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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24. Memories of a Terrible Night

There was a certain apprehension of expectation hanging heavy in the air, a tension that had been felt on the train but assuredly climbed in intensity as the four friends entered the great hall. The friends appeared to be the only ones unaffected by this apprehensive atmosphere, chatting amongst themselves as to why three of them could see the Thestrals - yet Neville could not. The group were sitting at the Ravenclaw table, discussing whether watching as Harry saved Hermione and Padma from the troll counted as seeing death, the troll certainly ended up deceased. They were deliberately paying no attention to what was happening around them, that couldn't be allowed to continue.

"Big brass ones, Fred."

"Brass? Our Harry here wouldn't settle for anything so coarse and common as brass. Pure diamond, hardest substance known to man."

"Ah gentlemen, well Fred and George - how was your holiday?"

"Obviously not as exciting as yours..."

Harry laughed at that. "Guys, you don't know the half of it. Now a certain Padfoot wondered if the best pranksters in the school might just have come across an old piece of parchment that belonged to him?"

Gobsmacked was a new look for the twins, but they seemed to have no problem pulling it off.

"If so, he was also wondering if you would consider passing this piece of parchment on to the son of Prongs - namely yours truly!"

Yes, both Fred and George could now claim to have mastered the gobsmacked look.

Enjoying watching the twins in this state, Harry used his most officious voice to deliver the final part of his message. "If the answer to both of those questions were to be yes, I'm authorised to set up a meeting between yourselves and the aforementioned marauder, Padfoot."

Harry found a piece of old parchment being thrust into his hands as the twins sank to there knees and bowed. "Oh mighty son of Prongs, we are honoured to be in the same castle with one such as you..."

"Can we really meet Padfoot?"

This was too much for Harry and he started to laugh. "How does Saturday grab you?" It was Harry who found himself grabbed by two emotional twins.

"You wouldn't play a prank on us about this..."

"...because that would be seriously unfunny."

Hermione was the one who put their minds at rest, well, kicked those devious minds into overdrive actually. "Guys, he stayed at my house for most of last week. I don't think I've ever seen my parents laugh so much, the prank war between the three of us and him really escalated. Staying at Padma's last night was the first time I was able to sleep with both eyes closed this week."

The twins wanted details but the staff entering meant they and Neville had to head over to the Gryffindor table. "Told you George, that boy is a diamond."

"We need a better name than 'Budgie' for the son of Prongs though..."

Roger, like most of the hall, had been watching Harry. "It really doesn't bother you that Dumbledore is going to be sitting just up there?"

"If it did, Roger, I wouldn't have returned. My issues with the old man are still the same as they were in September. There may be one or two more questions I would like a truthful answer to but, apart from that, nothing has really changed."

"You really think holding a sword to Dumbledore changes nothing?"

"For me it doesn't," Harry honestly answered. "The man pulled a wand on an unarmed member of my family, not something I was ever going to stand there and allow. Problem dealt with and over, I'll bet Dumbledore wants to forget all about it too."

This saw Roger shaking his head, "I never thought I would agree with the Weasley twins, but definitely diamond, Harry."

When Dumbledore stood, welcomed everyone back and began the feast, it was like pulling the plug in the bath and the tension began to drain from the castle. It would appear Harry was right, and the headmaster wanted nothing more than to forget all about that humiliating picture.

It was a different picture that had sent tempers soaring at Malfoy Manor. The sight of Crow wrapped in the new Lord Black's arms put the final touch to what had already been a pretty dismal Christmas.

Normally, the Malfoy family would have to decide which parties or balls they would grace with their presence. This Christmas they hadn't received one single invitation, not even to the Annual Ministry New Year Ball. With no gold to even consider holding one of their own, and dreading facing the possible indignity of no one bothering to attend if they had, it was easily the worst Christmas of Draco's life.

Then to see any hope of receiving the Black inheritance disappear, on the front page of the Prophet no less, was just kicking someone while they were down. It was now obvious why his mother could never access the Black vaults, Sirius must have named someone as his heir. The reaction of both parties shown in that photograph made it pretty obvious just who that someone was. Not content with freezing the Malfoy fortune, Crow had now stolen his Black inheritance too.

His father had instructed him to keep an eye on Crow, and especially those around him. Draco would have done that anyway. What he needed was someone to wind up and point at Crow. The problem with that idea though was Draco couldn't think of anyone stupid enough to actually do that, the whole of magical Britain must have seen his sword at Dumbledore's throat.

As if that wasn't bad enough, the mudblood bitch was now walking about with a clearly goblin forged blade on her hip too. Draco would have loved to get her into trouble for that but was sure they would have checked the Hogwarts handbook and found some loophole that allowed it. If someone else wanted to put forward a complaint, Draco would sit back and enjoy the show. His main objective at Hogwarts though was to stay out of Crow's way. With his mother paying tuition and board for all seven years, he really had no other options.

-oOoOo-

Hermione rhapsodised over the charm work involved in making the marauder's map, Padma's eyes twinkled wickedly as she claimed they could spy on who was using all the school broom cupboards. Harry though had an entirely different approach from both his friends. He thought of the wonderful tactical advantages the map supplied, and wondered if any of the staff had similar items.

This drew a harumph from Hermione, "Why does everything have to be about battles and tactics with you, Harry."

He pointed toward where Moonlight was currently stalking the tasseled end of a woollen scarf, hanging over a sofa in the common room. "Would you say your kitten was having fun?"

"Of course she is..."

"...yet at the same time Moonlight's practicing skills she will need as she grows into adulthood. Goblins are a warrior race, so what they teach their children has practical uses. Gaining an advantage over an opponent, whether in banking or combat, is a skill that needs to be nurtured. Just like you would be taught not to touch hot things, or eat stuff that would do you harm, we just have a different set of survival skills. Padma or I wouldn't have a clue how to cross one of your busy London roads without getting knocked down, I'll bet that was something you were taught from a very young age."

"Yes, we had the green cross code man. The actor then went on to play Darth Vader in the Star Wars series."

"Okay, I'm with Harry on this one. Basically because I didn't understand a word of what you just said. Well, that's not exactly true. I recognised it was english, even most of the words, it was just the order you used them in that confused the hell out of me."

Hermione appeared ready to go into far greater detail until Padma put her finger against her friend's lips. "Stop, Hermione. You telling us more about Green Vader or Darth Wars isn't going to help. We simply don't have anything to compare it to."

She admitted defeat, for now. Hermione promised both of them would be watching Star Wars just as soon as she could manage it. It was time for bed after a tiring day.

-oOoOo-

The week seemed to drag as they waited for the weekend. Saturday finally came and they briskly headed off for their extra defence lesson. Harry and Hermione had kept up their exercising throughout the holidays so picked right up where they had left off, Padma and Neville weren't so lucky - Professor Weasley pushed them hard.

With Professor Flitwick attending for the second half of the lesson, both of their swords got to see some action. Filius was full of praise for how quickly Hermione was progressing, but was left speechless in his battle with Harry.

As their blades clashed while both fought for the advantage, the charms professor suddenly found himself with a long stalk of celery in his hand - where once had been a sword. This was sliced through before Harry's blade shot out strange ropes that wrapped the shocked head of house up tightly.

"How did you do that?" was all Filius could manage to say.

"I don't know sir, but ever since that fight at Sirius' trial I've been able to cast with my sword."

"I would tell no one about this Harry, it could be a big advantage for you."

"My father is already excited at the prospect of my next duel with Master Sharpshard, he wants a copy of that memory for himself, and the director."

After lunch, it was finally time for the lesson they had all been looking forward to. Sirius didn't disappoint. He went over the basics of polite behaviour before changing the environment into that of a dance. He also had one more trick up his sleeve, Professor Hobson was invited along to be his dance partner.

They demonstrated the steps and then had both couples emulate their actions. Harry and Hermione were both quick learners but Neville struggled, probably from having the young witch in his arms. Sensing this, Padma took action.

"So, Longbottom, you're fine with firing curses at me all morning, but can't handle putting your hand on my waist?"

"What, no...well, not really."

"Neville, we're friends. Relax and let's enjoy dancing together. If your hand goes somewhere inappropriate, my knee will let your groin know."

This had Neville laughing and soon saw him relax. He did ensure his hand didn't slip in the slightest though, Neville was positive Padma wasn't joking about that knee.

Harry and Hermione were sure this would be their favourite lesson of the week, holding each other as they learned to dance was just fine as far as they were concerned. Sirius though threw a spanner into their works.

"At a formal ball, you will be expected to dance with other people too..."

Sirius said this while cutting in on the best friends, leaving Harry dancing with the professor while he twirled Hermione around the floor.

"Harry, I know I'm not Hermione but it is customary to at least pay your dance partner some attention."

"Sorry professor, I've kinda lost my enthusiasm for balls if it means I have to watch Hermione dancing with other people. I have no problems with family or friends, but does this mean anyone can just walk up and she has to dance with them?"

Henrica just had to laugh, this was so strange for her. She had a young man in her arms, yet he was worried about who his girl was possibly going to be dancing with. For the veela, this was simply priceless. It was usually the ladies who were worried about the gentleman she was dancing with. "Harry, you really are something else. If Hermione were to attend a ball as your date, any gentleman would have to ask your permission to dance with her. I'll make sure Sirius teaches you the ins and outs of that maze of social quicksand. Even though you may think she's worth it, I'm sure the director wouldn't want one of his centurions starting a 'goblin rebellion' over Hermione's dance card."

While the mere thought of someone like Malfoy or Ron Weasley with their arms around Hermione had him wanting to draw his sword, this news drew a smile from Harry. He was a centurion though for a reason. "Why Professor Hobson, are you teasing me? I noticed you were very close to my godfather, should I be worried?"

She couldn't help but smile at his comeback. "It is rare to find men who are unaffected by my allure, but two in the one family! Thankfully, your godfather is neither my employer nor eleven - even though he appears to act younger than you sometimes."

"I heard that! Did you miss me?"

"When I had such a charming replacement? I hardly think so, Lord Black. Unfortunately, this young goblin did miss his dance partner, leaving me heartbroken and stuck with you."

This was all said with a smile as the dancing resumed with the original couples intact.

"You seemed sad when you were dancing Harry, I thought every male in the castle wanted to be in Professor Hobson's arms?"

"She was explaining that there are rules for balls and dances, I didn't like the idea that whoever wants could just come along and we would have to dance with them. Sirius will need to teach me the rules before I end up having to fight duels for telling folk to get lost. There must be a polite way of refusing without having to draw my sword, I'll just have to learn it."

Hermione found her head resting on his chest. "My protector from trolls, even those in dress robes. We really do need a better name for you than budgie, I think 'swift' fits the bill, and it's still a bird."

"I think we need to swiftly dance with Padma and Neville, before Sirius decides to split them up. Neville's just beginning to cope with Padma, Professor Hobson would blow his mind."

Harry enjoyed dancing with Padma, and could see Hermione and Neville having fun together too. He could imagine a group of them going to a dance and having a ball together, Harry began to relax after realising things were nowhere near as bad as he first thought.

It was a happy group who left the room of requirements, to find Dumbledore waiting for them in the corridor. Sirius, Henrica and especially Harry were all instantly on high alert. Dumbledore attempted to be as non threatening as possible as he held out the parcel in his hands.

Albus needed this to work and had studied what he was going to say closely. He'd noticed the lad always referred to Barchoke as his father, while James and Lily were mum and dad. Even a little thing like this could be the difference between making a connection with the lad or being rebuffed again.

"Harry, your dad left this with me. I think it's time it was returned to it's rightful owner."

It was with great caution Harry took the offered parcel, he even used his knife to slice through the wrappings. The shimmering material the parcel held drew an audible gasp from Sirius. "Harry, that's your father's invisibility cloak. He got it from his father, it's been in the Potter family for generations..."

His face could have been carved from stone but Harry was living up to the twins' billing. The young centurion's eyes were like diamonds, diamonds that were cutting into an uncomfortable Dumbledore. "Can I ask how this came to be in your possession, Headmaster Dumbledore?"

For the life of him Albus couldn't understand the hostility that was simply pouring off the lad, what had he done wrong this time? "I asked your dad if I could borrow the cloak to study it, I never got the chance to return it..."

At that, Harry turned his back on the headmaster. He needed information from his godfather. "Sirius, my father says my mum and dad were a very smart couple, would you agree with that?"

"Your dad was very smart Harry, but your mum was simply brilliant."

"Then please help me understand, Sirius, because this makes them appear like a couple of idiots. Why would these two clever people give up a potentially life-saving tactical advantage, just so Albus bloody Dumbledore could study it?" Harry's hostility had switched to absolute fury, and only one person had any hope of containing the explosion.

His best friend had her hand back on his arm and speaking in the gentlest voice she could. "Harry, we don't understand what you're trying to say. Can you explain..."

He seemed transported to another time and place, it was also as if he and Hermione were the only two people in the entire world. Quick as a flash, Harry had the cloak around her shoulders.

"Lily, take Harry and go! It's him! Go! Run! I'll hold him off..."

Hermione was instantly caught up in the moment too, mesmerised by the intensity in those green eyes. "I...I don't think I can leave you...you can't ask me that..."

"You must, our son will need one of us..."

Harry's forehead was now resting on Hermione's as he pleaded with her, before leaning back and flicking the cloak's hood up. Hermione may have disappeared but no one was looking in her direction anyway, all eyes were on Harry.

It took three attempts before Sirius managed to get his throat to actually make some noise. "Dear Merlin, Harry, do you remember that night?"

The young lad was bereft of emotion as he glacially answered his godfather with words he'd not spoken since being a scared little child, being wakened from a nightmare. "Not Harry, not Harry, please not Harry! - Stand aside you silly girl … stand aside now. - Not Harry, please no, take me, kill me instead ... Not Harry! Please … have mercy … have mercy… "

An invisible sobbing girl smashed into her best friend, shocking him back to the present. Harry noticed there wasn't a dry eye in the corridor, even Dumbledore had tears on his cheeks. That didn't stop Harry focusing on the old wizard, though his rage was back under control. "My mum and dad could have gone anywhere in the world, yet they stayed in a cottage and hid behind an obscure spell. They had a means of escape yet handed it over to you. These are not the actions of the smart people everyone tells me they were. There is not one shred of doubt both of them loved me, my dad and mum gave their lives so I could live. As their son, I swear I will get to the bottom of what happened that night, and any part you played in it, Headmaster. I thank you for returning my property."

It was disconcerting, and downright weird, seeing a pair of arms that had emerged out of nowhere and circled around Harry's torso. Just as Harry seemed to have his arm hanging suspended in midair, right about where the sound of sobbing was slowly stopping. "Sirius, I'm not really up to dinner with the twins, and you did promise. I'll see you for lessons tomorrow..."

Harry walked away, whispering to a still invisible Hermione as he went. Padma was holding onto Neville and crying too, Henrica was watching them closely. Sirius didn't know whether to cry or hit someone. Dumbledore nearly made his mind up for him.

"Sirius, surely you don't think I had anything to do with..."

"I wouldn't believe Albus bloody Dumbledore if he said tomorrow was Sunday. I can promise you this though, you'll find a goblin blade in your gut if you did have anything to do with James and Lily's deaths. Whether the hand holding that blade is Harry's, his father's or even Miss Granger's is something I hope you never have to discover."

Henrica helped her two students along, with Sirius following on behind. Albus was left standing in the corridor alone, with his plan shattered into a million pieces. What was worse, he had absolutely no idea of what had just taken place - how could a simple gift go so horribly wrong?

-oOoOo-

Hermione was using a hanky to wipe her eyes, and trying to lighten Harry's mood. "Your dad and your godfather would be very proud of you. You've not had that cloak an hour yet, but already used it to smuggle a girl into your room."

He did try to smile but Harry's heart wasn't really in it at the moment. "Not when they found out I'd made that same girl cry..."

Hermione was soon sitting beside him, and slipping her hand into his. "Oh Harry, you didn't make me cry. It was just discovering you could remember that horrible night that shocked everyone."

"Our healers think it's a consequence of having a part of Voldemort inside me, even if only for a few days. They couldn't tell whether they were my memories, or the last few seconds of his. My father was offered the chance to remove them but declined, I'm glad he did. Those memories might not be very nice but they're all I've got of my mum and dad, I couldn't lose them. Those memories are also the reason I will finish off Voldemort, not because of some stupid prophecy."

Hermione just squeezed his hand, what other answer could she give.

Harry asked Hogwarts if she could let their friends and Sirius know they were fine. The castle took it a step further and provided them both with an evening meal. They enjoyed a quiet night together before using the map and cloak to smuggle Hermione safely, and unseen, back to her dorm.

-oOoOo-

Things were back to normal by their run and exercises next morning, though Padma drew a few strange glances in the common room when she flew into Harry's arms as they met before going down to breakfast.

"I'm fine, Padma. I hadn't thought of that for a while, it kinda jumped out on me..."

"I'm just glad you took Hermione with you, no one should have been alone after remembering that."

"The hat put me in Ravenclaw for a reason, Padma. It would have been an incredibly stupid idea not to have Hermione with me, and a stupid Ravenclaw is a contradiction in terms. There's also the matter of needing a crowbar to get her arms to let go..."

A hand slipped into it's usual place on his arm. "You wish, Crow, you wish."

Hermione being the one doing the teasing generated smiles from both Harry and Padma as the trio headed of for breakfast, and to meet Neville.

Albus and Henrica were both pleased to see Harry appeared back to his normal self, though for different reasons. The young history professor had been as shocked as anyone last night at Harry's revelations, it had taken a dinner with Sirius and the Weasley twins to lift her spirits. It would seem an evening with Hermione had fulfilled the same function for the young centurion.

It was more relief that Albus felt, relief that he didn't seem to have done any more permanent damage than what transpired last night. The young man now sitting with his friends at the Ravenclaw table looked the picture of health and contentment. Had Harry sat there sullen, and staring daggers at his headmaster, it would have led to questions Albus didn't want to answer. His biggest question though was where did he go from here? Albus was going to have to rely on providence presenting an opportunity for him to exploit, he had nothing else left at his disposal.

-oOoOo-

After their lesson with Sirius, he asked for some time to chat with his godson. Professor Hobson took the other three along, leaving the pair to say what was needed.

"I spoke to your father last night, he told me about the nightmares when you were younger."

"I was three or four, Sirius, I've got over it. Just thinking how they could have used my dad's cloak brought it all back, spending some time with Hermione helped me put those memories back in their box."

Seeing his godson didn't want to talk about it, and being warned by Barchoke to expect this reaction, Sirius changed the topic. "Henrica told me you were worried about other guys trying to muscle in on your date, well there are quite a few ways you can put a stop to that..."

Harry was now all ears as the castle once more provided food, just as well as the time appeared to fly away.

"Now, when speaking to your father last night, he was totally unaware of the very important date that's just over four weeks away. From that, I assume that you've never heard of Valentine's Day either? February the fourteenth is a day that can make or break you, so there has to be some thought goes into it. The worst thing possible is to be running around at the last minute, trying to pull something out the fire for your loved one. We both know Hermione deserves better than that."

"Sirius, if this is a prank, I swear I'll..."

"Ask Neville, and then decide what you want to do. My offer of help extends to him too, being raised by his gran might not have prepared him for this. I promise I won't make a fool of you, it might not be a wooden sword in Hermione's hand next time."

Harry wouldn't commit to any more just now, not at least until he had spoken to Neville about it.

"Oh, I meant to say to you yesterday. You can relax, all those nasty betrothal contracts have been refused. I just wrote a standard letter for all of them and your father arranged their delivery..." Sirius stopped talking as Harry had a worried look on his face, the marauder's map was soon spread in front of him.

"Harry, what's the matter?"

"I hope nothing...oh shit, I really should know better. My luck seems to be running about its usual level, please tell me those weren't two of the names you refused?" The map clearly showed Hermione and Padma moving along to Ravenclaw Tower after dinner. What neither of the girls could see was that Marietta and Cho appeared to be standing waiting for them.

-oOoOo-

Both girls had really enjoyed their extra lessons today, and were giggling amongst themselves at how well Sirius and Professor Hobson were getting along. It already seemed a sure thing that Sirius would be there if and when she joined them on their summer holiday. They were also sure Sirius could cope better upon seeing the beautiful blonde in a bathing suit than Neville would. It was also wrong to giggle at the thought their friend's head might actually explode from embarrassment, that didn't stop them giggling though. It was only after they were spoken to that the girls noticed they had company.

"We have two happy witches here, Marietta, looks like this pair never got sent letters saying they weren't wanted."

"Yeah, we never even got a chance. These two had their hooks into him since that first night. Not bloody fair, my father is angry and accusing me of not really trying. What was I supposed to do?"

Hermione tried to stay calm, and prevent this escalating into a fight. "It wouldn't have made any difference no matter what you would've done..." Cho jumped right down her throat before she could say anymore.

"So sure of yourself, aren't you, Granger? It's no wonder no one else can stand you."

There was a time those words could have decimated Hermione, but she now knew they were merely said out of spite. The girl currently by her side had stayed right there on more than one sticky occasion, and showed no inclination to run away here. Hermione was also good friends with Neville, witches and wizards from all four houses, and then of course there was Harry. Just thinking about him gave her the strength and confidence to say what she intended.

"If you would just shut up and listen, I'll give you the information you're missing. Goblins don't use betrothal contracts, believing their children should choose their own mates. Lord Black refused all the betrothal contracts his godson had received."

This caused Marietta to stop and think, but Cho had already assigned a name to all her perceived injustices and woe's. That name was Hermione Granger. "You still think you're going to stroll into Hogwarts and waltz away with the big prize, the boy-who-lived is not for the likes of you."

Padma was wishing they hadn't swapped their duelling robes for the dancing lessons, that didn't mean she was going to back down though. "Oh I don't know, Cho, Hermione's just spent the last few hours waltzing in Harry's arms. He didn't seem to mind at all..."

Cho knew her family were counting on her snagging the boy-who-lived, the prestige, not to mention the fortune, would catapult the Changs straight into the top echelon of British magical society. To have all that snatched away from her by this plain little witch with no breeding was not something she was going to stand for.

"I'll show Harry who the better witch is...diffindo!" Cho cast the cutting curse with enough force to slice through clothes and draw some blood. All the blood drained from her face as the curse just bounced right off.

Hermione had every confidence her bracelet would protect her from anything Cho Chang was able to cast. That was why, instead of dodging, Hermione took the decision to take the hit while she drew her sword. As the spell rebounded, Cho stood there stunned for a second, this was all the time Hermione needed. Her sword whispered through the air, and removed the top inch and a half of her attacker's wand.

Marietta stood with her hands up and held palm outward, the universal sign she was unarmed. Padma now had her wand out, covering Marietta so she wouldn't interfere.

Harry had easily outrun his godfather, arriving on the scene as the point of Hermione's sword had a now terrified Cho pinned against the corridor wall. Padma had her wand out, covering Hermione's back as they had began to draw a crowd. "Are you both okay?"

"We're fine, Harry, Cho here wanted to prove to you and the school who was the better witch. I think Hermione just settled that argument, don't you?" Padma wanted no one to be in any doubt who had won here, though a clearly terrified Cho was a rather large visual clue.

McGonagall soon bustled along the corridor. "Kindly lower that blade this instant, Miss Granger, and I would appreciate an explanation." The Deputy Headmistress's tone told everyone this was not a request, rather a demand.

Hermione sheathed her blade. Disgusted with herself that the look of terror on Cho's face had initially excited her, Hermione Granger was no bully. "We had a private disagreement, professor. It should not have escalated to this, and for that I apologise."

"I want to know what this 'private disagreement' was about, and also why you resorted to using a sword on a fellow student?"

Not wanting Cho's personal business broadcast all over the castle, Hermione dug her heels in. "The first part is not mine to tell, professor. I drew my sword purely for defence, and it's against Hogwarts rules to use magic in the corridors."

Harry had a quick whispered conversation with Padma and had his suspicions confirmed, he stepped beside Hermione. "Professor, perhaps I can offer an explanation."

"Were you involved in this too, Mr Crow?"

"Not directly, but I believe a misunderstanding may have been the cause. I would like to clear up that misunderstanding, to make sure this doesn't happen again."

McGonagall couldn't really say no to that. The last thing she needed was students fighting in the corridors.

"Goblins don't use betrothal contracts professor, and there were quite a few in the name of Harry Potter lying in Gringotts. My godfather, Lord Black, has respected my wishes and politely declined every single one of them. This was no slight on anyone, be it by blood status or anything else you care to think of. With no access to my vault, I don't even know what names had been put forward. I'm sorry if anyone is disappointed at that, but my best friend was in no way involved in this decision being made."

Cho felt humiliated and wanted some payback. "Granger destroyed my wand, what's going to be done about that?"

McGonagall looked to Hermione for an explanation, she duly obliged. "Miss Chang fired a cutting curse at me, I didn't want her firing another. As I said, it's also against the castle rules to use magic in the corridors - so I used my sword to disarm my attacker."

The concern in McGonagall's voice was clear to hear. "Are you hurt, Miss Granger, do you need to see Madam Pomfrey?"

"No professor, our extra defence lessons with Professor Weasley just kicked in. He really is a brilliant teacher."

"...but I saw my curse hit her, right across her chest..." It was only then it dawned on Cho that perhaps she shouldn't be saying anything. McGonagall dragged her and Marietta away, warning Hermione and Padma that Professor Flitwick would talk with them on this matter later.

It was only as the crowd dispersed that Sirius approached the trio. "Well done, you three, you handled that brilliantly. Hermione, I'm glad it was only your practice sword you used on me. Good tactical awareness, Padma, you had your wand out and Hermione's back covered. Sorry, Harry, but I should have foreseen this problem. Just because we explained our reasons to the fathers, that doesn't mean they are going to pass those reasons on to their daughters. Your explanation should be all round the castle by the morning..."

Sirius had underestimated how fast news travels in the castle, certainly quicker than Neville and Parvati as they 'ran' toward the group. "Looks like we missed it again, Parvati. I really need to get transferred to Ravenclaw, all this running is killing me."

Parvati was in her twin's arms, with no breath left for speaking. "Hey Pav, we're fine. That bitch Chang decided to make her play and Hermione owned her arse. She also sliced clean through Chang's wand, the other bit must be lying about here somewhere. You want it as a souvenir, Hermione?"

Harry currently had his arm around his best friend. Hermione had fought back and, for the first time she could remember, had actually won. She didn't know what she was supposed to be feeling at the moment, Hermione was quite sure she shouldn't be shaking though.

"It's just the adrenalin leaving your system, you'll be fine in a few moments. Remember what happened to me? No, that was stupid, please forget all about what happened to me - we don't want to be visiting any toilets for that tonight."

This brought a slight smile to Hermione's face, which was Harry's aim. He really had no wish to see her throwing up in a toilet over this. "I am so proud of you for the way you handled that, my father will be ecstatic that you took her out using your sword. Your mum and dad will be over the moon too, I can see a few more Spider-Man comics heading in my direction over this."

Thinking of her parents, and how well Harry got on with them, put a genuine smile on Hermione's face. Looking at Neville leaning on the wall, he'd practically burst a gut to get here. Padma had her arm comfortingly around her twin, but her friend had stood beside her once more. The arm around her shoulders though was the most important. Harry not only gave her the confidence to deal with these situations, he provided the training and even supplied her sword. One glance at a grinning Sirius and Hermione knew she was going to be fine. With such a support group in place, how could she not be.

"I was already heading to Crawley to tell your mum and dad how your weekend went, wait until they hear this story..."

"No embellishing the story, Sirius. My mum and dad worry enough over me being here, they don't need to hear stories of their daughter wielding her trusty blade against hoards of attacking witches."

Sirius appeared crestfallen. "Aw, Hermione, please? You 'wielding your trusty blade against hoards of attacking witches' is just too good not to use. I could have Dan and Emma on the edge of their seats."

"Yeah, that's exactly what I'm afraid of. Them getting off those seats to drag their only daughter out of Hogwarts. Chang fired one curse, it was shielded before I sliced her wand in two."

"...but Hermione, where's the excitement, drama and tension in that?"

Padma was gradually getting used to the marauder, and comfortable enough to joke right back. "There was drama and tension enough for me, thank you very much. For excitement though, Harry taking nine of them down in as many seconds really takes a bit of beating."

A laughing Sirius reluctantly bade them a goodnight, until Harry asked what he had planned for the rest of the week. "I'm hoping to find an old friend..." Seeing his godson's concern at that remark, he quickly put his mind at rest. "No, not that one. Your father persuaded me to let the authorities deal with that, your father can be quite persuasive when he puts his mind to it."

Barchoke had actually sat him down for some straight talking, saying Harry needed him in his life. Pointing out that he'd let his godson down before may be true, but Sirius definitely thought that was a low blow. He accepted it though as he got to know the goblin better, this was a father who would do anything for his son. Since that son was his godson, how could Sirius possibly argue with that. Peter had cost him ten years with Harry, and any chance of raising his godson. That both Barchoke and Harry wanted the marauder as part of their lives was an unexpected and wonderful opportunity, an opportunity he had no intention of throwing away over chasing a rat.

-oOoOo-

The rat in question was currently rising from its cosy shelter, behind the brick wall that was part of a London Underground tunnel. Peter had excavated a nice little hide for himself, once he could ignore the sounds of the trains racing past. He was less than a hundred yards from Leicester Square underground station, and within a quarter of a mile of both Diagon Alley and the Ministry of Magic. Not that he wanted to go to any of those places, information though could be as vital as food.

There was no shortage of food available to him, not if you were prepared to rake through the bins. This was no problem to Peter, spending so long as a rodent had dulled what little piece of self-worth the wizard known as Peter Pettigrew had. Once he had dreams of grandeur and power, only for that power to be corrupted into him being forced to betray his friends. The former marauder had then surprised himself at how well his play had worked against Sirius.

While Black had spent a decade in Azkaban, he'd lived a life of relative luxury as a young boy's pet. Peter had even spent the last four and a half years living in the Gryffindor dorms, bringing back memories of happier and more innocent times. That all changed when Sirius Black had been freed from Azkaban, forcing Peter to flee his safe haven.

Only the involvement of Harry gave him time to escape. Had they plastered all over the front of the Prophet that he was a rat animagus, Peter doubted if he could have made it out of The Burrow. What was that news though in comparison to the boy-who-lived holding a sword to Dumbledore?

Peter thought he was safe for the moment, how long that would last was anyone's guess. He was a thirty year old wizard who'd now spent a third of his life living as a rat, and who knew how much longer that would have to continue. The dark mark that was burned into his arm all those years ago changed his life forever, and not for the better.

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