play by play account of the game. That he was using the little action figure to demonstrate his descriptions had everyone sniggering, that was until the screaming started. They all rushed out of the tent to be greeted by the sight of the dark mark hanging menacingly in the night sky, it was visible due to flashes of spells causing explosions, flames and utter panic.

All seven Weasley children were there with their father while Amos stood with Cedric and Roger, it was the Ravenclaw who asked the first question.

"I though this area was warded, how is this possible?"

It was actually Bill who quickly answered. "We couldn't ward the camping area since we don't own it. That's why we had to pay money to the muggle farmer to allow us to camp on his land. I want you four to take Ron and Ginny and head back to the safety of those wards around the stadium. This is not a Sunday morning drill, guys, are you up to this?"

All four had their wands out and their game faces on. All jokes were forgotten, here were the four students Bill tutored every week. "They'll be fine, Amos, otherwise I wouldn't have given them this task. We need to go and help contain this."

Amos nodded as he, Arthur, Bill, Charlie and Percy disapparated away to help in the battle. Fred, George, Cedric and Roger were used to working as a team and quickly got organised, deciding to choose the most direct route back to the stadium.

Before they even left the camp though, Ron let out a piercing scream of terror that was of a higher pitch than anything Ginny could ever reach. He was left unable to speak but when they looked to where his shaking hand was pointing, no one there blamed him in the slightest.

Directly in front of Ron, a dead body was clawing itself out of the shallow grave it had been buried in. It didn't speak but the nightmare now pulling itself upright didn't really need to. Those sunken eyes may be dead but the menace they contained was very much a threat to the life of anyone this creature got its hands on.

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