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.



49. Just One Thing

Parvati had been pleasantly surprised at the positive reactions she'd received on the express. Then again, she'd never ventured outside the two compartments they had occupied and Professor Hobson had stayed close. Now, the professor was at the staff table, Susan and Hannah at Hufflepuff while Padma, Hermione, Luna and Harry were all heading to sit at their own house table.

She still wasn't alone though, Neville had offered his arm and Lavender was by her side, Ginny and Colin were leading the way to a space at Gryffindor that would accommodate the five of them. Unfortunately, this free space was closer to Ronald Weasley than they would usually sit.

"Hey Longbottom, looks like Lucius Malfoy isn't the only one who can't tell the Patils apart. You do know your girlfriend is sitting at the Ravenclaw table, right - or did they come as a pair?" Ron was laughing at his own joke, that was until he realised he was the only one laughing.

The way Neville was glaring at Ron was certainly enough to deter any sensible person from laughing at the redhead's supposed joke. After all, Neville Longbottom had just fought a basilisk AND killed Voldemort - this was not someone you wanted to upset.

"Since Padma is wearing the Longbottom betrothal ring, and Parvati clearly isn't, that should tell even someone as thick as you who this is on my arm. That same ring also makes Parvati my sister, would you stand back and let anyone say horrible things about your sister?"

This had a red faced Ron on his feet. "Don't you dare say anything about my sister, she wasn't the one stupid enough to write in a cursed diary."

"Oh I think the whole school knows who the stupid one is in the Weasley family, you prove it every time you open your mouth. Talk about my sister like that again and I'll call you out, this is the only warning you're getting Weasley..."

Before Ron could say anymore, Percy intervened. "Ron, sit down and shut up..."

"Oh, take his side again, why don't you! He's sticking up for someone who isn't even his sister yet my own brother stabs me in the back. Must be nice to have a supportive family..."

"Perhaps if you weren't such a jerk, we just might. Parvati's been through a horrible experience ..." Ginny found herself being interrupted by a now snarling Ron.

"...an experience she caused - and then got paid a bloody fortune for it too! That doesn't sound too horrible to me."

Neville was just about to launch himself at Ron when his head of house made her presence known. "Ronald Weasley, go to my office at once."

"What, and miss dinner?"

"I shall have the elves prepare a sandwich for you..."

"...a SANDWICH!"

"You have just gained an extra week's worth of detentions for your disrespectful attitude toward me, that's on top of the week I was originally going to give you. If you are not in my office inside the next five minutes, our new High Inquisitor can start her first day on the job by taking you home - and then explaining to your parents the reason why you are no longer welcome inside Hogwarts."

It had been reported in the Prophet that the new High Inquisitor was Neville's Grandmother, Ron rightly thought that he would receive no sympathy from that quarter. With his head down, he began making his way out the hall.

McGonagall though made sure he still heard her address to the rest of Gryffindor. "When you all arrived at Hogwarts for the very first time, I told you then that your house would be your family. One of our family was hurt by Lord Voldemort, that another member of our family made him pay for that hurt makes me prouder than I can say. Parvati needs the support of her family and friends at this time, her Gryfindor family will provide that support - or I'll know the reason why."

As McGonagall headed back to the staff table, Parvati found herself sitting between Neville and Lavender with the rest of the house rallying around. It appeared as if Ronald Weasley's was the only disconcerting voice in Gryffindor.

Harry felt it was now safe to release his grip on Hermione and Padma, both had wanted to rush to Parvati's aid. The confrontation had been heard by the entire great hall, Ronald Weasley and subtlety weren't exactly close friends. Harry had no intention of letting two angry witches now focus their ire on him though so quickly offered his reasoning.

"Neville always had the situation under control and I saw McGonagall keeping a close eye on them, she was moving the minute the mouth without a brain started speaking - or should that be shouting. We know what would have happened if Ron had been foolish enough to reach for his wand, Neville would have wiped the floor with him. By us not interfering, McGonagall was able to deal with it as a Gryffindor House matter."

"Can I borrow your sword, Hermione? I want to go and cut Ron's sandwich into bite sized pieces - then ram them down his throat with my fist."

"Eugh, you'd touch that mouth?"

"Hermione, I'm a betrothed witch - and I wouldn't be able to eat my dinner if I even thought about shoving sandwiches in any of his other orifices."

"Girls, you're frightening our friends - well, at least spoiling their appetites. Relax everyone, they're only joking. We're still the same people we were before all this happened..."

"Oh Harry, does that mean I can stop bowing every time I meet you now?" Luna's sing-song voice stopped all conversation as everyone stared at her. She couldn't hold her pretence though and burst out laughing. "You should see your faces!"

"I told you we shouldn't have let her eat all that chocolate on the train. Ladies curtsy, Luna, not bow - don't get it wrong again." Harry couldn't hold his laughter either, soon being joined by most of the table as they figured out they'd been had by the little blonde first year.

The Ravenclaws had gotten used to seeing Harry or Hermione on the front page of the Prophet, it wasn't exactly a gigantic leap to add Padma to that group too - especially when the three of them just acted as they normally would.

At the Slytherin table, the overwhelming emotion was that of relief. Crow's notion that only the person responsible should be blamed seemed to be prevalent amongst their fellow students. Longbottom jumping on Weasley for haranguing the main victim of these attacks suited them down to the ground. It deflected attention away from those who had fled the castle while reinforcing the belief that only the guilty should be punished.

Draco was trying to blend in so hard, he was in danger of disappearing. He of course knew his father's trial was today, and no sane person questioned what the verdict of that trial would be. His concern was purely the sentence, would his father live through this? Would the ministry punish what was left of the Malfoy family with severe financial penalties? Pansy was glued to Draco's side, understanding exactly what he was going through. Their betrothal may be hanging by a thread but she would be here to support Draco, no matter what happened to his father - or what her father said.


Lucius could have used support like that, Lucius would currently accept support from anywhere. The guards had flung him into this dark, dank cell, and the reality that he was never getting out of here completely destroyed any fortitude Lucius had left. He was crying like a baby but his torture was just beginning. The dementors were undoubtedly horrors but having his mental sister-in-law in the next cell was taking things a step too far.

The imprisoned death eaters were starved of news and had just been presented with a feast. Lucius was constantly bombarded with questions from all sides, Bellatrix though just wouldn't give up. Since neither he or Bella were going anywhere for the foreseeable future, Lucius decided that answering her was the only way to gain some respite. In his state of emotional turmoil, it never occurred to him that the crazy bitch might not like the answers Lucius had to give.

She could be heard screaming at him by everyone in the high security wing. "Our master entrusted you with one of his greatest treasures and you gave it away - all for a bit of revenge on a boy? Why didn't you just kill the little bastard? At least then you would have ended up in here for doing something constructive and worthwhile. Our master also entrusted me with one of his treasures, I would gladly die before letting anything happen to it."

The family squabble continued unabated and in the same vein, Bella was verbally tearing strips off Lucius - and promising more if she ever got her hands on him. This was as near as the residents of the high security wing got to entertainment, and all were discovering secrets at the same time. Lucius' revelation that their master had a muggle father though was a revelation too far for Bella. She was yelling that he was a liar while pounding the stone wall between their cells in an effort to get at Lucius and rip his tongue out for even suggesting something as vile as that about her beloved master.

Augustus Rookwood lay on his thin mattress and absorbed all the information being shouted about like a sponge, he was very good at that. Augustus had entered the ranks of the death eaters with his eyes wide open, and his own personal goals. After suffering dragon pox as a child, Augustus had survived but the disease left its mark - not all of them visible. While his face had enough pockmarks to make people wonder if his parents had allowed him to be used as a chew toy for their pet dog, the after-affects of the potentially fatal disease ran much deeper.

While Augustus' intellect was approaching the genius level, his magical power struggled to scrape average on a good day. Combine that handicap with a complexion that resembled Swiss cheese that was going slightly off, and you could perhaps understand why his time at Hogwarts was not a happy one. The ministry was also disappointing, yes he got to work in the department of mysteries but his lack of power meant the goal of being an unspeakable was denied him. With no family name worth speaking of, and certainly no fortune, he had grasped the opportunity to don the death eater regalia with both hands. Wearing that uniform and mask, Augustus was just as handsome and powerful as anyone else.

What a time he'd had, actually losing his virginity during his first raid on a mudblood's home. Augustus soon fell in love with the double life he was leading. He'd spy for his new master during the day, then at night receive his rewards as the death eaters rampaged throughout Britain - wherever they wanted - unopposed.

His master was smarter than he was, and certainly more powerful - Augustus didn't give two hoots if the dark lord's father was a muggle or a baboon. He himself held no pure blood superiority beliefs, Augustus was honest enough to admit that he became a death eater simply to access what was denied him otherwise - sex and power.

What Augustus heard here today provided his first spark of hope for over a decade, hope that those days of power and plenty might return once more. He of course knew what a horcrux was, though didn't think it was possible for an individual to make more than one. Here again was proof of his master's supreme intellect and unbelievable magical power. If Bella had access to one of their master's horcruxes, Augustus was certain he could bring their master back from the dead. With Dumbledore apparently having fled the country, and the Potter brat living as a goblin, Britain stood wide open for the dark lord's return.

Over the years, Augustus had of course speculated on ways and means to escape from this hellhole. The stumbling block had always been a pressing enough reason to risk his life attempting to escape Azkaban - only to then spend what was left of that life trying to hide from the ministry. He'd been raised with nothing so didn't find the physical conditions in here too severe. A dementor really had to be parked right out side his door for their debilitating effects to penetrate his occlumency, leaving him free to reflect on those stored memories that were by far and away the happiest days of his life.

If he somehow got out of here and then returned his master to life, Augustus was sure his master would reward him by allowing his most loyal death eater to make many more of those wonderful memories. The one memory he was really looking forward to creating was the slow, painful death of that traitorous bastard, Igor Karkaroff. Even if he didn't get to torture and kill the bastard responsible for him being in Azkaban personally, Augustus was certain a grateful dark lord would at least let him watch as their master carried out his own brand of retribution on the traitor. He could easily console himself in the knowledge that their master would certainly inflict a lot more pain on Karkaroff before allowing the traitor to die than Augustus ever could.

With that sweet thought, it was time to plan - Augustus almost felt alive again.


Harry and Hermione felt alive again as they practiced in the room of requirements with their swords. Since their bodies were now fully healed, their morning training made them feel as if things were back to normal - normal for them that is. Bill and Sirius would both be putting in their usual appearance at the weekend, with Sirius promising to consider animagus training for the four. He was trying to gather together some reading material beforehand, with their actual training probably not beginning until the new year. It was a sweaty but happy couple who were making their way back to Ravenclaw, only to find Draco and Pansy in their path.

After waiting on the couple, Draco approached - ensuring that both his empty hands were clearly visible. "Centurion Crow, it would seem I owe you my thanks more than once. I was already in your debt for speaking out about only punishing the guilty, a note from my mother has seen that debt increase. Your generosity in providing new wards for Hogwarts saved the Malfoy fortune, and probably my betrothal to Pansy. My father has been sentenced to life in Azkaban, a punishment I think he deserves. Had you not stopped his plans, the name of Malfoy would have been cursed in Britain for centuries."

Harry could detect no deceit or malice coming from the Slytherin, and the concern radiating from Pansy was certainly genuine. Draco had effectively lost his father, his wealth was locked down and it would seem Pansy's parents were questioning if their daughter should remain with the Malfoy heir. That was a lot of hits to take for anyone, far less someone who had been taught the world should bow at his feet simply because of his last name.

"Mr Malfoy, I did what I needed to do in the hope of protecting Parvati, that you too benefited from this requires no thanks. As to Hogwarts, I am her champion and had to help our friend who was trapped down there. Those wards would have already been in place if Dumbledore had been kicked out before the summer, so again no thanks is necessary. I see no debt between us so please don't consider there to be one."

With the formal part over, Harry tried a different tack. "Draco, we both got off on the wrong foot, I would also like to think we are both different people since that first meeting. I would say we are a way off being friends but I hope have moved past the point of being considered enemies. Your father is paying for his crimes and I bear you and your mother no ill will. Goblins preach live and let live, I think we could do with some of that here."

Harry offered his hand for shaking, and Draco hesitantly took it. The world shifted for the Slytherin at this point in time - had that been a pureblood he'd just made the same offer to, Draco would have been beholden to them for the rest of his life. Crow had treated him with honour and integrity yet logically dismissed any claim of debt between them.

Hermione knew she couldn't interfere between Harry and Draco but had also picked up on Pansy's concern, this was somewhere she could offer advice. "Pansy, I know Draco has been cast from the Black family, I also know Lord Black wouldn't sit back and watch you two parted - if you really wanted to be together. Betrothal is not an option available for Harry and me, that doesn't mean we won't fight like hell to stay together. If that is something you would consider, Sirius is in the castle every weekend. I'm certain he would at least speak to you both.'

Like Draco, Pansy didn't know how to handle this approach. She was as certain as she could possible be that this offer was genuine, as was the thought behind it. As she'd been taught, Pansy was looking for the ulterior motive for making this offer, and coming up empty. This girl had everything - fame, power, smarts, looks, the heir to one of the biggest fortunes in Britain as her serious boyfriend - Hermione Granger didn't need to waste her time playing Pansy Parkinson for a fool.

"Thank you, Hermione, that is certainly something Draco and I will talk about."

Neither couple thought this brief meeting could have gone much better. Just having two purebloods considering different opinions counted as a victory to Harry and Hermione. Draco and Pansy were left reeling. He expected to find himself beholden to Crow, instead they'd shaken hands and a tentative offer of help with their betrothal troubles - namely Pansy's father. Neither knew how Edmund Parkinson would take an approach by Lord Black on the matter, that left them thinking they would use that option only as a last resort.


Hogwarts students once more adapted to their new normal, and life proceeded as usual - classes still had to be taught and there were exams to be passed. Helena was keeping Harry informed on the progress of her fellow ghosts, the current prognosis that they would be back amongst the living for Christmas was still on track.

Dumbledore's absence was barely noticed, the former headmaster wasn't exactly missed.

Augusta was trying to make some sense of his former office, getting the elves to place a lot of the more outlandish nick-nacks into storage. Someone at her door halted the redecorating, only for something even more outlandish to walk into the room. Her defence professor was wearing a set of robes so bright, Henrica Hobson would have struggled to look good in them. On Gilderoy, the overall effect landed somewhere between hideous and ridiculous.

"What can I do for you, Professor."

"It's these new wards, Madam Longbottom, I don't think they're working properly. In fact, I'm sure I've uncovered a serious flaw in them."

The thought that this ponce could in any way possibly be right never entered Augusta's head, all she was thinking about was a means to get him out of here as quickly as possible. That applied to both her office and Hogwarts.

"You are the first person I've heard complaining about the new wards. Can you tell me specifically what you think is wrong with them?"

"Oh, I know they are there to prevent all sorts of nastiness passing into the school but I fear they may be set too severe. Since we returned to the castle almost two weeks ago, I haven't had one piece of fan mail. Betty Crocker has never gone this long without writing before, the wards must be filtering my fan mail out. I hardly think that letters from my fans would count as dark or evil."

Augusta was going to take great delight in explaining the facts of life to this arse. "Professor Lockhart, four young students - my grandson amongst them - went down into that chamber and fought not only a basilisk but Lord Voldemort himself. Meanwhile, it was widely reported that the castle's defence against the dark arts professor was the first person from Hogwarts to arrive at Hogsmeade Village..."

"I ran all the way there to raise the alarm..."

"...a job that had already been done by Minerva and two of the aurors using the floo system. Instead of assisting with the evacuation, you ran for your life. I would say that was the reason for your lack of fan mail, not what literally are some of the best protective wards in the entire world."

You would have thought Gilderoy had been slapped by the way he reacted to that analysis. "Don't be preposterous, Madam, I am Gilderoy Lockhart - my fans would never desert me! I'm five-time winner of Witch Weekly's Most Charming Smile Award, does that sound like someone who wouldn't get any fan mail? You need to see about having these wards repaired, otherwise, I might be forced to leave Hogwarts."

Augusta was delighted the new wards protected the students. If they also got rid of this useless ponce too, she would probably kiss Barchoke the next time they met. "I shall ask Assistant Ambassador Weasley about them when he comes to the castle on Saturday. After all, before his latest promotion, he was a Gringotts curse-breaker."

Mentioning Bill Weasley was perhaps rubbing Gilderoy's nose in it more than a little bit, the redheaded wizard was everything Lockhart pretended to be. He flounced out of her office in a swirl of robes and ringlets, not a happy wizard.


Crow's Marauders now looked upon their tutors with something akin to awe, Dumbledore at the height of his powers would have struggled to gain this level of attention from his students. The only exception to this was a heartbroken Colin, the Longbottom ring on Padma's finger was taking some getting used to for the young wizard. Padma was his first crush, seeing her now betrothed to Neville almost had him in tears every time he saw that ring. Ginny and Luna were certainly helping him understand the Indian beauty simply didn't feel that way about him, and how could he hate Neville when his fellow Gryffindor was going out of his way to ensure the rest of the house didn't make fun of him over the situation.

Fun was certainly back on the agenda as they practiced shields / stinging hex exercises. Since they now all knew exactly what getting hit with a stinging hex felt like, they were allowed to wear dragon hide tunics as they duelled - face shields had been made mandatory. Harry had supplied sets of face shields and tunics purely for this purpose, allowing enough that they could be swapped over while the current duel was taking place. Their aim was now to help their students increase the power of their shields, the only real way to do that was to have someone firing spells at them until it collapsed. There was no reason not to let the dragon hide absorb most of the spell that would eventually get through though.

Their plans were to have them dodging and shielding after Christmas, building up experience to help with the difficult decision of when to do one or the other.

They were firing two stinging hexes at their opponent's shield before then having to receive a couple in return. Anyone whose shield protected them from five or over got cheered, and a chocolate frog. The four fourth years were now a big part of this class too, so much so that Gryffindor, Hufflepuff and Ravenclaw quidditch practices were now arranged around it. The Slytherins had unopposed use of the pitch every Tuesday evening.

Augusta stood with Henrica, there purely to observe but brimming with pride at the same time. As usual, the four second years were concentrating on what they were doing and had totally forgotten the adults were present.

The noise being generated from the duelling meant the two witches didn't need to worry about their conversation being overheard. "This is what defence lessons are supposed to be like, not students swinging from the chandelier because the professor ran away terrified. Even the older boys are hanging on their every word, and working seamlessly together as a team to make everything run smoothly. If every class was taught this well, there wouldn't be a need for me inside Hogwarts."

This drew a wry chuckle from Henrica. "Minerva said pretty much the same when she observed them, she was every bit as impressed. Can I assume you're having no luck in finding someone suitable to take over from Lockhart?"

"Oh, I have the very person in mind, I just need the all clear from the ministry to offer him the job. Let's be honest here, Padma, Hermione, Harry or my Neville can all teach defence better than the person Dumbledore appointed. The proof of that is currently right in front of us."

There was certainly never going to be an argument from Henrica on that subject. Augusta was on a rant though, her anger directed at the former headmaster. "Dumbledore seemed to be building his own little empire here, rather forgetting the people he employed were supposed to be teaching students. Snape was horrible at teaching, yet the board could do nothing because Albus protected him. Harry has managed to force through some exceedingly positive changes, I would certainly include you in that list but it's now up to me to finish the job he started."

Henrica had always gotten the impression Augusta Longbottom was a formidable witch, seeing her impassioned about her new job just confirmed that. In the best British bulldog tradition, she was going to take Hogwarts by the scruff of the neck and shake all those not doing their jobs properly right out of the castle.

"I could never be classed as an expert on muggles, though I'm very proud to say I have two very good friends who are of that persuasion. That's something our muggle studies professor certainly couldn't claim, I doubt if she's actually met any. Even with the time I've spent in the company of the Grangers, I can recognise that most of what she's teaching is wrong. I've sent a copy of the coursework to Dan and Emma for their opinion, I'm not expecting good news."

The new High Inquisitor was left shaking her head at her next revelation. "Minerva refused to comment on the divination teacher, saying her own opinion was this subject should not be part of the Hogwarts curriculum. After visiting the class, I'm inclined to agree. The students are being taught the methods of divination but, unless they have the gift, they are wasting their time. You might as well hand a stick to a muggle and tell them how to make something float. They could learn the wand movements and annunciate Wingardium Leviosa until they're blue in the face - they still won't be able to make anything float!"

"Is this a bigger job than you expected?"

"Henrica, I honestly can't believe the mess Dumbledore has left behind. Apart from those I've mentioned, when Neville arrived at Hogwarts there was a bigoted ghost teaching his own version of history, a death eater teaching potions and a Voldemort possessed wizard instructing the students on defence. We've had trolls and a basilisk, what's next - dementors?"

When it was all put together like that, it really was a damming indictment of the previous headmaster. "Dumbledore always gave me the impression that he wasn't used to people saying no to him. He'd gotten his own way for so long that he began to believe he could do no wrong. More than once I had to remind him that he was not my employer, and that the course I am teaching has already been agreed upon - purposely to bring Hogwarts up to the same standard as the rest of Europe."

The lesson was now finishing and all the first years sat on the floor as hot chocolate appeared in front of each student. The relaxed way they all accepted this, and the critique of tonight's lesson that followed astonished Augusta. They had started tonight's lesson by explaining exactly what they hope to achieve, now they were all sitting and discussing whether they had achieved their goals. Questions and answers flowed easily in both directions, it appeared an informal arrangement yet respect was there from all sides.

Harry then gave them a general outline of what they would be doing next week before calling it a night. The four fourth years then led the first years back to their dorms, Fred Weasley happily leading the Slytherins' down to the dungeons.

When they had left, Augusta pulled Neville and Padma into an embrace. "I am so proud of you, all four of you. I have spent my time here observing professors teaching their subject, what I just witnessed was up there with the best of them. That was simply brilliant - and restored an old witch's faith that Hogwarts can once more be the premier magical school in the world."

Neville was beaming at the praise, they all worked hard preparing for this class but really enjoyed passing on what they had learned. "Thanks, gran. We were hoping to hold a Christmas Party for them the last week of term, who do we need to ask for permission?"

"You certainly have mine, and I can't see Minerva objecting. If they work like that every week then a party is certainly well deserved. First year students casting shields, I wouldn't have believed it if I hadn't seen it for myself."

Padma was also beaming at the praise, and basking in the acceptance she was being shown as Neville's betrothed. "Professor Weasley taught it to us in first year, we didn't see any reason for not teaching it to them."

This saw a sigh of frustration emitted from Augusta. "Have you any idea how difficult my job becomes when three of the best teachers in the school don't work for Hogwarts?"

It was a totally serious Neville who faced his grandmother. "...but gran, there's four of us!"

This saw Hermione theatrically palming her face. "Oh great, just what we need - Neville channelling Padma."

This saw a tickling hex heading in Hermione's direction, only for Padma's hex to be deflected by her bracelet shield - straight to Augusta. Neville and Harry had the counter cast in seconds, only for Augusta to burst out laughing anyway. The fact that her once painfully shy grandson now felt confident enough to joke with her was certainly an occasion worthy of laughter.


There wasn't much laughter amongst the three people in the minister's office, Cornelius couldn't quite believe what he was hearing. Amelia spelled it out very simply.

"Cornelius, I know these people. You try to give them different levels of award, they will throw them back in your face - and all the gains you've made in the last year will be for nothing."

The minister was a political animal and knew what this group publicly refusing ministerial awards would do to his popularity ratings, he also explained the other side of the equation to his head of DMLE. "You may be right, Amelia, but think of the alternative. Can you really see me surviving trying to award a Swedish veela, an Indian witch and a muggle born an Order of Merlin, First Class? The Wizengamot would have me out on my ear."

Amelia knew this would be a tough sell, the head of the DMLE also knew she was right though. "You're looking at this all wrong, Cornelius. Where you see a veela, I see one of Hogwarts' most popular professors - a professor who will become engaged to Lord Black on Boxing Day. I already have my invitation. Where you see a witch of Indian origin, I see a brilliant young lady of ancient magical linage that just became betrothed to Neville Longbottom. They fought bravely together, can you honestly see him accepting a higher award than his wife to be?"

This news had Cornelius floundering since none of it had appeared in the Prophet. With the public perception and level of adulation of this group, the last thing the Prophet wanted to do was alienate any of them by forging ahead and making any announcements - they were waiting on official notification from those involved. Amelia then went in for the kill, she was well aware which award would cause the biggest outcry in the Wizengamot chamber.

"Hermione Granger is certainly a muggle born, she is also academically head of her year group - need I remind you who else is in that year group? This witch is also a friend of the goblin nation and you weren't in the Chamber of Secrets to see what happened just after the beast had been killed. A twelve year old girl took on the biggest bloody basilisk the world has ever seen - with a goblin sword! Every goblin down there was treating Hermione like some kind of warrior princess - I have it on very good authority that Ragnok is strutting around Gringotts as pleased as Punch that his gamble to make that award to her has paid off far more handsomely than he could ever have imagined. Do you really want to insult them too?"

Like any good auror, Amelia had been trained to use her big spells when they counted most - she released them here. "So, you have a brilliant young witch whose boyfriend, Centurion Crow, is totally besotted with her. Only goblin culture stands between that couple becoming betrothed too. She will be welcomed into Gringotts with open arms and don't forget, that same boyfriend has a massive choice to make before he's seventeen. Surely you can see how the ministry publicly insulting Hermione must affect Harry's decision?"

Cornelius now had his head in his hands. "Of course I can see that! How is that any worse though than trying to push it through the Wizengamot - and failing? Amos, what do you think?"

Amos Diggory was still getting used to being the Chief Warlock, what was important to him though was that he did the job properly. He had a wife and son that he loved more than life itself, those were the two most important opinions to Amos. He already knew what Cedric would say. "They fight as a team, Cornelius, whatever the battle and whoever the opponent. I had some long chats with my son over this matter, he's very friendly with all four of them. Had they asked, he would have been down there with them! He and three other fourth years take part in their training every Sunday, and every Sunday they get their arses kicked. After seeing what they did in the Chamber of Secrets, Cedric now thinks getting his arse kicked is a badge of honour - no one else can get near them."

Again, this was something Fudge had not heard before, Cedric had only told his father after the Hogwarts evacuation sent him homeward.

"Did you know that once a week, those four teach the entire first year Defence against the Dark Arts. They have first years producing protego shields..."

"WHAT! Preposterous..."

"That's exactly what I said, Cornelius, until Cedric told me he helps with their lessons - and saw it with his own eyes. The first year call themselves 'Crow's Marauders', have an official club badge and everything. Oh, the club is also staff sponsored by Professor Hobson, the same veela who probably saved all their lives down in the Chamber of Secrets. They were all in equal danger, they all played their part in the victory so therefore should all be treated the same."

With a groan, Cornelius' head slumped onto his desktop. "Damned if I do, damned if I don't! Has either of you got any other options for me?"

This was what Amelia was waiting for. "Cornelius, I thought the stroke you pulled with the goblin ambassador was masterful, so why rest on your laurels? Let's keep pushing reforms and, if we go down, we go down fighting for what we believe in - for what is right."

"If it's all the same to you, Amelia, I'd rather not go down at all. I'm all out of brilliant ideas at the moment so anything you have will certainly be listened to."

Amelia just had a flash of how Cornelius must have felt trying to sell her the idea of a Goblin Ambassador, this one though was even more out there. "In all this, we haven't mentioned the one name at the centre of everything we've discussed - were you just going to hand Harry another Order of Merlin?"

This got another groan from the minister. "What happened to keeping them all the same?"

"They will be the same, Harry's already got one! What he doesn't have is a title." Amelia held her hand up to stop the expected interruptions. "Harry Potter is heir to a title, Harry Crow is not. Harry is also Hogwarts Champion, a title he will hold for life. I propose we grant him a piece of land, near Hogwarts, with a house and a title. Harry Crow, Baron of Kingussie."

Amos had to interrupt, Amelia had clearly overlooked something. "...except that Harry Crow is a goblin, and goblins can't live anywhere but Gringotts..." The words dried up in his throat as Amos realised Amelia had overlooked nothing. "...are you crazy?"

"Crazy as a fox - who's going to give a shit about a muggle born witch being awarded an Order of Merlin, First Class, when compared to that?"

The minister totally agreed with that assessment. "Yes, they'll be far too busy chasing us out of our offices with pitchforks and burning torches."

"Ah, but then we release our secret weapon..."

That led to a pause in the discussion, a pause that was eventually broken by the minister. "Are you going to tell us what this secret weapon is?"

With a canny smile, Amelia revealed her idea. "How about some extremely positive goblin publicity? Publicity so positive, we will all want a goblin neighbour. Don't underestimate the popularity of another summer awards ball either, especially when that ball is for the Heroes of Hogwarts - and will have the new Baron of Kingussie in attendance."

Cornelius was now very interested, positive publicity always had his attention.

"For over a decade, two prominent pure blood aurors have resided in ward forty nine of St Mungo's - they were alive but took no part in the world around them. They are not there anymore. A few weeks ago I visited them, I sat and had a conversation with Alice Longbottom."

Amelia was renowned for her stoicism but both men could see the emotion clearly etched on her face as she talked about this. "They are currently in a goblin medical facility and have even visited a muggle hospital. The point is, our best healers could do nothing for them yet, in our arrogance, we ignored all other options. Frank and Alice will never be the people they were before but they are already far beyond what the remaining Longbottom family had hoped for."

The politician in Cornelius was very weary of this. "Just what is the goblins' angle on this?"

"Cornelius, the answer is exceedingly simple - and nothing to do with politics. Not only is Neville one of Harry's best friends, Alice Longbottom is his godmother. Apart from you and Amos here, I have discussed this idea with no one else. There has been no goblin input or scheme, I'm simply offering an alternative to the shocking embarrassment that Miss Granger being denied her award would bring."

"Are you saying the goblins have no plans to publish this, rubbing our noses in the fact we couldn't heal our own people?"

Amelia could understand the minister's view, they really knew so little about the goblin nation. "When holidaying with Harry over the summer, I got to know Barchoke a lot better - Susan considers him a kind of honorary uncle now. He told me that one of the dreams his nation had was that his son's wedding would see witches, wizards, muggles and goblins all in attendance. I don't see anything wrong with that dream and hope to be one of the witches invited - you better believe everyone will be treated equally by the bride and groom."

Amos tried to be the voice of reason here. "Amelia, I don't see anything wrong with that dream either. Dreams are good but we have to face reality here, I think changing another law that affects the goblins is too much, too soon."

"Amos, I agree with you except for one glaring problem. The boy-who-lived deciding to remain a goblin would make our government the laughing stock of Europe - if not the world." No one present could dispute what a disaster that outcome would be so Amelia spelled out some more facts.

"A wizard killed both his parents, and tried to do the same to him while he was still a babe. It was witches and wizards that placed his godfather in Azkaban and his godmother in St Mungo's. It was also a wizard that abandoned him on a muggle doorstep as a baby - are you seeing the pattern here?"

Both Cornelius and Amos were rather green about the gills at just how badly their society had failed their saviour. Amelia though was by no means finished.

"Now, the other side of the coin has the goblins raising Harry to be a fine young man. They were instrumental in freeing his godfather, are totally responsible for bringing back his godmother and treat his chosen girl as a princess. Knowing all that, we need to look at our problem again. Harry thinks of himself as a goblin, and that is the side of him we need to appeal to if we want any chance of that decision ever going in our favour. He won't give a shit about being Baron of Kingussie but he will proudly accept it, knowing the impact it will have on his nation. Is it too much, too soon - yes. Can we afford not to do this - that is what we need to decide here."

Cornelius was between a rock and a hard place, his choices appeared to be get squashed or try and blast his way out. "Do you really think the goblins announcing they managed to heal people we couldn't will have such a positive impact?"

"Absolutely not - but Augusta Longbottom announcing it would. Both she and Neville feel they owe the goblins a debt that can never be repaid, this would be her opportunity to do so. When Augusta Longbottom speaks, witches and wizards the length and breadth of Britain will listen. There are those we will never convince, just like there are those we won't have to - Harry's involvement being enough to guarantee their votes. It's the moderates in the centre we need to convince. It will be hard, it will be close but I think we can pull this off."

Cornelius couldn't think of any other alternatives with another old idiom popping into his mind - he might as well be hung for a sheep as a lamb. Failing to gain approval for Miss Granger's award would just as surely end his political career as Harry's supposed title would, probably not so swiftly though. He was thinking of something that might just tilt the scales more in their favour. "Do you think we could get the goblins to open a Gringotts branch in Hogsmeade? That would certainly help the local businesses and might even see the village grow."

Amelia privately thought she could get a lot more than that from the goblins if they could change this law. She nodded her agreement before cautiously proceeding. "If we are really going to go ahead with this, can I suggest I privately approach Harry, Augusta and Barchoke on this matter? I would like to gain their opinions before we pass this over to Arthur."

Cornelius looked to Amos. "I've got nothing better, Minister. While I still think we're proceeding too fast, the proposal will certainly have my personal and public support."

"Okay, Amelia, proceed with caution and then we'll have another meeting to decide if this is definitely going ahead. At that point, we'll bring Arthur into the mix. Do we have anything else that needs to be dealt with tonight?"

"Just one thing, Augusta wants to know if she can have ministerial backing for offering the Defence against the Dark Arts position to a werewolf."

With that, Cornelius' head was once more back on his desk.

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